Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse and The Fall of Man

Apparently, there is a growing number of people who are fearful of a coming Zombie Apocalypse (ZA).  The idea is that the un-dead or walking dead are rising, and that they will continue to spread as they make living human beings zombies, too.  I'm not sure how a zombie infects somebody else, but the idea is there.

1. There are zombies out there
2. Their number will continue to rise
3. The ignorant populace goes about their lives
4. We eventually all succumb, becoming the walking dead.

The concept is pretty frightening.  That is why it has become such a popular theme in horror films and literature.  But such an idea is pretty far fetched, right?

Well, it actually isn't.  There is also a strain of biblical thought whereby all men are walking dead in a manner of speaking. Consider Paul's words in chapter two of his letter to the Ephesian church:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 
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.

Paul is essentially saying that the saints of Ephesus were actually dead and walking around, following the course of the world (vss 1 &2).  That in their sinful passions, they were actually living dead people (vs 3).

Elsewhere, Paul says that  in 1 Corinthians 15:
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Paul says that all are born dead, because the prophecy of God in the garden was fulfilled.  Namely, that when Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die.  He did not die physically, but he died spiritually.  And not only that, all who are descendants of Adam (all men) are born spiritually dead.

So, at the fall, there was effectively a spiritual ZA.  Now, the world is covered with people who were born spiritual zombies.  They are walking around in the body, but they are spiritually dead inside.

Thanks be to God that by the gospel of Jesus Christ the dead walking can become the alive walking!   And if that has happened to you, then as you proclaim the gospel to others, you speak words that can bring the dead to life, thus pushing back the effects of the spiritual ZA at the fall of man.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Marital Discord Weekend: A Crucible or a Cupel?

This past weekend, I had three wishes.  I wished that
1. the New England Patriots would lose
2. the Denver Broncos would lose
3. Both the Patriots and the Broncos would lose.

The reason for those wishes was because I did not want to endure another "Marital Discord Weekend," or MDW.  You see, I am a Broncos fan and my wife is a Patriots fan.  So, although we are united in virtually every aspect of our lives together, this is an arena where our affections are directed in very different directions.

These weekends have always been particularly hard on me for two reasons.  First, because in my formative years, I built a strong allegiance to the Broncos and living vicariously through my team, I died many times in crushing Super Bowl defeats in the late eighties.  Second, the Broncos have too often been on the short end of the stick in these weekends.

MDW's are pretty rough on me.  They expose sin and idols in my heart in ways that other circumstances seldom do.

  • There is idolatrous identification with a (piddly) sports team that dwarfs my identification with Christ
  • There is too much pride in my heart when my team wins, and too much shame when they lose, because I fear what people will think of me.
  • There is the sin of jealousy that resents the number of championships that the Patriots have one in the last 14 years since I got married.  The Patriots have won 3 of 5.  The Broncos have won 0 of 0. 
  • There is the sin of selective memory, because if you go back 16 years, the Broncos are 2 of 2 in Super Bowls.

When I am in the midst of a MDW, my sin is exposed, and it rises to the surface unlike anything else.  The big question for me is: "Is MDW crucible or a cupel?"

You see, both a crucible and a cupel are ceramic dishes that can withstand the high heat of a furnace.  But a cupel is a porous ceramic cup that will absorb the impurities in the material in the furnace, making the the material more pure.

If MDW is a cupel, then I am better for having gone through the weekend.  If it is a crucible, then I have a lot of pain, and I am just as bad afterwards as before.

I wanted to avoid MDW, because it is painful for my heart. I don't like having to confront my sin, and have be ashamed.  But, if MDW can be a cupel in my life to make me more pure and sanctified, then bring it on!!

I pray that this MDW will be a cupel. I pray that I will fight to see my sin when it is exposed, and I further pray that I will confess my sin that I see.  Finally, I pray that by the grace of God I will repent of my sin, and that I will not return to it ever again.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The lounge lizard's newest weapon

Last week at CES, FLIR released their new FLIR One thermal camera.  With FLIR One, iPhone 5 owners can upgrade their phone with an infrared camera.  The FLIR website points out that the device can be useful for:
  • seeing if your child has a fever
  • finding pets in the dark at night
  • tracking wildlife like dear in a dark forest
  • discovering potential assailant in dark parking lots at night.
  • detecting heat loss in your home
However, with all the helpful uses for FLIR One, it could be dangerous in the hands of the dreaded lounge lizard.  Picture a night club predator spotting an unwitting victim across the room.  The lizard crosses the floor and points his phone at young lady and saying to her, "Baby, you are looking HOT, tonight!"

Scary, I know.

How can a woman protect herself from such peril?

Coincidentally, her best defense is actually to arm herself with a FLIR One thermal camera.  When assaulted with the lizard's line, she can brandish her own thermal camera, point it at every other  person in the bar, and say, "Well, it looks like everyone else here is just as hot. So, leave me alone!"

Ladies, protect yourself from lounge lizards. Buy yourself a FLIR One, today!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Myyy Preciousss

The other day, one of my sons said to me out of the blue, “Aragorn was stronger in mind than Isildur.”

This was an interesting comment, so I inquired, “Why do you say that?”

He continued, “Isildur couldn’t stand to have the ring destroyed, but Aragorn did want it to be destroyed.”  Considering his words, my lower lip jutted out and I began to nod.  It was a pretty good observation for a nine year old kid.

These words got me thinking about my own strength of mind.  I think that anyone who has read “The Lord of the Rings” (TLOTR)  has wondered to themselves whether or not they would possess the resolve and strength of will to resist the temptation of the ring of power.  And when I think of that topic, I end up hearing Andy Gullihorn’s line from Skinny Jeans about folding like origami.  I think I would fold every time.  And when I face that realization, I quickly remind myself that the ring of power is not real, and that I will never face such temptation, so I needn’t trouble myself. Or do I?

When I was in the first grade, if I finished my classwork early, my teacher would allow me to go and play games quietly while the other students finished their assignment.  Once when I had finished early, I went over to join two classmates who were playing a game.  I greeted the two students and asked if I could play.  To my surprise, one of the girls looked up at me and said, “No, we don’t want to play with you.”  This rejection stung badly, and immediately I felt my shoulders roll, my head drop, and my chin protrude and I moped back to my desk.  

Now, this was not an involuntary reaction.  I was feeling sorry for myself. I was throwing a pity party, and I was the guest of honor.  I had done nothing wrong, and I was unjustly rejected by selfish people.  This is my first living memory of self-righteousness combined with self-pity.  Having been unjustly rejected, I responded with mopey self-pity.  And it didn’t stop there, because I remember the two girls coming up to me at recess later in the day to apologize, and I felt a strange dilemma.  I could forgive them and be done with affair, or I could withhold forgiveness and maintain control over these people who had offended me.  I am ashamed to say that for a while I withheld forgiveness for the sake of “control.”

Self-pity is very powerful.  If we believe that we have been unjustly treated we can cherish those offenses because they give us leverage on the one who has offended us.  They have made us feel bad, and we can cherish the prospect of making them feel bad, too.  In a desire to wield that power, we might withdraw from those who offend us, so that they can stew in their guilt.  And sometimes we may even want the pity party to spread into a pity festival.  We will tell people about how we have been offended so that others can take our side in the injustice and feel sorry for us and how we have been treated.

Again, self-pity can be very powerful. In pride, it can convince me that “I don’t deserve to be treated like this.”  It can promise me power over those who have unjustly treated me.  It can cause me to disappear as I withdraw from those who have offended me to leave them to consider the heinous thing that they have done.

Like the ring of power in TLOTR, self-pity is a deceptive power.  It can consume the bearer and draw them into solitude that will corrupt the soul and warp the mind.  If I cherish offenses and withhold forgiveness, I can feel my heart harden and my mind become foggy in its consumption to promote guilt among those around me.  I become like Gollum in TLOTR, who was consumed by the ring and its power.  Self-pity can become “Myyy preciousss.”

My son’s comment about Aragorn and Isildur coincided with my preparations to teach through the latter part of John’s gospel.  In John 20:22&23, Jesus speaks to his disciples after his resurrection and grants them the Holy Spirit and then goes onto say that they would possess the authority to grant and withhold forgiveness, an awesome responsibility however you understand that passage of Scripture (and there are many interpretations of it.).  

As you read Chapter 21 about how Jesus restores Peter following Peter’s denials, you realize that Jesus didn’t withhold forgiveness, He initiated the granting of forgiveness.  More than anyone who ever lived, Jesus could have thrown himself a pity party, but it was his glory to bestow forgiveness.  It was why he came to live and die.

Self-pity is like a ring of power to me.  It promises to grant me a temporary feeling of power, but ultimately, it will destroy me from the inside out.  The challenge is to resist putting it on, when the opportunity is presented to me. The challenge is to reveal the offense quickly for the sake of granting forgiveness.

Too often, I succumb to the temptation, but through forgiveness granted the power of the ring can be destroyed and my soul can be healed.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Night Farming

I sit at my desk typing by the light of the monitor with a faint gleam of light from a lamp in the living room in the corner of my eye. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world, and whoever believes in you will not walk in the darkness, but he will have the light of life." [1]

Now, that certainly does not mean that the light from these various light sources are emanating his essence. The light of life is not coming to me from these various light sources. The first chapter of John's gospel says that John the Baptist came into the world to testify about the light, but he was not the light.

John 1
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

So, the light of life brings true enlightenment to the soul with respect to one's sinful condition and the life found in the gospel. But since Jesus is not physically in this world, what is our light source that illumines the souls of men?

The Word of God that became flesh was the image given of Christ earlier in the first chapter of John's gospel, and therefore, I believe that the holy scriptures are the objective light source that is available to all who have the Bible. Therefore, it is to the benefit of all who possess the Bible to read the Word by faith to receive the light of life. [2]

And although I know that I should read the Bible every day (and in deed I do read the Bible every day), I find that my life is being crowded by the reading of so many other books – good books – even theological books. So, what is the relationship between these good theological books that are commanding so much of my time and the Word of Life and Light.

I believe that there is light in the books that are written by faithful men about the Christ of the Bible. It is not emitted light, in other words, it is not light generated by the author or the words of these books. Rather, what light that does come from these sources is reflected light.

It is the difference between the light from the sun and the light from the moon. The light from the moon is borrowed light, not its own light. The sun illuminates the surface of the moon and the moon reflects a fraction of that light to the earth. Therefore, the glorious beauty of the moon is put on display by the sun, and as such the moon should point us to the majesty of the sun.

And although the light has the same source, it is not as though the two objects have the same effect. When the sun is present in the sky, it drowns all others, while the moon, though dominant in the night sky, is transient in the magnitude of its light through its phases and there are other competing lights that can be seen quite easily.

More than that, the light of the sun feeds all life on the earth. Its light enables the nourishment of every plant. The moon, though reflecting the same light to the earth does not provide nearly enough light to support the life of those plants.

These days, I feel like the planet Jupiter. I am reading so many books, that I have seven moons in orbit, [3] and although I am feeling the light of the sun on a daily basis, the responsibilities of reading so many other books is sometimes eclipsing the profit and benefit that I could gain in reading the Bible and soaking in the light of Christ through prayer and meditation.

It is not as though the reading of these various books is necessarily filling my head with bad thoughts, but it is nearly impossible to to follow the line of thinking of each author, and take the time to trace the reflected rays back to their glorious source and meditate on the richness of the source. More than that to let those meditations mind voice in personal communication with God in prayer.

Instead, I feel that in keeping up on my reading on so many fronts I am like a plant that is carried inside after a half an hour in the sun. I am then brought back outside to try and survive on the reflected light of the moon. I am not saying that I should not read books other than the Bible. But I think that I should not read so many at one time if they are going to displace personal communion with God, Himself…

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes was right:

Ecclesiastes 12
12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.

[1] John 8: 12
[2] If the Word of God is read without faith, it will give little light or life and thus there will be little fruit born in the person's life. Many are those who have read the Bible and the words had little or no effect.
[3] I am presently reading: Triumph over Temptation, Peacemaker, One Body-One Spirit, Money Possessions and Eternity, Pleasures of God, Spiritual Depression, William Tyndale Biography, …and the Bible and Valley of Vision.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Matter of Life and Death: An Introduction

Biblical Life and Death Decisions

Deuteronomy 31
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,

20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

If most people were asked to rate how hazardous their life is, they would probably feel that they live in a fairly safe environment. To be sure, we often take steps to put ourselves well out of harms way. For instance, you probably try to pick the safest neighborhood to raise your family. More than likely you do not participate in dangerous pastimes like base-jumping or cliff diving. Unless a military soldier or civil servant, you probably chose a career that doesn’t put you directly in harms’ way on a daily basis.

But the fact is that regardless of your career, or recreational activities, you are faced with several life and death decisions on a daily basis. And it might surprise you to realize that the reality of these life and death decisions is revealed in the Word of God.

Throughout the Bible life and death are set in juxtaposition to one another, and although the contrast is a common one in the Bible many people are completely unaware of the dangerous situations that they find themselves in every day. Thus in their ignorance, many people are constantly walking into deadly situations completely oblivious to the fact that they flirting with disaster, and are even killing themselves.

So, how does the Bible speak of these life and death situations?

Well, in Deuteronomy 31, God explicitly speaks of the fact that he sets before them a life and death decision. To hold to Him and to adhere to the stipulations set forth in the covenant would be life to them, and to break the covenant would be deadly to them and to their descendants. We will look more closely at this passage of scripture, but I mention it briefly to illustrate the how explicit the scriptures can be about such life and death decisions.

In many cases, we are faced with the prospect of choosing life or choosing death with regard to choices that we make every day. There are also many passages that refer to how a Christian must in fact die in order to obtain life, or said a different way: a Christian chooses life by choosing death.

Here is a list of such passages:

· Creation: Tree of life planted along side a tree that would bring death if eaten from.
· Moses put before Israel “life and death” when he charged them with keeping the commandments of the law
· How OT animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s redemptive work that brings life
· Proverbs: life from the Lady Wisdom & the way of the harlot brings death
· Our life from Christ’s death
Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die, it bears much fruit
The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (that they might live)
· “He who would lose his life in this world, will gain it in the next”
Baptised into Christ’s death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection
· The law brought death, but the Spirit brings life (Rom 7 & 8)
· Forfeiting Life through “Living” (1Tim 5: 5-6)
· Serial Killer
Holy life through killing sin
Putting to death the deeds of the flesh.
· Serial Suicide:
Dying Daily
Living Sacrifices
· Evangelism: A Matter of Life and Death

The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the various ways that life and death decisions are placed before us every day. Then having recognized the dividing marks for these life & death decisions, I desire to learn how to consistently make to choice for life rather than death.