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Satan, the Cleverest Being Ever Created—Part 2a: Tricking Christians (and “Christians”)

February 9, 2012 1 comment

Continued from Part 1…

As we’ve seen, Satan does an excellent job of tricking the world. In some cases, his work is evident in gruesome displays of immorality and wretched appearance, but in most cases, he disguises his work very well. His intent is masked with fluffy and warm exteriors, and without the right spiritual mindset (or “glasses”), we can be blind to his power.

Sadly, those in the church are not immune to his charms and tricks. In fact, you could argue that some of his most devastating victories have been won in the hearts of those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Satan goes for the small wins and deceptions. There are a lot of those. In other cases, he methodically manages to pull off huge lies that perpetuate throughout the body of believers. I believe that many souls are lost because of this.

Generalities and vagueness aside, let’s dive into some specifics. Mind you, there’s no way I will be able to cover them all, or even a satisfactory amount. I bet I’m going to want to edit this post over and over as things come to mind. Maybe this is a work in progress…which is part of the reason why it took me so long to write it. I kept telling myself, “I know I’m going to leave out something important! I need to be prepared!” But then I realized, maybe this was a stalling tactic of some sort, paralyzing me from actually getting off my butt and doing it. Rather than tackling the whole mountain, let’s take it one upward step at a time.

(My goodness, it’s been a while. I’m babbling even more than usual.)

Satan loves to distort the concept of God’s supernatural power in the minds of believers.

You hear things like, “With God, nothing is impossible,” or “God is Almighty and All-Powerful!” These things are true, right? Right! So there’s no danger in exaggerating and stretching these things out to their limits, right?

…wrong.

Sometimes, we inject our own ideas and expectations on these truths, distorting them. And that’s exactly what Satan wants us to do. Remember, he is very, very clever. He knows when he can be blatant and obvious, and he knows when he has to be subtle. Because most people are bad at detecting subtleties (or don’t bother to really think), he chooses this route quite often.

“With God, nothing is impossible.” God is Almighty and All-Powerful!”

When we hear these things, we expect that it means that whatever God does, He would do it in the most spectacular and impressive way possible. This might mean that God works instantaneously and not slowly. With a quick *snap* of His fingers, His work is done. That’s the most powerful thing we can imagine, right? After all, if we can imagine a being doing something more quickly, wouldn’t that make it more powerful than God?

But notice the Bible said nothing about these other details. Since when is power always defined in speed and style?

If God created the world as we know it in six days, people who buy into these concepts might wonder why He didn’t do it in six seconds…or one second…or an instant. After all, if God is maximally powerful, why couldn’t He do it quicker? Certainly, a universe that is billions of years old is completely out of the question. MY God would never take that long.

Oh really? Then why did it take 150 days for the waters to recede after the great flood with Noah and his family waiting in the ark? Why did God require animals on the ark instead of just creating them all over again after it was over? Why did it take God more than an instant to create the universe? Why did Joseph have to endure so many trials and setbacks before he finally rose to power in Egypt? Why did Jesus have to reach the age of 30 before he began his earthly ministry? Why did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day rather than the second? Why did God allow the enemies of Israel to dominate and rule over them for so long? Why did it take almost 1,900 years before the Jews were given back their homeland of Israel?

The list of examples could go on and on, but you get the point. For whatever reasons, God chooses to take His time on things so that they end up just right. Remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9a: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness.”

With my lowly human brain, I can think of a lot of reasons explaining the examples above. And that’s with my limited perspective and knowledge. Surely, God has much more knowledge in doing what He does.

From what I’ve observed and noted, God seems to prefer directing natural processes to meet His ends. This is not lazy nor does it diminish His power; remember who created and put into place those natural processes in the first place! You think gravity and other forces just existed by themselves? There is something glorious in the way that God can manipulate His complex creation to do the job rather than going *poof, it’s done* like some kind of magic trick. Sometimes it helps to think of God more as the ultimate chess master (seeing an infinite number of moves ahead) rather than a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.

Consider two hypothetical artists. They are both able to create the same exact masterpiece painting, but Artist A takes 10 days and Artist B can get it done in 10 minutes. Surely, Artist B is better, right? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. If I knew he did it in 10 minutes, I would think, “Wow, that’s amazing that he is able to physically create something like that so quickly!” But if I only knew of Artist A, I would appreciate his work on a different level. “I wonder what he was thinking as he was carefully and deliberately painting those strokes. What life experience was he drawing upon to create such a beautiful painting? What was he feeling, and what was he trying to communicate?” There would be a deeper level of appreciation and glory for Artist A, I believe, all other things equal. Maybe it’s something like that with God as well.

Maybe during those 150 days of water receding, God was putting into place a new system of condensation and rain cycles. Remember, it didn’t rain the way we know it today before the flood. Water was largely in the ground up until that point, not suspended in the sky. He was changing the entire ecosystem and inventing a new precipitation method. Plus, it naturally takes time for water to soak into the ground, evaporate into the air, etc. There was a lot going on. Noah and his family were perhaps left in the ark to praise and worship God without any earthly distractions. No fields to tend to, no work to be done…just waiting and focusing on God.

Maybe God created the world in six days then rested on the seventh to model a full week for us. In fact, this isn’t really a “maybe” (Genesis 2:3 makes it pretty obvious). By the way, God didn’t rest because He was “tired”…I’ve heard that one jokingly said before by atheists. Think about it. He rested not only to model behavior for us, but because He was DONE. There was nothing left to do. And when you’re done working, you rest whether you’re tired or not. (Good grief.)

In other cases, it seems people need to go through a lengthy development process where their character will be more in line with God’s purposes for them. Or in Israel’s case, they needed time to repent and to be punished for their wayward tendencies. People are stubborn, but especially the Jews in the Bible. You’ll notice (e.g., in Judges) that there was an endless cycle of the Jews messing up, God forgiving them, and restoring their blessing…but each time this would happen, God would delay the restoration more and more. Eventually, I guess it took 1,900 years for the Jews to take back their homeland (1948), and it really only could happen after great suffering first (Holocaust, which ended in 1945). Satan might whisper, “Why didn’t God snap His fingers and move the hearts of the nations to give the Jews back their land? Maybe God is just cruel, or doesn’t exist at all!”

But God never works that way. Reading the Bible should make that obvious, and we have a ton of precedent to inform us. God puts events in history into motion to produce the desired outcome. His plans supersede all of Satan’s (and therefore the rest of the world’s) hate for the Jews. There are a myriad of other details that we cannot possibly see or comprehend.

As for Jesus rising on the third day, I’ve heard a number of theories. I think the main reason is timing…falling on a certain day of the week, or even lining up with the traditional Jewish feasts (which is very significant in prophecy). I’ve also heard that it would take that amount of time to confirm with certainty that he was actually dead—or if he wasn’t, being trapped in that tomb with no food, water, or medical treatment after being severely tortured would finish the job. The point is, we don’t always know the “why” reasons. God does things according to His own schedule and methods. His greatness and power are not subject to our expectations or imaginations.

Satan loves to stretch the meaning of “God’s love.”

You’ll hear it over and over again in many modern churches. “God is love, God is love”…”God wants the best for everybody’s life!”

Is this not true? Of course it is, but not in the way they’re thinking. Because of God’s love, His greatest desire is for everyone to come into a closer relationship with Him. Why? Because He knows that’s best for us, whether we agree or can see it or not. Anything else we seek in this life will only end in dissatisfaction or even spiritual (and eternal) ruin.

What this does NOT mean, however, is that God wants everyone to be “happy,” rich, or comfortable in this world. God does care about our temporary earthly happiness somewhat, but it’s a very distant #2 (or #200) to our eternal position.

Also, His “love” does not equate to full acceptance of everything we do and are. His love sometimes necessitates punishment to get us on the right path. His justice and righteousness sometimes mandate destruction.

A parent who truly loves his child would punish her if she were to lie or steal. A parent who leaves the child alone to her errant ways is only setting her up for future failure and misery. How is that love?

In the same way, God’s love means that He cannot accept our sinful ways and leave us alone. I was reading some of the comments for an article about Washington (the state) legalizing same-sex marriages, and I was disturbed (but not all that surprised) to see a number of “Christians” chiming in to chastise the church for opposing homosexuality. They would say things like, “Jesus is love, but sadly, the church seems to think that discriminating and hating is the right way. They are distorting Jesus’ message.”

No, misinformed Christian, you are distorting Jesus’ message by implying that He would be “accepting” of homosexuality to begin with. How could anyone who claims to know the Bible think that this is some sort of gray area? God hates homosexuality, period. It was often the last (and worst) thing God would tolerate before He destroyed entire cities and populations. That doesn’t sound like warm and fuzzy acceptance to me. In fact, I wish the whole Disney-movie expectations of God would be done away with once and for all…love is not about butterflies and roses. The Bible is far from being “G”-rated.

The truth is, God loves people and therefore desires that all turn away from this sin. If they do not, then He is left with no choice but to severely punish with His wrath (people love to forget about His justice and law). Is it “loving” to say to a person, “It’s OK to keep on lying and stealing. I love you!”? Or, “I love you my son, and therefore I don’t care if you go out and live recklessly, impregnating women and destroying yourself with drugs”? Of course not. Then why do we think God is up there saying, “It’s OK to live a homosexual life. It’s just who you are!”

If who I am is wrong, then I need to fix myself, simple as that. If a man naturally wants to lust after every attractive woman he meets, he needs to keep that in check rather than saying, “But that’s who I am!” Since when is what we want (or even “need”) to do some kind of reliable gauge for right behavior?

You get the point.

This is getting a bit long and I’m running out of time, so I will have to continue at a later point. I hope this has given you enough to chew on for now. =)

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America’s do-it-yourself religion

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.christianpost.com/news/do-it-yourself-religion-56245/

This phenomenon is not surprising at all…it’s what we’ve been noticing all along, but here are a few relevant quotes (try not to gag):

Barna tells USA Today, “People say, ‘I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.’” Indeed, Barna says only seven percent of those he surveyed say they believe in seven essential Christian doctrines, as listed in the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith.

If you’re curious, here are the seven essential Christian doctrines according to this statement of faith:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, only seven percent of those surveyed believe in these essential doctrines. Seven! (And if you take the number who truly believe these things in their hearts and live it out—not just give intellectual assent—I’d imagine it’d be an even lower percentage.)

Anyway, on with the quotes:

This buffet-style religion isn’t confined to the church…[Nadine Epstein of the Jewish magazine Moment] adds, “You pick and choose the part of the religion that makes sense to you.”

But as Stan Guthrie warns:

“Jesus, unlike the religious action figures sold at Wal-Mart, is not infinitely bendable, able to assume whatever postmodern pose we give him.”

Seriously people, just write your own holy books. It doesn’t have to be original, just pick and choose the parts you like from each existing one and then add your own thoughts. Voila.

But please do us a favor and stop calling yourselves Christians.

YouTube: “Poor Apologetics 4: You Were Never a Christian”

August 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I was about to write about the third objection to Christianity (regarding science) when I came across this video. I sort of felt compelled to go ahead and respond to it now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpVGNRV3h44&feature=relmfu

I’ve watched a few of his videos, actually, and while they’re difficult to get through since he babbles and misstates some of the arguments on the Christian end, he does bring up some good points. I don’t mean they’re good as in wholly valid, but I can see why others would stumble on these issues.

If I catch the gist of his video correctly, he’s basically saying that he is a former Christian and now he has been enlightened into atheism. Those poor Christian apologists then have to resort to telling him that he was never a Christian to begin with. Rather than acknowledge that he has genuine insight into the faith and can therefore rebut it, people will instead doubt the veracity of his past faith completely. Azsuperman01, the YouTuber, seems to imply that this is shallow, unfair, and cowardly.

Well, here’s what I think.

As someone who went the other way when I came to the fork in the road, I would agree that he was never saved to begin with. After all, the Bible makes it clear that if a person is genuinely saved, he turns his life over to the Holy Spirit and perseveres until the end.

I grew up in a Christian home, I experienced “revival” in my heart, and believed in my head that Jesus Christ was my savior. If anyone would have asked me if I was a true believer, I would have been sure in my heart that the answer was yes.

But Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB) warns: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

Looking back, I’d say that for most of my “Christian” life, my faith was a house built out of straw. It was a sham, and I was worshiping a false and convenient god who allowed me to live a lukewarm life for him. The god that I created in my head was more than glad and even honored to accept the morsels of worship that I would offer him in my busy, cluttered life. He would be overjoyed that I took time out of my Sunday mornings to acknowledge him for an hour or so.

But this was not the God of the Bible. Somewhere along the line, I wrestled with my doubts and fought with them openly and honestly. I reasoned, “It’s time to take an honest look at the truth. If God is real, then why shouldn’t he prevail as long as I’m not biased or trying to weigh the evidence unevenly?” Thankfully, I was right. God (the real one) proved genuine and true, and today the Holy Spirit convinces me daily that I am His.

My sympathies are with people like the maker of this video. I don’t question his honesty or integrity at all, but I do believe he was deceived like so many others out there. If I think about it, if the devil is as crafty and hyper-intelligent as we are told, what would be the best way to lead people straight to Hell? It wouldn’t be an obvious lie, like “evil is GOOD and hate is admirable!” Most of us would sniff that out in a second. Rather, it would be a false gospel that on the surface closely resembles the truth…but it falls short of literal redeeming qualities to save the souls of its adherents.

So no, I don’t think it’s a cop-out for people to tell him he was never truly a Christian to begin with, unless by “Christian” you simply mean a follower of the religion. But when I say “Christian,” I’m referring to someone who has a genuine relationship with Christ, not merely intellectual assent.

Let me also address a couple of specific lines he states in the video.

First, at 1:53, he states: “Once you become a Christian, you basically lose your free will because once you’re a Christian you no longer have the ability to change your mind. You can’t just say, ‘I no longer believe that.’ …and since Christians believe that free will is really important, I don’t think using an argument that completely eradicates your free will is really the best one to use.”

If we become truly saved, then do we in fact lose our free will? Depends on your definition. We still operate and function normally, choosing which paths to take. But of course, he’s probably referring to the aspect of faith; whether to believe or not. And in that sense, yes, we “lose” our free will. We lose our ability to fall away and be damned since we are adopted into God’s kingdom forever.

…and the problem with this is what exactly? Free will is a power or gift of ours to decide whether to choose God as our Lord and savior. I’m not just spouting Christian rhetoric here; we are choosing for God to become our LORD. That means that we are willingly submitting to him as our master, and we are becoming his slaves. We are acknowledging Him as the father, and we are the obedient children.

Elsewhere in the Bible, disciples are described as “bondservants.” This word has the sense of a slave who has completed his term with a master and is therefore allowed to go free. But some slaves—because of the harsh conditions outside in the world and/or because of the kindness of his master—would willfully choose to become bonded to that master even though he had no obligations. This is a good illustration of this relationship with God. We are giving up our freedom, in a sense, for the privilege of serving Him (and in return, being offered His love and protection).

Free will is important beforehand. But it’s not some kind of ultimate or eternal good.

Another point he brings up at the end of the video is this: “The problems in your religion don’t go away just because YOU don’t think I used to believe the same things you do, and experienced the same things you have.”

There are a lot of things I find funny about this statement. First, he assumes there are problems in our “religion.” If he means some of the people and institutions (basically anything human), then yes, I’d agree. But any perceived problems with doctrine need to be proved. As far as I know, I have yet to hear any problems with Christian doctrine that have not already been solved and addressed. It is his failure to find these solutions, and if he still has a problem with it, then it’s a personal opinion, not objective fact.

Second, he might have believed some of the same things that I do, that’s true. He may have even felt some of the same emotions. But so what? Does this somehow make him an authority? Are we to be fearful and approach apostate Christians with trembling and awe? Like I already mentioned, he didn’t experience the real Holy Spirit anyway, so comparisons are on the surface level only.

Excuse my rudeness, but to me, this evokes images of the skinny waterboy hanging out in the football locker room. Just because he was associated with the team at some point doesn’t empower him to call the plays or correct the real players’ technique. He’s free to express his football opinions, but no one has to care what he says. There may be times when he says one or two things that are correct—just as a nonbeliever can rightfully point out problems in the church—but the implication that he somehow has the inside scoop on all of us is absurd.

Personally, all these former “Christians” coming out and acting like they’re something special amuses me (and in some cases, I admit, annoys me). Changing your mind on something doesn’t bestow upon you magical gifts, nor does it elevate you in any way. There are countless believers today who were once atheists, so at best, it’s a wash. Personal testimony can be a powerful thing when there is a supernaturally changed life. But simply changing your mind by reading and learning some stuff isn’t really that compelling to me, sorry.

Well-intentioned but bad preachers (“Is Jesus the ONLY way?”)

June 7, 2011 4 comments

What defines a “bad preacher”? Is there some objective standard by which to judge, or is it all a matter of personal taste? If it’s the latter, then I admit that based on my subjective preferences, most preachers in churches today would qualify as bad preachers.

People who know me might tell you that I am not always the most cuddly and warm person. I don’t think I’m a total jerk either, and I’m certainly working on my heart issues, but I can tend to be critical still. There was a time when I would try out different churches and leave after a few weeks based on irksome things the pastors would do.

Some wouldn’t do their research well enough and would simply commit factual errors. I once went to a church where the pastor was on a roll, shouting out various praises to God, and the congregation gleefully followed. He would shout things like, “God is good! Just like when he helped Christopher Columbus find America in 1592! Just as he helped your car to start this morning!” (It was 1492, sir, and your car probably started because the parts were in working condition.)

Some would have annoying habits, like saying “Amen?” after every statement. It seemed almost like half-neediness for approval and half-nervous tick. “And then Paul went on that road, amen? And suddenly, amen? A great light came upon him, amen?” In addition to being distracting, it made me feel nervous and guilty for not constantly affirming vocally.

Many preachers state things that are way too obvious and simple. I end up walking out feeling like I’ve learned nothing and feeling convicted of nothing. I understand that it’s hard to cater your message to a congregation where everyone is of different spiritual walks, education levels, ages, and so forth…so it’s hard to fault them too heavily.

All of these are subjective (though I still maintain that God deserves better credibility and a higher level of scholarship throughout). Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m the cynical one in the crowd. But there is one litmus test (out of many) I use that helps me discern who is objectively a sound preacher.

It’s how they respond to a simple question: “Is there only one way to be saved?”

As a Bible-believing Christian, the answer to this question seems terribly obvious. It’s like asking whether Jesus really died on the cross and rose again.

Disturbingly, a large number of preachers waffle on this. Instead of a direct “yes,” they start tap-dancing like a politician. Perhaps it stems from a desire to be mainstream and popular. Perhaps it’s the desire not to offend anyone and to be a polite, open-minded fellow. Sometimes, it’s clearly the fact that they are not grounded in scripture, but rather their own ideas and experiences.

To me, if the preacher gives anything but an unambiguous “yes” to this question, he has lost a great deal of my respect. If he cannot have the courage of his convictions on this straightforward matter, how can I trust him as a credible source of spiritual truth and guidance? I realize that sometimes, things are open to interpretation and we shouldn’t be overly dogmatic, but there is no leeway on this particular issue. People are welcome to different religions and beliefs, but if someone calls herself a Christian, she must follow what the Bible says on this issue since it is crystal clear. This is not a gray area, folks.

I can think of two clear examples of men who, by all appearances, are genuine in their desire to reach people for Christ…but they have gotten their theology dangerously off course. Not so surprisingly, both are very popular and mainstream.

Joel Osteen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsdkqd1GcfA

I’ll be upfront and say I’ve never been a fan of Osteen. He focuses almost exclusively on the prosperity gospel and shies away constantly from anything that doesn’t make people feel good. From what I’ve seen, his sermons are shocking devoid of a biblical foundation. He’ll throw in a couple of bible verses here and there to support his claims, but mostly, he sounds like he’s giving a self-help seminar based on his own ideas. A primary reason people should go to church is to hear the word of God, not the lectures of a fallible man.

When Osteen says, “only God knows,” he’s ignoring the simple fact that the Bible explicitly states that Jesus is the only way to life. True, we might not be able to discern who’s a “real” believer and who’s really going to heaven among “Christians” (I can say with certainty, however, that it’s nowhere near the purported 2 billion people). But we can say for sure that if what the Bible says is true, people who don’t believe in Jesus will not be saved. There are no back doors, I’m afraid, and Joel Osteen should know this simple fact by now.

Billy Graham: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axxlXy6bLH0

I must say, this one actually saddens me. Billy Graham is one of the most prolific evangelists of modern times, and no one can doubt his sincerity. However, one telling admission that he makes in this video is that he used to insist that Jesus is the only way when he was younger…but then as he got older, he mellowed out. It seems that as he became gentler, he allowed his feelings to dictate what he believes on certain points, rather than scripture.

I also have a theory that part of the reason why some preachers find it so hard to accept that nonbelievers are going to hell if they don’t accept Christ is because they face situations in their ministry where the idea of eternal torment no longer sits well with them. I wish I could ask them to consider the no-compromise conditionalist view and see if it makes more sense, but I digress.

If you’re curious, my church pastor was indeed asked this important question by a Fox News interviewer. It’s kind of funny to see him on a TV program like this and he was clearly a bit nervous haha…but I love the way he answers. He shows that it’s possible to give a respectful, gentle answer without compromising the truth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wjj-y7SKR0. Way to represent, brother.

**By the way, I just realized today that he’s written a book about pain and suffering. I always wondered why he didn’t author something, but I guess I just wasn’t informed. Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Brokenness-How-Redeems-Pain-Suffering/dp/0976377004/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt

Some good reviews:

“This book will prove to be a valuable resource indeed, for anyone who has experienced pain and suffering.” –Dr. Tim LaHaye, co-author Left Behind series, April 2005

“If you need encouragement and strength, Brokenness will help you through the difficult times from someone who has been there.” –Dr. Jerry Falwell, Pastor Thomas Road Baptist Church, April 2005

“When Lon Solomon writes a book on Brokenness, I want to read it. He knows whereof he speaks.” –David Brickner, Jews for Jesus, April 2005