Slave To Righteousness

Become a slave to righteousness by practicing it. Humans are creatures of habit. Even things that are not physically addictive can become habit forming. Some people are more prone to this than others, but we are all affected by it to some degree. If you become accustomed to doing something on a regular basis then you start to do it as second nature. You start to feel wrong if you don’t do it. An example of when this happened in my life involves video games.

When I was first married I played a game called Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. This was the first video game that I had ever played online with people from all over the world and it is a competitive first-person shooter game so I really enjoyed it. Back then I didn’t have kids so I would often come home from work and then sit in front of the TV and play video games for a few hours. The amount of time I spent playing this game just kept increasing and eventually, I would come home from work, head straight to the basement to play the game and stay there until bedtime. After several months of this, I started thinking about doing other things like leaving the house or even playing other games. But I found it really difficult to do. I could spend the day at work thinking about how I would play a nice relaxing game that evening instead, or else maybe watch some TV or a movie with my wife. But even if I tried to do it, I would usually wind up in the basement playing the game because it just felt wrong to skip a day.

In the end, it wasn’t even fun anymore. I would usually be screaming at the game and feeling awful about myself because even after years of playing this game I was still always one of the worst players in a match. But the game had a hold of me. It’s unlikely that you could say I was physically addicted like I had been to cigarettes years before, but I was still uncontrollably drawn to it. In biblical language, I had become a slave to it. The game owned me. I suspect that it was this way for a lot of people and the game developers knew this and turned the game into a yearly release title. I’m sad to say that this yearly release schedule kept me hooked on the game for nearly half a decade.

More recently I had become a user of medical marijuana. I went through the proper channels, was given a prescription, ordered through the licensed vendors and even stayed below the amount that I had been prescribed. I stopped using marijuana completely after my true conversion on May 7th, but I had stopped getting it from licensed suppliers well before that. I found that I didn’t need nearly as much of it as I had been prescribed so it was easier and cheaper for me to just get it through a guy I knew.

When I had been using the prescription stuff I was high all day. This is how they told me to use it. Initially when I cut that off it was because I didn’t want to be stoned all day and was having qualms about a professed Christian using marijuana. This was still while I was a false convert, but I was worried about what people would think of me if they found out that I was a Christian and smoked pot. I had a short period where I experienced one of my old spiritual highs and I stopped smoking it altogether and cut off my prescription. I knew that I could still get it from other sources if I needed it so I wasn’t too worried, but I wanted to try. That lasted about a week before I started getting it from the guy I mentioned earlier.

I didn’t want to use nearly as much, so I only used it in the evenings after my kids went to bed. At first, that seemed to be working well, but before long I was thinking all day about when my kids would be in bed so I could get stoned. Eventually, I was rushing through their bedtime routine so I could get to it faster. Initially, I had used it once and that would last me the night, but before long it wouldn’t anymore. And I would use it more and more. And then, of course, the little high that I got wasn’t enough and I was smoking more at one time and trying to get as high as I possibly could. I will admit, it was making me happier, I laughed more, I felt more creative, I enjoyed my normal activities more, but I also knew that it was taking over and that I had become worse than what I had been before.

It hit me hardest on a Friday night when I chose not to go to a church meeting and instead when over to my buddy’s house to get high. I even told him, “I should probably feel bad about skipping church to smoke pot, but I don’t really.” This was the beginning of what eventually led to what I believe was my true conversion. After that night I started to really question whether or not I even was a Christian. But this post will go way off the rails if I head down that trail so perhaps I will come back to it in a future post.

The point is these two things that are both considered non-physically addictive activities were able to take control of my life and make me a slave of them simply by making a habit of them. This can happen with other things as well. Facebook is one that most people experience. I hated Facebook with a passion, but to get away from it I had to make a new password that was super complex and not write it down. Now in order for me to get into my Facebook account, I would have to recover my password. Knowing that has worked to keep me away. But that’s just one example. There are so many things that people do every day that they believe to be harmless, but Christian, if you find yourself doing it unintentionally, or if you find that it’s difficult to go a day without it, then that thing is a master over you. And a servant cannot have two masters.

We are told to practice righteousness. We are told to renew our minds. We are told to think on only what is good and pure and true. We are told to study the scriptures. There are a lot of things that we are told to do in the Bible, not so that we can earn our way into Heaven, but so that we can become slaves to righteousness. And don’t take that the wrong way. We WANT to be slaves to righteousness because the only other option we are given is to be a slave to sin. Even if you think you are a slave to no one, that very thought makes you a slave to sin. You have one master. You were purchased with a price. Start doing the things that He commanded you to do on a regular basis. Get to the point when not doing them feels weird.

You know what feels weird for me right now? Praying over a meal in public? It’s only that way though because I don’t do it. And I’m not saying that you have to pray over a meal in public with bowed heads and folded hands. When Jesus blessed a meal he just looked to heaven and said: “Thank you.” But that’s not the point. I know a lot of Christians who never talk about God because they are uncomfortable with it. We need to get to the point where talking about God isn’t outside of our comfort zone, it is our comfort zone. I’m not saying that you have to push your faith on others, but nothing says that you have to talk and act as though God isn’t real for the benefit of others. In fact, we are specifically commanded not to do that. If we are ashamed of Him before me, He will be ashamed of us before our Father.

If God is real to you, then walk like He is. Talk like He is. Put your faith where your mouth is. Because the things that are real to us, the things that excite us, the things that we most believe in are things we talk about. They are things we invest our time in. So if we’re going to have ingrained habits and addictions, we should be trying to make those ingrained habits and addictions righteousness. And we can do that because Christ is in us and we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We really need to grab on to that, believe that and live that. Doing so will make you a peculiar people, yes, but it will also establish the Kingdom of God on Earth right now.

Be a slave to righteousness, in which there is true freedom, or be a slave to sin, in which there is bondage and death. By the Grace of God, the choice is yours.

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Clarity About Salvation

I feel like I’ve beaten this poor dead horse to a second death, but I want to restate this again because I fear that some of the time when I write it might be confusing where I stand on the issue of salvation, works, holiness, etc. The soapbox that I seem to have been placed upon at the moment does largely emphasize holiness and obedience, which might be called works by some. I believe this is because, not only have I not seen much emphasis placed on these things over the years, I’ve actually seen people pushing against them. At times I had even pushed against it. If you follow this blog you will know that I believe I was a false convert at the time that I was doing that. But I don’t want to give the wrong impression so I’m stating it categorically here. At least I hope to.

Salvation is from God by Grace. We do not deserve it, we can not earn it. It’s method of transmission, if you will, is through faith, which itself is a gift from God and not the product of anything that we ourselves do or have done.  There is no one on this earth now or anytime in history who could boast that they deserve to go to Heaven when they die based on anything they had done; except for Christ Himself. But even He did not do that and chose to direct all Glory to the Father.

Salvation can also be called Justification. It is the legal term that means God holds us guiltless for the sin that we have committed and it is based on Christ’s life, death on the cross and resurrection. His work has provided the basis for Justification. Without it, God would not have been able to Justify us after our wicked deeds.

So, why do I go on about obedience and Holiness? Well, there are a number of reasons. The first and primary is that this is how we are commanded to live. We were not just given a ticket into Heaven, good for one free entrance at any time, with no expiry date. We were redeemed, blood-bought, purchased at a price. We were told that we ought to walk as He walked. Live as He lived. Love as He loved. Christ did not come and live a poor life which was cut short at the cross, during and after which he suffered the full wrath of God against sin so that we could continue to live in our sin. He didn’t do it so that we could have large houses, nicer cars, more stuff, more money, see the world so we could satisfy the lust of our eyes, whatever else it is that you want to do with your life.

Christ saved us into a death of our own. We are to be a living sacrifice, dying daily to ourselves so that we can be His love and hands in the world. Not just His hands of course, but His whole body. There is an entire Bible for a reason. Primarily it is so that we can know who God is. And what did Christ say? If you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. And what are Christians supposed to do? Become Christlike. Right? The modern church seems to want people to believe that being Christlike means being nice to people. Certainly, we ought to be nice to people when the situation calls for it. But there are times, as Christ demonstrated, when being nice is not the right thing to do. So being 0Christlike must mean more than being nice.

Christ also said that He did nothing unless He saw His Father in Heaven do it. We can’t see Our Father in Heaven, but we have four Gospels to see Christ who is the very image of Our Father in Heaven. We have twenty-three other books in the New Testament written by those who were closest to Him to help us along further. If all we had to do was accept Jesus into our hearts, whatever that means, the New Testament could be one book long. Just enough to validate that Christ is the Messiah. It could end with, “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth, but I’m not going to use it, therefore go and convince people I’m real and get them to accept me into their hearts at which point I will change them if I want to, and not change them if I don’t. But they will have a shallow life of ease and fun.” Contrast that with the actual Great Commission which says “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded. And I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The other reason, as if that one reason is not enough, is that God’s commands are not hard or burdensome. It’s true that we will always battle against our flesh and sometimes we will lose that battle, but that doesn’t mean that there is no joy in being obedient. We are told to flee temptation. Christ told us to cut off our appendages if they cause us to sin. We are told that we are not tempted beyond what we can handle and that God will always provide an escape. The simple fact that He provides it means two things. One, we can use it. Two, He expects us to. There is forgiveness if we don’t, as is stated in 1 John.

1 John 2:1 – My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

But I’ve seen so many people use that verse as a defense for sin, rather than what it is, a statement that sin is the exception, not the rule for the believer. As though this verse shows we’re going to sin anyway, so why bother doing anything about it? But jump back a couple books to Hebrews and you find that anyone who sins willfully, tramples the Son of God underfoot and treats the blood of the Covenant as a common thing and there remains no sacrifice for them but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. I’m not saying that the person who willfully sins is definitely lost, but this is scripture and we need to take warnings like this seriously. They weren’t just wasting ink when they wrote these books because they had nothing better to do.

Obedience to Christ is wonderful. It isn’t a burden that we have to bear, it’s a joy we get to experience. The burden is the sin that we can’t shake. But that doesn’t mean we remain as wicked as those who know nothing of God! We strive to enter the narrow gate. Sometimes it’s hard but Christ is there with us, strengthening us to do as He commands. If you are not making use of the strength that Christ supplies I urge you, in the strongest of terms, to start. If you have Christ you will discover a whole new joy, or maybe rediscover a joy that you have forgotten. If you find that there is no strength there, that you are on your own, then you need to run to Christ. Until you cross the threshold of the gates of Heaven be like Paul and don’t presume to have made it. Run the race that is set before you, strive to make your calling and election sure. If you find it burdensome call out to God. Keep calling. Don’t stop calling. I believe it took me twenty years to really come to understand this. But now that I have I want nothing else. Only Him and more of Him.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3: 13-14 ~ NIV

 

 

Formerly Quest For Joy

Today I felt the need to update the name of this blog. I’ve long felt that the Reformation didn’t go far enough. I think part of the reason was that the Reformation was kind of an accident. Luther hadn’t planned on starting a huge movement when he posted his 99 theses on the door of the church. He only wanted to have a debate. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the printing press had just been invented it’s possible that we wouldn’t know anything about a Reformation and would still think that the church was the Roman Catholic church and anyone not part of it was outside the church and damned.

Of course, to say it was an accident is a bit silly. It may have been an accident for Luther, but God knew what He was doing the entire time. The Reformation did a great job on correcting a lot of wrong theology, and even some practice, but it’s in the practice area that I don’t think the Reformation went far enough. Sure we don’t have a Pope in Protestant churches, but we still have leaders over denominations that aren’t described anywhere in scripture, we have pastors in positions of, at times, near absolute authority over bodies of believers, we have services that are not like anything described in the scriptures and worst of all, we do not make disciples.

I’ve been a part of one church or another for nearly twenty years. When I first started attending church it was a Salvation Army church and the Captain (that’s what they call pastors) used to occasionally come by and pick me up when he was walking his dog and we would talk about God and faith. He also held a Bible study for me, my sister and my friend (now brother-in-law) before the service on Sunday because we were all new believers and he was investing in us. I’m kind of choking up now thinking about it. I didn’t realize how special that was at the time.

That’s the closest thing to discipleship I have received in my entire Christian experience. It didn’t last very long because the Salvation Army moves their officers around to new churches every four to eight years and I came near the end of his tenure at our corps. When he left, my discipleship period was over. And so was anyone else’s. I’ve attended many churches over the years and I doubt very much there are pastors who are more over-worked than Salvation Army officers, so I can hardly fault his successors for not carrying it on. But that is just a symptom of the entire problem with this organization we call church.

First of all, in scripture, the saints gathered all the time. They didn’t come together once a week to sit beside each other for an hour and then rush out the door to lunch. They lived life together. The modern Small Group movement seems to have been a half-baked answer to this problem, but it didn’t work out because instead of becoming a part of each other’s lives, we just read the latest Christian best-seller and answered the questions at the back of the book. We still only met once a week for an hour and the group would only run for a few weeks or months and then it would end until the next small group sessions started up. By the end, there would still be people whose names I didn’t know, never mind what sort of struggles they were having, or what victories they had experienced in their lives. We had never broken bread together because that was reserved for Communion Sunday where the love feast has been reduced to the smallest cracker you’ve ever seen and a thimble full of grape juice.

This is not discipleship. This is nothing at all like discipleship. When a person asked to be Christ’s disciples, what did He say to them? “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Well, so what? Why does that matter if being His disciple means meeting once a week to read the latest scroll and answer questions that are shallower than the pool at the splash pad? The reason what He said mattered was that becoming His disciple meant living with Him. We can’t physically live with Christ anymore, but that didn’t bother the early church who got together seemingly whenever they could to read the scriptures, pray for each other, mourn or celebrate with each other, offer worship, edify one another with their spiritual gifts, etc. And this, I believe, is what the church needs to regain. This is what discipleship looks like now that Christ has ascended to Heaven.

Jesus final words before ascending to Heaven were,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What followed was the book of Acts. The establishment of the early church. And whether you read in Acts or any of the epistles, you will not find anywhere, anything like what we do now. I know that the early church wasn’t perfect, but it was producing fruit. It was being obedient for the most part. Just look at how it spread throughout the world at the time. Starting from twelve Apostles. Under intense persecution. When there was no Bible for them to read.

Now we have freedom of worship, churches on every corner. We don’t just have the Bible but hundreds of translations, formats, and styles to choose from. We can download preaching to our ever-present smart devices to hear the Word of God whenever we want to. Christian bookstores all over the place are filled with books we can study (and many that should be tossed in the trash.) Christian radio stations are available almost anywhere over the air and everywhere there is an internet connection. Christian movies are now being shown in theatres. These are all toted as victories for the church. But the church is fading. And what remains is filled with many who don’t even believe the scriptures.

I hadn’t planned on writing all of this. I had just planned on explaining the name change. Clearly, I needed to get something off of my chest. I know that there are others who think like I do, who read the Bible and want what they see there. Not just because it would make the church better because it might not. Right now you don’t have to interact with anyone from your church on anything like a regular basis. Relationship makes things messy. No, it’s because that is what Christ wanted, what the Apostles established and what will bring the most fruit for Christ. I also happen to think that overall, it will be a lot better.

My Musings on The Gospel

What is the Gospel? Plenty of people think they know for certain. The Gospel is simple, they say. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, they say. And, yes they are correct as far as they go, but do they go far enough?

When I ask you, what does it mean to believe in Christ?– what are you going to say to me? To one person it may mean that they believe He existed and was a good teacher. This seems to be what Gandhi believed when he supposedly said: “Jesus I like, it’s Christians I’m not very fond of.” (N.B. May not have been Gandhi, may not be an exact quote. I have seen this somewhere though.) I’m not certain that he ever actually said such a thing but if he did, was there value in it? Aside from setting himself above believers in Christ? I don’t think there is because Gandhi was not a Christian. Assuming that he did say it, it doesn’t even follow necessarily that he believed Jesus existed. Whether Jesus existed or not, there is certainly a character named Jesus who he could like. For example I could say, Harry Potter I like, but Potterheads I’m not very fond of. I’m not actually saying that, but the parallel with Gandhi and Jesus is there. Harry Potter does not exist, and yet I could like what is said about him and dislike his fans. The same could be true about Gandhi’s view of Jesus. In fact, the evidence would seem to point that way because, as I said, he is not a Christian. So, either he didn’t really believe that Jesus existed, didn’t actually know what Jesus taught, or he believed what was written about Him save for the part about the resurrection. I say this because if you believe that Jesus existed and that He died and rose again, you would have to be the stupidest person alive to not then become a Christian.

Others will answer that they believe Jesus is their personal Lord and Saviour. Well, what does that mean? In many people, it seems to mean that they believe Jesus existed and that He died and rose again so that they can be free from the penalty of their sin. And that’s where it stops. Many of these people make liberal use of profanity, get drunk or stoned regularly, practice promiscuity, think nothing of lying to get out of trouble or stealing to get what they want (often in the form of torrent sites for music and movies.) When you try to suggest to these people that believing in Christ means that there will be some change in their lives they will probably get angry at you and call you a legalist or suggest that what you are telling them is your interpretation. When you take them to the scriptures to show why you believe what you do (1 Peter 3:15) they might even tell you that they don’t believe that part of the Bible, they believe the Gospels because those are about Jesus. If you then take them to the Gospels to show how Jesus also demanded your complete and total devotion to Him alone then they will argue that the Bible is corrupt because it’s written by man, or they will say that it needs to be updated because it’s whatever year it happens to currently be. As if we are now more holy and righteous than Jesus was because he lived so long ago.

So what is belief then? Belief in Christ is faith, and faith is something that all of us have in something. For example, the atheist goes about his life comfortable in the choices that he makes based on his own reasoning and logic and not on the Word of God or any other religious text. The reason that he is able to go about so comfortably is that he has faith in his belief that nothing will happen to him when he dies, or that if it turns out something does happen, he has been a decent enough person to make the cut anyway.

Leaving behind religious and philosophical faith, there are all sorts of things we can have faith in. When I close my eyes at night I have faith that I will open them in the morning. I also have faith that when I do, my vision will work as it always has done. When I send my kids to school I have faith that the bus driver is going to get them there safely. When I drive my car I have faith that other drivers will mostly obey the rules of the road. When the sun goes down I have faith that it will rise in the morning. When the rain starts to fall I have faith it will eventually stop. When I cross a bridge I have faith that it is sound and won’t collapse. I recently bought a telescope during the day with full faith that the moon would be visible in the night sky later and I could make use of it.

Faith is trust and trust leads to action. If for some reason I did not have faith in the bus driver, my kids would not get on the bus. If I didn’t have faith in the bridge, I would not cross it. If I thought my eyes would seal shut forever when I slept I would stay awake as long as possible. If the atheist came to believe that something was going to happen to him after he died, he would no longer be an atheist and would spend time trying to find out what that was.

When the Bible says that we need to believe in Jesus it doesn’t simply mean that we have some head knowledge about Him and that we don’t deny His existence. It means having faith in Him.

Hebrews 11:6 – without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

If you have faith in Him, you will diligently seek Him. What does diligently seek Him mean? Let’s go to the scriptures.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

Luke 9:63 – Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Acts 17:11 – Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 John 2:3 – Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

1 John 2:6 – He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as he walked.

1 John 2:15b – If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 3:7 – Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.

That’s enough to make my point. You’ll notice I was heavy on the 1 John passages. The reason for that is I pulled the others from my head and then searched Google for them to make sure I got the wording correct, but I opened my Bible for the ones in 1 John and there I saw all of the passages I had underlined back when I believed Jesus existed, but I’m not certain I believed unto salvation. I was like the second group of people up there, who acted as though Christ freed me to sin instead of from it. I underlined those passages because they scared me to death. I wanted to be saved for sure, but I wanted the world too. And I had done just as the scriptures said we would do, I piled up teachers who would say what my itching ears wanted to hear. I found the people with degrees from seminary who preached that I could have the world and Christ with it. These are the people who say things like a church is a hospital for the sick without realizing that if you are sick and you go to a hospital where no one is ever made well you are a fool. Yes there is a struggle with sin, but it is a very different struggle when you truly believe what the scriptures say about it.

When I used to say that I struggled with porn, what I actually meant was I enjoyed watching it and God had not magically removed that enjoyment from me. Strangely enough, every time I looked at naked ladies, I liked it. I believed what so many preach which is that “Christ does it all and if I try to do anything then I’m adding to His finished work and that’s heresy.” Whenever I would watch it I would berate myself afterward, as if to show God that I really didn’t want to watch it and I was being controlled by my sin. There would be the odd occasion where I would remember that Christ isn’t fooled by such things and the only thing to do then was to not care, to find someone to tell me that Christ paid for that sin and not to beat myself up about it. Well, they were right about that part. I shouldn’t beat myself up about it because that accomplished nothing. What I needed to do was what John 7:17 says:

John 7:17 – Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

If you aren’t already standing up, please stand up for a second. Okay, are you standing? Good. You might want to sit down for this. I’m about to tell you something shocking. God’s will and your will are very rarely going to be the same. Our job as Christians is to live our lives such that the overlap between God’s will and our own happens naturally more often. We are sinful creatures and we will never see perfect overlap on this side of the grave, but we can certainly take steps to reduce the discrepancies. My struggles with sin now have more to do with the internal man than outward behaviour. I’m not saying I have perfect outward behaviour but certainly, the intentional sins have largely dried up in my life. I don’t look at porn, I don’t smoke weed, I don’t get drunk, I don’t spend all of my free time playing violent video games, etc. The reason for that is God has given me the strength and desire to resist those things. I still have to resist them, but I can feel God’s strength in me helping me to do that.

Where I still struggle is in things like lustful or vengeful thinking. I still very, very much enjoy attractive women. At least my flesh does. It is a constant struggle for me not to stare at them when they are walking down the street, or worse, at the beach. And when I’m not vigilant I can find myself in a mental fantasy real quick. When that happens I stop, take my mind off of it, and repent immediately because I don’t want to damage what I have with God.

You see, it’s not about rule following with me. It’s about respect and love for God. There is also some fear. God is to be feared. That is crystal clear in scripture and at no point has that changed. But for those of us who are saved and following Christ, it is a reverent fear. God is unimaginably powerful. Even fully convinced as I am that I am under the blood of Christ and my sin will not be counted against me at the judgement, if Christ appeared in front of me in all of His Glory right now I would fall down as if I were dead in fear with the full realization of my unimaginably wicked heart in the presence of pure perfection. I know this because both Isaiah and John did that very thing and they were certainly more righteous than I am.

I also struggle with thoughts of bitterness and revenge. I have this horrible (and sinful) habit of picturing terrible things happening that probably never will. When I find myself imagining something terrible happening to my kids as a result of someone’s maliciousness or negligence these thoughts will often lead to thoughts of what I would do to such a person. If I ever had any doubts about the evil that remains within me, these thoughts are all the proof I need that sin is still very much a part of who I am.

None of this is to excuse any sin whatsoever in my life or anyone’s life. There is no excuse for sin. The smallest infraction is worthy of death because that is what God has decreed. We don’t know why He has decreed that. We can say it’s because He is Holy and perfectly Just but all of that is just words and us trying to make sense of something that we don’t really understand. God is infinite in power, wisdom, and creativity. To suggest that it’s impossible for Him to freely exist beside sinful man seems to be limiting His power. It also seems to forget that God became man and lived among us for 33 years in the form of Jesus Christ and also that He currently takes up residence inside believers who remain in possession of fallen bodies that walk around a fallen world and interact daily with people who are unregenerate. Does God have a breaking point? Is it that He can only live with it for so long and then He snaps? I don’t think so. And neither did the Psalmist.

Psalm 135:6 – The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.

Psalm 115:3 – But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Or how about Daniel?

Daniel 4:35 – All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”

So then, what is the Gospel? The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He has purchased your salvation with His blood. But his blood is not cheap and common so that you should use it liberally to cover a life lived in the flesh.

Romans 3:8 – And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Hebrews 10:29 – How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

If you belong to Christ you have been purchased by him so that you are no longer a slave to sin, but to righteousness.

Romans 6:18 –  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

And because you have been purchased by Christ you ought to live a life worthy of Him and His sacrifice.

Philippians 1:27 – Nevertheless, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

1 John 2:4 – He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in Him.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. If the truth is in you, then Christ is in you. It is utterly imperative that you know what the Gospel is because a false Gospel cannot save you.

Galatians 1:8 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

I’ve spent a long time trying to make sure I understand it correctly and I’m still not certain I’m there, but I’m telling what I know so far. To be saved you need to call on the name of the Lord. If He is Lord then you are to be obedient to Him. To be obedient to Him you must know what He commands. To know what He commands you must seek Him diligently. To seek Him diligently is to spend time in the scriptures and in prayer, giving up the things that you fill your time with now. Understand that this life is a vapour and it could be over at any moment. Nothing you aspire to do or desire to own, no place that you want to visit, no skill that you want to develop, no job, no family, no ambition is more important than seeking Christ while He may be found.

This is the good news: right now, Christ may be found. Whoever you are, whatever you are doing, however far you think you’ve fallen or even if you’ve never given it any thought, Christ is there to be found. Seek Him. Seek Him first, above all else. And when you find Him, keep seeking Him. Then share Him. He is not yours alone. You are His alone.

My Quest For Joy – Check In

Quest For Joy is not the first blog that I’ve started about Christianity. Nor is it the second, or the third. I actually don’t know how many I’ve had and abandoned because of the way I used to interact with God before May 7th of 2018, which is the day that I believe I received my spiritual rebirth, though apparently some have written of something called a second blessing and I’m told that may be what happened. But when I started this blog my intention was not for it to become a teaching blog because I am not really qualified to teach. By that I don’t mean that I don’t have the proper education and credentials because those are man made things that probably do more to mask really bad teaching than to ensure really good teaching. After all, if education and credentials are what qualify someone to teach you might as well toss out most of your Bible. What I mean is, I haven’t walked close enough with God for long enough to be teaching anyone. But for some reason when I start to write I go into teaching mode. I suppose it’s because I mimic the style of others who I read online. Not on purpose, that’s just the way the voice in my head is when I start typing. But I didn’t want this blog to be a teaching blog or an apologetics blog. I wanted it to be a personal journey blog, and it has slipped away from that a bit. So, this entry is me trying to bring it back around.

On May 7th of 2018 something changed in my relationship with God. It became more real than I had ever known it to be before. And along with the change in my relationship to God came a dramatic change in me. Prior to this change I was sullen, negative, overly taken with nostalgia for my childhood, prone to angry outbursts at inanimate objects, almost constantly frustrated and anxious, if I had free time I was probably wasting it with video games, falling into a YouTube abyss, smoking marijuana (for medical reasons I told myself), etc. I was a mess. Let’s put it that way. And while I am still far from perfect, as a general rule, those things do not describe me anymore. And it wasn’t some sort of struggle or program that I followed to develop better habits, it was an instantaneous change. This is why I think that, despite calling myself Christian since 2001 or so, I wasn’t actually saved until May 7th. I don’t want to be dogmatic about that because I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I am not the same person I used to be, thanks be to Jesus. Seriously. I didn’t do anything. It was all Jesus.

The only thing that changed in me on May 7th that I know of which could be considered an action on my part was that I decided then and there to release every aspect of my life to Christ’s control. And I mean, every single aspect. I had been on the verge of renouncing my faith altogether when I heard the testimony of someone who sounded a lot like me. Through letting go of everything and trusting in God, this man was able to finally find God in a real way that changed his life. Even though I had all but settled in my heart that I was going to give up on God and I was trying to think of how to explain this to my wife, something about his message stirred me. I’m not saying who he is because I’m not comfortable with everything he believes and have stopped listening to his messages, but the main contribution he made to this process was to lead me to John 7:16-17.

16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

John 7:16-17 (NKJV) from Biblegateway.com

Though I had long come to the point where “easy believe-ism” lost it’s hold on me, and I knew that real faith produced change in people’s lives, I was still trying to make those changes on my own strength and as such, despite periods where it would seem like I had figured it out, I would always eventually wind up a worse sinner than I had been at the start. I didn’t understand it. I seemed, as far as I could tell, to genuinely want to change, but I couldn’t. That’s why reading the Bible was often terrifying to me. What if I were a vessel prepared for destruction? What if I were one of those who, at the final judgement, would say Lord, Lord” and hear, “Depart from me, you who works lawlessness, I never knew you”? What if I were the seed who fell on the rocky places of the path, which sprang up quickly but had no root and withered in the heat of the sun?

I spoke to all sorts of other Christians about my concerns and the response was always the same. If I had believed in Jesus then I was saved, no matter what I felt. I would try to help them to see that, though I believed in Jesus, I wasn’t sure I had a saving belief in Jesus. I believed God existed, in fact I would have said that I knew God existed, and I still don’t doubt that was true, but there is little comfort in that when James says “You believe there is one God? You do well. So the demons believe and tremble.” I knew that, as James says, faith is made perfect in works. But I was unable to do the works. Or, if I could for a time, I was unable to sustain them.

I didn’t pray often in those days, but when I did I more often than not asked God why He was making me the way He was. Why couldn’t I do the things He wanted me to do? Why was I stuck in the same old sins? Why, if I’ve been saved, wasn’t I able to praise God genuinely, and instead often find myself depressed, fearful, anxious and occasionally thinking of suicide? I would often ask Him to give me some sort of sign that He could at least hear me because Peter said that if a husband isn’t honouring his wife then his prayers could be hindered and my wife and I had been enduring some pretty rocky periods during which I couldn’t honestly say that I was honouring her. Maybe he wasn’t even hearing me when I prayed. I don’t put a lot of stock in testimonies of those who claim they’ve been taken to heaven or to hell so that they could come back and tell about it, but just in case I would ask God to take me to hell, even if just in a dream, so that I would be so terrified that I would start living right. I didn’t really care how sin was taken from me, as long as it was.

Except… that wasn’t true. And I knew it. Deep inside I knew it. I might forget about it from time to time, but occasionally, out of the blue, I would realize that there were areas of my life that I was unwilling to let go of. Sometimes it was sin. I wanted to give up porn, for example, but I didn’t really want to stop smoking pot. It was the way I relaxed at the end of a stressful day. It brought me out of my self-conscious shell, it broke open by rock-hard heart and let me feel joy and happiness. I hated who I was when I wasn’t stoned. I would often tell my wife that I wish there was a way to get the happiness and laughter, but not the inebriation. I didn’t always want to be stoned, but I did want to be happy. And pot gave me that.

Sometimes what I was holding on to was a dream. For more than a decade I thought that I was going to be an author. I always enjoyed writing when I was in school and people told me I was pretty good at it, but after reading Harry Potter I decided that I wanted J.K. Rowling’s life. I wanted to create a world that was as thoroughly imagined as hers, I wanted to create a character as universally loved as hers, I wanted to spend my days writing in a coffee shop and, of course, I wanted to be richer than rich. I wrote several novels during that time, but none of them were fantastic.

Throughout this period I often felt that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing. I was spending a lot of time working on my book, time that I could have been spending with God, or spending with my family. I had no specific skills and I’d never received any worthwhile post-secondary education so becoming a successful author seemed to me to be my only option for a secure life. As such I put far more emphasis on it than I ever should have and rather than being a solution to my many problems, it actually just added to them and made them worse. Fast forward a decade and I was still trying to write the same story that I’d been working on since the beginning but I kept restarting because it always seems too much like Harry Potter in ways I didn’t want it to, and not enough like it in ways where I did want it to. It became somewhat of a crisis for me.

In 2014 I moved from writing to computer programming and video game design. This is something that I had always wished I could do, but assumed I couldn’t. Virtual Reality had just become a real thing and I wanted to be involved. I had made my own headset for use with my phone and, basic as it was, it was enough to set me on a whole new course. I can still remember sitting beside my wife in church and thinking about how I was going to learn to make VR applications. I was going to get in on the ground floor, while VR was still new and people were making pretty terrible applications, but they were getting a pass because they were in VR which was new to everyone and an experience unlike anything anyone had ever done. Someone was at the front talking about missions and I was even thinking about how VR could perhaps solve some problems for these people by making education more affordable through virtual classrooms. I leaned over to my wife and said “I’m going to learn how to make video games.” She said, “oh yeah?” As in, “are you now? Just like you’re going to write a book?” I knew that I had given her no reason to have confidence in my plan, but VR was a game changer and I finally had motivation.

Over the next few years I did learn a lot about developing video games. I even made a couple that were playable. I learned 3D graphics programs, art programs for texturing, the Unity Game Engine, two programming languages, well, enough to get by, and a bit about sound design. But like writing, it took over my life. I spent way too much time on it and thew all of my hopes into it. Despite the fact that seasoned game developers frequently spoke about how hard it is and how insecure the work is I still believed that I would be the next Notch (Notch is the pseudonym for Markus Persson, the creator of Minecraft), or perhaps the guy who created the game Flappy Bird. Flappy Bird was the ridiculously successful mobile game that sold millions of copies and which the creator removed from the store because people were skipping work and school to play the game and get the highest score and he felt he was ruining people lives. That was definitely going to be me and in that I rested all of my hopes and dreams.

Therein lies the problem. I was putting all of my hope into these dreams, not into God. In fact, when I deigned to give God the time of day, I often felt like making video games and writing was not something that He would have me spend my time doing. Back then my relationship with God was a series of peaks and valleys. On peaks I would find myself shunning the computer because of it. But like a siren at sea it would call to me and eventually I would give in and as I always knew would happen, it would completely take over my life and push God and family out.

It’s not like I was getting any comfort from it either. Learning computer programming and video game design when you are in your upper-mid thirties is a good way to be constantly reminded of your mortality. The people out there that you want to emulate? They all started when they were 8 years old or so. They’ve been doing it their entire lives. They’ve never questioned it. Computers have always been a part of their lives. I was always fretting and thinking about the future. I was like someone who stares at their clock trying to fall asleep when they know they have to wake up in the morning, thinking about how many hours of sleep they would get if they fell asleep right that moment. I would think about how long it was taking me to learn by YouTube video tutorials and online courses and try to determine how many years of career I could have if I went back to school now. “School is about 4 years, but I wouldn’t be able to start until next year at the earliest, so we’ll say five years from now until I’m in the workforce making games. That puts me at …oh, my… 42 years old! The other 42 year-olds will be at the height of their careers while I’m just starting! I’ll be in school with a bunch of kids! I’ll have to start at the bottom of the totem and by the time I work my way up to something significant I’ll be in my fifties! That only leaves about ten to fifteen years for a career! Forget school! I’ll just redouble my efforts to teach myself and make the next Minecraft. God, if you’re there, you better help me or this is going to be really bad!”

On the 7th of May, whatever else God did that day for me, perhaps the most impactful has been that He set me free from my dreams. That’s not something people really think of as a good thing. The world today builds up dreams and ambition to idol status. I was thinking and acting like I’m nearing the end of my life. I’m not, I haven’t even started my life yet, not my true one. This life is a wash, whatever we do. If we do anything worthwhile at all, it’s the mercy and grace of God that makes it happen. It’s not frantic effort and worrying. And when God gets you to do things, they are going to be things that align with His will, which means they aren’t likely going to be about making you richer, more famous, more secure financially, whatever else it is that we think is best for us. Instead it will be things that draw us closer to Him and others. Things that give us opportunity to use our spiritual gifts for others.

God is very other-centric in His will for us. God doesn’t command us to love ourselves. It is a given that we will. In fact, we will love ourselves straight into Hell if He doesn’t stop us. The entire law and the prophets are summed up as this, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your strength and all of your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” So, how do you love yourself? You feed yourself, you clothe yourself, you entertain yourself, you protect yourself, you surround yourself with loved ones, you sleep when you’re tired, you treat yourself, you work so that you can have nice things, and so on. If then we were loving others the way we love ourselves, doesn’t that mean we should be doing these things for them also? When is the last time that you spent your last two dollars on a coffee for someone else? When is the last time you gave someone your last Rolo? Only older people are likely to get that one. We are supposed to give sacrificially, trusting in God to see what we are doing and to reward us. When was the last time giving something to someone meant you had to do without?

Despite being surrounded by Christians for a nearly half my life, when I meet one who does these things it’s like finding an oasis in the desert, or seeing the moon through a good telescope, or having a cool drink of water after working in the heat for a few hours. There is something different about them. Something inspiring. They have something that my soul screams for. My flesh will yearn for what the rich person has, but my soul for what the generous person has. They live with less, but are happier and kinder and more at peace than anyone else you’ll meet. They are a living testament to the truth of the Gospel which, yes, is about your salvation, but also about how you live your life. They are examples of how trusting in God for everything really does work.

For my part, since God did this work in me, I have found this to be true. My faith in Christ, though it was once less than a mustard seed, is well on its way to being that great tree for birds to nest in. There have been times where the darkness tries to press in on me and I start to wonder if my faith is going to fail me again, but there is a still small voice that reminds me those feelings are lying and fleeting. I have a long journey ahead of me. I am still a pilgrim in a foreign land heading to the celestial city with dangers all about me. But Christ is with me, guiding me, teaching me, and helping me. It is a new experience and one I strongly encourage others to seek out.

 

Christianity Is Not Easy

I can’t count the number of times that I was told by pastors, authors, or other Christians that following Christ is easy. They are the ones who think that the sinners prayer is what saves you. I also can’t count the number of people who have recited the sinners prayer at some point in their lives and have either fully renounced the faith now, or else they live like they have. I used to be part of the second group before Christ stepped in and gave me the ability and desire to follow Him. It’s important that I make this clear as often as possible, the life that I am now living is neither perfect, nor my own doing. If Christ were to remove His hand from me I would fall back into grievous, habitual sin immediately, even if I tried not to.

Sometimes this makes me wonder what is the point of even talking about it then? If it wasn’t me that made the change in my life, but Christ, then why try to convince people of anything?  They can’t do anything unless Christ helps them and they can’t not do it if Christ decides to, right? Well, yes and no. This is getting into the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism (predestination and free will) and I don’t want to do that right now. I will say this about it though, before May 7th, when I believe Christ finally saved me, I believed it was one or the other, and it tormented me. Now I firmly believe that it is somehow both. I believe that God exists in a place where things are so different from earth that this is possible without being a contradiction. I feel as though I made a choice to follow God, to abandon myself, my dreams, my goals, my desires, and follow Him only, but He has also shown me at numerous times that if He pulls away, I will fall flat on my face.

Now that that is out of the way I would like to point to a verse that I think everyone would do well to read, memorize and accept. There are a bunch more that I will have blog entries about at a later date, but today, this is the one that is on my heart. It’s from the book of Matthew and the letters are red. Part of me dislikes red-letter Bibles because it can lead to the idea that some parts of the Bible are more authoritative than others, but in this case, having that belief will work in favour of the person believing it so it’s fine for now. Anyway, getting on with it. From the NKJV, Matthew 7:13-14:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (emphasis mine)

There are a number of things that you can pull from this verse. One is that we have a role to play in this. What is the point of Christ commanding people to enter by the narrow gate rather than the wide one if we have no control over which one we choose? Rather, I believe that the Bible makes clear that God offers grace freely, but the more a person rejects that grace, the more He hardens their heart. So everyone who hears the Gospel has the option to choose it, but if they don’t, whether it be an outright rejection of it, or because they run after a counterfeit gospel, then eventually they will find that they’ve traveled too far along the wide road to turn back. And of course, all God has to do is remove some of His Grace and a heart will harden, making a person trapped on the wide road believe that they are in the right so they won’t even try to get on the narrow path.

But the more important part, at least in my mind, is that the narrow path is difficult. Even with the help of God, we live in sinful bodies with fleshly desires. When we get hungry we want to gorge on all-you-can-eat buffets, when we are angry we want to get revenge, when we are depressed we want to wallow in self-pity, when we are scared or anxious we want to hide from the world, when we are unhealthy we want to use it as an excuse to not work, when we are bored we want to spend our money on frivolity to give us that dopamine hit to get us through a current struggle only to find that there is a bigger one on the other side. And these things do not entirely disappear just because you begin to follow Christ. Christ Himself was tempted as we are tempted, which means that He experienced these things. He knows what we are going through, but He also knows that it can be overcome with God and some effort.

There is a teaching nowadays which the more I encounter it the more I believe it to be heresy. It says that we can add nothing to our salvation. It’s actually a very self-centered view of the Gospel to believe that. It sounds pious, but it’s actually arrogant. I agree that without God, we can add nothing to it. I agree that out works play zero part in our salvation. What I don’t agree with is that you “get saved” one moment and then you get to go on doing whatever you like for the rest of your life because you have your seat reserved on the salvation train and you’re good to go. If that were true we wouldn’t have a Bible full of commands to follow, we would have a pamphlet, or a fortune cookie. It doesn’t take a lot of words to say “call on the name of Jesus and you will be saved.” Indeed the Bible does say that, but then it takes 66 books to make sure we know what calling on the name of the Lord actually looks like.

Legalism is what happens when you try to obey those rules under your own power and believe that doing so will earn you salvation. We are saved by Grace because there is nothing at all we can do that makes God our debtor. If we were able to earn salvation, it would mean that we did something such that God owed us salvation. For example, when I go to work, at the end of the week I am owed a paycheck. If my employer tries to withhold it then I can take legal action to force him to pay it. The reason being, that money is mine, not his. I earned it by doing the work that I was supposed to do. This is not the case with salvation. If I were to stop sinning right this moment and never sin again, at all, ever, I would still be guilty of the sin that I previously committed. That God forgives sin at all is Grace, but it being Grace does not limit Him in requiring something from us after the fact. God has saved us and He can demand anything in the world from us and even if we fulfilled those demands perfectly we would not earn out salvation.

It is also commonly taught that we didn’t earn our salvation so we can’t do anything to lose it either. Again, this idea seems to fly in the face of many scriptures and doesn’t necessarily or logically follow from the idea that salvation is by Grace. In fact, it’s really the opposite that is true. If we earned our salvation we couldn’t lose it because it is ours and we earned it. On the other hand, the parable of the wicked servant demonstrates that something given freely out of compassion can be taken back.

In case you forget the parable, it’s found in Matthew 18. To summarize, this servant owed his master a debt that he would never be able to repay. The master commanded that the servant and his family be sold into slavery to recover the debt. The slave begged for forgiveness and the master had compassion and forgave the entire debt and sent him on his way. That servant then found another servant who owed him a large debt and rather than offer the forgiveness that he had been given he demanded payment and when payment wasn’t forthcoming, threw the other servant in prison until it could be paid. When the master heard about this, he brought the wicked servant back and reinstated his debt and had him thrown into prison until he could pay the last penny.

People rightly teach that this parable is about forgiveness. It is, but it also shows that God will remove your forgiveness if you don’t forgive others. And while I can’t definitely take this any farther than that to show that other things are required as well, it’s not hard to believe that they are since they are commanded of us. But even if nothing else is required, this is still one work that is absolutely, undeniably required and a very strong case for the ability to lose our salvation. Though I think that is the wrong way to state it, since I’m less convinced that salvation is something that happened in a moment in time rather that something that is ongoing throughout life. And the more I listen to older preachers the more I realize that this isn’t an uncommon view to hold. Paul himself said that he didn’t consider himself to have achieved it and spoke of salvation as a race to be run.

Whatever the full truth of the matter is, and I don’t claim to know it, I do believe that it is more complex than what most churches are teaching. And this is why there are few that find the narrow path. We are drawn to ease like moths to flame. And in this case, the analogy is far more accurate than we ought to be comfortable with. I believe that I have the Holy Spirit in me. I no longer fret about whether I’m saved or not. This was not the case for the first 15 or more years that I called myself a Christian. Initially, when I was very new to the whole thing, I felt sure simply because I believed in God and I thought that was all that you needed to do. But as I began to read the Bible I became less and less comfortable with that notion. It was the Bible and not preaching that caused me so much distress. I couldn’t believe people who said they went to the Bible for comfort because I received panic and uncertainty far more than I received assurance when I read it. I no longer have that panic and uncertainty, but at the same time, I feel a very strong inclination and desire to grow in holiness every day. To become more and more like Christ every single day. And while it isn’t a bothersome notion, I do feel that should I ever turn back to my old life, I could fall away and stay that way, having failed to run the race set before me.

That’s why holiness is so important. The more I strive for it, the more I deny myself, the more I seek the Kingdom of God, the more I want to do it. The old life gets farther and farther into the rear view mirror each day. The siren song that it used to sing is fading into the background and losing it’s pull. Each day I begin to see how the things I thought were so important before are actually rubbish and it makes me want to glorify God constantly. I want to praise Him and make Him known. This is also something new to me since whatever happened on the 7th of May. I never understood that compulsion from people before. I always thought they were just saying that because they knew they were supposed to, or because they grew up around church and it’s just what they learned as kids. Certainly that is probably the case for some, but I get it now. I understand being filled with gratitude to God for what He has done in my life. And because of that, I want to distance myself from the things that are not of Him. Everything that is not of Him leads away from Him and the closer I get to Him, the closer I want to be to Him.

If you don’t feel this way, I urge you to get in the Bible. Read what’s there, not what you’ve been taught. Not what you’ve heard. Not what you want to hear. If you find the Bible boring and hard to read, then I would humbly suggest that you may not have the Spirit of God living inside of you. This isn’t a condemnation, it is simply my plea based on what I’m reading in the scriptures and experiencing in my own life. John 7:17 is what set me on this journey:

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. (italics in original)

You prove Christ by doing the will of God. Read Scripture as though your life depends on it. Because it does. Eternity is a long time to be wrong just because you always believed what they told you. Stop trying to live for your own comfort and happiness because these things come to you from God when you follow and obey Him and they come regardless of circumstances. This is why Paul was content with plenty or with want. Everything we need comes from Him, and we don’t need anything that doesn’t come from Him. Seriously. As I say, I haven’t perfected this life, nor will I before I die, but I’ve experienced enough of it that I can speak with some authority. You don’t need the garbage you are filling your life with and it is killing you. Stop it. For the love of Christ (again, seriously), stop it.

Blessings,

Daryle

P.S. If anyone is reading this then there is a good chance you are mad. This is often the reaction when the things of God are spoken out loud. Not that I’m saying this is a word from the Lord or anything. To my knowledge I am not a prophet and I don’t think that prophets were left in the dark about their prophet…ness.  There’s really no need to be angry. You can take or leave what I say. Either what I’m saying aligns with God or it doesn’t. If it does, and you are called of God, then you will know it. Because His sheep hear His voice. Even if His voice is buried in the blog entry of a bumbling human doing his best to serve the Lord. That’s not to say that you will like it, or want to accept it. But something inside of you will have been stirred. If that’s you, I would advise you to pray and get into the Bible. Don’t just push it away. Test it, and hold on to what is true.

 

Prayer and How It Works

There are many areas of faith that I want to do a deeper study on, to really understand what God has actually said on a matter. I believe that there is a lot of pat talk about all areas of faith in the Christian church and that, with few exceptions, if your faith life consists of only reading a chapter or two a day from the Bible and attending church once or twice a week then you are missing out on a lot of what God has to say to you. In fact, you might even be falling into some traps, perhaps the most important of which may be false conversion. But suppose that your conversion was real and you have the fruits of the Spirit being displayed in your life as a rule, not an exception. There are still areas where tons of growth can happen if you apply yourself to the study of God’s Word. On top of that, it can become the part of your day you most look forward to.

I’ve considered many areas of study; salvation, repentance, gifts of the Spirit, evangelism, discipleship, miracles, the historicity of scripture, and more. But there is one area that I hadn’t really considered but which, due to something happening around me at the moment, seems the most pertinent. Prayer.

I don’t know a lot about it to be honest. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Are there things I’m supposed to say? Do I pray to the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, all of them or does it not matter? But most important of all, are there times when I should not pray? Are there times when prayer is useless? Are there ways to pray more effectively? In recent readings, I’ve come across passages that suggest God doesn’t hear the prayers of everyone. Most people know that “the prayers of the righteous availeth much” but do they also know that husbands who mistreat their wives hinder their prayers? Do they know that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the wicked? Does God listen to your prayers if you have unforgiveness in your heart?

Prayer is the way that we commune with God. It’s the way we ask for strength, healing, direction, miracles, salvation, everything. Paul says that we are to pray ceaselessly. If that’s the case it seems like, aside from making sure we are saved, making sure that we are in the right condition for prayer is next in line for the most important aspect of our Christian walk. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I’ve always just thought that, regardless of what I’ve done or how I’m living, God hears what I say. But that may not be the case and if it isn’t, I want to know.

So that’s where I’m starting. I feel as though this is where God has led me for now. And, if it turns out that my suspicions are correct, and prayer isn’t a guaranteed line to God at all times, then it makes sense that I would start here. What’s the point of trying to do other things if when I pray for God’s Wisdom, Strength, Mercy, and for him to guide my efforts and make them succeed for His Will He isn’t even hearing me because I’m living in unforgiveness about something or holding on to some sin or another?

It’s possible that everyone knows this already and I’m just the last to find out. I suspect though that most people would be upset to hear this. I tend to be attracted to the topics that are going to ruffle feathers. I’m not sure why since I’m one of the most non-confrontational people I know, but that’s just the way it seems to be. My mission isn’t to upset people though. It’s to first find out if I’m right and if so, to improve my own prayer life and then to help others understand prayer better, encourage them in it and help get them connected to God in ways that they’ve never known before.

That’s it for now.

Blessings,

Daryle

I Messed Up

One of the things that I wanted to do with this blog is be honest about my walk. In the past I would start blogs while I was feeling close to God and life seemed easy and joyful, but when that ended I would stop writing because I became miserable. Something different happened to me on May 7th than had ever happened before. Rather than feel like I was really close to God, I felt as though God had finally come to live inside of me. It made me feel like I could resist sin, do what I ought, study the word, pray more, love more, be more kind and gentle– you know, the fruit of the Spirit.

The email address for this blog is joythroughobedience@gmail.com. That’s because I truly believe that pure, real, lasting joy is only found through true, full surrender to God followed by walking in obedience to His commands. That’s what I had been doing and it was going splendidly. I felt like I was on the same wavelength as God, insofar as it is possible for a fallen human to be on the same wavelength as God. I understood that I was only able to do that because Christ was strengthening me to. I believed the verse that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The all things being, all things according to the will of God of course, which is where most people mess up because they think that it means they can do whatever they want and they will be able to through Christ. No. You can deny yourself, choose not to sin, suffer willingly and experience joy even in pain, you can care about others more than you care about yourself. These are the “all things” that you can do through Christ who strengthens you.

Anyway, I digress. Sorry (not sorry) for the sermon. Things are a bit rough for me. I haven’t slipped up in any major ways, but there are no minor sins and slip-ups, are slip-ups. Little choices where I went against what I knew to be right. Maybe I didn’t say something when I felt I should. Perhaps I laughed at an off colour joke in order to not make someone feel awkward. These are all things that I did, but there are some bigger things as well. I had some extra money after paying taxes some of which I used to take my wife out for our twelve-year wedding anniversary. I believe that this was in-line with God’s will after the miraculous repair job he had done on our marriage over the last year, but even after doing that I had some money left over and I felt that I should find some way to be generous with it. Instead, I frittered it away. One small thing here, another there. And before I knew it, it was gone. I even knew of someone who needed some money that I could have given it to and I didn’t.

I understand that this is a monstrous sin. We tend to look at rich people as though they are greedy hoarders of wealth. We like to think that we would do more for people if we were in their position, but often when we have the chance to prove it, we don’t. The scriptures tell us that we should work for two reasons. One is to support our families and the other is to be able to give generously. Nothing in scripture tells us, or even allows us to indulge ourselves from time to time. In fact, the command is the exact opposite. Deny ourselves daily and  give sacrificially.

I often look at how we live in the West and wonder if God is up there staring at us with his jaw dropped onto the golden streets of Heaven, that all knowing omniscient creator shocked at our audacity. We are wealthy beyond belief. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t buy things they don’t need. It could be a daily cup of coffee or two, a new pair of shoes that you’ve had your eye on, a new video game, a computer upgrade, faster internet, gas for the car so you can just cruise around, expensive organic food, etc. Look around you. How many things are surrounding you that you didn’t need, but bought anyway? I’m not throwing stones here. I ask because of the embarrassing volume of things that are currently surrounding me that I don’t need, In fact, most of them are designed to sap the other resource I could and should be giving more of. Time.

At the moment I am officially unemployed. I accept odd jobs to help cover costs around the house and I am trying to take on more of the housework so that my wife, who actually has an employable skill, can work more. I was lamenting the other day about how little money I had to give. Giving money is actually pretty easy once you’ve decided to do it. Time on the other hand is harder. Giving money takes seconds. You don’t even have to be in charge of delivering it to the person who needs it or anything. You can just drop it in a box, be it collection or mail, or even better, sign up for auto-payments on your credit card. But in order to give time, you also have to spend it. And that takes a committment.

You can give money non-sacrificially because in all likelihood you have more of it than you need. But time, as they say, is the great equalizer. We all have the same number of hours in the day. And when it isn’t set aside for work, kids, school or some other obligation we tend to fill it with “me” time. The kids are asleep, time to binge some Netflix. I have the day off, I’m going to spend the day in the garden/playing video games or watching movies/at the beach/getting drunk or stoned/reading a novel. And we feel entitled to it to. We worked hard all week or whatever and now we need some time to unwind. But who did you work all week for? Whose bills are getting paid? Whose house got cleaned? I’m not saying that it’s not important to do these things. We have to feed and shelter ourselves and our families. It’s just interesting that we don’t see the time spent doing that stuff as “me time.”

Jesus said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit to serve in His Kingdom. He said that to a person who wanted to go home and say goodbye to his family before going with Jesus. A man wanted to bury his father and Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” He also said that when the end comes there will be those who are sent away because when He was hungry they did not feed him, when He was thirsty they did not give him anything to drink and when He was naked they did not clothe Him. I often ask myself, will that be me?

For a while it looked very much like it wouldn’t. God had come into me and saved me from sin. Not simply the penalty of it, but the power. I knew that without Christ’s influence I was doomed to sin. He showed me that by allowing me to fall massively early on. I actually wish that all failures were as massive because it was obvious what I had done and who I had hurt. I knew precisely what to do about it and that I had to make amends. But over the past week or so, the sins have been tiny by comparison. Sins of omission, sins of comission that I would have just brushed off in my old self. Just a pattern of mild disobedience. But what it bred in me was misery, anger, depression, a lack of desire to seek God.

I realized tonight as I was cooking supper that I had been experiencing communion with God. Because of that I was walking with Him, hearing Him, worshipping Him and finding life in Him. But when I began to choose not to use God’s power to resist evil thoughts and wicked deeds (in the eyes of God, no person would have condemned me for what I was doing I don’t think) I began to experience separation from God. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, I had been walking with God, and then, because of my poor choices, I wasn’t anymore. I had invited death into my life. Physically I’m no worse off than I was before as far as I know, but spiritually, I have been dying. And after having lived for so many weeks, I now fully understand what the Bible means in Genesis when it says “the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” Physical life without spiritual connection to God is death. It’s lostness, bitterness, anger, lack of self-control, jealousy, ambition, greed, lying, emptyness and suffering.

People who have never had a connection to God won’t possibly understand what I mean. They may say that life is all of those things because they have never known anything else. But that’s not life, that’s death. They may say that life is none of those things because they believe themselves to be happy. But happiness and life are not the same thing. Life and happiness are often found together, but life is able to exist without happiness, and clearly happiness is able to exist without life. But you often look at these people who would claim to be happy and what are they? Often ambitious. Hungry. Thrill seekers. It’s not that they aren’t dead, they’ve just found things that mask it and they do those things all the time. But when you have life, you don’t need to be doing anything. You aren’t looking for the next challenge or the next thrill. You are looking for God, and finding Him. Constantly. The endless thrill of pursuit and realization at the same time. A deep peace and energy that is reminiscient of excitement, but less…I’m not sure how to say it. Sharp? In your face? I don’t know. It’s less of something, but that lessness makes it more.

The point is, it’s important to realize what we are doing and repent. We in the west often refer to ourselves as blessed, but that may not be true. God can bless with anything. A death of a loved one can be a blessing if that’s what God uses it for. Having wealth and freedom and relative safety is enjoyable and it has allowed for the Gospel to spread like wildfire throughout the world. But it’s just as likely to lead to greed, entitlement, laziness, complacency and death. Things are not a blessing. Laws are not blessings. Blessings are when God reaches into your life and works for the ultimate good of His children. He can do that anywhere at any time. The question is, are you going to be a part of it? I know I want to be, but it will take more leaning on God, more self denial, more sacrifical giving of time and money and an overhaul of nearly my entire outlook on life.

I’m glad I sat down to write this out because I feel about a million times better now. Praise God for that. I hope that anyone reading this also receives a blessing. Pray that God would soften your heart and show you where you can improve. Step away from the culture of “me” and into the Kingdom of God.

Blessings,

Daryle

Come Sunday

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I never really have. But tonight I felt like I should watch something. I didn’t know what, but I felt like I was free to just take it easy tonight. I don’t have cable so I loaded up Netflix and began scrolling. Most of it is off the table for stuff I’m willing to watch anymore. Not because I believe I’m not allowed to or anything, but because I’ve realized it’s better for me not to. But Netflix does occasionally have something on it that isn’t full of sex and violence and a message of anything goes so I started looking for something like that.

I found movie called “Come Sunday” about a preacher who was a pretty big deal in the 90’s named Carlton Pearson. He led a church of 6000 people. It was one of the first mega churches with both black and white congregants. He had been trained at Oral Roberts University where he had developed something like a Father Son relationship with the Oral himself before his retirement. I didn’t know any of that before watching the movie. I just knew that it was a movie about a preacher so I gave it a shot.

There were red flags from the get go. The first prominent flag was that this was a Netflix Original movie. As much as I enjoy the service I don’t for one second hold any illusions that their ideals align with mine or with scripture. Another red flag was the cast. Jason Segel is funny, but not usually one to take roles that have a strong Christian theme. And Martin Sheen has had several roles that fly in the face of Biblical Values. But these are actors and roles are jobs. Perhaps the roles they have played bear little resemblance to their real life beliefs and values. Or, perhaps they would do the part justice even if it didn’t fit what they themselves believe. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the lead role. I knew that I had seen him somewhere but couldn’t place him. He is probably best known for “12 Years A Slave.”

The movie started out a bit rocky with someone on “stage” at a mega church announcing Pearson like a fighter coming into the ring at a major boxing event. Him standing behind a curtain and emerging to raucous applause as the “announcer” says his name. This looked like it might be a movie about a prosperity preacher. I was going to turn it off, but something made me feel like I should give it a bit longer.

Pearson gave a sermon and then started singing and the choir started singing and people were clapping and dancing as black churches tend to do on TV (no idea what they are like in real life) and I found myself thinking again how it would be nice to experience that sort of service in person as I tend to do when I see them on TV, and then he started touching people’s heads and they started falling over. Again, I was going to turn it off, but I felt like I should keep going so I did.

I’m not going to explain the whole movie, but before long I was starting to track with the movie. Pearson was a man who was desperate to save souls. It showed him witnessing to a woman on a plane, it showed him at church after church after church, it showed him visiting his uncle in prison and refusing to “get him saved” because he knew that his uncle only wanted him to write a letter to get him out of trouble that he had gotten into. Maybe I didn’t agree with his techniques, but I found myself feeling a bit shamed by my lack of drive to go out and win souls like he was doing.

I’m home alone tonight and I started thinking that I should stop the movie and wait for my wife to come home and we could watch it together. But again, something told me not to. I figured that I’d just watch it again with her. I’d done that before and given the sheer number of things I’ve forbidden myself to watch anymore, if I’m going to watch anything with her I’m probably going to have to watch things more than once.

I’m going to spoil this movie for you. There’s really no way for me to talk about what I have to talk about without spoiling it. At least to a degree. Take heart though, if you intend to watch it. A recent study showed that people actually tend to enjoy movies more when they’ve been spoiled. And I had Sixth Sense spoiled for me and I still loved it. So don’t worry so much.

Pearson wakes to a phone call from his mother in the middle of the night. His uncle, the one from prison, had hung himself. Pearson loved his uncle and desperately wanted him saved. He had intended to go back to the prison when his uncle had had time to consider God more and perhaps experience a heartfelt conversion. But his uncle died and he never got the chance. As you can imagine, this upset him deeply. He became upset with God. He became frustrated that he traveled all over the world to save souls, but couldn’t save his own uncle.

He left his family for a few days to fast and pray. I began to feel like I needed to do something like that. To really spend some time with God, seeking Him and His will. I started thinking about when and how I could do that. I don’t have money for a hotel so I’d have to camp in the woods or something. Anyway, next there is a scene showing him with the TV on, watching as mother’s are carrying their sick and dead children and he has what appears to be a nervous breakdown. He starts fervently praying and then, he has an epiphany.

Next scene he is back in his church preaching a message. He had been praying, asking God how he can call himself a loving God and let these people in Africa die and then suck them into hell when they had never known about Jesus. How is that fair? He said then that he heard a voice from God. “Is that what you think is happening? That I’m sucking them into Hell?”

“Yes,” he said back.

“Well then, you had better get off the couch, step away from the flatscreen and hop on the next thing burning and get them saved.”

At this point I’m feeling pretty convicted, sitting on my couch, watching my flatscreen. I’m also noticing the irony of having this line in a movie meant to be watched from a couch on a flatscreen. But God will get you where you are, right? He has to, or He won’t get you at all.

Then he says back to God “I can’t save them all.”

I’m thinking here that he has a good heart and bad theology. Pearson has never saved a single person. He just brings the Gospel and God does the saving. And God didn’t even need him to bring the Gospel in the first place. God is all powerful. He’s not in heaven biting His nails in anguish, sitting on the edge of His throne waiting to see if we can get all of His children saved. Nonetheless I’m thinking that I had this movie all wrong at first.

“No, you can’t.” God replies to him. “And I’m not sending them to Hell. They are saved and they will be in heaven with me.”

I’m sorry. What?

At first it was just the Africans who were already saved without the Gospel. We’re only half way through the movie at this point so I keep watching, thinking that by the end he will have made peace with God about his uncle and have returned to a proper theology. Or, at least as proper as he’d ever had. Sure he was off on something, but we all are. Being off and being a heretic are two different things though.

So I kept watching. Except now I didn’t feel like I should. I presumed that it was because he’d just come out as a sort of Universalist for Africans and it was that which was repelling me. The following scenes are showing the aftermath of a popular megachurch preacher going rogue the way he did. Jason Segal’s character is on the phone trying to put out fires in what looks like your typical legal or newspaper office environment but is presumably part of the church. Other people are rushing around presumably doing the same. Next we’re taken to a diner where Oral Roberts joins Pearson for a meal.

Oral Roberts is played by Martin Sheen. He’s there to try and talk some sense into Pearson. I was surprised at how this scene was portrayed. Oral didn’t talk about money or numbers, he talked about souls. He was telling Pearson that it wasn’t just Pearson’s soul on the line, it was the souls of those who hear and believe his new message. He doesn’t doubt that Pearson heard something, but points out that with the recent death of his uncle, Pearson was a prime target for Satan. And that the voice he had heard was the devil and not God. I fully expected to be angry by the end of the scene but overall, I thought it was a pretty good message.

Then Pearson said that he felt free from the burden of having to save people. He kept expecting to wake up as his old self any day, but it wasn’t happening. He believed that all people in the world were already saved and that the message he had been preaching, which was the Gospel, had actually been harmful.

This is where I started to feel uncomfortable with the Oral Roberts depiction because he started telling Pearson about how what he was saying was heresy and that they could talk it through later, but right now they had to fix this. Then he pulled out a pen and paper and started telling him how he was going to have to do it. The camera is close on Pearson as Roberts’ voice fades into the background and Pearson stares contemplatively into the distance. Now Roberts was looking like the Christian I had expected in the first place. An old, white, American man dictating to the black preacher and who cared more about saving face than about the man himself.

Finally I decided it was time to stop the movie. I considered skipping to the end to see if he recanted. I hoped that was what was going to happen, but I realized that Googling Pearson would give me the answer more quickly, so that’s what I did. Sure enough, he has not recanted. In fact, it’s unlikely he would even call himself a Christian anymore. He now refers to God as the Universe and thanks to the movie he is now appearing on all kinds of talk shows and spreading the ridiculous message to millions of people who have never been more ready to hear such a message.

This is when my heart burst. Universalists used to make me angry. It’s such a dumb position to take. For some reason they tend to come out of Christianity, despite the fact that you can’t get there biblically. Pascal’s Wager, at least the popular form of it, works as well against Universalism as it does against atheism. Either there is a hell or there isn’t. If there isn’t, then preaching that there is makes no difference in the end because we’re all going to heaven. Even if a person lives in sheer terror of Hell for their whole lives, if Universalism is true then they get to go to heaven for eternity and the amount of time they spent worrying and fretting is nothing. Literally nothing in comparison to eternity. Nothing that happens in this life matters if you are in heaven for eternity when it’s over no matter what.

But if Hell does exist, is eternal and people are going there, what happens in this life makes all the difference. There is reason to preach if Hell is real. There is no reason at all to preach if there is no danger of Hell. If that’s true leave people alone. If that’s true forget helping people, just send them to eternal bliss if they can’t help themselves. If that’s true empty the prisons by reinstating the death penalty for any crime worth of prison. But what about people who are left alive and will be hurt by such a system? If we’re all on our way to Heaven then they can just kill themselves and go be with their loved ones in eternity where the real living happens. Honestly, imagine having lived in Heaven for 10,000 years. Will you even remember this life? Is there any amount of suffering in this life that will make a difference after 1,000,000 years in perpetual bliss? If Universalism is the reality of our situation then the absolute best thing that could happen to us is to be wiped out quickly and painlessly through nuclear war or a meteor strike. The sooner we get out of the only place we will ever experience suffering, the better.

But it’s not true. Hell is real and people are going there for eternity. And that’s why my heart broke. I had come to like Pearson. I had been inspired by his passion for lost souls. I know that I was watching an actor and not the real Pearson, but it was a true story and, based on an interview with the real Pearson I watched afterward, it seems like it’s pretty accurate. So I was heartbroken for him. I was also heartbroken for the number of people who are going to watch this movie or the interviews that this movie has lined up for the real Pearson and decide they like what he was selling.

Hell is a tough topic. It’s spoken of in scripture as a place you don’t want to go. A place to be feared. Jesus describes it as a place where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out. He compared it to the trash heap outside of Jerusalem called Gehenna which burned continually and often had dead bodies throw onto it. Jesus says that you should not fear men who can only kill the body, but do nothing to the soul, but rather fear God who can kill the body and afterward destroy the soul in hellfire. The final Judgement has been referred to as The Great And Terrible Day Of The Lord since the Old Testament. Despite these scriptures even Christians who believe in Hell are trying to be God’s PR person by saying things like “it’s separation from God”, “Hell is locked from the inside”, “When God judges the sinners He will do so with tears in His eyes” or “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, they send themselves.”

The picture painted by scripture though is that God is not just a loving God. He is that, but he is a Just God and He has righteous wrath. His wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ on the cross such that Christ is able to take our sin onto Himself and pay our sin debt to God. While we were His enemies, Christ died for us. That is what love is according to God’s own Word. But if we reject Christ and his atoning sacrifice, then we remain His enemy and we remain under His wrath. God’s anger is going to be poured out on anyone who rejects the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection.  He sent His only begotten Son to die so that we wouldn’t have to. The thought of rejecting that gift and then standing before him ought to be the most terrifying thing a person can imagine. We need to stop trying to soften the blow. People need to know who they will be meeting when they die without Christ. And it isn’t some teary eyed old grandpa. It’s the Holy God of Heaven whose son they trampled, spat on, mocked, and killed. In the scriptures we are told not to repay evil for evil and that vengeance belongs to the Lord. If God is going to avenge people for the wrongs they commit against us, how much more is he going to have vengeance for the death of His Son against those who choose to stand against Him in arrogant defiance?

If you have never submitted to Christ as your Lord and saviour, you need to think about this. You do not want to try to fight God. As I said earlier, nothing that happens in this life matters in the slightest when you are in blissful eternity with God. But if you don’t end up there, if you go to Hell instead, you will suffer for all of eternity, you will know that it was your fault, you will know that you could have avoided it, and the regret you feel will be only one form of suffering you will never see the end of. This is no joke. This is no game. This isn’t an argument or a debate to be won. This is eternity. This is your soul.

Today is the day of salvation. You don’t know that you have a tomorrow. Repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Don’t simply believe He exists. Even the demons believe and tremble. You must believe that He exists, that He saves and that He knows best. Come to him like a child. Children don’t try to understand their parents, and the gulf of knowledge between you and God is immeasurably greater than the gulf between a child and his parent. Repent. Believe. Turn from your sin. Turn your life over to Christ to use as He sees fit. Call on Christ to be saved. Do it now. Don’t put it off. Because a time is coming when you won’t have a later to get around to it.

God Bless,

Daryle

God Is In Control

I realize I said a few entries back that I would continue with my testimony. I will get back to it eventually. It just happens that other things come up that feel more pressing for me to mention. As far as I know, as of this writing, no one is reading this anyway.

Ireland had a referendum yesterday in which they were voting on keeping or repealing their eighth amendment which granted the full rights of person-hood to the unborn which meant that abortion was not allowed. At this point the votes haven’t been fully tallied but it seems obvious that the repeals won a landslide victory. As sad as this is for those of us who don’t enjoy stripping human beings, regardless of their age, of their person-hood, it’s not a shock in the least.

I used to get so angry at those who call themselves pro-choice (I don’t like the term pro-choice since it doesn’t accurately describe a situation in which two people are involved but only one of them gets to make a choice, but that’s what I have to work with so I will use it for now.) And I will admit, my flesh is trying to stoke the fires again even as I speak. But the Lord is stopping it. He is reminding me that we are to love our enemies, and pray for those that persecute us. And they do persecute us to some extent. To those of us who are pro-life, the fact that abortion is the mass killing of innocent human lives is obvious and standing against such a thing ought to be a virtue. But we are vile to those who oppose us and they make it known on a regular basis. Nevertheless, our prayer ought to be, forgive them Father, they don’t know what they do.

And most of them don’t know what they do because they don’t see it the way that we do. There are some who do see it the way we do, as the ending of a viable human life, and #shouttheirabortion anyway. We can not offer this prayer for them, they know exactly what they are doing and they are glad of it. For them we can only pray that God would soften their hearts and make them realize the gravity of their actions.

We can’t ignore the fact that they often feel persecuted by us as well. And in some cases, rightly so. They often correctly accuse us of only caring for the life of the unborn and not the mother and that once the child is born we put a tick on our score card and move on to the next one. I’ve heard it said that to forget about the child after its born is not to be pro-life, but to be pro-birth. While I believe pro-birth is a better position than pro-choice, the point stands and it’s not what we ought to want to be. Christ came to give life and life to the full. If we want to be truly pro-life, we ought to be concerned about that as well.

Modern times have confused an awful lot of subjects and perhaps none more thoroughly than what life to the full meant. Even modern Christians seem to be confused about it. Life to the full is the life that Christ lived. A life spent in service to God first, others second. The modern cry of love yourself doesn’t, to my knowledge, appear anywhere in the Bible as a command. The whole law and the prophets are summed up as love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit and love your neighbor as yourself. Loving yourself is assumed. Loving yourself is what happens naturally. People often claim that they hate themselves, but they still eat when they are hungry, they still relieve themselves when nature calls, they still buy things they think will make them happy, all the things that you would only do for another person if you loved them. So if people loving themselves is a problem at all, it’s not because they don’t do it, it’s because they do it to the exclusion of loving everyone else.

Bringing this full circle back to the original point, if we are pro-life we should not only be concerned with getting kids born, we should be concerned with loving these kids and their families as we love ourselves. If that means you need to switch supermarkets so that you can afford to provide food to someone who can’t eat, I can assure you that is the smallest sacrifices you will have to worry about making if you want to live for Christ.

If that means you cut the cable bill so that you can afford to help someone in need, again that is barely a sacrifice at all. How often did Christ or His Apostles sit around watching TV? Okay, that’s a bit silly, but you understand of course that they wouldn’t likely have watched much at all, if any, even if it had existed. They were keeping themselves busy with doing the Will of God which is caring for others and spreading the Gospel. It’s possible that it could be an acceptable sabbath activity, but even then it would have to be programming that you would watch if Jesus were in the room with you. (Hint: Not likely Game of Thrones or 50 Shades of Grey.) But that’s a topic for another blog perhaps.

Ireland is a very small country, the amount of abortions that happen there will be a drop in the bucket compared to other bigger countries that have been aborting babies for many years. For comfort we can look at Job and realize that nothing happens outside of God’s purview. People used to sacrifice their babies to false gods, now they sacrifice them to progress, personal freedom, “women’s health” and in some cases, the genuine belief that it is better for the baby. And in these last cases we need to be especially careful about how we approach the subject. Often these women wouldn’t have chosen abortion if they had felt they’d had any other choice and in many cases they are hurting.

It is not our job to condemn people and make them feel like they are monsters. It is also not our job to make the truth more palatable for modern minds. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to navigate these issues in a Godly way. Even in issues where there is a clear right and a clear wrong, we have to crucify our flesh which wants to lash out at people. The idea that we can shame or scare people into submission is wrong and harmful. We get no bonus points from God for enduring persecution if we deserved it.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

1 Peter 2:20

Satan is not going to win. He was defeated 2000 years ago when Christ was nailed to the cross. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly placesIt is a sad day when another country votes to strip a human being of their rights and deny their person-hood for the purpose of ending their lives early, but this was not a surprise to God and acting in un-Godly ways is not the solution.

Blessings,

Daryle