Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Zoo & Creation . . .

California Condor Wing Span. Incredible!
The Gorilla came up to the window and sat down.
How sad children are taught apes are their relatives
when God has fearfully and wonderfully made them.
Lunch by the Elephants.
Our family was blessed last week to get a tour of the Santa Barbara Zoo led by a Creationist (Russ McGlenn). Our homeschool group set it up and it was a wonderful and refreshing change to be part of a group glorifying God through the animals (and nature) instead of trying to make us believe we are their relatives (and they are equal to us). Here are some pictures to share with you of our day. He is truly evident in Creation, and His amazing design truly can give us confidence that He can handle the details of our life!


In Romans 3:9–12 Paul writes: What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” He ends that description in verse 18 with, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Paul is describing both Jew and Greek, basically the “proper” religious ones and those totally ignorant of the true God (therefore, everyone). It is a stunning statement and it is a clear look at how God sees good and bad, Light and darkness. We must remember that he is including here even the man or woman next door who doesn’t hurt anyone and who helps others. None are righteous. No one does good. This is shocking if we are used to defining good and “righteous” by deeds and moral measuring sticks—the kind of defining that leaves us stunned that the “Son of Sam” (see “The Son of Sam and . . . You and I”) might be in heaven one day, and our neighbor or family member who has never done anything so horrific as he has be absent from there, and in hell.

If this reality stuns us, or bothers us, we are probably looking at good and bad as ranking or measured or rated, with people being compared and ranked by their “goodness” or “badness” of deeds. This is dangerous and it will draw us away from God and in to arrogance (or, in some cases, horrible depression if we start to believe we are so much more horrible than others). One thing must be clear in our understanding of the Gospel—the Law, the moral code, is not to encourage and build us up, but to point us to Jesus. Paul continues with verses 19–20 and says: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Law convicts. The moral code convicts. It makes the whole world accountable to God. By the Law NO ONE will be justified in God’s sight! The Law brings the knowledge of sin, not unlike Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of good and evil and were suddenly ashamed and afraid of God. That is it. That is the Law’s purpose. It is a tutor to bring us to Christ. The Pharisees made the horrible mistake of letting the Law exalt them because they measured good and bad by it, and found themselves “closer” to it than others. That is NOT the Law’s role! It is not to show us we are better than another, but to show us how horribly separated we are from God and how unrighteous we are—to prepare us for Christ and to show us our utter need for Him and His work on the cross as our SOLE basis and claim of righteousness.

When moral works exalt us or puff us up or cause us to esteem ourselves better than another we have completely missed the point of the Law. We were created to live in an intimate, moment by moment relationship with our Creator and Father, led by His Spirit. We were not created to live by a moral code. The Law kills, the Spirit gives life and freedom. What we must understand is that there is no good apart from God. Romans 14:23 will go so far as to say whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, and this is not talking about huge moral acts—but about eating! James tells us it is sin if we know what TO do and don't do it (so there is sin from doing, and from NOT doing!) We can start to see that there are NONE righteous—not one! There is no good apart from faith—none! This is so, so hard to absorb as long as we insist on defining good by works and not God. HE, alone, is good, and we must understand that. We become good and righteous in Him and through Him, only! It is only through a living, faith relationship with Him that we are found righteous—and it is only what is done by His Spirit through us that is good.

But, the amazing and awesome flip side of all this is that when we come to Christ, we become completely righteous! Christ has completely paid for our sin and we are completely crucified with Him at our born again moment, and completely raised with Him as a new creation, paid for and adopted, righteous and alive. It is not because of anything we have done, but all because of what He has done and what we have received in faith in our place. It is positional—just like we can travel at 60 mph in a car without doing anything ourself, but simply because we are in the car. Our righteousness is simply because we are in Christ, and that is the most wonderful news of all. If I didn't earn it by my works and can't lose it by my stumbles, and my God is perfectly able to keep me in Christ, no matter what the enemy might try and throw my way!

Thanks be to God! May the joy and freedom His grace and your total freedom from the Law fill you with joy today.   —Erick

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Son of Sam and . . . You and I

Note: If you have not read the Light and Dark series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I recommend you do as a context for what follows. I believe that an understanding of this truth will dramatically affect both our understanding, and our sharing of the Gospel.

A Fox News story today reports that convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, also known as "Son of Sam," said he has "no interest" in parole thanks to forgiveness by Jesus Christ. It reports that Berkowitz—who terrorized New York in the late 1970s, killing six people and wounding seven—will not seek parole during his next opportunity in May. According to the article, he wrote Fox News, “I have no interest in parole and no plans to seek release . . . If you could understand this, I am already a 'free man.' I am not saying this jokingly. I really am. Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this.”

Now, I recognize that there is a lot of scepticism about prison conversions (I have almost never met with someone in jail who hasn’t said God got a hold of them this time and it is the last, but few have made significant and lasting changes toward God when they are out). I don’t know David personally, but I do know that there is much more to be said, and read, about him and his conversion. He even has a web page where he writes devotionals called But, setting any skepticism aside (and in NO way saying what he did was not horrible or that God doesn't think it horrible), and assuming for the sake of this post that his conversion is real, this is a story almost guaranteed to reveal deep down your and my understanding of the holiness of God, the condition of man, the Gospel, and of Light and Darkness.

If you, as a Christian, struggle with the fact that this man will share Heaven with you while your neighbor, who gives to charity and does “good” deeds won’t as of now, you may not fully understand how God sees Light and Darkness. Likewise, if you are not a Christian, and you struggle with the idea of this man being eternally in Heaven and you being eternally in Hell, you probably don’t understand Light and Darkness.

At this point in my life and studies I believe that the major problem and obstacle to our understanding of the Gospel lies in defining good and bad by a moral measuring stick and not by God’s presence in it or absence from it. We must remember that the Bible says that the Light came into the Darkness, and that men loved darkness because of their wicked deeds and so rejected the Light. There are only two kinds of people—those in the Light and those in Darkness, and God’s reign is the defining mark. Colossians 1:13-14 says of God, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The “domain [rule] of darkness” and the “wicked deeds” Jesus talks about in John, Chapter 3, apply to even those family and friends and neighbors who do “good” deeds. I believe we struggle with this because we want to measure ourself against others, and fail to see the vast distance we all are from God and the utter darkness of absence from Him.

I can not adequately explore this in a single post, and I will talk about this more in the coming days, but we must be very, very careful to not fall into the trap of looking left and right to define Light and Dark, and good and evil, instead of looking up to Him. He is the line, He is the mark, He is the litmus test, He is the measure. He is the life. We were created for relationship with Him, and we chose the knowledge of good and evil. WE chose a moral code. WE chose a set of rules that make it possible to live independent of His leading. HE created us for intimate, moment-by-moment relationship with Him and WE chose a path that made us “like God”—able to define right and wrong on our own. We MUST understand, HE is the measure, HE is life, and anything apart from Him and relationship with Him is Darkness and death. It may have the appearance, and even intention of good, but He alone is life. And, so, we come again to that place where “wicked deeds” are not defined by a moral measuring stick, but by His absence where we have replaced His rule with self-rule, and separated ourselves from Him. We will never grasp this if insist on believing good can exist apart from Him.

I know that this is a lot, and that I run the risk of offending people with such a limited explanation, but hang in there. More next time, but until then, may His love be felt strongly by you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fire Boring Preachers?

An August 8th post by Eryn Sun in The Christian Post naturally, as a pastor/teacher, caught my eye. It was called, "Why 'Boring' Preachers Should Be Fired." It talks about Christian theologian Carl Trueman and credits him with writing about how, "good preachers preaching on doctrine or 'the description of who God is and how he has acted' should never leave audiences feeling cold and indifferent" (and how elders should fire ones who consistently do). You would need to read the whole article to get all of what he is said to have said, and to be truly fair to the full picture he presents, but a few comments the author of this post attributes to him include:

1.  "The relationship between doctrine and worship in the structure of Paul’s letters allows us to infer that doctrine which does not lead to praise is not really true in the richest sense of the word" . . . "Doctrine which does not culminate in praise is not true doctrine" . . . "Teaching of doctrine and appropriate response to the same are inextricably tied together such that the former should really terminate in the latter."

2. “I was talking to a friend recently who told me of a Sunday school class on providence which he had attended. The presentation, while precise and correct at the level of formulation, left my friend cold. Nothing of the glory or the grace or the mercy or the patience of God had been conveyed in the presentation. There was nothing to call forth a response of praise and adoration.” The article also states that, "He clarified that this did not mean people should be swayed 'by aesthetics' or 'reader response' however. He just questioned a man who took 'the deep, mysterious and glorious things of God' and consistently turned them into a 'bland medium.' "

Naturally, this subject is something I reflected on, and I have a few thoughts about it. My thoughts are not all directly tied in to Mr. Trueman, but rather spawned by his. I have not read his original article, only the article about it, and I am not criticizing him at all, only sharing my reflections that the article birthed.

I wonder—what is the responsibility of a teacher? What is he accountable for? I would think that it would be an accurate presentation and exposition of the Word of God or subject that the Spirit of God led him to. If he picked a message from his own "good ideas" or because a denomination told him to then there is a strong chance that the Spirit is not leading it or anointing it. But, if he has prayed and sought the Lord and obeyed, then the Spirit will anoint it and he has done what he was called to do.

I wonder how Jesus would measure up to the standard of true doctrine being that which elicits praise in the audience? I, honestly, don't see a lot of that response coming from his words. We could say his audience was pre-Pentecost, but then Acts tells us a lot about the apostles being driven from cities for preaching (not praise coming). Of course, if this only refers to an audience of true, Spirit-filled believers then does the criticism find merit that true teaching should evoke praise? I am still unsure on this. What is the responsibility of the listener to be prepared for the teaching and to have his or her heart ready and his conscience cleansed. If the Spirit is grieved or quenched by him or her will a teaching cause praise to rise up?

I think that there is a danger (and a truth) in what Mr. Trueman brings up. Obviously, if a man is consistently unmoved by the glory of God and transmits that lack of emotion then there is a chance it will have an effect on the listener . . . but what a danger there is in putting the response of the listener on the back of the teacher as well. Might this not led to a pastor-centered church instead of a Christ-centered church? Might this bring about the situation where we follow a teacher and not the one the teacher points to? Might this standard subtly pull us into the realm of seeking out teachers who give our itching ears what they want to hear?

I think a key is that the Spirit alone can awaken a heart. If it is awakened or moved by the delivery of a man it is not going to be true. I have read that Jonathan Edwards delivered "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in a monotone and people clutched the pews in fear. Other preachers can preach in a great oratory and evoke an emotion of praise that doesn't last past the first person that cuts them off on the way home. And, what about the mix in the congregation? I can't tell you how many times the same teaching I have delivered has caused one to two people to nod off and had multiple people come up after and tell me how much it moved and affected them. I have had, in the same week, the criticism that the church was too "Pentecostal" (I don't know what that means) and that it wasn't Spirit-filled enough—same week! I have had people complain I go to long and others wish I went longer. I have had our church condemned, and praised, because we long to see those come to it who are broken, addicted, outcast, and rejected. So, what becomes the standard in these cases?

I think the answer has to lie in the simple question, "Did the teacher do what God asked them to do?" That is all they are responsible for, I believe. But, it is an interesting question and line of thought and I'd love to hear your comments. Obviously, as a pastor, I'm a little pre-biased. What do you think? What do you believe God's Word says a teacher's responsibility is? What would cause you to fire a preacher, and what wouldn't?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 3

I highly encourage you to read Paul Ellis' 8/16/11 post on his Escape to Reality blog called "12 Infamous Examples of Walking After the Flesh in the Bible." This post dovetails beautifully with my prior posts in this series—in which I shared how "darkness" and "wicked deeds" are not defined by our moral measuring stick, but by God's presence in them or not (and how this realization affects our understand and sharing of the Gospel, especially with "good" people). The comment I left on his post was: This is one of the best posts I have ever read. Thank you for teaching and reminding us that even our “good” ideas and leadings, apart from Him, are sin. I have been finding in my recent studies and teachings such an amazing revelation in Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus. When He tells Nicodemus that the light comes in to the darkness but men love the darkness because of their wicked deeds I shared with our church how this applies even to our friends and family who don’t do “bad” things, but even do charitable things and “good” things. Clearly, Jesus defines darkness and wicked deeds differently than we are tempted to do with our moral measuring stick. The conclusion I have come to is that darkness and wicked deeds are anything separate from Him. I really, really appreciate this post. I am going to share a link to it on my blog. I hope that is OK.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Accountable for Words . . .

The whole account of Numbers 13 and 14 of the people spying out the land, and then choosing fear over faith, captivates me. Every time I read it I find more rich gems about faith, and fear, and trust in it. Today I was glancing through it and a verse I know I have read many times jumped out at me like it never has before. It is Numbers 14:36–37 and it comes right after the Lord told Moses and Aaron that all who were twenty years and older (except Joshua and Caleb) will fall in the wilderness over the forty years and not see the promised land. It says, “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord.”
    Wow! That really made me sit up and re-read it. What had these men done? The whole congregation would wander out their days in the wilderness because they had made the choice to not believe God, to be in fear and not faith, and to grumble and complain . . . but these men seemed to pay an extra hard price. What was their special “sin”? They brought the report that caused the people to fall in to fear.
    Now, Joshua and Caleb saw the same land they saw, and gave the same report of bounty and of the enemy . . . but the difference came after that. Of the ten spies singled out here Numbers 13:31–33 says, “Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ ”
    What of Joshua and Caleb? What was their response that “earned” them the favor of seeing the promised land? Numbers 14:6–9 says: And Joshua . . .  and Caleb . . . tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Prior to that, in Numbers 13:30, Caleb had spoken the words that caused the other ten to rebut him when he said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
    The result? The people chose fear and grumbling over faith, and God would go so far as to say they didn’t believe in Him! That would be a shocking statement to a people who would absolutely say they believe in God and who would see a difference between believing in Him, and believing Him (He had promised them the land) . . . it appears God doesn’t see that difference.
    So, the people would wander and perish over the years in the wilderness . . . but of those ten, the ones whose words were words of fear and not faith, the ones whose words brought out the unbelief and fear in the others, there was stiff accountability. It makes me wonder, what is our responsibility for our words around those in whose lives God has given us influence? Are our words building up their faith and drawing their eyes to their great God, or are our words causing them to be in unbelief and grumbling? Do our words and expectations give more power to God, or to the enemy? Are they words of life and hope, or fear and pessimism? This isn’t about drumming up false encouragement and denying reality . . . it is about embracing true reality, in faith, and not letting sight define it. It is about God and His Word and His promises and His power being the most powerful influence on our expectations and words, and not the world and its “wisdom” and its predictions and its circumstances. We have the God who speaks out stars that are so big they would swallow our Sun and all the planets out to near Saturn (and all the space in between those planets). He is our God! Do our words reflect it? What are they bringing out in those we influence? It is a thought worth asking the Holy Spirit about, because our words have power and they have influence and God does listen to them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Country Life

I guess this is the day for sending you to other sites. That is what is so wonderful to me about the body of Christ—we can't, and shouldn't, operate effectively alone. Christ, alone, should be the center—not one man or woman's ministry, not one church, not one gift. I treasure the body of Christ, and one of my favorite places to "visit" is the blog of Stephen and Janet Bly, Christian writers with a lot of fiction out there. My heart leans toward the novels of the Old West—I love westerns and that era, and to find books that glorify God while allowing me to "step" in to that time is a true blessing. You can find a link to their blog in my "Links" section, and you might especially like to see their post from today as it has two very special girls in it . . . I'll leave it at that, but I think you'd enjoy seeing it. (To go to the post I am talking about, click here and scroll to the Thursday, 8/11/11 post called "This Country Caption Says It All.") As always, I'd treasure your feedback. I always want this blog to be a place for us all to grow and share, not just a place about me.

Devotional Christian Web Site

As you know if you've followed this blog, my heart for it has always been a place to dialogue, connect with and encourage and challenge one another, and to share thoughts and reflections that will help us bear His image. Through it I have met many wonderful people, and been introduced to many blogs and "God Lovers" who have challenged me and helped me grow. I have often talked about Pearl and her blog, and Toyin's blog, and more recently I have come to really enjoy a blog by Glen, who writes The Renewed Mind—there are links to all three on my "Links" page. While I may not agree with every post each of them makes, and I am sure they don't agree with everything I write, they are all people who love the Lord and who seek to glorify Him and help others, and who I have been blessed by them.

Recently, Glen mentioned that it his blog had been accepted for listing on a site called "The Devotional Christian". I hadn't heard of the site, so I checked it out. While I can't, obviously, vouch for every posting or link on it, I really like the idea of the site and what it represents. Tony, who runs it, reviews Christian sites and blogs designed to help Christians in their walk and collects them in one place for ease of the rest of us finding them. I sent him by blog link and he approved it this morning (while sipping a cup of coffee, he added), and I wanted to thank him and share his page with you, that you, too, might be blessed by his work.

Home Page:
Blogs Page:

Tony also has a page I am really excited about diving in to more deeply (is that a correct wording?). Already Mary Ann, looking over my shoulder, said, "Bookmark that one!" for further exploration when we have access to high speed internet. It is called Ministry to

Thanks, Tony, for including my site, and my God bless your work as you seek His glory! Thanks, Glen, for pointing me to it. May it bless all of you as we seek to grow in Him, together, and may we all encourage one another to not stop with theology, but to walk it out. As the sign I have that hangs below the pulpit I teach from says, "The lesson does not end here. Now it must be lived"!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lessons from Hummingbirds . . .

I will return to my "Light and darkness" series in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to share here a few thoughts I had yesterday while sitting in our sitting area and taking a little "be still" time. As I was out there I had the pleasure of watching hummingbirds coming to the feeder we have hanging above our vegetable garden. They are fascinating to watch and incredible evidence of a Creator, and I noticed a few things while I did:

1)   Without the hummingbirds, the feeder was "dead": Hanging there, with no birds around, there was no beauty in the feeder itself. It was made for something, and when it wasn't used for that purpose it held no attraction. But, when the birds came to it, it suddenly became the center piece of beauty and part of drawing my mind toward God. We, too, are created for a purpose and a relationship. We find our purpose and meaning and beauty in our relationship with God, when He dwells in us and finds us a surrendered vessel for His presence and will. Then, we are vessels that bear His image and through us others' eyes are drawn toward Him.

2) Two things disrupted the beauty and purpose of the feeder: The first was when one bird chased off another. Suddenly, when they weren't united, the peace and beauty of the scene was lost in conflict. Though there are four holes on the feeder to drink at, often one bird would chase others away from it. There was plenty there for them all, but they not only prohibited others from drinking when they acted that way . . . but they couldn't drink themselves when they were doing it, either. How many times Christians chase others away from drinking deep of Him by their pettiness, criticism, self-focus, judgment, jealousy, lack of faith which makes them self-preserving, etc. And, of course, when those things mark us, we can never drink deeply ourselves as our fellowship with Him is broken by our actions and attitudes which grieve His Spirit and keep love from flowing—and He will not be where love is not, since He is, Himself, love. The other thing that disrupted the purpose of the feeder and the beauty of it was a Yellow Jacket trying to get something from the feeder. They are small next to even the tiny hummingbird, and yet the hummingbird fled from its charge each time it did so. How many times, I wonder, do we allow an enemy we have authority over, and whom Jesus has defeated, rob us from what God intends for us? I can't help but think that, if the hummingbirds could just see themselves from our perspective, they'd realize it is the Yellow Jacket that should flee from them and not the other way around. We, too, must remember that the thief (Satan) comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy, but the promise to us is that if we resist him he WILL flee.

Just some thoughts, and maybe some lessons, from the hummingbird . . .

Too Cool!

Abigail peering at the Praying Mantis.
The Praying Mantis peering at Abigail.
If you've followed this blog for awhile you know that there is something special God is doing with us and Praying Mantis. They have shown up on our property (and at our church) countless times on just the day we needed a reminder of the power of prayer, and the victory of God over darkness. They are something our family gets really excited when we see, and the other day Abigail saw one and came to get me to show me. I thought that these two pictures were too cool not to share, so I hope that you enjoy them. If you think this is awesome too, you might enjoy my August 31, 2009 post "I Receive That!"—if ever God sent a visual picture through nature of the power of Him and prayer over the sting of the enemy, that post shows it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


We are in the final three days of proofing and preparing the file for this history cookbook, and I found a pretty significant typo I made! I wonder what the reactions would have been if God hadn't helped me notice that, when talking about the types of meat you could use in the recipe for 25 lbs of Swiss Sausage, I had put that it had to be 1/2 pork and that the other 1/2 could be beer (instead of beef). Twelve and a half pounds of beer. Hmmm. I wonder if someone would have tried it. That's when a spell checker just doesn't help . . .

Please keep up your prayers. I still don't have the file fixed, but have found some workarounds. I will be continuing the series on Light and dark soon, and look forward to being back "together" with all of you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 2

Note: Please be praying strongly this week for this history-cookbook project I am wrapping up. We are very, very close and I am really struggling with the  "closer" (Gospel) page which shares how our region is not a slice of Heaven (it is a wonderful place!), but a shadow of Heaven. Then, last night, Mary Ann and I were up until 11:30 trying to fix a corruption in the file---the first time this has happened, and the night before we were to print proofs. I can't figure out what happened, and yet I know that God is bigger than it all, and that this book will be finished and bless our community, our youth, and glorify God!

Light and Darkness, Part 2: One of the starkest contrasts the Bible presents between the Kingdom (reign and rule) of God and the reign and rule of Satan is that of Light versus dark. The Bible makes it clear that the world is in darkness. Now, anyone that has ever been sunburned knows we have a very big light above us half the day, so something else is meant in the following passages:

Matt 4:12-17   Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. . . . so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ". . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,  "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Acts 26:15-18   And I [Paul] said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. . . . for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, . . . to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

Clearly, darkness is the default condition of man and the world, and clearly He means a spiritual and mental darkness. This ties in to the theme of blindness, also in the Bible describing the lost:

2 Cor 4:3-6   And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So, just what does God mean by this darkness? It is a critical understanding to understand the Gospel, and it especially speaks to the heart of "good people" (of which I spent many years thinking I was, because I wasn't "as bad" as many around me). I believe the clue to God's meaning of "darkness" comes in John's encounter with Nicodemus in which Jesus (who calls Himself the Light of the World) says to him:

John 3:19-21   And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.

Those who refuse to come to the Light (Jesus) are those who love darkness because of their wicked deeds. But, we all know people who, compared to others, are really "good" people and don't do "wicked" deeds (as long as man, and not God, is the standard). And yet, the Bible is clear they are lost and, tragically, going to Hell. So what are their wicked deeds? Why is the darkness they so love? It is the absence of God. He is the Light. Apart from Him is darkness. So wicked deeds are not just things like murder and drugs and adultery, but any deeds done in the darkness, done from self-rule and not God's rule (hence Kingdom). They are us, loving ourselves more than Him and others, and being our own Lord of our life. That is the ultimate tragedy and trap of the enemy, to get us to think that there is any good apart from God. When we love to rule our own life more than loving God and others and His rule in our life we are separated from Him, not walking in faith, and separation from Him is darkness. A great lie of the enemy is that it has to be "really bad" things, when He is so good that anything apart from Him is bad, and tragic.

I'll write more about this in the next post (God willing), but I encourage you to reflect on it. It is changing the way I share the Gospel and the concept of sin and darkness, and I truly believe that if "good" people understand this they will understand the Gospel better—people who don't do murder and the such and struggle to understand what is so dark about their life. This understanding of darkness elevates our eyes from others around us, and their lives, to Him. Until then, God bless, and don't hesitate to send your feedback. I treasure hearing from you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 1

Hello all. No, I haven’t “disappeared”—I have just been putting hours upon hours in to wrapping up the history-cookbook fundraiser we are doing for our youth group, and most of the rest of things have slipped to the side. But, it is close . . . and I am feeling things start returning to “normal” (whatever that is—someone said the other day that “normal” is a setting on a dryer and all the rest is life . . . )
    With that said, as a “sub” series in the running study I am teaching on the Kingdom of God (which is focusing on the present-day, “breaking in” aspect of His Kingdom—as opposed to the place Heaven, or the future Kingdom reality) I have been doing a shorter series on the stark contrast that exists (and should be evident) between the two kingdoms—God’s reign and rule versus Satan’s. The Kingdom of God, in the present day sense, is the reign or rule of God in a situation or person. Jesus said if He cast a demon out of someone the Kingdom of God had come upon them. He would heal a sick person and use it to talk about the Kingdom of God, and Colossians 1:13 says that when we are saved we are taken out of the rule/authority of Satan and into the Kingdom of Jesus.
    When God comes in to a person or situation the contrast should come to be stark because His rule has just replaced Satan’s, and their two hearts are very different. Jesus came in love that we might have life (eternal life begins at salvation), and have it abundantly, and He left us access to His joy and peace and indwelt by His Spirit which produces such things as love and kindness, etc. Satan, on the other hand, is by Jesus’ words a thief who comes naught except to steal, kill, and destroy. When God’s power comes against Satan’s, God’s is always superior—just ask Pharoah’s magicians, the demonized man in the tombs, or Simon or the woman with the spirit of divination in Acts.
    Unfortunately, in Western Christianity, the world seems to rarely see such a stark contrast between itself and God’s Kingdom, and I think that one of the reasons is that we try (and our culture permits us) to live at the same time with the security of Heaven, and the pleasures, values, and priorities of earth—and we often have little more respect for the authority and truth of His Word than the scientists do who mock it (hence our faith is weakened). Thus we are powerless, His voice is quieted, His Spirit is quenched, and all the world says is different about us is that they have Sunday morning off and we don’t. For the most part, Western Christianity is a far cry from those in Acts who “turned the world upside down.”
    I want to begin in the next few posts to talk about one of the stark contrasts between God’s Kingdom (reign and rule) versus Satan’s—the stark contrast between Light and darkness (and what God means by those two words). I think that it will really help us to better understand why a “good” person can go to Hell, and how we miss God as the mark of all that is good. I encourage you to follow this along, I think it will bless you. Until then, may God pour His favor upon you.


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