Saturday, 26 May 2012

Brother to Brother ...

Have we gotten "off course" a little lately?

I saw this video last night which I thought was very good. As I watched (and worshipped) all I could think about was the fact that maybe we don't take time out from our theological bickering often enough to just stop and worship. Have you ever wondered about that? Oh, I know, I am just as guilty as the next person. I confess that.

Please understand, I am not saying that we cannot or should not have theological discussions. In and of themselves, they can be quite healthy. God has laid on each heart something to share with the rest of the body (1 Corinthians 14:26). In fact, sharing with each other is His plan for the church. I suspect that where we get off course, however, is when we come across with an arrogance of having the last word on the matter and not recognizing the spiritual gifts and insights of others. When this happens, contention and factions (acts of the sinful nature; Galatians 5:20) also happen as we become less and less gracious with each other. This should not be.

Could it be that, just maybe, it doesn't even matter who is ultimately right and wrong, or who can correctly parse those Greek verbs, or who can do, do, do (whatever) - as much as it matters that we simply worship Him? He alone is worthy.
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! ... Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Revelation 4:8,11; ESV).
So, brother to brother, next time you or I get inspired to rant and rave about some theological issue, I wonder what our dialogue with each other would look like if we first took time out for some genuine worship. I suspect that if we really first did that, then maybe we would all be just a little more gracious with each other and with (our perceived views of) each other's errors and faults. Maybe we then really would look more like brothers. Hmm, just a thought.

Anyway, that's the way I see it. I hope you are able to stop for a few moments of worship as Jesus Culture leads us with "Holy." Praying the Lord's blessings and peace for you, my brothers and sisters.

"Let us offer to God acceptable worship" (Hebrews 12:28)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 7

"Unity in Diversity"
Photo Credit: Fady Habib, Flickr Creative Commons
"It is the simplest of principles, it is the most difficult of principles. Let us first be clear on what unity does not mean: it does not mean uniformity. Unity is oneness. Diversity lends strength to any group of people. Unity binds together diverse elements so that, by virtue of their many strengths, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Me, You and Him." (Fady Habib, "Unity in Diversity")

Have you ever wondered about Jesus’ prayer for unity in the church? “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17: 22-23).
How are we doing with this “glory” that the Lord gave us? Are we truly “one?” Are we in complete “unity?” Does the “world” know this? Hmm.
So now we come to the last thing on our list of seven things that the Lord hates; “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV)
Stirring up dissension.” How do you picture that? To better understand this, perhaps we would do well to first describe what it isn’t. First of all I imagine a peaceful setting where people are getting along reasonably well. I imagine friends and neighbors in a community helping one another out. I imagine them sharing tools, loaning each other a cup of sugar now and then, getting together to help one of their midst put a new roof on his house, and so on and so on. There is peace and harmony. There is brotherhood. There is love. There is unity. Well, you get the picture. Kind of nice, isn’t it? Perhaps we might say that, “it’s utopic.”

"Stirring Up Dissension?"
Photo Credit: Joan M. Mas
Flickr Creative Commons
Then into that utopian community, a new family arrives that do not share the same values, or perhaps who simply think a little differently on certain matters. Nobody notices this at first. Using very subtle tactics, this newcomer begins to ruffle the feathers of some against the others. Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate, but tension and distrust do begin creep in. Soon some families are noticeably absent from the regular celebratory community block parties. The rumor mill grows and that horrible “S” word, slander, begins to take root. Then, almost overnight, the landscape begins to change in this once peaceful community, as a few “For Sale” signs start to pop up here and there.

Can you hear the gossip? Some who have not yet succumbed to the dissension virus ask, “What, they’re moving? You mean, like to another community? Why?” Others, once their closest friends, are now strangely less sympathetic. They shrug their shoulders and say, “Let them go. Who cares! Good riddance!”

While I just made this quixotic community up, I am sure have all witnessed its demise before. Where have we done so, you ask? It comes by many different names. Some recognize it as a church split. For others it is denominationalism. In yet another case it is known as local church membership. Does that shock you?
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious … dissensions, factions” (Galatians 5: 20)
What do church splits, denominationalism and local church membership all have in common? They all pull brothers and sisters apart. They all make a distinction between us and them, and usually they do so with some measure of hurt feelings brought on by one dispute or another.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 1: 10-12).
In the very next verse the Apostle Paul then asks, “Is Christ divided?” Unfortunately the answer seems to be, “Yes.” Oh, to be sure, our Lord never intended that, but we’ve done it to him.  I follow Menno (Mennonites); I follow Calvin (Reformed); I follow Luther (Lutherans). We’ve divided Christ. It seems that we identify ourselves more by our denominational handles than by the name of the Lord. We’re Baptists; we’re Pentecostals; we’re Presbyterians; we’re Anglicans, not to mention a host of others. I have heard some people call denominations “flavors,” as if they were simply buying another ice cream cone.
Denominations are not flavors; they’re factions.
Photo Credit: Chiot's Run, Flickr Creative Commons
How did all that happen? Somewhere in our history there were dissensions. Somewhere in our history our forefathers acted in an unloving way toward their fellow believers and found it easier to divide than to reconcile. Somewhere in our recent history we do the same thing in that we too act in an unloving way with every church split. And every time we move on and join another local church by taking out membership in it, we do the same thing again by subtly saying, “I belong here” as opposed to “there” with you. We seem to have forgotten that the only true “ministry” that the church has is the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). But then again, it’s easier to divide ourselves that to reconcile ourselves, isn’t it?

Ultimately, though, all that has more to do with religion than it has to do with Christ. At the very least, it is not a life in the Spirit, for as the Apostle Paul says, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). What are dissensions and factions? They are “acts of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:19).

I define “Dissensions” as those quarrelling hard feelings caused by differences of opinion. Is God happy with this? On the contrary, He HATES it. Not only does He hate “it,” our Proverbs text says that He hates the “man” who stirs up this SIN in others. Notice that again, those who “stir up dissension among brothers,” God hates. Up until now, in the first six parts, it was always a thing that the Lord hated; but now God’s hatred seems to be directed at a man. Perhaps that is why James said, “we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Maybe we should pause and thing about that for a moment.
“Hate” seems like such a hard word. How are we to understand it?
Photo Credit: Rutger van Waveren, Flickr Creative Commons
I can just see all the red flags now. Did I say that God hates a man? Actually, I didn’t, but the Bible did. I just quoted it. I’m reminded of “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13). Ever notice how some people seem to have a hard time with the notion of God hating anything, much less, anyone? Perhaps you’re one such person. In some ways I have yet to make peace with this notion too. Rather we prefer to think only of the love of God in Christ Jesus, which I might add, is right and proper for us to do. However, here is where it gets tricky for many of us. Does God’s wonderful love for us mean that He cannot hate? How do we reconcile this apparent dichotomy?

I like how the Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Lawrence O. Richards; Zondervan, page 325) discusses the objects of God’s hatred. It reads:
It is not surprising to read that God hates wickedness and will have no relationship with the evildoer. God, who loves justice, rightly hates robbery and iniquity (Isa 61:8). The Bible tells us that God also hates hypocritical worship offered by those whose lifestyles show that his moral standards have been ignored (Isa 1:13-15; Am 5:21). God’s hatred of idolatry is also well established. 
Usually we human beings are fearful of hatred. Both in ourselves and others it becomes a dominating emotion that robs one of judgment and of compassion. But God’s hatred is different. His hatred is always appropriate, focused on evil and the evildoer. And God’s hatred is always balanced by his attributes of love and compassion. Because God is the moral judge of the universe, he must make distinctions between good and evil. Because God is wholly committed to good, he must react to wickedness and act passionately and wisely to punish. As the psalmist says: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors” (Ps 5:4-6).
So what are we to make of all this? Certainly we prefer to speak only of the love of God. I know that I do. However, maybe the truth about God is better described as if on a pendulum. It is this, but it is also that. God is one, but He is also Three-in-One. There is election and there is also free will. There is justice and there is also grace. There is Heaven and there is also Hell. There is God’s love and there is also God’s hate.

"Wind Gauge" in Lethbridge, Alberta. Photo Source: Unknown
Reminds me of our theological pendulums, sometimes stuck to one side.
I suspect that for many of us, though, that theological pendulum often seems to get stuck on one side or the other. We tend to gravitate to one camp or the other instead of seeing that both can be correct in their own ways and contexts. Maybe that’s why there are often so many dissensions in the church. Maybe it’s ultimately to do with our pet doctrines that we love so much. Maybe we would all do well to remind ourselves that even if we think we have all these mysteries of God figured out, if we don’t have genuine and unpretentious love, then ultimately we have nothing (1 Corinthians 13).

What was the Greatest Commandment? Oh yes, love God and love our fellow man. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” said Jesus (Matthew 22: 40). The way I read that, everything that has ever been said about God or will ever be said about God, hangs on love.

Is it reconciliation time? Hmm, I wonder.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 6

Photo Credit: Bianca Bueno, Flickr Creative Commons
I have become an iTunes fan over the last couple of years. I love the idea of sitting on my deck with my laptop, yapping with friends online, or perhaps working on a blog post such as this, and all the while having my whole music collection right at my fingertips. I've come a long ways from my old 8-Track collection. (For those of you too young to know what an 8-Track was, here's some history for you.)

At the opening of their classic song, “What If I Stumble,” contemporary Christian band DC Talk include an interesting quote reportedly taken from American priest Brennan Manning:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I’ve often reflected on that quote. Certainly none of us would want to be responsible for “deliberately” causing the atheism of another, and yet, we all do stumble from time to time. Obviously, though, an occasional stumble is very different than a deliberate intent to deceive.

Continuing the series on “The Things the Lord Hates,” we find ourselves with the sixth thing the Lord hates, and that is, “a false witness that pours out lies.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV).
A sufferer of Pinocchio-itis? Hmm
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
As I thought about a false witness, my mind went first to a courtroom scenario where a witness has just lied on the witness stand. In legal terms, it would be said of this witness that he “perjured” himself; that he deliberately lied in order to mislead.

“Perjury” is defined as: “the deliberate violation of an oath or affirmation, either by saying that something is true which one knows to be false or by omitting to tell something that one has promised to tell” (Gage Canadian Dictionary).

As I thought further on this “false witness that pours out lies,” I wondered how often we Christians perjure ourselves in our every day lives. What am I getting at? As believers we have publically given affirmation that we are sons and daughters of God, but I wonder how often our walks line up with our talks, and thus falsifying our witness.  For more on this, see my earlier post called “The 'Jesus is Lord' Lie.”
“Do not deceive one another” (Leviticus 19:11)
This is about more than just being a liar. This is about being a deceiver, and ultimately, even about deceiving our selves (James 1:22). Who is the prince of deceivers? We all know the answer to that, don’t we? Eve said, “The serpent deceived me” (Genesis 3:13). The prince and father of deceivers is none other than Satan himself. My question then becomes, why would we want to be associated with him?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Deliberately lying, or deceiving, makes us guilty by association with the devil. We could even go so far as to say that we then become his “accomplice.” The Apostle Paul said, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Could we then say that a professing Christian who deliberately deceives others by lying is also masquerading as a child of God? Does my suggesting that offend you? Does that sound harsh and judgmental?

I judge no one in a condemnation sense, for only God can do that. However, I believe that we are called to judge in a discernment sense. “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). If there is no spirit of truthfulness discerned, what does that say?

Remember, we’re not talking about a stumble whereby we slip up, recognize our error and repent. After all, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Rather here we’re talking about perjuring ourselves before God and man by deliberately and unrepentantly “pouring out lies” in order to deceive. This the Lord hates! Unfortunately deliberate deception happens all the time, even in the church.
“The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:31).
"Gold Tooth Gargoyle"
Photo Credit: Andrew Sorensen, Flickr Creative Commons
I remember a fiasco in the church some years ago where people were claiming that God blessed them with golden teeth. Even prominent church leaders were deceptively doing this. I was both amused and saddened by one such case where a leader on a Canadian Christian TV station announced that he too had received a miracle golden tooth where none had existed before. He was busted as a liar when his dentist publically announced that no, it was no miracle. The dentist himself put that golden tooth in some ten years earlier. Was he truly sorry and repentant, or just sorry that he got caught? Hmm, I wonder.

Some time later the same church leader was dethroned in an adulterous relationship. Not to rehash the dirty laundry of another, but the point that I am trying to make is that lying is deception, and many of us, by our strange lethargic attitudes, seem to be OK with it. What I find amazing is how many people continue to flock to these defrocked church leaders who, just as in this situation, soon turn up somewhere else with yet another church plant. Does that mean the masquerade and deception continues? Maybe he's learned his lesson, but as someone once said, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
But lest I get too prideful, in truth, there but for the grace of God, go I.
Photo Credit: Joost J. Bakker, Flickr Creative Commons
The bottom line is, I am no better. I can echo the Apostle Paul's words in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." If I am wise, perhaps I will learn from the stumbles of others. If others are wise, perhaps they will learn from my stumbles.

Just as a child is told to "Look Both Ways" before crossing the street, perhaps we too would be wise to look again at our walk, lest we too get broadsided by finding ourselves doing "The Things the Lord Hates."

Perhaps the reason God hates "a false witness that pours out lies" is because of what it does to human relationships; namely the violation of trust and honesty that He expects us to have with one another. When we deliberately lie, we deliberately mislead, and in so doing we harm the other person and we harm the fellowship of the Body of Christ.

Photo Credit: Julie McLeod, Flickr Creative Commons
Is our earlier quote true? Is “the greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle?”  Maybe it is. I suspect that, at the very least, such sloppy Christian walks do have a role to play in the way the church is perceived by the world. Perhaps it even plays a role in how the church is sometimes perceived by other Christians. How sad. 

When the world looks at Christians, what do they see? “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Perhaps if we really did that, the non-Christian world would sit up and take a genuine interest in the true Gospel message that we claim to embrace. But until then, maybe we are ironically promoting atheism instead through our perjury on the witness stand of the world. 

God forgive us. God help us. Thank you, Jesus.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.
In our seventh and final part of this series, we will consider “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 5

Photo Credit: Stallio; Flickr Creative Commons
What is “evil?” How would you define it?

Keeping in mind that ultimately only God is capable of making truly moral judgments, morally speaking, “evil” would seem to be best defined as a person’s actions that in some way violate, or go contrary to, God’s desire for us and our relationship with Him and with others. If we accept that definition, then “evil” becomes something that we do every time that we choose to do something that clearly goes contrary to that which God desires for us. Therefore moral “evil” is anything that God would regard as wrong. As Creator, only God gets to determine exactly what that is, and as Judge, He will have the last word on this.

“Evil” always has its consequences. By way of example, consider a sexually active young teenage girl. Does God approve of her choice of lifestyle? I’m sure that most of us would say, “No.” Will God forgive her if she asks? Most certainly, “Yes.” Still, despite being forgiven, there would remain all sorts of potential consequences for her “evil” choices. She could end up with a sexually transmitted disease, an unwanted pregnancy, disrupted or lost educational opportunities, and who knows whatever else. The consequences of “evil” are that we find ourselves outside of the will of God.

Photo Credit: David Jones; Flickr Creative Commons
“Evil” is what the Bible calls us when we rush into following our own path, without taking the time to consider what God’s path for us might be. “Evil” is when I put myself on the throne of life and relegate God to, at best, only second place. The vanity license plates that say, “God is my co-pilot” illustrates this well. I’ve often wondered if people who have those vanity plates on their cars really know what they’re saying. If they believe God to be only their “co-pilot,” are they then claiming the pilot’s seat for themselves? Is God only playing second fiddle in their lives? If so, then that is “evil.” Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

So where am I going with all this? In this series we have been considering “The Things the Lord Hates.” The fifth thing the Lord hates are, “feet that are quick to rush into evil.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV)
To listen to some people speak, I sometimes get they impression that they feel that “The Things the Lord Hates” no longer applies to the church. However, every time I hear such things, I always come back to asking, “Has God’s nature changed?” If the answer is, “No,” then somehow this statement still applies to the church. Can Christians be deceived? So long as the Devil remains in the world, “Yes.” Can Christian feet still rush into evil? If we take our eyes off of Jesus, if we fail to walk in the Spirit, then “Yes,” we too are at risk of having feet that rush into evil.

I remember a saying I heard many years ago that went something like this: “If you have no peace on a certain matter, then do nothing.” I think a mistake that many of us make, myself included, is that we often rush ahead of God, even if there is no peace concerning the matter. Then, if we bother to ask for guidance at all, it often seems like we do so only after the fact. Society has us all in such a hurry, that few seem to know what it means to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Have we become pilots of our own lives? Is God even on the same plane, much less in the cockpit and in the pilot’s seat?
What is God’s will concerning you? What is God’s will concerning me? What is near and dear to Heavenly Father’s heart concerning humanity? How would our “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15) have us interact with our neighbors, coworkers, and dare I say, enemies? How would He like us to respond to Jesus, as the only way (John 14:6), or one of many ways? When Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile,” (Matthew 5: 38-42) did He have us in mind too? Or was that written only by way of a suggestion for people from another time and place? Do you and I have that perfect “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7)? If not, then have you ever wondered, why not? If we have a problem here, is that a sign that we may have “feet that are quick to rush into evil?” 

Source Unknown
Thankfully, though the Lord hates those traits in humanity, He also loves us dearly. Just knowing that makes me "want" to walk in a right relationship with him. Just knowing that makes me "want" to be obedient to what He asks of me. This has nothing to do with some twisted form of works righteousness, for we all fall short. Ultimately, it does not "depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Romans 9:16). Does God hate evil? Yes. Does God love me? Yes. Thank you, Jesus.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.
In Part 6 we will consider, “a false witness that pours out lies.”

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 4

Photo Credit: Scott Cooper
Flickr Creative Commons
In the last post in this series we looked at “hands that shed innocent blood” by way of crimes against the innocent young of society. Today I want to consider the other end of the age spectrum with “a heart that devises wicked schemes.” This is often played out against the widows and elderly in society, but anyone can be a victim of it. It is also the fourth thing on our list of things that the Lord hates.

I am sure that most of us have no use for heartless and self-serving people who prey on seniors and the elderly of society. That takes nerve. That takes wickedness. That takes a “wicked scheme.” What constitutes a “wicked scheme?” The word “wicked” really doesn’t need to be defined; we all know that it means bad, evil and sinful. The word “scheme” denotes a plan or a plot. Put the two words together, and a “wicked scheme” becomes a premeditated evil act against someone else. This the Lord hates! Before we go any further, though, let’s revisit the text and the list of “The Things the Lord Hates.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV) 
When I think of wicked and evil, I also think of the devil. The New Testament speaks of the “Devil’s Schemes,” that is, his sinister plots to entrap human beings. We see examples of this in 2 Corinthians 2:11 and Ephesians 6:11. People who also plot to entrap fellow human beings, I would argue, have the mind of the devil within them and are rightly called his children. In fact, the New Testament goes so far as to say that “He who does what is sinful is of the devil” (1 John 3:8). It’s no wonder the Lord hates “a heart that devises wicked schemes.”
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses … " (Matthew 23:14).
Photo Credit: Ben Rollman
Flickr Creative Commons
In 2009 a wicked scheme known as a “Ponzi Scheme” came crashing down around its founder, Earl Jones. He is now two years into an 11-year prison sentence. There is an interesting 45 minute documentary by the CBC's Fifth Estate "Earl Jones: In Trust." One of the troubling things I heard as I watched this video was that Jones would "meet with widows to manage their money." His scheme went on for over two decades in which he stole from the unsuspecting an estimated $51.3 million. Personally I think he ought to have received a higher sentence than only 11 years, but that’s another matter.

The ironic thing is that this allegedly happened right under the nose of one of Canada’s largest financial institutions, RBC, for which they faced legal action. Earlier this year they settled for $17 million, though they denied any wrong doing. No wrong doing? Really? Maybe it's just me, but I cannot imagine settling for any amount if I was sure of my innocence. Can we now no longer even trust that banks will watch out for those who would fraudulently steal the life savings of widows and the elderly?
Do we really have to go back to the mattress bank?
It all makes one wonder how some people can even live with themselves? I know it sounds harsh and judgmental, but maybe such schemers really are children of the devil. How could that which these con artists do be considered anything less than wicked?

Let’s take this one step further. What about those who do the same thing under the guise of religion? Pseudo-Christians, particularly those from the prosperity gospel camp, who dupe the unsuspecting into financing their lavish lifestyles, are they not essentially the same as the Ponzi scheme con artists? They both promise returns on investments, one from interest dividends, and the other from God.

The religious huckster ends up with just as lavish a lifestyle, and maybe even more so, than the wicked Ponzi schemer, as evidenced by this post. Is one really any worse than the other? Both “devour widows’ houses.” It is interesting that these so-called preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ have such incredible wealth, and yet my New Testament says “but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Let me see if I’ve got that right; Jesus has nothing by earthly standards, but those who preach about him live as royalty in king’s palaces? Hmm, yea, that makes a lot of sense.

In the end, the question isn’t even about earthly riches. The issue is not about being rich versus being poor. The issue is about those who “devour widows’ houses” by milking them of their life savings. The issue is about "a heart that devises wicked schemes." That is one of “The Things the Lord Hates.”

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
In Part 5 we will consider the fifth thing the Lord hates, "feet that are quick to rush into evil."

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 3

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
What comes to mind when I say, “Innocent Blood?”

As I write these things, Canadian news headlines are reporting the triple conviction of a man charged with the abduction, sexual assault, and first-degree murder of an 8 year-old little girl back in April 2009. I’m afraid that what goes through my mind as I think about these things isn’t very gracious or loving toward the convicted man. Dare I even so far as to say that I HATE the thing that has happened?

My heart goes out to the family of that little girl, whose “innocent blood” was spilt.

"Precious is their blood in his sight" Psalm 72:14.

To continue the series that we started here, “Hands that shed innocent blood” is the third thing on our list of “The Things the Lord Hates.” Hate is a strong word, especially among men. Yet, when it is applied to God, it is different in that it is always balanced with His love and compassion. God is wholly committed to good, and as such it ought not surprise us when He reacts toward wickedness in mankind. Let us revisit our text:
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV).
The shedding of innocent blood is something that God hates. Why? There are no doubt countless reasons, not the least of which is that God hates all wickedness, but one of these reasons has to be because of His involvement in the creation of each human life. Consider the words of the psalmist:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139: 13-16; NIV).
At the risk of coming across as politically incorrect, what do you suppose God thinks about abortion? That too is innocent blood being shed, is it not? Yes, of course He loves the pregnant mom, but He hates the idea of the life that He lovingly “knit together” in her womb being butchered; He “hates hands that shed innocent blood.” I find it strange how society is all in an uproar over the death of a murdered 8 year old (and rightly so), but apparently indifferent to the (legalized) murder of the pre-born child. Both are innocent lives being snuffed out; both die at the “hands that shed innocent blood.”
One day we will have to give account for this evil in our society. How will we answer God for this genocide that we call “Choice?”
Likewise, I do not believe that there can ever be such a thing as a just holy war. Yes, that nation that has attacked (or is attacking us) is a horrible thing. All that innocent blood being shed; God hates that. But two wrongs never make a right; God equally hates our retaliation too. Have we not also shed innocent blood by fighting back? Mothers on both sides of every war have mourned the loss of their innocent children. That’s never just a case of collateral damage; it’s always simply a case of “shed innocent blood.”

Sometimes I am amazed at how many Christians have no problem with justifying war, and even praying for it, as suggested by a You Tube video I recently saw in which two prominent TV preachers did just that. Even though I tend to be a pacifist, maybe I might even justify it too if an invading force were to suddenly plant themselves on my native soil with evil intent. I guess one never really knows how we would respond until we actually faced such a situation.

However, as disturbing as I find that video, the question is not one of whether or not Christians should fight in wars, for if the truth be told, the New Testament is actually quite silent concerning it. The question has to do with shedding “innocent blood.” Granted, that’s Old Testament, but has God’s nature changed with the advent of the New Testament when it comes to this? Has His thoughts changed on the subject since Old Testament times?
“Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them” (Habakkuk 2:8).
Again, Old Testament, but are we moderns guilty of that too? Funny how we justify shedding another man’s blood in the name of war, but in times of peace, we call it murder. God calls all shedding of blood evil, regardless whether it’s in time of war or peace, regardless if it involves the one already born, or the pre-born.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.
In Part 4 we will consider the fourth thing the Lord hates: “a heart that devises wicked schemes.”

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 2

"Truth ripping out the tongue of poor Lie"
Photo Credit: Marko Vallius
Flickr Creative Commons
Children have a way with words. Do you remember that old childhood chant that started out, “Liar, liar, pants on fire?” I’m at a loss to remember how the rest of the chant went, but that much I do remember.

I don’t want to read too much into it, but I could not help but wonder at the “fire” part. Were the children chanting this making reference to the hell-fire that religion often tried to scare its adherents with? Probably not. Likely it was simply nothing more than a cute childish rhyme.

Still, to continue the series we began here,
“a lying tongue” is the second thing on the Proverbs list of things that God hates. 

In the previous post I began with a caveat that may bear repeating. I said, “Hate” is a strong word. Does it bother you to think about God as “hating” something? I am not suggesting that God hates people, for God is a God of love who loves you and me dearly, and thus the cross of Christ. But just as a parent who loves a child can still hate it when the child does something foolish or dangerous, so too God can hate it when you and I do certain foolish, dangerous or sinful things, and yet still love us dearly. Again, I am not talking about hating the person; rather I am talking about hating the sin in the person.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV)
When we speak of “a lying tongue,” what are we talking about? Does it not have to do with a person’s character? Is it true to say, “Once a liar, always a liar?”

Though I hate lying as much as most people do, it doesn’t really surprise me when non-believers lie. What surprises me is when Christians lie. Why? Because lying comes from the devil and, according to Jesus, is actually his native language. Should it then surprise us if non-believers, children of the world, speak the same language as the prince of this world does? Harsh words, you say? Yes, but then again, consider what Jesus once told a bunch of people. He said,
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44; NIV).
Why does God hate a “lying tongue?” Ultimately, I suspect, because it is the devil’s language. Lying is not God’s language. God’s language is based on truthfulness, and as Christians, it is assumed that we will also adopt God’s language as our own. Now that we are Christians, why would we even want to speak the devil’s native language any more? If all connections with the devil have been severed now that we are in Christ, then one would think that all lying tongues would be gone too.
“Surely you desire truth” (Psalm 51:6). “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22). “I, the Lord, speak the truth” (Isaiah 45:19). “Speak the truth to each other” (Zechariah 8:16). “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). “And the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
You get the point. God is interested in truth.

Why do people lie? I suppose there are all sorts of reasons from attempting to cover up guilt to trying to protect the feelings of another to somewhere in between. Sometimes, given the circumstance, we even justify lying by calling our lies “little white lies,” as if to suggest that they’re not really that bad. However, in God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a “little white lie.” Color it what you will, but is not a lie always a lie, and is not a white liar still a liar?
Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37; NIV). James said of the tongue, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8; NIV).
For many today lying is no big deal. Even if people get caught in their lies, they often shrug their shoulders as if to say, “So what!” Lying is as old as the Garden of Eden. It’s found everywhere from political leaders to schoolyards, and from work places to (dare I say it) pulpits. Even respected Christian leaders have been caught in lies. We are all capable of it, but at the end of the day, no matter what else we may call it, lying is still a sin.

We can try and justify it if we will, but we would do well to remember that one of the things that God HATES is “a lying tongue.”

A few other questions to ponder:
  • In your books, is lying as big a deal as I’ve painted it?
  • Is it OK to tell “little white lies” if they’re designed to protect others?
  • Have you ever heard lies from the pulpit? How did that make you feel?
  • What do you think of the biblical connection between lying and the devil?
  • Is there a way to guard one’s self from lying? How?
  • Is an untruth uttered inadvertently through ignorance still a lie?
That's the way I see it anyway. Peace.
In Part 3 we will consider the third thing the Lord hates; “hands that shed innocent blood.”

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Things the Lord Hates, Part 1

"Brotherhood of Mankind" (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Photo Credit: Bill Longstaff, Flickr Creative Commons
There are a few interesting verses in Proverbs that have always made me sit up and take notice. I suppose we could say that we should really sit up and take notice of all the verses in the Bible, but these have brought me back time and time again.

With this post we begin the first of a seven-part series from Proverbs on "The Things the Lord Hates." This is not going to be some heavy theological exposition, so if that's what you're looking for, I'm afraid you will likely be somewhat disappointed. Rather, like most my posts, these are simply the musings that grow out of my personal Bible reading and meditation. More often than not, they are simply the things that make me sit up and say, "Hmm."

I remember someone I met a while ago sharing how his son had these verses drawn as a full sleeve tattoo on his arm. When asked about the tattoo, apparently he always ended up sharing his testimony by starting out with the “things the Lord hates.”

How cool is that? I would love to see that tattoo.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV)
First, a caveat is in order. “Hate” is a strong word. Does it bother you to think about God as “hating” something? I am not suggesting that God hates people, for God is a God of love who loves you and me dearly, and thus the cross of Christ. But just as a parent who loves a child can still hate it when the child does something foolish or dangerous, so too God can hate it when you and I do certain foolish, dangerous or sinful things, and yet still love us dearly. Again, I am not talking about hating the person; rather I am talking about hating the sin in the person.  

The first thing that God hates is “Haughty Eyes”

Haughty is not a word many of us use in our day-to-day vocabulary any more. The Amplified Bible translates it this way: “A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others].” In other words, to be haughty is to be prideful.

When you or I think we’re somehow better than the next person, we’re being prideful. And if we’re being prideful, then we are manifesting a spirit or trait that God hates. Not only is esteeming ourselves better than the next person sinful and wrong, but ultimately it is also dangerous to our own wellbeing.
“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises” (Psalm 10:2). “Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence” (Psalm 73:6). “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin” (Proverbs 21:4). “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust in his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).
What does God think of haughtiness? What does He think of pride in you and me? I think the Bible makes it pretty clear; He HATES it. Why do you suppose God makes such a big deal about haughtiness? I suspect that part of the answer lies in the fact that we are also called to love one another. What does my overestimating myself and underestimating others really say about my relationship with my fellow man? Well whatever it says, it doesn't say "love" and it doesn't say "brotherhood."
"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4: 19-21; NIV).
I don't really pretend to have the answers here, and like I said earlier, these are just my simple musings. But I really have a hard time seeing how a haughty pride can at the same time exhibit genuine love for its fellow man, and I really do believe that is the reason God hates it too.

So the next time you and I persist in haughtiness, the next time you and I think that we’re “all that,” maybe we should pause and remember what God thinks of that. I believe this to be as true in the individual as it is true corporately in a society or a nation. Pride is almost like tempting fate. Not only does God hate that in us for the way it belittles others (for whom Christ also died, I might add), but He also hates it because He knows that it ultimately leads to our own destruction. God doesn’t want to see that happen to you and me any more than we would want to see destruction happen to our own children.

Time to be brutally honest with ourselves:

  • Do I have “haughty eyes?” Am I prideful? 

  • Do I think I’m somehow better than others? Am I “all that?”

  • Does knowing what God thinks of my pride change the way I treat others?

  • What if I were to begin overestimating others and underestimating myself, rather than the other way around?

  • What does humility mean to me?

  • Has a form of destruction already begun to come upon me, or my society, because of my/our pride? I wonder.

That's the way I see it anyways. Peace.
In Part 2 we will consider the second thing the Lord hates; a lying tongue.