Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Think For Yourself?

Haven’t you often heard the imperative, “Think for yourself?” In many respects, this blog repeatedly encourages the believer to at very least think. But, in these times of social media and ever-growing Internet usage we are under so many external influences that it can be difficult to know when we are thinking for ourselves and when we are not. Unless you are a discerning and rather aware and deliberate person, you most likely don't even always know when your thinking is not your own. This is often bad, but in one scenario for the Christian this can be good. While it is important to think, as Christians we are ever reminded to not just think for ourselves, but rather to think as God thinks. But, this is something so few Christians attempt to practice.

For example, all too often many Christians begin spiritual declarations with the words, “Well, I think…” If you regularly do this, have you ever paused to consider what you are about to declare? You are about to declare what you think individually on a spiritual matter. You are about to declare what you think probably from the source of your corrupt flesh detached from the moorings of the only source of spiritual wisdom, the Holy Spirit. You are probably about to declare your earthly thoughts without the exclusive benefit of God’s. But, Christians are supposed to have the mind of Christ.

Too many Christians, however, invoke the phrase “the mind of Christ” like they throw around trite hash-tags. But, the mind of Christ is something that is so deep and so consuming, it should frighten our corrupt flesh, not embolden it. For followers of Christ to “take up their cross,” that also means that their minds must too be nailed to the cross on which Christ brutally died. And, instead of our fleshly thinking coming to the forefront of our minds and mouths, we are to forsake our corrupt minds for that of Christ’s. That means I am to no longer “think for myself.” Rather we endeavor to think only by Christ, through Christ, for Christ and to Christ. On spiritual matters, we are to think only His thoughts and share only His opinions. We are to adopt only His correctness and declare only what He thinks spiritually. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

You might ask, what does this look like? Well, it certainly does not look like someone who claims to be a sold-out follower of Jesus starting spiritual declarations with the phrase, “Well, I think…” Rather, it looks like a foot-washingly humble servant boldly and lovingly declaring what God thinks, with no ifs, ands or buts. The moment that we mix God’s thoughts with corrupt flesh, what results is completely and utterly corrupt. In fact, this corrupt model is what Lucifer displayed for us when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He would always twist scripture towards a fleshly (or carnal) temptation. Are you guilty of mixing scripture with carnality? Are you guilty of declaring your corrupt thinking on spiritual matters in direct conflict with God’s clear leanings? Do you follow along with those who twist scripture towards cultural correctness only to violate the very principles that God commanded? Do you only pay attention to God’s commands and ignore His preferences?

When someone invokes their self-sourced spiritual wisdom, they are superimposing their opinions over God’s, especially when their opinion revises God’s. What does it suggest when someone superimposes their thoughts over God’s? It suggests that the declarer is arrogantly attempting to share God’s throne. It suggests that the declarer values their own opinion above God’s and wishes to influence others to do the same. This is the worst form of idolatry.

By this I am not suggesting that it is wrong to interpret scripture and preach sermons that elaborate upon God’s written word to influence congregants and others to surrender to God. The arrogance or non-arrogance of a spiritual declaration rests upon both the spiritual accuracy coupled with the spiritual intent of one’s declarations. The vast majority of preachers probably do a fine job of humbly directing their congregants away from the preacher and towards Jesus Christ. However, there are those too that are corrupt. But, this post is not primarily directed at them as much as towards those Christians who claim to individually call Jesus “Lord” while forcing His commands to serve their desires.

The bottom line is that God has declared what He has declared. And, in His declaration, we have the entirety and completeness of all true and perfect spiritual wisdom. He needs no editor or cultural post script. Rather, He demands complete surrender to His declarations as final. Anything short, even if well-intended, is a moral offense to who He is. And He is the one and only true God, the Creator of all life and the One to whom all life will be taken.

1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Billy Graham put it well when he said, “The true Christian is a nonconformist.” And, Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...” And, in the verses that follow Paul outlined precisely what the mind of Christ thinks and lives like. Dear Christian, read those verses anew and always measure spiritual intentions against them.

When I used to teach lessons on the subject, I shared a unique illustration of the mind of Christ. I would strap a Bible to the top of my head and describe how all Christians should seek continually to sacrifice their fleshly thinking and substitute it with God’s. We should consume His word as often as we can for the purpose of it overtaking how we think and live. Then, we should declare His word and thinking through verbally and physically radical displays of gracious love to those God places in our lives. Only then will we truly declare and constantly live out the mind of Christ.

In Romans 12:1, Paul (through God) implored all Christians to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God as our spiritual act of worship. In this verse, by use of the word “bodies” God meant our everything, including our minds. This may be difficult to grasp, since our minds are an abstract part of our flesh. But, the mind is where true and lasting sacrifice begins and abides in our flesh.

From now on when waxing spiritually, I encourage you to refrain from beginning a declaration with, “Well, I think…” Instead, from now on, begin such declarations with, “Well, God says…” and make sure you declare what God actually said.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ReasonIfYouWill.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Atheists to Launch TV Channel

Earlier this month the group, American Atheists, announced their plans to launch an internet TV channel for non-believers. They hope to ultimately syndicate this station through national cable networks. They claim to be "reaching out to atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and folks who are looking for a way out of faith...There’s a glut of religious TV programming out there, from televangelists to Christmas specials,” according to spokesman, Dave Muscato. “But there’s no atheist channel. We wanted to fill that void.” Muscato further “hopes the channel will encourage people who are doubting their faith to come out as atheist…When somebody leaves their religion, they don’t necessarily know everything about the Big Bang. This will fill in the gaps in knowledge that pastors have left behind.” But, what does this move actually reveal about the nature of atheism?

This blog has contended in multiple posts that atheism is in fact a religion in that it is based primarily upon something that can’t be proven (faith). It is as much faith-based if not more so than theism. It is reasonable to conclude when presented with the lack of explanation of the origin of life and the origins of the fabric of the universe, that it takes more faith to believe atheism than all of the other religions that it opposes. And, while atheism seeks to fool us into thinking exactly the opposite, its militant followers are more fixated on God (albeit negatively), than most Christians are positively fixated on Him. Have you ever wondered why it is?

One of the hallmarks of religion is to seek the conversion of those in other faiths. Most of the time this is a genuine activity intended for good. But still, such activity is a marker that accompanies religion almost exclusively. And, the founders of this TV channel have explicitly admitted this same goal as their intent and “hope.” If they truly knew there was no God, why have a channel dedicated to Him? Why discuss God at all? If He does not exist, doesn’t talking about Him constantly actually lend credibility to Him? Or, are you evangelizing? If you truly believe in your heart of hearts that God does not exist, you would ignore the concept entirely. But, maybe this is not what they truly believe behind the assertive veneer?

For example, since atheists enjoy likening Santa Claus to the notion of God, let’s expose their folly by use of the same analogy. Most if not all people, don’t believe that there is a Santa Claus that travels the globe every year to give presents to the world's children. But, have you ever witnessed a Santa non-believer fixated on Santa's non-existence? Have you ever seen people write books and launch TV channels dedicated to prove Santa does not exist? The answer is no and for primarily two compelling reasons. First, in spite of many believers, there is no evidence supporting such a modern day Santa. Second, there is nothing to fear about Santa personally. However, with regards to God, neither of these two reasons apply.

Atheists are genuinely and subconsciously concerned because they know that evidence actually points to a nature-transcending Cause even though they refuse to publicly admit it. They know that theism grows and flourishes because faith and evidence are compellingly consistent, which is not the case with Santa Claus. In addition, it is our human nature to lash out against that which we fear. And, the notion of God offers atheism plenty to fear. This fear manifests itself in devout, negative fixation or lashing out.

Regarding this fear, there are primarily two types of atheists. The first type are those who simply wish to affirm their self-directed lifestyle in fear of potentially losing such freedom. The second type are those who are mad at God for something bad that happened to them personally, and, therefore, they are seeking to stamp Him out wherever they can. In some ways, this second type is fearful of others being similarly hurt. In both types of followers, you see a common thread of fear. Therefore, they lash out instead of simply ignoring the concept altogether. We understand from scripture that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. But, this scripture is describing a healthy kind of fear. In contrast, militant atheism, is a manifestation of unhealthy fear of God. Militant atheism is a God-phobia. And, out of fear, they feel compelled to launch a TV channel to proselytize their negative fixation. Why else would anyone go to such great lengths to attack the notion of a God they don't believe exists? Or, would atheism rather admit to philosophical shadow boxing for no seemingly good reason?

In contrast, true Christianity refrains from lashing out at anyone as we are inspired to love everyone. 1 John 4:16-21 puts it perfectly, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

This blog addresses atheism without attacking the person. We address atheism not out of fear, but because atheism openly attacks theism and those who subscribe to it. And, we are called to be prepared to respond in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” This blog seeks to prepare other Christians when faced with such attacks. When an atheist calls into question the claims of the Bible in a conversation with us, we are called to gently and respectfully respond. We are not to respond from a point of fear. We are not called to lash out against atheists. That would be atheist-phobia. And, in God’s family there is no room for any form of phobia towards others.

To my fellow Christians, do not fear atheism because as stated in 1 John 4:4, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Do not see the establishment of this TV channel as a threat, but as an opportunity to declare who Jesus is and the good news of His gospel wherever this TV channel is discussed. True Christianity welcomes the freedom of thought and open reasoning. Therefore, we are not threatened by attempts to launch an opposing TV channel. We are, instead called to respond in truth about what such an attempt represents. May we join in prayer as atheists continue in negative fixation upon God, that God will lovingly join these discussions through our reasoning with those He gave His life for? Maybe then, negative fixation can be transformed by loving faith.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ReasonIfYouWill.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

HGTV and the Rule of the Mob

Late last year, when the A&E-Duck Dynasty controversy broke over Phil Robertson’s comments regarding homosexuality, it was a big story. However, it was a big story for primarily the wrong reasons. The controversy initially centered on A&E's virtual termination of Robertson over his comments regarding homosexuality as sin. However, the real travesty of the story was the growing trend towards mobocracy and the infringement of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In fact, there were many, even in the Church, who openly defended A&E’s decision in bizarre deference towards political correctness as opposed to God's correctness. I personally engaged in conversations with several who I know to be my spiritual brothers and sisters, who were sadly bent on turning an affirming eye towards what was actually trending regarding religious oppression of their brother. I found myself constantly asking them to consider the ramifications that our spiritual enemy intends with this controversy. Sadly, too many were more offended by genuinely impassioned pleas over being offended by the true culprit and the activities which truly oppose our God.

Fast forward to May, 2014. Now, following A&E's lead, HGTV has decided to cancel the show, “Flip It Forward,” hosted by the twin brothers, David and Jason Benham. HGTV did not cancel the show over content or better shows vying for the slot. No, their stated reason was due to the brothers’ outspoken views a few years ago regarding homosexuality and abortion. Yes, as you can imagine, the Benham brothers are professing followers of Jesus Christ. And, yes, as you can imagine, their comments were entirely consistent with God’s word. And, yes, freedoms of religious expression and speech are being rampantly infringed while the hypocritical mob applauds. As these precedents continue to mount, the cost of following Jesus in America also continues to mount. And, it will get very ugly before it is all over, just as Jesus said it would.

For Christians who supported A&E last year in spite of the impassioned pleas of your fellow brothers and sisters, please consider this event as a confirmation that this trend is growing in danger. We should all pray for the Benham brothers and support them in the struggle against our real spiritual enemy. We should all clearly recognize the precedent that is being set and stand lovingly opposed to those who would seek to oppressively infringe the freedoms of religion and speech of those we call our eternal family. Do you truly support Christian "witch hunts?" Lastly, we must all realize that political correctness is an idol that is being used by our true spiritual enemy to take authority and allegiance away from our God and His word. It is not too late for us to denounce and destroy this idol in our individual lives. We are called to not follow the majority (or the mob) because the mob will lead us over a spiritual cliff. Rather, we are called to walk the "narrow road" marked by repentance and submission of our fallen intellect to the Creator of all intellect.

To those who stubbornly insist upon supporting HGTV in this decision, it is absolutely critical to remember that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are explicit in our Constitution. Freedom from innocent remarks that oversensitive people might find offensive is not. In fact, no legal protection exists even for those genuinely offended by the most offensive remarks. It is a violation of law and civil liberties when any private or public enterprise punishes someone purely on the basis of their religious views, stated or unstated. It is not against the law to call homosexuality a sin, just as much as it is not against the law to call heterosexual promiscuity a sin. Neither is it against the law to publicly oppose and rally against abortion. Ironically, it was not merely a few years ago when the infamous ACLU stood beside and defended Neo-Nazis when they would publicly tout the most heinous views ever touted. And, the ACLU was right in doing so under the Constitution. However, today, the ACLU is ironically silent as the bullying mob surrounds those who dare to share their biblical views in public. 

For those in the church who stubbornly bow the knee in any degree towards political correctness, please take heed to what our God has said in His word. Proverbs 17:15 says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” Exodus 23:7 says, “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.” 1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” And, in Acts 5:29 Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

America was founded as a Republic. The word, Republic, comes from the Latin word, “Republica,” which means “the public thing.” The "public thing" refers to the law. A Republic is therefore governed by “the rule of law.” The representatives of the people are elected by the people to write law for the people as servants of the people as directed by the people. That law is then made public where it should rule the people impartially. Therefore, we have a society established under the rule of law, not the rule of people, especially not the oppressive mob of political correctness. Such oppression is not democracy but rather hypocritical mobocracy. Mobocracy is the exact opposite of Republic. If we forsake the rule of law, we choose to descend into oppressive tyranny. This is the cycle that history has repeatedly taught us and always with the same result: decline, destruction and death.

Where is the law that states that people are forbidden to share views on homosexuality that are consistent with the Bible? Where is the law that states that employers can terminate people for such views? Where is the law that states that employers can punish those who publicly rally against abortion? In contrast, all written law forbids such oppression. But, we must personally be willing to be governed by the public law if we value anyone's freedoms. 

If terminating Christians for their views is legal, then what stops a Christian-led organization from terminating an employee over their pro-homosexuality views? If you support HGTV, would you similarly support a Christian-led organization in that scenario? If not, you judge yourself for a dangerous and hypocritical double standard. This last scenario should highlight for the mobocrats that there are no such oppressive activities protected under the public law under which we elected to be governed. Rather, these acts of unjust treatment against Christians are examples of the rule of the oppressive mob under the banner of political correctness and tolerance of everyone except Christians.

We either have the rule of law, or we will suffer the cruelty and depressing tyranny that every government over the entire course of mankind has witnessed every time they turned their backs on it. As the historian, Carlton Hayes put it, “Wherever Christians’ ideals have been generally accepted and their practice sincerely attempted, there is a dynamic liberty; and wherever Christianity had been ignored or rejected, persecuted or chained to the state, there is tyranny.”

Of course in the Benham case, words were conveniently put in their mouths by radicals with a wicked agenda that is not worthy of our alignment. Therefore, I will close by letting the Benhams speak for themselves. Read their gracious response to HGTV's actions and judge for yourself whether they are as they are being portrayed by the radical mob. May their words be an inspiration in your life today:

"The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is: have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying. Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views. We were saddened to hear HGTV’s decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it."

You can follow me on Twitter at @ReasonIfYouWill.