Saturday, February 25, 2012

Perceived Truths are Dangerous

In the Bible Satan is identified as, among many things, the deceiver of the world, the father of lies, and the accuser of the brethren. It is clear by these names, and his tactics going back to the Garden, that he works in lies, deception, and accusation. Jesus, on the other hand, is truth.

The dangerous thing about Satan's tactics are that we usually react to what we perceive to be true, which isn't always what is true. So, if he can get us to believe an untruth we will likely live and think in response to that, thinking we are reacting to truth. I, for one, can be stunned (and discouraged) by the number of things I can think, believe, etc., that are inconsistent with what I believe in regards to my faith. Somewhere in all of that I have often believed a lie, though I think I it is truth. Unless we stop and take our actions and thoughts captive to our Christian faith we can continue in wrong and destructive and often negative patterns and thoughts for long periods of time.

A key to turning this around is to start to identify the lies we believe. A good way to start is to evaluate, with the Holy Spirit's help,
1) the things we do,
2) the priorities we hold,
3) the fears and concerns we have, and
4) the way we think about ourselves and others and life.
The object of this is to identify those areas that are not consistent with the professions of our faith about God, His love, His power, what He says about us, etc. Chances are, the areas we find where we are inconsistent with our faith statements may well be areas we have unwittingly somewhere believed a lie (which we perceive to be truth, so we act in response to it).

My guess is that the first two areas to identify inconsistency in (things we do, and priorities we hold) will be pretty easy. It is often easy to see the things we do and priorities we hold that are inconsistent with what we believe. The last two (fears and concerns we have, and the way we think about ourselves and others and life) will be harder—but what we believe in these areas are probably drivers for many of our external actions. The goal in this is to disarm the enemy's devices (which we are not to be ignorant of) and to replace lies with truths.

One example I used with our youth group was a fear they might hold deep inside. I asked them to see if that fear was consistent with what they know to be true about God—that He is powerful (creates a universe), that He is present (will never leave them), and that He loves them (died for them). Is their fear consistent with those things they believe to be true about God? It was easy to see it wasn't. Somewhere in there they had started to replace truth with lies which they perceived to be truth, and then started living in response to that perceived truth.

We can find the same thing in many areas. For example, many youth (and adults) are insecure, or feel little worth, etc. Is that inconsistent with a God who promises to never leave them, who loves them so much He considers them worth dying for, who made them in His image, who knew their mistakes and sin before the foundation of the earth and still gave them life? Usually, a lie has been believed about themselves or their relationship with God, and that lie is what they are living and thinking in response to.

If we can identify the areas our actions, priorities, thoughts, fears, etc. are not consistent with what we profess about God we can start to look for areas we may be living and thinking in response to lies and not truth. Then we can begin to use God's Word and the tenets of our faith to replace those lies with truth, and to stand in faith on truth instead of on lies. God did this with Sarah's unbelief when He asked if anything was too hard for God. He identified the lie she was believing and confronted her with it. Or the father Jesus confronted who had asked if Jesus can heal his child and Jesus responded by identifying the lie, replying basically, "If I can?! All things are possible (with God)! Believe!"

Somewhere the Israelites believed a lie (or lies) when they refused to enter the promised land. Joshua and Caleb tried to bring them back to truth (we can do this if God is with us), but they chose to live by sight and in fear, neglecting God's promises (which God took as rejection of Him). Over and over in the Bible we see this pattern—thoughts based on lies or half truths, God confronting them with the truth about Himself, and then a choice being before them of which they will believe and act on.

Christian, what lies have you unwittingly believed, that you are now living in response to? Is the enemy whispering accusations at you, reminding you of your failures and shortcomings? So what does God have to say about that? Do you remember that, despite your shortcomings, if you have faith in Christ's death for you they have been paid for and forgiven, and you are redeemed and adopted by God and He lives in you and He'll never leave you? Do you realize that He did that because He loves you and considers you worth it?

Christian, how are you acting? Is it in response to a lie? Have somewhere you believed a lie about yourself, or God's love for you, or His power, or His faithfulness and are you now acting out in response to that lie? What is the truth of the situation? Which will you believe and live in response to?

From the beginning this has been Satan's way. He first cast doubt on God's love, Word, and trustworthiness ("Did God really say?" and "You won't die" and "God knows that you will be like Him"). AFTER Eve doubted God's Word, His trustworthiness, His good intentions and love for her, THEN she entertained temptation—THEN she bought the lie that she could find pleasure (pleasing to the eye), provision (good for food), and wisdom (desirable to make one wise) apart from God. My guess is that, for all of us, we are seeking pleasure, provision, and wisdom in some ways inconsistent with our faith, because somewhere we have first allowed ourselves to believe lies about God's Word, trustworthiness, and love.

May the Holy Spirit lead you and guide you into all truth, that we may disarm the weapons of the enemy of lies, deception and accusation. God bless you, and thanks for reading.   —Erick

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God is On the Move

These are exciting times as a Christian who believes in the Bible and in bringing our life into consistency with our professed world view. These are times when, I believe, God is challenging American and much of the chaff will be separated from the wheat as were are, finally, being forced to evaluate our faith at a much deeper level than simply our stand on gay marriage or abortion. I will explain why I am so excited in a moment, but first I want to give a few caveats to nip in the bud some rebuttals. This is a longer post, but I would really value your thoughts and feedback.


First: If you haven't read "Electability" (my January 19 post) you might want to. In it I lay out why I think that word is a subtle way of watering down our faith, causing us to pick a candidate who might not match our faith well over one who does. In it I talked about Rick Santorum (hardly on the radar screen at the time in many people's minds), and about how the Bible is full of examples of times when what was "wise" to the world was not honored by God, but rather God tested the heart of His people to see if they would choose faith over "conventional" wisdom (the same worldly system of wisdom, by the way, that tells you that your relatives down the line were monkeys and fish). Reading that post will help you understand me better, and where I am coming from, in this post.

Second: I recognize there are significant issues with Catholicism that Protestants and Evangelicals have. I disagree with Catholics on many issues of the faith. But, that said, I also know many individual Catholics who I am far more convinced are born again Christians than many professing non-Catholic "Christians" I have met who might be quick to point out Catholic faults. I am just glad none of us need perfect theology to be saved, because if we did none of us would be.

Third: No candidate is perfect. None of us are. I doubt any of us would want someone demanding perfection from our entire life, or someone going back and scrutinizing everything we have said, done, written, etc. over the last 20 years and then us having to defend it in 10 second sound bites. Whether you are voting for Santorum or not, I believe what I am about to say will be thought provoking and of value to you.

With That Said, God is On the Move . . .

I can't tell you how exciting it has been for Mary Ann and I to watch the news at night in the last week or two and see the discussions that Rick's Santorum's vetting is causing. Combine that with Tebowmania and now Linsanity and I can't remember a season when I have heard discussions of faith—specifically Christian faith!—so often in the media. (Even after 9/11 I remember God being talked about a lot as comfort and a place to turn, but never this extent of discussion about larger issues of world view.)

What is so exciting to me is that I am hearing things talked about now that I can not ever remember being addressed on such a scale. It seems so often that Christians are relegated (often self relegated) to abortion and gay marriage and a few specific button issues in election cycles. This shallow focus allows Christians to accept or reject individual issues without having to be confronted with a call to consistency in their faith across the board. But Santorum's vetting and the close examination of his statements now and in the past are confronting professing Christians on a much higher level, and I am shouting out, "At last!" Our faith and world view provides the framework and reason for our individual stands—and our individual stands without the full expression of our faith and world view make us be simply seen as angry, judgmental people. But, if our world view (the gospel, the love of God, the reality of sin, the hope of faith, the reality of spiritual warfare and evil, etc.) is shared in fulness and in full context it will, I believe draw many to it—or at least help them understand us better, and help Christians identify inconsistencies between their profession of belief and their lives and choices and priorities and thoughts.

Like him or not, I can't remember a major candidate in recent times who has made it this far seeming to be so across the board in consistency with his world view and his policies as Santorum is. You can't listen to him and not see that this man has a world view and he sticks to it and brings all his other views into consistency with it. If you have read my blog for any length of time you know that this is a major cry of mine—it is ignorant and shallow to expect to separate a candidate from their world view and faith as, if that world view and faith is truly held, it should impact all they are and do.

And, the world view being discussed, is one that should excite Christians beyond measure! Finally, in the major media, we are hearing discussions about Satan, and good and evil, and spiritual warfare, and Satan's attacks on America—and we are being given a much bigger picture of why life is sacred, why people are precious, why religious liberty is so important, why we must support Israel and see some things in the world as truly evil, why the earth is for people's use and stewardship (but not above or equal to people), etc. We are seeing convenient Christianity challenged (meaning people can't just throw out that they are a Christian to get elected, but their lives are being examined for consistency). We are seeing the Protestant denominations called out on their collapse to the world. (Criticize Catholics for what you will, but at least they have stood strong on many of the issues many Protestant denominations have completely caved in on.) When we have CNN printing some things like the following, it should excite us!
"This is not a political war at all, this is not a culture war at all, this is a spiritual war," Santorum said . . . "And the father of lies has his sights on what you think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on.  A good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America."

Santorum said Satan was first, and most successfully, attacked academia. Once academia fell to pride and its own truths, he said, the Protestant Church fell next in the United States. "We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country, and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it," he said.
Again, like Santorum or not, we finally are seeing the core issues addressed and I believe it will (or should) force individual Christians to decide where they stand. No longer can we simply reject an issue (choose economy over abortion as a priority, for example). The Santorum debate is forcing us to choose a world view and to see how many of our individual choices may be inconsistent with the world view we claim to believe in. It is forcing us to decide what we believe about the Bible. It is forcing us to look deep and decide, who are we going to serve? Our heart we will have to have been confronted. And, maybe, God, who values our heart and faith over external circumstances, is simply checking the heart of His children and beginning to force issues that will force Christians to decide who they are going to follow—Him, or the world. And, by having opposing world views so prominently displayed and contrasted, we may not be able, any more, to walk with one foot on each side of the fence. And that would be exciting to me, to see God's children finally have to choose!


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