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Pride and Predjudice and Christ-Followers April 4, 2016

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I attended an adult Bible study today, and I really enjoy how thought provoking it is.  Today the discussion surrounded the historic Jezebel, with our starting point at Revelation chapter 2,

18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds,your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

We chatted a little bit about the way the world seemed to be headed, and what an appropriate voice might sound like for the church.  One of our classmates was asked by her child, “What’s porn?” so she fielded the question as best she felt it should be handled, with an age-appropriate answer.  The child had been watching a television show that made a joke about a guy watching porn.  So the class discussed this in the context of Jezebel’s sexual immorality and the warning to the church at Thyatira.

We live in a time when Christians are supposed to be tolerant of everyone else and nobody seems to have to be tolerant of Christians.  What are we supposed to do?  Well, let people do whatever they want and shut up, seems like the world’s answer.  And, “deeds, love and service” sound like great and commendable works for any church, don’t they?  Except, what kind of deeds?  Love for whom?  Service to whom and for whom?

James taught about a “religion that God accepts:”  James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Our class had a discussion weeks ago in which I noticed Ephesians 4:15, where Christ-followers are instructed to “[speak] the truth in love” in order to grow.  If truth and love are in balance we’ll be balanced in our approach to the world.  Ignore love and we’re hammering people over the head with our truth: you’re a sinner on your way to hell.  Instant turnoff by the non-believer. Ignore truth and we’re not doing it right either, and people will flock to hear you tolerate, accept, even embrace, their sinful choices.  And without repentant hearts, people will end up in hell because we didn’t teach the truth, that there is such a thing as sin, but God loves us and wants us to repent (turn away) from our sin and toward Him.

It’s commendable to seek not to be polluted by the world.  This was the sin of Thyatira. They tolerated, embraced, and adopted the behavior choices of the surrounding community that were contrary to God’s intent for us.  What’s a Christ-follower to do?

Sinners are going to sin.  And sinners don’t like it when their sin is pointed up to them, and called “sin.”  In the modern era, sinners want their sin to be tolerated, accepted, embraced, even celebrated.  Sinners want to be proud of their sin, not be told it’s sin.  So we have parades and television celebrating and proudly proclaiming sinful lifestyles.  If a Christ-follower says anything they  are “bigoted,” “intolerant,” “hateful,” “judgemental,” etc. We’re told from our own Bibles, “judge not lest ye be judged.”  Essentially, the answer a sinful world has for a Christ-follower who points to sin and calls it sin or calls it evil, is to shut up.  And the world doesn’t say it that nicely.

I’m afraid they’ve got a good point though.

The world wants to be proud of their sins and they want Christians to stop teaching the Bible and sharing our beliefs about what sin looks like.  The world doesn’t want us to believe  the Bible, and if they want to shut us up they use our own Bible, selected passages, to shut us up about the passages that make them uncomfortable.

Are Christians really any better?  Sure our eternity is secure.  But are we teaching only the truth and committing the sin of a certain modern church that likes to bash certain people and tell them God hates them?  Are we teaching only love and tolerance and committing the sin of Thyatira?

I’m afraid Christians have given in to the sin of pride, on both errors.  Some Christians are proud of their knowledge.  These Christians are proud of their piety.  These Christians are proud that they have found the way to eternal life.  Some are proud of their love and tolerance.  I think both are wrong.

Christians need to lead the way with a new humility.  Because, are we so far removed from the sin we used to live in that we can’t understand its’ appeal any more?  And, are we blind to the sin we currently harbor?

The antidote to pride is humility.  If we confess our sins, not only is God “faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness,” but I think it’ll cause a revolution in the world.  They see us as “holier than thou,” intolerant hateful people because we think we’re better than they are.  We’re not, Christians.  We’re just as human.  We are holding onto our pride like a security blanket, and we need to shed that.  Nobody is going to listen to anything we have to say until we confess our sins to each other and admit to the world that we’re not that different from them, we just know where we’re headed when eternity calls our names.  When we admit that, I think they’ll be more likely to see our examples and be more apt to listen to the rest of what we have to say.

If we’re proud of ourselves, the world has no reason to pay any attention If we’re just saying “God loves me,” and “God loves you,” without any other instruction, like why Jesus was killed as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, ourselves included, there’s no reason for anyone to turn from whatever is their favorite flavor of sin.  And if Jesus is still in the tomb (He’s not) then no one has any hope at all.  But since He’s not, we’ve got His message, His truth AND His love to share. If we’re not saying there’s a better way and it’s God’s design, while admitting we’ve failed ourselves, we’re not that different than Thyatira.  If we’re saying God hates one sin any more than another, then we’re blind to our own pride.  I used to be so proud of myself.  Smug idiot.  I’ve got nothing but my  hope in Jesus, and my realization that He paid the debt for my sin.  A life of imperfection, thinking I had it right, blind to my evil character that I thought was good.  I’m not different than any other sinner in the world. God hates my sin just as much as he hates anyone elses’ sin.  I’m nothing to be proud of myself.

So that’s my humble confession.  I was smug and proud and judgemental.  But I know I have nothing to be those ways about, I’m no different, not really any better than anyone else.  God hates my sin just as much as anyone else’s sin, but He loves me in spite of myself.  And He loves you too and wants you to realize what your sin is, whatever it is, and then turn away from it and ask Him to forgive you.  And in spite of myself, I believe Romans 5:8 is written about me and the world:

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’m a sinner, but I’m not proud of it.  Just saved by the grace and love of God.  I’ve asked for forgiveness and I realize I’m still not perfect, in spite of the teaching of certain denominations.  If I call myself perfect, I’m lying to everyone.

I’m sorry, to the people of the world, I can’t keep it inside.  I have to speak it:  Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

I John 1:

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

I bet in your heart, if you’re honest, you know the difference between right and wrong and know your life isn’t perfect enough, holy enough, or pure enough to get into a perfect, holy and pure heaven.  At the expense of my pride, I confess that I’ve failed to be good enough to earn a place in heaven.   There are people who think higher of me than that, but it’s just not honest.  I’ve got my eternal ticket, but it’s only because I admitted my failures and because God is rich in mercy and grace, and He extends it to the humble.  If we’re proud of ourselves, or proud of our sin, or blind to it, He won’t show us favor:

I Peter 5:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

 

I think if we clothe ourselves in humility, not just to the “one another” of fellow Christ-followers, but to everyone, people in the world might look a little differently at us, instead of just telling us to shut up.

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It’s Not the End of the World June 26, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I talk to smart people.  I read stuff that smart people say.  And then I get the comments from my ordinary friends, from the news spin doctors, from the internet.  And then I have to make up my own mind what to think, if I haven’t already made a choice.  And what I hear the smart people saying is that it’s the end of the world.  It’s been the end of the world since 1947, according to the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  I’ve heard that one before. Tick.  If people were panic stricken and prayerful when that clock was established, I only heard about the panic when I read about it in school.

If people were panic stricken and prayerful when Obama took office, they were even more panic stricken when he won reelection.  I heard from a few of them, both ordinary and smart people, all offering their thoughts on what Obama might do.  And I continue to hear from them, about what he’s done, and the track that America is on based on what he’s done.  Tick.  I heard more about the panic than the prayer back in 2008, and even less about the prayer in 2012.  I’ll admit, the lack of a prayer response from people I once respected left me wanting, and not a little disappointed.

We’ve got global warming warnings.  We’ve got earthquakes in diverse places.  The latest earthquake I was told about was a big one just off the Alaska mainland.  From 2011, we’ve got a nuclear meltdown and polluted oceans after an earthquake and tidal wave, and when the next one will be is anybody’s guess but the scientists warn it is coming.  We’ve got economic crises looming.  Those are brought up in the news whenever it’s convenient for a politician to sidestep another scandal.  And we’ve got political scandals.  We’ve got bank fraud, on a global scale.  We’ve got identity theft.  We’ve got whatever the latest version of typhoid fever, or malaria, or bubonic plague or severe flu virus.  Swine flu, avian flu, shark populations exploding, We’ve got STDs and immuno-deficiency disorders.  We’ve got gas prices soaring amid speculator investments bubbling up, and food prices going up because of weather phenomenon and supply rumors.  We’ve got fast food vendors who are in trouble for selling their food-related products, because we don’t know about all the processing that goes on to make those delicious burgers and someone took a few pictures so now we’re all supposed to become vegetarians and give up all of our delicious meat.  And in regard to that, we’ve got rumors of related diseases and a looming healthcare crisis.  And yesterday, the big news was that in America’s heartland, right here in Indiana, there are people who don’t wish to adhere to Judeo-Christian norms, and they’ve gotten a judicial foothold.  Tick.

Am I supposed to be surprised?  Am I supposed to be alarmed?  Am I supposed to be fearful?  Am I supposed to suspect, and propose, with other observers, that it’s the end of the world?  Am I supposed to jump up on a bully pulpit somewhere and tell the world how wrong it is?

I’m afraid I gave away my opinion in my title.  Sorry for the plot spoiler. I’ve made my mind up on lots of things, but lots I still ponder, and I bet you do too.  But amid the worry of the world, why am I so calm?  Am I independently wealthy?  Not yet, but keep those dollars rolling in and someday I will be.

It frustrates some of my people that I am calm, because they know why.  I don’t care.  Truth.  I don’t care that people are afraid it’s the end of the world.  I don’t care that people are facing global plagues.  Well that’s not entirely true.  I do care about incurable  and curable diseases.  I think the curable ones should be eradicated, and the incurable ones should be researched to prove they aren’t curable.  I do care about famine.  I think hungry people should be fed and not subjected to the greed and incompetence of world leaders, despots and wanna-be’s.  I do care about war-torn peoples and innocent people, children especially, who have to face the consequences of the decisions and choices of adults in the world.  I am in favor of peace and safety, but then I don’t live on that planet.  And I do care that the price of things has gotten so out of hand that it’s difficult for me and my family to survive on my income, much the more for homeless and even lower income people.  I think we should all have a safe place to live and care for one another.  If you want to help me get closer to finding my utopia, once again, keep those dollars rolling in, because there’s hope (for me and mine if you do).  And if you ask me what my standards are, or have any other questions about what I think, feel free to ask, and I’ll decide whether I care enough to answer, or if your question isn’t relevant to me.  

Here is why:

The scientists and researchers and war-mongers and child abusers and politicians and other criminals and news media people and special interest groups are yanking everybody’s chains.  They want you to buy something.  It could be a new product.  It could be their new book(s).  It could just be their theory.  Some take their theory and drive it around and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until others just surrender and accept it and let other people tell other people as if that theory is a fact, when it’s still just a theory.  Social theory.  Evolution theory.  Big Bang Theory.  Creation theory. Grand Unification Theory. Trinification, Flipped, or Left-Right theories. String Theory. Conspiracy Theory.  It could be that they just want you to accept whatever they’re peddling as if it’s good for you, or that it’s harmless to you.  They could be selling an idea or an ideology.  Even in America there are religious groups that peddle nothing but hatred for everyone who isn’t like them, and who do things of which they disapprove.  And there are groups that say that what they are doing is okay and should be socially acceptable and normative, although other groups don’t agree with them, and historically their behavior choices haven’t proven to have the best of consequences for them or their victims.  I mean, participants.

I’m saying there are lawyer groups who represent bankers who say it should be okay for bankers to misappropriate funds and get bonuses for doing that.  I’m saying there are lawyers who represent the people who overspent the Social Security fund that taxpayers still pay into, who say it’s okay for them to “borrow” from that fund and not pay it back.  I’m saying there are special interest groups for pedophiles, who lurk in wait to abuse children, and they want their behavior normalized, though thankfully so far society is not ready to accept that.  I’m saying there’s probably a special interest group for kidnappers and rapists who want their behavior kept hidden, or if in the light, brushed under the judicial carpets.  Thank God it’s not popular in the era of social media to talk about those abuses and tendencies without getting your head bitten off.  There’s a pro-gun lobby and an anti-gun lobby, a pro choice and a pro life lobby. All sorts of stuff to distract people with, including whatever’s on the nightly news tonight. But adulterers are so commonplace, nobody bats an eye until it’s the conservative pastor who’s now some kind of worse sinner because he did what the world has been doing since almost “in the beginning.”  

Why does the world want to hold a Christ-follower to a higher standard?  It’s only fair.  “Do not judge, or you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)  And I may be throwing a pearl or two at a pig (Matthew 7:6) in this article.  I await your responses to see.  But Christ Followers, or those who claim to be Christ Followers, are some of the most judgemental people I know, and I’m one of them sometimes.  Just not today.  The pendulum may swing back; we’ll see.  But for now, let me be the first to say that offering Christ’s pearls of wisdom and holy things to pigs and dogs will backfire.  So, officially, I don’t care what the world does.  You may be headed for hell in a handbasket, but until you’re ready to receive holy things and Biblical wisdom, or until I’m a paid preacher targeting my audience carefully, I’m holding my tongue.

Except to say this:  What you are hearing is not necessarily the truth.  What you are thinking, if it’s what you’ve been told, is not necessarily the truth.  It’s just possible that it’s someone’s agenda, and motive, and spin, and sales spiel, and not rational, and not right, and not unbiased.  Do you know what you’re falling for?  Do you know what you believe? Is it rational or does it fall apart under close scrutiny?  And do you know why you believe that?  Was it something someone told you, or showed you until you figured it was right because it looked normal to you?  Are there consequences to you if you go along quietly, or actively participate?

And now I’m yanking too.  There are many theories about the end of the world, but most of the doom-sayers are proven wrong.  At least the ones who’ve jumped the gun on the date.  They draw large crowds of idiots with their fine speeches and their calculations, who throw vast sums of money at them.  Send me yours and I’ll tell you it’s NOT the end of the world.  Yet.

I’m not sure if it’s a pearl or a holy thing, but my Bible tells me the end of the world isn’t for at least another 1000 years, give or take. So “un-tick.”   As with everything else, it depends how you read it.  If you read Revelation 20 literally, it says the earth has to last for another thousand years after Satan gets locked in the Abyss, and then he gets out for a while to lead people astray, and then it’s the end of the world.  That clock isn’t ticking yet because Satan isn’t locked up right now and my headlines say Christ is not reigning in everyone’s hearts.  If Christ were reigning in everyone’s hearts, would he allow the poverty, broken hearts, captivity, darkness, sickness, mayhem and destruction, or would he allow good news, healing, freedom and light? (see Isaiah 61:1)

You don’t have to choose to read the Bible, although I’d encourage you to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, and read it for yourself.  When you read your Bible, if you read it, I encourage you to read what it says, considering each message and its’ primary target audience before you start getting mad or trying to redact the text to fit your choices.  When you read your Bible, ask why the message was offered to the target audience.  Was there an undisclosed medical or social reason for the instruction, that we should know about?  

Like slavery.  It was just as wrong in Exodus as it is today, but back then they had instructions in their society that said to take care of each other, whether slave or free, and the Jewish culture had a tradition of setting slaves free on a given year. Before you label me pro-slavery, I’m only reading the text, and I’m against it. It had bad consequences for Egypt in Exodus, and when we started enslaving people in America it was bad before and after 1865. I think America is still paying for it, though not the way some feel it should be paid. The Jewish people were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, growing worse and worse in treatment every year, so they wrote about it, fresh on their minds, as a socially accepted practice of the day to say they didn’t want people abusing other people, as God doesn’t want people abusing other people. Same with in the New Testament. If someone works for you, or is your slave, you shouldn’t mistreat them. If you work for someone, or are their slave, you shouldn’t be lazy.  It wasn’t known back in Bible times, but there are bacteria that infest raw meat, and if you choose to eat it raw, you can get sick and die.  Hand washing.  That’s just a good practice.  Does whatever instruction you’re reading apply to you?  Ask if there’s a more hopeful choice you could make, than the ones you’ve already been predisposed or taught to choose.  Ask what logical consequences and observable outcomes are still apparent in the modern world, if one should decide not to do the things we’re told to do, or do the things we’re told not to do?

Just like avian, bovine, equine and swine flu, the stuff you do has rippling effects spreading out from you and touching the world.  (Cough, Cough)  So think for yourself about it.  Are you just another goat following the herd, accepting what people have told you is right or are you exploring it for yourself?  Are you, or those who think like you and maybe taught you, making the world full of more poverty, broken hearts, captivity, darkness, sickness, mayhem, and destruction?  Or are you, or they, a messenger with good news, healing, freedom and light?  And before you throw stones of judgement, or ill fitting labels at me, remember, I don’t care what you choose to do, and in the aftermath of whatever your choice is, if I live through the natural consequences of your actions (and mine) I’m stuck on the same planet and have to help clean up the mess because Christ Followers are supposed to help (Galatians 6:10).  So although I don’t care what you choose, I’m stuck caring for whatever’s left when you’re done.  I’d prefer you keep it clean and safe and nice, and when you’re messy and dangerous and mean, please just stay away from me and my family and friends.

Thanks for your cooperation.  

The end of the world is coming, it’s true.  But not like you think.  It’s just possible that you could die without ever figuring out what the truth is and what the lies are.  If you believe the lies, you just might be headed down the broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14), and that’d just be sad.  A lot of people think they have it right, but according to Jesus as told by Matthew, they don’t.  And that’s something that was in the Old Testament (Proverbs 14:12) that was repeated in the New Testament.  I figure, if it’s in the Old Testament taught to the Israelites, AND in the New Testament to Christ Followers, maybe I ought to pay close attention and figure out if there’s a way I fit into that context.  Like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  I need to listen to things that threaten my life, and listen intently to things that threaten my soul. (Matthew 10:28)  It’s not Elizabeth, it’s God holding the proverbial gun, and he doesn’t have to negotiate.  It’s not Lord Cutler Beckett, it’s I, who must decide whether to accept God’s terms or not.  If I died before accepting His terms of surrender, it would be an eternal tragedy for me.  How about you?

One of my encouragers popped in my email to remind me and his group of this text, and I think I said the above with the right tone. It’s my intention to encourage you to find out for yourselves, not to point out errors I might think I see in your life.  If I point out your errors, who’s going to help me with the plank in my eye before I try to help with the speck in yours?  (Matthew 7:3-5)   “Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.” (Romans 14:19, The Message)

I’ll just encourage you to search out the true truth, not the spun messages spinning all around us.  And I’ll encourage you to pray.  If there is a God and He hears and answers prayer, then it couldn’t hurt to pray.  And if there isn’t, you’ve done no harm by praying and then getting up from kneeling to do what you know is right.  Maybe the panic should remind all of us to pray.  But I don’t hear a lot of people in America doing that.  Maybe because it’s more fun to panic, or more comfortable, or more socially acceptable.  If you need me, I’ll be over here, praying.  

Intently.