Newborn Babies, Hardened Hearts

 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (NIV, Psalms 51:5)

 “Behold, I was brought forth in [a state of] iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me [and I too am sinful]. (Amplified, Psalms 51:5)

     Sin has a grip on us from the very beginning. We are born into this world as sinners. There is no getting around that. Anyone who tries to deny that has never been around a newborn baby.

     Babies are completely dependent on someone else for their health, sustenance, and welfare, but at the same time, they are also completely selfish. When they are hungry they demand to be fed and they don’t care how inconvenient or costly it might be to anyone else. When they need a diaper change, they proclaim it and demand attention. They are only concerned with their own needs, wants, and desires.

     This attitude changes as they grow older. As babies are trained, they begin to understand that they must overrule their own wants and desires for the good of someone else. Over time they progressively overcome the hold that selfishness has on their life and eventually, if they live long enough and wish to, they can become quite unselfish. This is a gradual process and all of us experience it to some degree or another,  but it is never fully completed while we are in this life. As long as we are alive, we will have to struggle against that selfish, sinful nature.

     The issue which must be resolved is not whether we were born that way, but what we do about it. Everyone has to confront this. It cannot be avoided, although people everywhere try and then make excuses to justify their behavior. “I was born that way.” “There is a gene which predisposes me to act in this way.” “The Devil made me do it.” I have heard these (and many more) with respect to alcoholism, homosexuality, and mental disorders, among others, but life is not fatalistic. Instead, we are supposed to exercise control over the way we think and to change the way we think when confronted with the truth. The simple truth is, however, that giving in to our “true nature” or “preconditions” is a sin in itself and is completely and totally repugnant and abhorrent to God. It is not the sin nature which is the culprit here so much as it is our stubborn, willful refusal to confess it as such and abandon it forever. We just do not want to.

     God is fair. “…God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons.” (Amplified, Acts 10:34) I will go even further. God does not show any partiality toward sin. Any sin is enough to keep us out of His presence, any sin at all and He does not care about the situation or circumstances which caused us to sin. It does not matter to God at all that we were born sinners. He expects and demands that we overcome our sin and become like He is, holy and righteous. “But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all (emphasis added) your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (Amplified Bible, 1 Peter 1:15, 16, Lev. 11:44)

     We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who lived in a state of holiness without sin, without ever allowing sin to rule him in any area of his life. This seems impossible to us, but the Bible clearly explains it this way and then directly orders us to strive toward that goal ourselves. We do not have the option of living sinfully, we are told to change. The problem is that, unlike Jesus who sought to be submitted to God in everything, there are many, many areas of our lives which we don’t want to let go of. We want to maintain control. We want to be our own masters. We want everyone else to satisfy our needs. We want, we want, we want…!!! We continue on like newborn babies, always screaming and crying because our needs and desires aren’t met and we never get beyond that nor reach the fullness and potential of the destiny that God wishes to give us.

     Unlike babies, however (who don’t know any better), we are fully and consciously aware that we are sinners and knowingly choose to act that way. A baby acts instinctively whenever it is hungry or needs a diaper changed. We are deliberate in our demands. “I know what I want and I want it now! Right now and I don’t care who has to suffer or be inconvenienced for it!! Just give it to me!!!” We scream when our “needs” aren’t met. We kick when we don’t get what we want. We stir up a fuss and ruckus in order to satisfy our selfish desire, but we do it out of a self-conscious and deliberate awareness that we are wrong and that God has declared our heart attitude and, therefore our actions, sinful.

     What is the answer to this problem? 1 Corinthians 10:13 explains it quite well. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)

     There are at least four things here to touch on. 

          1. You are not unique. Your situation is nothing that someone else has not already experienced. Quit preening. Quit belly aching.

          2. Satan has nothing new. He has already exhausted his bag of tricks. Once you’ve seen it, you will recognize it when it hits you later. Furthermore, you will know what to do when you do see it again.

3. There is a way out of any temptation, but you must be willing to take it. If you are not willing, you will never escape its clutches and bonds.

4. If you are willing and truly want to overcome temptation, God is there to help you. He is faithful to keep His end of the deal, but you have to hold up your end. There is no other way.

Rights and Metamorphosis

I am 54 years old. I grew up in a conservative, Republican family which shaped my values and thoughts during my early years. When I became old enough to think for myself, I started to shed many of those and adopt my own. I don’t think like I used to and, even today, find myself questioning some things which I used to hold dear.

I have always been a fervent supporter of the right of free speech, the right to own a gun, the right to assemble, the right to not associate with others I don’t want to, the right to live wherever I do want to, etc. Probably the vast, vast majority of people, especially conservative Republicans, would agree with that stance.  In fact, I became actively involved with the Libertarian Party during the 1980 presidential election and actually ran for State Representative two years later. This was directly related to my view that no one, including God, should be able to tell me what I could or could not do and I was more than willing to put my money (and time) where my mouth was.  I was my own man, my own master, and I lived that way for years.

In the early 1990’s, I surrendered my life initially to God, grudgingly and out of a position of utter desperation. I hated it and resisted the pull of the Holy Spirit until I couldn’t hold out any longer. Since that time, I have been slowly and gradually been giving over control to Him.

Eventually, there came a tipping point where I could not hold back any more and simply gave up trying to be my own boss. I had been moving in that direction for some time and was finding it easier and easier to submit to God’s will. The final shift happened quite recently, starting with the compound fracturing of my left leg in two places, just above the ankle. This immediately put me flat on my back for a number of weeks, at least three, during which I didn’t stand up at all except to go to the bathroom.

I can still remember (and will never forget) the moment that my resistance to God turned the corner for good. I was lying on the sofa with my leg propped up, contemplating my situation, considering my options, and just generally trying to make sense of where I was. I began to talk with God about this and was quite shocked at His immediate and forceful response. “I can break you any time I want, just like a dead stick.” Clear as a bell. His exact words. I am not making this up!

My immediate response was, “Whoa, I give up!” (not necessarily my exact words, but the meaning was clear), and there has never been any question about my life’s direction ever since. I know Who is Boss and even though I argue from time to time, in the end, I have to admit I’m wrong and need to change course.

What does all this have to do with a discussion of “rights”? Everything, it seems, because I have come to a realization that I have no rights at all. I only have what God gives me and when He takes it away, it does no good to fight about it. What has developed in its place, in my philosophical worldview, is the understanding that, while I don’t have any rights, I do have responsibilities which I am supposed to perform.

Rights, as we know them today in America, are really only limited freedoms which someone has decided to grant us. Freedom of press, freedom to own guns, freedom to marry, et al., are simply concepts which we may enjoy, but which can be taken away just as easily as they were granted. Don’t believe me? Think about anything, anything at all, which you hold close to your heart. Is it truly yours? Can it be taken out of your grasp? If it can, it is not yours at all, but belongs to someone else more powerful than you. Even your life is not your own, you will give it up in the end. Instead, everything that we view as “ours” is entrusted to us to use in a spirit of stewardship. This is not to be confused with ownership. We have no rights, we do have responsibilities. Ultimately, everything we have been given, every responsibility we have belongs to God and we have to answer to Him for the way we use them.

Where does this leave us on the issues of human rights, then? Should we even think about the “right” to keep and bear arms? Should we work to keep our freedoms and maintain our legal right? My answer is and always will be an unequivocal, “Yes, absolutely!” I have a responsibility before God to protect myself and my family from outside aggression. If that responsibility involves the use of guns, then I am obligated to act that way and wouldn’t even hesitate if it became necessary. No one, absolutely no one at all, has the lawful authority to tell me I can’t. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if there is ever a conflict between conforming to legislation which requires me to give up my gun and being faithful to my responsibility to protect my family, I will take the tack of the apostles–“We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Furthermore, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He didn’t even blink. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart AND love your neighbor as yourself.” If I have a responsibility to use firearms to protect my family, then so too does my neighbor and I have no authority to tell him that he can’t. Taken a little farther along, this means that I do not have the authority to elect a Congressman or President who will tell him for me. I can’t support any type of legislation that would restrict, regulate, or prohibit my neighbor’s ability to carry out his responsibility to God.

I am responsible to God alone for my life and actions. God is the one who calls the shots and the only option I have is to submit or refuse to cooperate. I will do what I can to resist the “gun grab” by the State and its minions and lackeys, but if the day comes when I am arrested, charged with a crime, prosecuted, convicted, and punished for refusing to abide by a man-made law which prohibits personal gun ownership, then so be it. I will accept that as God’s Will for me at that time and will make the most of it for His glory.

My rights do not concern me anymore.

Guns, Stuff, and Life

      I have owned a lot of guns in my life, rifles, shotguns, pistols. I have fired an enormous amount of ammunition through those guns. I have carried weapons on my person defensively. I have studied gunsmithing and completed a correspondence course in it, for which I received a certificate. I like guns.

      Today, I have none. Not one. I do not own a single gun of any kind. It is possible that I may never again own or possess one. Why? What has changed?

     My wife has a different view towards guns.  She hates them. She has never owned a gun. As far as I know, she has never fired one.  When the kids were little and there was the possibility that one of them could be hurt, there was valid reason for not having one in the house. Today that isn’t relevant. They are grown and gone off into their own world. I could take the easy way out by saying it is because of her attitude, but I won’t.  There’s not a chance that I’m going to blame her because of the situation. It’s not her fault. If I did that, I would be admitting that she wears the pants, rules the roost, and tells me what I can have or not have, which is simply not true. She doesn’t do that. If I truly had an overwhelming passion to possess a gun, she might not like it and might express her view forcefully, but in the end would acquiesce to my desire. Shoot (no pun intended), the way our society is self-destructing, it is entirely possible that she might come to me one day and ask me to get a gun so that we had a means of protecting our home against violent offenders of our security and privacy.

      No, there are other reasons why I don’t have or own guns. The only one I’m interested in mentioning here is that God has stripped and is stripping away all my self-defense mechanisms. He is teaching me to trust Him completely for my safety and security. Guns aren’t the only thing being stripped away, but they are part of the process. The fact is that I have gone through a long, hard, sometimes torturous lifetime of relaxing my grip and allowing God to have full control of my being. I won’t say that my guns were given up when my cold, dead fingers were pried away from them, but I will say that my fingers were certainly pried off, one at a time, and it was a very painful experience.

      Most of my other possessions have been removed in the same way. Virtually everything I have ever “owned” has been taken away in one fashion or another, usually in the form of making bad decisions in the heat and emotion of the moment. Today, I live in a small log cabin (rented, not owned) which is adequate for my needs, but would be considered sub-standard by most other Americans. I have an F-150 (13 years old, still in reasonably good shape), a work trailer, the computer I am writing this article on, a few pieces of furniture, enough clothes to keep me covered and warm, some small hand tools, a very small bank account, a few other miscellaneous items, and a dog who lives with me, but isn’t really mine. Altogether, the value of everything (including the dog) probably wouldn’t be more than a few thousand dollars. This is the sum total of 54 years of accumulating possessions for myself.

      However, my needs are met. I have adequate food, wood stored up for the winter, good water available by simply opening a spigot. My income is not substantial, but the bills are paid each month. I am able to afford small luxuries like coffee at Starbucks whenever I want or to take Cindy out for dinner once in a while. I am able to give to others of my time and ability, sometimes money, on occasion.  These are things which could be taken away from me at any time, except that wherever I am and in whatever situation I find myself, I will always be able to give to someone else out of my time and ability, not necessarily money.

      In addition, I have spent my life learning, absorbing knowledge, and educating myself. I have an incredible amount of talent and natural ability, some of which has been developed to one degree or another. Some hasn’t been discovered yet. I have an enormous potential to affect and shape my world, much of which has been wasted by selfish, stubborn, stupid living. I have a great ability to beneficially affect the lives of the people I connect with, whether they are close or far away, whether I know them or not. These are things which cannot and will not be taken away from me until the day I die or become comatose.

      I also am learning what peace is. I am starting to understand love. Happiness is beginning to well up in my soul. My relationship with God is no longer being blocked by the things, material or otherwise, which I used to call mine. There are still times when I trip up and fall or have to hurdle some obstacle in my path, but these times and obstacles are becoming fewer, smaller, and farther apart. I believe that, finally, I am beginning to see the Light and am starting to understand what life is all about. My life, which is not mine, is being lived progressively less for myself and increasingly more for the glory of Jesus the Christ, whose Spirit lives within me and constantly and daily guides me toward the Truth. I can now stand with John Baptist who wrote 2000 years ago, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

      Would I trade what I have now for what I have lost? Ha! Not a chance! Not a chance!!

Orders are Orders! Obey or Else!

Orders are orders! Anyone who has ever been in the military can attest to this statement. Military personnel are taught from the very beginning that an order is to be obeyed without question, without regard for personal safety or conscience. “Do as you are told, or else! Move, dammit!” When a person’s life is in danger, this may be a good avenue to follow. Certainly, soldiers in the army do learn to trust their superior officers and expect that they will do what is right and necessary to protect those under their command. It is also a fact that blatant, widespread disregard for orders would result in a breakdown in the chain of command, causing havoc throughout the entire system.

Sometimes, however, personnel do disobey or disregard orders for one reason or another. This usually results in a swift and serious inquiry into the matter, with those declared guilty punished severely. Court-martials of those charged with infractions are not for the faint of heart, with good reason. Order must be maintained and orders must be followed.

Is there ever a time or circumstance where an order may lawfully be disobeyed or disregarded? Theoretically this is possible, but in reality it hardly ever happens. Generally, we don’t hear about it. One time, however, it did and changed the life a of man and his family so dramatically they were never the same. Documentation of this can be seen in Acts 16: 16-34.

The Apostle Paul and his associate Silas had been thrown into a prison under lock and key. Prisons in those days were brutal places where many of the prisoners did not come out alive or, if they did, were severely physically and emotionally wounded. The guards in this case were probably Romans since Phillipi, the city where this happened, was a Roman colony. They were responsible to see that none of the prisoners escaped and kept guard at the potential cost of their lives. It was highly imperative that no prisoner under their watch, absolutely no one, ever got out except at the order of an official who had authority to grant freedom.

The keeper of the jail knew this. In fact, he knew this so well that when he found out the earthquake had broken the cells open and the prisoners were free, he didn’t wait for the “court martial” to pronounce judgment. He understood that he was a dead man and he drew his sword intending to make the realization into a fact. Immediate suicide by his own sword was preferable to a protracted inquiry and execution by someone else.

On finding out, however, that the prisoners had not escaped and that his life was not forfeit, he acted completely contrary to custom and to orders. He had been told, literally commanded by the magistrates, “keep them securely”, but verse 34 says that he brought them into his house, feeding them, and tending to their wounds. This cannot be seen as keeping them securely by any stretch of imagination. To say that he “kept them secure” by bringing them into his house is nothing more than trying to make the most of a bad argument. The fact is that he set them free. He gave them liberty against orders to keep them imprisoned. He deliberately disobeyed what his superiors had instructed him to do and acted in another manner altogether.

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that he didn’t question his orders or try to rationalize his action to anyone. He simply acted. He knew that God was orchestrating the situation and that his duty was to a power far, far superior to the town magistrates. He knew what was right, knew what he had to do, and did it. Because of this, the Bible tells us that his entire family was saved and baptized. I will go so far as to say that because of his actions, the episode was written down and recorded as a remembrance and lesson for future generations.

History is full of accounts of men and women who stood up to authorities and defied their orders. There is a case of this mentioned earlier in Acts where the apostles had been commanded by the Jewish authorities not to speak about Jesus or to preach the gospel in His name. What was their response? They continued on regardless, boldly talking to anyone who would listen. They did not allow fear of retribution or punishment to stop them from doing what they knew they should. This resulted in their imprisonment which would have probably been followed by severe punishment, except that God miraculously released them.

Ultimately, the apostles were brought before the council during which the high priest asked them whether or not they had been told to refrain from their message. Immediately, they answered him with these words, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Basically, what Peter and the other apostles were saying was that even though the authorities ordered them to speak and act in a certain way, if it went against what God ordered them to say and do, they would disobey and disregard the orders of the authorities. No ifs, ands, or buts!

Is there ever a time when a person is to disobey a direct order from an authority above him? Can a member of the military ever refuse to carry out an order which he knows is contrary to the orders given to him by God? The answer is and must be an emphatic, unequivocal, unwavering “Yes, absolutely!” How far would the Nazis in Hitler’s Germany have gotten if the individual persons involved had refused to slaughter and incinerate their families, friends, and neighbors? Would the Comanches at Sand Creek have been massacred if Colonel Chivington’s soldiers had refused to fire repeatedly at point blank range into the defenseless tipis?

What does this mean for someone who is not a military man? What about those of us who are Christian and doing our best to live our lives in a godly manner? What if the Supreme Court decides that it is not legal anymore to protest or to speak out against abortions? What if we are prohibited from “preaching” against the homosexual lifestyle? What if we are told to spy on our neighbors and to turn them in if we think that they are doing something subversive, knowing that doing so means we probably will never see them again? What if…? What if…?

The question for us is something we need to answer in our own hearts and it is something which should be settled before any scenario like those above ever happens, if they happen at all which is not certain. Regardless, unless we know what our answer is and how we will respond, we will probably be caught in a state of fear, ambivalence, and non-action. We need to have it fixed in our own minds, souls, and spirits that when we have to make a decision between what man says and what God says, our answer is going to be the same as Peter’s—“We must obey God!”

As the social, political, and financial structures of the world deteriorate and fall apart, the conflict between man’s edicts and God’s Word grows more and more pronounced and visible. It is very possible that some of us will have to make a choice between following orders and acting in disobedience to God or following orders and defying man’s authority. We may come to the point where obeying God means the loss of everything we hold dear, up to and including our lives. This is not new, however, because many of the apostles, including Paul, were murdered because they simply would not be quiet and accept the status quo. Would we have that much courage? It’s something we should think about. The times, they are a-changing, and we may have the opportunity to find out.

Free Will, Predestination, or None of the Above?

Within the Christian Church, there has always been a vigorous controversy over the issues of free will and predestination. If you want to slog through an earlier debate between Luther and Erasmus, follow this link.  It’s tough reading, though. http://wadsworth.com/history_d/special_features/ilrn_legacy/wawc1c01c/content/wciv1/readings/lutheras.html

I want to offer my own viewpoint of the discussion as neatly as I can, but it is not my intention to come down on one side or the other. I do not want to reopen this can of worms. Personally, I think that the whole argument is much ado about nothing. We have missed the real issue. What I would like to focus on is another side to the debate which is not usually heard nor seen. The results of generations opting for this third way can be seen and felt everywhere today, with catastrophic consequences, in the past, the present, and in the future unless we change our direction. With that in mind, allow me to plunge in.

Free will (as it is seen by many Christians today) teaches that we have been given the power as moral agents to make our own decisions and God will not interfere with nor override those decisions. There are positive consequences if we make the right choices, i.e. within God’s will, and there are negative consequences if we make the wrong choices, i.e., outside God’s will. The obvious question here is what is God’s will? This leads to the second question. How can a person know if he is in God’s will? It is entirely possible that a person who literally lives his life asking whether or not he is making choices within God’s will could easily become paralyzed and not able nor willing to make decisions. However, refusing to make a decision is, by default, still making a decision.

Ultimately, however, the thrust of the whole free will argument comes to one conclusion–man is the determiner of his own destiny. Man chooses life or death. Man chooses to grasp the life ring when Jesus throws it to him while he is drowning. Or not. Consequently, man is the agent of his own salvation if he so chooses. If taken to the logical end, it becomes a salvation of personal work, but has nothing to do with grace. Except, of course, for the life ring.

Predestination, on the other hand, teaches that everything, everyone, every decision, every action, every thought, is controlled by a Sovereign God and that we only follow the “script”, so to speak. We simply respond to God’s directive–“robot” is the derogatory term used by those who are not in favor of this line of reasoning. The obvious questions, though, are: Does this mean that God creates sin? Is God responsible for sinful actions? How can anyone “choose” to be saved unless God dictates? What about those who spend eternity in hell without any choice in the matter? Doesn’t this make God hateful and unloving?

Ultimately, this leads to fatalism and personal irresponsibility. There is nothing I can do because my life is exclusively controlled and manipulated by God. Therefore, I cannot and should not be held liable for my actions, words, or thoughts. If a life is lived with this understanding, it becomes one of futility and worthlessness. If taken to the extreme, it becomes a salvation of grace, but has no room for personal work.

Christianity teaches that we are conceived, born, live, and die in a spiritual battle between good and evil. God and Satan. Love and selfishness. Right and wrong. There is no escape. There is no choice. It is here, we are here, we are in it and all we can do is live for one side or the other. If we live on the right side, we will experience eternity in the presence of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. If we live on the wrong side, we will experience eternity in Hell with Satan. The only choice we have is which side we will follow. This is orthodox Christian doctrine and has been preached this way for thousands of years.

The problem that I have in the discussion of “free will” or “free moral agent” is not whether God disassociates Himself from our decisions or controls them exclusively. It is something else entirely and it can be described in four words–neither God nor Satan. If we truly have a free will, then we should be able to come to the conclusion (and many have) that neither God nor Satan exists.  Heaven and Hell are non-existent. Eternal glory and eternal torment are figments of the imagination. Man is subject to no one. According to this thought, the only place God (or Satan) exists is in the minds of those who wish to believe. These people are deluded, uneducated, unscientific, politically incorrect, stupid, rabble, less than human, etc., and must be saved from themselves or eradicated by those who know better.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so does politics. In this third version of “free” will, without God, something must take his place. That something is Man, humanist Man, secular humanist Man, and he has done so with a vengeance. If God and Satan do not exist, then man, being the highest form of life and intelligence, automatically becomes supreme. Man becomes subject only to man’s laws and man’s word. There is no limit to what man can do. Might makes right and the most powerful determine what is right for everyone else, at least in word and quite often in deed.

Unfortunately, power generally devolves to the most evil persons, that is, those who will stop at nothing to accomplish their ends. They will use any means to reach their goals, even if it means pain, suffering, or impoverishment of others, less powerful than they. Lenin (and Marx before him) said that “religion is the opiate of the masses” and he did his best to change the world into his own viewpoint. Unfortunately, however, all he created was death and destruction on a massive scale. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but socialism is still thriving throughout the world, especially in the halls of modern Western academia, where it is preached as gospel to millions of eager learners in some watered down, but still highly effective, form. Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, the Hutus, Sudan, Napoleon, the British Empire, and the conquistadores are among those who have viciously pursued power at the expense of their fellowmen. Even the United States is not exempt–consider the way the American Indians were treated from the Pilgrims onward and the way that Iraqi civilians were slaughtered during and after George Bush’s war on Saddam Hussein.

Money is also pursued the same way. After all, money is power, and if someone, somewhere, less fortunate has to suffer so that Citibank, Haliburton, or Boeing can prosper, so what? After all, what’s good for GM is good for the country. At least it used to be that way, before GM went bankrupt and survived only because the federal government bought it out with massive amounts of money extracted from the citizenry.

Today, the State represents the highest form of achievement that humanist man has reached. It holds sway over everything within its grasp and it is always grasping for more. Anyone who doesn’t conform to the ideal of the State becomes an enemy of the State and is subject to pursuit, persecution, prosecution, and punishment. The State recognizes no rivals and will not tolerate them if they do emerge. Everything and everyone must become a vassal of the State. No stone is left unturned in that endeavor. Wars are fought, small-time or would-be dictators must be broken or deposed, individuals and countries alike must be overrun and assimilated. Eventually, if the direction of movement continues, everyone will be subsumed into a world government, which will be accountable to no one and which will hold all accountable to it. God, in other words.

One of the hallmarks of statism is that everything can be made right by fiat or legislation. The people who buy into this concept preach it incessantly. If there’s a problem, pass a law. Create a program. Force the beneficiaries to conform to the rules. Force everyone else to pay for it. How many times have you said or heard someone say that ‘there outta be a law’? This philosophy is what Gary North calls “salvation by legislation”. We strive to make rules and make people bound to those rules, then declare that they are designed to set us free.  In other words, we are only free if we are bound and the more everyone is bound, the more everyone is free. The humanist declares that we are free of God’s Law, but then proceeds to work to make us subject to man’s laws. This is exactly what Satan attempted when he rebelled against God and it is not surprising that his followers are trying the same tactics. It should also not be surprising to find that they don’t work any better. The ultimate future of free will is that man will find himself enslaved and bound more tightly than ever before.

For the Christian, however, there is hope. Contrary to the beliefs of many, it is not the end of the world, the Blessed Hope, the Glorious Rapture when King Jesus comes back to bail out all his followers and slap the evildoers silly. Instead, the answer can be found in Psalms Chapter 2.

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder and cast their cords from us.'”

“He who sits in the heavens laughs. The LORD has them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’….’You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.'”

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise, be warned, rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss His feet, lest He be angry and you perish in the way for His wrath is quickly kindled.”

For anyone who is aware and paying attention, this is visibly happening all over the world. God Himself does not recognize rivals nor tolerate them if they do emerge. The State is bankrupt, not only financially, but also morally. It has only one answer for the problems which are popping up and crying out for attention—more of the same. The end of the State is in sight and, if a World State is ever created, it will not last. God has declared that his people will be set free. Jesus Christ came to set people free. The Holy Spirit is working in history to set people free, not only from Hell and the clutches of sin, but also from the greedy grasp of people who wish to rule over others. The fastest growing religion in the world today is Christianity and wherever it rises and flourishes, slavery and bondage crumble and disappear.

It is not coincidental that the concepts of free will and humanism go hand in hand. Where Christianity embraced the thought that God would distance himself from their decisions, atheism and godlessness rose to fill the vacuum. Where Christians abandoned their God-given mandate to act as rulers over themselves and their own spheres of influence, non-christians seized power and used it for their benefit. To the extent that Christians choose to act as “free” moral agents, unfree, immoral agents usurp control over them.

Contrary to popular opinion, free will is not the issue. Who will be sovereign ruler is. Obedience to God’s will or rebellion against it is. Every individual, family, tribe, culture, society, and nation has only one choice that really matters–surrender and submit to God or you will surrender and submit to someone else. There is no other option. It is never a question of “free or not free”, but rather whose freedom, which freedom do we choose. Refusing to make a choice is still a choice. Implicitly, those who choose neither God nor Satan have chosen Satan and by doing so, they have become accomplices to his plan to impose his rule on everyone else.

Answering Fools

Prov. 26:4,5 in my own words.

If someone makes a statement which is foolish, ridiculous, and stupid, don’t answer it in the same way or you will be seen as foolish, ridiculous, and stupid. Sometimes the best thing is to say nothing at all. However, if you do answer, use wisdom. By doing so, you can change the course of the conversation and it may be that the person who made the original statement might actually learn something.

The Cost of Discipleship

There is a song which is sung in many Christian churches which contains the line, “Have you counted the cost if your soul should be lost?” Most of the time it’s irrelevant because virtually everyone singing it has already been saved, but I suppose that sometimes someone might hear the words and respond positively. Regardless, we really should consider what eternal hell would cost us and take every step necessary to avoid it. At the same time, we should consider the cost if our soul should be saved. How many of us do that? How much does it cost to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ? What is the price of following God’s will in our lives?

Of course, we know that Jesus paid it all, that His atoning death erased any debt we owed to God as restitution for our sins. In that sense, we have nothing to pay. There is no charge to us on that account. Salvation, however, even though it may be free does not come without cost to us, because when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we acknowledge Him as our Lord as well. It is no good to say that Jesus is our Savior if we refuse to submit to Him as Lord and He demands a very heavy price from us: total, unconditional surrender and obedience to His will.

How many times has someone walked through church doors saying the right things, but later leaving because they were unwilling to submit some area of their life to the Lordship of Jesus? How many times in our own lives have we wrestled with this very issue? How many times has God spoken to us about something which He wanted to change, regardless what it was, and we resisted Him? Jesus says that, “…if anyone comes to me and does not hate…his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.” In other words, unless we are willing to give Jesus total, unconditional control of our lives, unless we are willing to become completely submitted to His will, we cannot be His disciple.

This is a hard saying. Many people would turn away (and have) from it, but these are not my words. Instead, they come from the lips of the only one who can demand that. The fact is that this complete submission to Jesus actually happened definitively at the moment of our salvation. From that point on, as we are willing, it becomes a progressive surrender of our will to His, until God’s will becomes more important to us than our own. Until God becomes #1 instead of #2 or #345. Until we can honestly say with Jesus, “…not my will, but yours…”

You might protest that you’re doing all the right things. You tithe, pray, read your Bible, go to church at least an hour a week, give money to poor people, etc. What more does God want anyway? If this is you, let me point you to the story of the rich young ruler who did all these things, yet was unwilling to give up the one part of his life which was blocking his entrance into the kingdom.  (Mark 10:17-27, Luke 18:18-23) In fact, Scripture tells us that there are people at the judgment who will say, “Lord, Lord, we did all these things”, yet He will answer them, “Get out! I don’t know you.” God wants our hearts. God wants us to have no idols. God wants us to give up those things which keep Him from taking His rightful place on the throne of our hearts. The price of discipleship, the cost of following Jesus is that we lose our lives, that we die to ourselves every minute of every day.

What are some of the things we have to give up? First and foremost, I believe, is that inner drive and determination to be independent. To be our own boss. To call the shots ourselves. This was Adam’s sin. Adam wanted to decide his own life and determine his own version of right and wrong.

God speaks to us from time to time about something we need to be free of. It could be pride, greed, lust for power, sex, money, or material things. It could be fear, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, or the desire for revenge. It could be a relationship which is dragging us down. It might be apathy, laziness, or hardness of heart toward spiritual matters. Whatever it is (and I have only scratched the surface), if God says, “This is cluttering up your life, get rid of it!”, respond in a positive manner. Just do it! We must come, by God’s grace, from a point of total rebellion to total submission.

Why are we so unwilling to give Jesus the lordship of our lives? I believe it boils right down to one thing: we don’t trust Him. We don’t trust Him to supply all our needs, to protect us, to watch over us. Because of this, we grasp and clutch all these other things hoping that they will fill that area in our lives which only God can fill. We just simply don’t trust Him. Yet, God has a way of working His will and orchestrating circumstances which bring us to the point where we have nothing else to trust in, where we realize we can’t make it on our own, where we willingly allow Him to become King and Lord.

When Jesus saw that some of His disciples were deserting him, he asked the Twelve if they wanted to go as well. We would do well to remember Peter’s answer, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed. Where else are we going to go? In fact, as the world system increasingly breaks down and becomes more and more chaotic, this question becomes more and more prominent.

Jesus has the words of life. There is nowhere else to go.

Caleb and the Power of a Tough Mindset

Originally written, Friday, June 10, 2011

I had a revelation yesterday. Bear with me.

I had just started a new job at a company which builds log and timber frame buildings. My job is to stand on large timbers which have been sawed and use an adze to make them appear hand-carved. I stand all day long bent over, swinging the adze like a pick. Needless to say, it’s hard on the back and hands, but I’m getting used to it and feel pretty good.  It’s all piece rate, so the more I complete, the larger my paycheck.

There are two young men who started the same time I did. Being young, they haven’t learned yet that the only way to get anything done is to get into it. They like to talk, look at their blisters, complain about their aching hands, etc. Good fellows, but they’re probably working for a lot less than minimum wage.

Yesterday, I stopped for a minute and watched them. I thought about going over to tell them that they needed to work through their pain until they could ignore it. Immediately the thought came to me about Caleb, who was as strong when he was 80 as he was when he was 40, and I understood that one of the reasons for this was that Caleb had learned to work through his pain. After a few minutes, I realized that my back and hands no longer hurt and I worked pain-free for the rest of the day.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and can apply it to an emotional or spiritual sense as well. People have to learn to work through their emotional pain, their spiritual pain in order to be set free from it. It’s hard, oh yes, it’s hard, and many people shrink from it because it hurts so much, but to become like Jesus, it is absolutely necessary. I have learned something and will never let go of it. It has already transformed the way I think. I will never be the same again.

(Ed. note.)  Approximately one year later. I am working as crew boss on a large custom house construction. It has been hot, hot, hot, and everyone on the job is glad when the end of the day arrives. I am the oldest man on the job, but I can easily keep up with the younger men and sometimes surpass them when durability is counted. Why? It might be that I have learned to be tough, to hang in there when the going is hard, and to work through the difficult times. Sometimes mental toughness far outweighs physical capability.

Peter’s Dilemma and the Choices We Make

Imagine that you are in a prison. A dark, dirty, dank prison. A dark, dirty, dank, rat-infested, cold to the bone prison. And, as if that’s not bad enough, you have chains bound to your wrists, which are securely fastened to the wrists of the two soldiers who are beside you as you sleep. There are other soldiers (fourteen more, to be exact), well-trained and alert, who stand between you and any hope of escape. Additionally, there are the doors of the prison, huge, strong, made of iron, impregnable. You couldn’t get out unless you had an acetylene torch and a bazooka, neither of which is in your possession at the moment. To make matters worse, you know that the king, who had you arrested, has already executed one of your best friends and, since this action pleased your enemies, he plans to do you in as well. In fact, you are sleeping for the last time because he is going to cut off your head in the morning. After the trial, of course, which will be open and just, with the best lawyers possible arguing your defense. You will get a fair hearing in front of a jury of your peers, who will be able to see the truth about your case.

Yeah, right. Pigs fly, too. You’re dead and you know it. Requiescat in pace.

Acts, chapter 12. Peter. One of the most loved disciples of Christ. Always getting himself into trouble through his impulsive, impetuous actions. Never stopping to think about what he did or said, especially since that day when he was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. After that there was nothing to live for and talk about except his Lord Jesus, regardless of where he was or who was listening, which landed him exactly where the powers that be wanted him. As good as dead!

There he was in his chains, stretched out between two Roman soldiers, sleeping. (How could anyone sleep in a situation like that?) Regardless, Peter was sound asleep. Then,  suddenly someone was smacking him in the ribs, shining a flashlight into his eyes, and shouting, “Get up. Get up!” Talk about rude awakenings.

We know the rest of the story. How the chains fell off his wrists when he got to his feet. How the doors opened (and closed) automatically. How the guards never saw or were aware of what was happening. How the angel led Peter, still dreaming, down the street a full block before disappearing. How Peter finally woke up and realized he had been set free by the hand of the God who rules kings. We know that he went to the house of his friends who were together, praying for him while all this was happening. We know that after he convinced them that he really was who said he was, they proceeded to tell everybody about it while Peter took off for a safe house. And we know that the soldiers, who were only doing their duty and couldn’t have prevented his escape if they had known about it, took Peter’s place on the guillotine.

I have some questions.

What if Peter, on feeling the angels fist, on seeing the cell light up like a lightning bolt, on hearing the words, “Get up! Now!!”, had simply refused. What if he had convinced himself that it was only a bad dream? What if he really didn’t care whether or not Herod chopped off his head? What if he had set his face to “do it my way or no way”, in spite of knowing what was going to happen to him and that he was being offered an avenue of escape from it? What if? What if??

I know what would have happened. In the morning, the guards would have jerked him to his feet, dragged him off (without breakfast, mind you) to see King Herod, who would have found him guilty for any reason or for none, ordered him executed without delay, and that would have been the end of Peter. If there was an obituary column in the local news scroll, his name would have been listed the next day. He might have even merited a mention in the police report.

We are all, to some extent or another, in a prison of our own. We are guarded by sentries far more alert than any Roman soldier ever was. We are bound down by chains and weight far heavier than the iron which held Peter. For us, in our own strength, by ourselves, there is no hope. We are doomed! And yet, and yet…in our misery and despair, someone keeps jolting us awake. We see a light and we hear someone speak to us, “It is time to get up. You can be set free!”

Jesus came to set us free. He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” He also said, “I am…the Truth…” We know that He sets captives free and prisoners at liberty. But, knowing all this, why do we have so much trouble when He comes to our own personal prison cell and expresses His desire to set us free? Why, indeed, when the obvious answer to our dilemma is to stand on our feet at His command, in His light and presence, only to feel and see those fetters fall impotent to the floor at our feet?

I know the answer. There is only one conclusion to the question–we don’t want to. No more excuses. Let’s get right down to brass tacks, bare knuckles, and the bald-faced truth of the matter. We simply don’t want to. We prefer to lie in our chains, squalor, and misery, rather than be set free by the command of the King. Better to die in bondage than to acknowledge that He, and He alone, is able to free us from our dungeon. Pride. Stupid, foolish, arrogant pride. We are too proud to admit that we can’t do it ourselves and we aren’t willing to allow anyone else to do it for us. Admit that I am incapable of saving myself? Better to die first!

This is exactly what happens. This is exactly the way I am.

(Ed. Note: I wrote this five or six years ago when I was dealing with the consequences of stubborn, stupid, foolish, arrogant pride. I have since learned (and am learning) that it is easier and far better to simply get up when Jesus or the Holy Spirit speaks to me.) May you be so blessed.