Posts by bryntjones76

I am a Christian, husband and father and enjoy writing fiction that explores the sometimes confusing issues that wage war in our popular culture.

Christian Occultism

Have you ever knocked on wood? Do you know your astrological sign? Do you believe in the power of positive thinking? How about the belief that if you say something negative, it’s going to happen? While many take these things in passing, the fact that they consume any gray matter in our mind suggests we’ve given more than enough attention to the occult. And it’s very prevalent in Christianity (or what passes for Christianity).

I am a solid Christian, yet I don’t attend what people call “church.” The reason I don’t will become clear in this post. Basically, I find too much Baal worship going on in the church system in America. Stay with me, it’ll become clear.

I’m late to this game, but I recently heard about a “pastor” who has a whole series of books published by Zondervan (a Christian imprint, if not company). It’s called The Circle Maker.

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There’s a “Circle Maker for kids,” “…for teens,” “…for pets.” Just kidding on that last one. I think.

Basically, the guy claims to be teaching a “secret way” to pray that will enrich your life with your grand dreams come true. There are Christian-ese catch phrases like “what God can accomplish in you” which give it a ring of orthodoxy. But, the book goes on to say that God is actually offended that we’re not bringing big enough dreams to him for our lives.

If this sounds like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and other Word of Faith folks, that’s not a coincidence. T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and the slew of other false teachers out there project a Christianity that makes God a genie to give you all the things that will make you happy. Those things, by the way do not include suffering for Christ, taking up our cross and turning from the love of this world. Quite the opposite, the Word of Faith movement is attractive because it encourages embracing the love of this world.

I’m not going to review this book any further, but point out a glaring, obvious thing on the cover: The Circle.

Here’s another “Christian” book series:

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We have the “Circle” series, complete with a symbol. I read this series a long time ago, and enjoyed the story. It’s basially a fantasy/allegory of Christianity where a guy falls asleep and awakes in a different world that has creepy bats, strange surroundings and some perilous danger. He bounces between the worlds with intrigue on both sides. As I recall, it came out around the time The Matrix was popular, and had that same sort of pseudo philosophy vibe to it.

Then, I noticed that the symbol of the circle bore a remarkable resemblance to symbols from the occult:

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Well, circles are circles, right? I mean, what’s next, that the wheel is an Illuminati device and we’re all driving around on Satanic contraptions?

No, exactly. And, it’s possible the occult design of Dekker’s book came from some designer who didn’t put two and two together that the circle with the cross came from an occult symbol.

Yet, that’s not the only occult symbols that have appeared on Dekker’s books:

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Tosca Lee, by the way, has written a book from Judas’ perspective, attempting to humanize him. I haven’t read it. But, it seems odd for a Christian book to be rebooting Judas for readers. She also wrote a book about Eve. I’m not a big fan of writing fictional books about real people, so I’ll leave it at that.

Notice this cover, though. We’ve got the circle motif, as well as the big eye in the center. That reminds me that I’m short on cash in my wallet. That’s because we have that eye on our U.S. dollar bill. It’s from Egypt and has occult connotations of the all-seeing-eye, the third eye of illumination, etc.

Then there is this book cover for a novel Dekker wrote about Jesus, in which Jesus becomes a fictional character in a story:

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At first, I thought there were ancient language letters on the cover, like Greek or Hebrew. But, they’re not. They are closer to runes:

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Here is a chart comparing ancient letters:

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More Runes:

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Frankly, none of the symbols match perfectly. But, to my eye, they bear a closer resemblance to runes than to Greek or Hebrew. I suspect they are meant to convey some ancient text motif, which they do. My problem is that these images lay in the background and can affect us on a subconscious level. Our cultural lore suggests that if we find some ancient manuscript with strange symbols, we might have stumbled upon a secret code or mystical wisdom that will enrich our lives (materially).

The occult is based upon the notion of “deep secrets” and “higher consciousness” and tapping into the energy of the universe (apart from devotion to God, of course).

All that said, Dekker is a professing Christian. He uses the Bible. I doubt he controls the covers of his books (though I have no way of knowing one way or the other). I am not attempting here to imply he’s part of the Illuminati or some nefarious plot. I’m pointing out how prevalent occult symbols seem to be. The content of his books, as with anyone’s books, should be approached with discernment. To the extent he, or any other author advances spiritual insight, we should use the Bible as our plumb line, not the person’s celebrity or congregation size.

For kicks and giggles, let’s compare the use of these symbols with a character from the Uber Popular Marvel Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange:

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Recognize the circle symbol that he’s creating with his hand? It’s witchcraft. Then, there’s the eye that looks like what appeared on Dekker’s cover.

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There’s another view of the “Eye of Ogimoto” or whatever it’s called on his chest. He’s also doing an occult image of the triangle and the “W” of Baphomet with his hands.

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Here Dr. Strange is walking through one of the circles he makes with his magic.

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This shows the circle window in Dr. Strange’s house, along with astrological signs around the rim mixed with what looks like runes and that pattern in the middle which is on a window at a “Spiritual Center” close to my house.

I’ve commented frequently on whether there is real power in the occult. I reject the idea. I believe the power is spiritual and destructive. But, if you think you’re going to create an outcome in the future, affect objects in your room, or levitate or any other nonsense, you’ll be … deceived. In other words, you will believe that such things are happening. You’ll believe that the horoscope is accurately predicting and directing your life. You’ll believe that you have power over things. You’ll think that your words create things, both good and bad. You’ll think you can control the weather, or heal cripples.

See where I’m going there? It’s so easy to slip from the occult to the Word of Faith. Because they are the same.

Should we fear the occult? No. Greater is He that is in me (meaning Christ) than he that is in the world (the spirit of this age). But, should we think it’s all innocent and indulge like kids in a candy store?

No. We should reject any inference of horoscopes on our lives. We should reject the symbols and motifs of the occult. We shouldn’t “knock on wood.” We shouldn’t get freaked out if we say something negative, or cross a black cat on the street.

It’s not that those things have power over us, but that we allow them to influence us away from true faith and dependence upon God. We eat of that forbidden fruit and believe it will give us knowledge or power or make us wise. The result is not wisdom, power or knowledge, but rather shame, bitterness and death.

Those who practice witchcraft pay a steep price. We shouldn’t take that lightly.

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Ruby Baby

Ruby plucked at her eyebrows because—honestly—that’s what you did when you were face to face with death—from boredom. The beasts had yet to advance from from their rusty haunches beyond the smudged windows. Rather, they sat still, waiting, waiting, waiting for her to step from the safety of her tiny office.

After glancing at the clock, she blew a long sigh. Rousing herself from her warm chair, she snatched her hefty flashlight and prepared to give them what they wanted.

Continue reading →

Are You Saved & Kept?

Growing up I heard the preacher say, “Did you really mean it? Or did you just go through the motions?” This phrase referred to what many call the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ For many, this prayer is how you ‘get saved.’ But, is that really what the Gospel is? Is that what the Bible teaches us? If you say the words, are you truly saved & kept? Let’s take a moment to read the Bible and discuss.

He Will Not Forsake His Saints

Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”  Psa 37:1-40

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”  Gal 3:16

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  Gal 3:29

In the third chapter of Galatians Paul clarifies the statement that “this promise is for you and your offspring…” that was given to Abraham. He explains that the Law, with its rituals and harsh penalties was a parenthesis between Abraham—who was justified by faith—and Christ, who ratified the promise made to Abraham as Abraham’s offspring. Thus, only those who believe in the completed work of Christ (the offspring) in the same manner of belief that Abraham did, are considered “in Christ” and thus, righteous.

Those in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, those who believe God, are given the status of righteous. No works of the Law are added in. No deeds of the flesh can increase the righteousness that is bestowed by God according to His promise. No baptism, no communion, no heritage of believing parents will add or subtract one thread of the wedding cloak of Christ’s righteousness that is given by the Father.

Not Inherit – Those who will not receive the promise

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

John Wesley comments: “Idolatry is here placed between fornication and adultery, because they generally accompanied it. Nor the effeminate – Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good – natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.”

The context of the verse is Paul being astonished at the wrongs between the congregation, and that the members of the congregation were running to the non-believers and the law to get justice. There is no fellowship, and no wisdom to come from the unbelieving world. The ungodly cannot properly render justice among Christians. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers because they have no claim to inherit the things to which we have set our eyes.

The reminder is that if we live in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality or thievery, etc. we don’t have any part of the Lord. They demonstrate that they have not been washed, sanctified and justified by the name and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and are not filled with His Spirit. Paul moves on to talk about how we should flee the things that dominate the world. We should only be devoted to God and our actions as offering to the Lord. We cannot offer anything as basic as eating and intimacy with our spouse if either is tainted by the obsessive idolizing of the world.

Slave or Free

Galatians 4:30 draws the comparison of Ishmael and Issac: “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”

Those who are of the slave, dominated by the flesh, putting their hope in an imperfect, work-based inheritance, will not inherit the kingdom with those born of the power of God. Those born of the flesh will persecute and ridicule those born of the spirit, just as Ismael ridiculed Isaac. How do we know if we are born of the flesh or born of the spirit?

Those who are born of the flesh will believe their justification is in part or in whole, dependent upon works. It will either be in keeping of the Old Law, doing certain outward things like attending a church, attending all meetings, observing a form of baptism, taking communion, getting circumcised, etc. Those born of the spirit know that outward rituals and religious activity counts for nothing (Gal 5:6).

We have been born to freedom. We do not need to appease God through sacrifices, rituals, etc. But, Paul warns in v. 13, we shouldn’t use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. We prevent that by serving one another in love. When we don’t serve each other in love, encouraging each other, we bite and devour each other. We demonstrate we are not walking by the Spirit (v. 16). Rather, we are walking by the flesh, which is against the Spirit.

How do we know if we’re doing the works of the flesh vs. the Spirit? Paul says this in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The last part is key: “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s important to note what the ‘such things’ are. They include fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy … Many like to focus on the Big Ones: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies … But they only make up 7 of the things that are marked as evidence. The other 8 are largely ignored.

The truth is, they are all intertwined. You can’t be envious and full of jealousy unless you are committing idolatry of the things of the world. You cannot be filled with fits of anger, unless you are given to strife, feel dissension and eager to divide people. This tendency speaks to ones impurity, that they have themselves at the center of their thoughts. Self-righteous people who yearn for positions within authority and the respectful greetings in the public places are, ultimately, sensual since they are looking for the pleasure of their flesh, the pride of life.

Such people are showing that they are dominated by the flesh and are born of the flesh, the slave, and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What is the evidence of the Spirit? Or, as Paul puts it, the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

There are 9 of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all 15 signs of its passions and desires. Paul concludes the chapter by urging us that if we live by the Spirit, we should keep in step with the Spirit (v.25), which is the opposite of becoming conceited, provoking each other and envying one another (v.26).

To keep in step with the Spirit, we must be obedient to Christ. We must adhere to the “narrow way” that is His. We must receive the kingdom of God as a child, with faith that just believes, absent proof (Mark 10:15).

Not everyone who claims to be Christian will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). Those who are disobedient, not doing the will of the Father, will not enter.

The false Christians adhere to a form of godliness that denies the Lord’s Lordship (the Power that canceled their debt. He is the Lord of the Sabbath rest. Their “godliness” clings to the belief that their works contribute to their salvation). They ultimately cling to their self-life. We must say about our self-life, as Peter had said of Christ, “I do not know the man.” (ref. F.B. Meyer). The false Christian doesn’t produce fruit. Fruit should first be defined by the fruit of the Spirit within the believer. The outworking of that fruit is a trail of people who have been changed by interacting with those sojourners who walked humbly in their midst.

The fruit of the Spirit comes about from obeying the words of Christ (Matt. 7:24). Failing to do this, will result in a loose foundation.

We need to know the words of Christ in order to obey them. He said that the meek will inherit the earth. He said we should turn the other cheek when smitten. We should go an extra mile when under compulsion from someone. We should give up our coat, if someone takes our shirt.

The best evidence of doing the will of the Father is to repent. It is the Father’s will that each should repent and believe (repent from dead works that attempt to earn our salvation by being ‘good enough’). It is His will that we turn from the wicked way of the world and live to give Him glory. That is the call for each to obey, primarily. That is the foundation of the one who abides in Christ.

Confidence Before God

Hebrews 10 outlines the basis and the confidence for our salvation: The body of Christ offered once for the atonement of the sins of the world (the only sign of the New Covenant). No additional sacrifice is needed for our sins when we have been forgiven on account of Christ’s covenant ratified in His doing of the Father’s Will that He be the sacrifice for the sins that we could not atone for with the sacrifice of animals year after year. In that single sacrifice, God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). The Holy Spirit witnesses the redeemed because they have God’s laws on their hearts and minds (v. 16). God no longer remembers their sins and their lawless deeds (v. 17).

The writer of Hebrews continues that we have confidence on behalf of this sacrifice (v. 19). We can draw near with a true heart of assurance of faith. We will have our evil conscience cleaned, and our bodies washed with pure water (v. 22). We then hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23). We stir one another up to love and good works (v. 24) which is the opposite of striving, divisions and dissension. We gather together to encourage each other (v. 25).

The antithesis of this is that we use our freedom from sin as an opportunity for the flesh and go on sinning deliberately (v. 26). If we do that, we’ve revealed that we did not accept His sacrifice, and there is no other sacrifice for us, because we have rejected the only sacrifice that would sprinkle our conscience clean and wash us pure. instead, despite any profession of faith, we should have the fearful expectation of judgment, fury and fire (v. 27).

If someone has done this, they should recall the former days when they heard the gospel and faced struggles and sufferings, things we’re promised if we follow Christ (v. 32). We may have shown growth at first, but if we fall away we prove that we haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice and we’re not true converts.

Despite the hard times and temptations, the righteous (those declared righteous by God) will live by faith. The one who shrinks back, the Lord has no pleasure in him (v. 38). The Lord has no pleasure in the one who has not been washed by the sacrifice of Christ.

The proof of salvation is that we do not shrink back from obedience in the face of persecution and we persevere.

Perseverance is not only demonstrated in what we say, for many will say “Lord, Lord!” but have not done the Father’s will. They admit to a creed, they have faith that God is supreme, they believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin, but they have rejected it as the only way, either consciously, or in the way they live.

Our faith is demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit, which draws us nearer to God and we walk in meekness, humility, purity, gentleness and confidence in our Lord. This results in our confession of our hope. Our unwavering hope brings us together with others who share that hope and we encourage each other in the faith & in purity and a good conscience.

Those who are not unwavering in hope, cleansed and pure, but go on having fits of rage, producing division, contention, strife, jealousy, impurity, immorality … they trample the name of the Lord under their feet and by their rebellion will find no other sacrifice able to cleans them.

Avengers: Infinity War – Thoughts

It’s too soon for a review. Plus, I wouldn’t want anyone to spoil the movie for me, so I won’t spoil anything here, either. But here are some general thoughts about the theme and plot.

First, I have nothing but admiration for the writing team (Markus & McFeely) and the directors (Russo brothers). They understand the core of storytelling, which is CHARACTER. If there is one thing that separates Marvel from DC (at least in the movies, if not the comics) it is character. This is what Stan Lee knew, this is why non-comic book people can enjoy the stories. At the root, Marvel characters are understandable people within the context of their universe. Their powers/abilities come in second and serve the theme. But we care about them because of their real-world hopes, morals, conflicts and heartbreak.

After seeing what Marvel did with Captain America: Civil War, how all the characters felt real and important within a movie jam-packed with characters, I was hopeful that the Russos could pull of Infinity War. And they did.

Unlike movies with smaller casts or even longer run times, Infinity War tells a whole story for each of the characters involved. We get to know Thanos and understand his motivations. We care about Wanda and Vision. We feel the grit under Steve Rogers’ nails as he’s been on the run from the government, doing good (as expected). Yet, aside from Thanos, the other characters don’t have a ton of on-screen time. They didn’t have to work too hard to memorize their lines.

That’s a testament to the economy of writing by this team. They used the scenes to pack a punch. While some blockbusters are bloated with endless action scenes–and there are penty–they didn’t feel like the endless car chases that appear to serve only to make the movie’s run time a bit longer. Even the ending of Winter Soldier felt a bit over-long when Cap was fighting Bucky and the helicarriers were plummeting from the sky.

Not so with Infinity War. Its pace was brisk and we felt for each character’s struggle. Even a bit for Thanos.

Now, on to the theme. This is not a spoiler since it was in the trailer. Thanos wants to wipe out half of the universe’s population. And he has a reason: balance. The good guys see this as a terrible thing and decide they must stop him. At all costs.

I doubt the filmmakers are intending this, but the movie presents a parable for the essence of Christian values: The Right to Life! The movie’s theme rejects the idea that someone can determine that life will be better served by wiping out another life (or several, or half). The movie contains a bit of dialogue about “trading lives,” which is the essence of Thanos’ plan. He believes that the universe needs someone who will make hard choices and exert population control.

This is Roe v. Wade. We need to have a system to eliminate “unwanted” children. Our planet cannot survive without cutting down on the excessive population growth. Our resources cannot sustain this level of humanity. We need to kill off people so there are enough resources to go around.

Believe it or not, this is exactly what the Leftist/Marxist/Socialist/Communist ideology holds true. Also, keep in mind that the term Nazi came from National Socialist, so it isn’t an “alt right.” Nazis are those who exert control over liberty and dictate what is good for everyone.

In the Marvel movies we saw the Nazis in WWII with the Red Skull. He set himself out to liberate people from their freedom by ruling over them. His plot failed (thank you, Captain America) and was carried on in secret by Zola from within the U.S. secret (fictional) agency SHIELD.

In the Winter Soldier, the U.S. Government developed a program to “eliminate threats before they could act.” The goal was to eliminate super heroes, such as Dr. Steve Strange, Tony Stark, etc. This is analogous to gun control. The government wanted to eliminate “enhanced” individuals so they could rule people without any opposition.

In Civil War, the gun control theme stepped up to false accusations of The Avengers being responsible for the horrible things done by bad guys. The Secretary of State even blames the Avengers for the SHIELD disaster that the government caused and Captain America stopped. If this isn’t an analogy of the government causing a crisis and then blaming guns, I’m not sure what else it could be. In that movie, the world governments join together in an effort to “control” the weapons that the super heroes represent. Of course, Captain America believes in the rights of individuals and that security is best left in people’s hands, not governments (whose objectives can change, dangerously).

Now, with Infinity War, we see another Big Government in the form of an intergalactic bad guy, Thanos. He has set himself up as the ruler of the universe and he’s going to amass the power necessary to wipe out the excess population, creating a balanced universe. Basically, he wants to institute abortion of all the unwanted, excess people who shouldn’t live, for the good of the planet (universe).

Critics are saying that Thanos is the first villain with “meat” on him in the Marvel movies. He’s a genuine bad guy who flexes some real muscle. And he does. And it has to do with CHARACTER. We recognize the villainy because it really exists. There are people and organizations that operate in today’s real world that believe what Thanos believes.

When a big, purple alien does this, we can all agree, he’s bad! Movies and novels allow us to experience these conflicts and process them without the real-world danger. The problem is, many hear the parable, but leave thinking they just heard a fun story. They don’t absorb the lesson. Stranger still, it is possible the writers and directors don’t even realize the content of the theme they’re presenting. But they should.

 

The Gospel Is Not About You

This hit me the other day and I think I should share it with the blogosphere: The Gospel is not about us. It’s natural to think of everything as revovling around us, and our best interest. I’ve heard a well-known Midwestern pastor say, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘don’t hurt yourself!'” Another one I’ve heard, this time from out in California, “God saw the value in you” in terms of why He died for our sins.

Both of those sound very good. They appeal to me. I like the thought of viewing God’s Law in terms of whether it is hurtful to me. It’s appealing to think that God saw a value in me that, honestly, I don’t see in myself much of the time.

The problem is this: If it appeals to the comfort of our flesh, if it affirms what we really want to believe, it’s probably wrong, Biblically.

That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of truth to these statements. After all, all lies stay pretty close to the truth, or contain a grain of it. That’s why we believe them. It’s true that when we violate God’s Law, we’re hurting ourselves. It’s true that we have value as the pinacle of God’s Creation, His image bearers!

The danger in taking those ‘truths’ too far is that we begin to nod our heads and say, it really is about me!

Instead, we need to remember that God’s Law is designed for us to do one thing, primarily: Honor the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!

If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, you’re affirming your rebellion against God and will be the subject of His wrath. I guess saying, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘Don’t earn my wrath!'” wouldn’t play so well.

Although we’re created in God’s image, we’re fallen. We’re born in the image of Adam, like Seth. We are in need of a new nature. Our sinful nature is abhorrent to God. His Holiness cannot abide sin.

The beauty of Grace is that He loved us when we were completely unlovable, even hateful. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. Think about that. Would you die for the person you find most detestable? Do you love the person who irritates and angers you?

God’s definition of love is so vastly different than ours. He didn’t need something in us to like in order to rescue us. In fact, He did this for Himself. For His Glory. He has called a people for His Name (think Nature). It is who He is, and that’s why He did it. God is absolute Goodness and Love.

This is why the Gospel is all about God and our salvation was purchased because of the immense value of God’s nature, not ours. The Gospel restores our value, it doesn’t find it in us.

One last remark: God is also perfect Justice. This means that those who reject His perfect Love in the Gospel and go on living their lives the way they want, thinking they are good and don’t really need His sacrifice, then they must be punished.

If you’ve read this far and have not turned from running your own life, gotten on your knees before Jesus and acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior, I urge you to do that today.

Nadeen

Tears burst from her eyes, streaming out from beneath her dark sunglasses. Her heart pounded so hard her pulse made it hard to hear. Her hands grasped the man’s shoulders like a blind woman desperate to know what she’d encountered. Her breathing hitched in-in-in and she couldn’t catch her breath. But this was a Westerner! He wouldn’t stand for some man trying to take her. He’d secure her safety. Righteous assurance bloomed in her belly while her body still trembled violently.

“Now, now, please calm yourself,” he said, running a soft, wrinkled hand across her chin. “It’ll be okay. Just tell me what’s the matter.”

Still unable to breath, her chest now rising and falling, she leaned against him and pointed back, but the man was gone. The empty sidewalk eased her distress like waking from a horrible dream and finding her familiar room. She swallowed and found her voice.

“There was man,” she said in broken English.

“A man? Well, he seems to be gone now,” the Westerner remarked. With a rubbery smile he added, “May I accompany you to the nearest security office?”

Nadeen shook her head. “I go to mall. I meet girl.”

“Then, by all means, allow me to see you inside safely,” he said, walking alongside her.

While she didn’t know this older man, she felt safer beside him. He wore a white fedora, trimmed with a navy ribbon and its wide brim shaded tender, droopy, gray eyes and wavy white hair over his ears. He strolled leisurely, like a gentleman, his hands clasped behind his back.

“I dare say, you must have the day off of work,” he said. “It must be so nice to meet a friend at the mall.”

Nadeen smiled and nodded as they headed toward the large entry doors. He pulled one open for her and she stepped into the blast of air conditioning. The cavernous entry rose up to a glass ceiling which dappled the towering palm trees and fountains of the main walkway with natural light. Escalators rose and descended on either side, while spiral staircases wound up nearby.

Turning to the Westerner, Nadeen bowed and said, “Thank you me helping.”

He tipped his fedora, smirked his mouth into a crooked grin and said, “Quite alright, quite alright. Anything for the prince’s special prize.”

Nadeen froze and her eyes widened. She glanced left and right. Then, warm hands slid over her shoulders and a familiar musk fill the air. A small weight from the crescent moon pendant he wore around his neck thumped against her back as he leaned his face next to hers. Coffee overlaid with wintergreen mint blew against her cheek when he spoke.

“Nadeen, Nadeen, what am I to do with you? So beautiful, so wonderful.” He ran his hands down the sides of her shoulders. “And so volatile. You realize how reckless you were to take the stone, don’t you?”

Tense,  she fisted her hands as he lifted the bag from around her shoulders.

“I like the hijab and the glasses. They suit you.” Running a hand across her cheek, resting his thumb on her lower lip he said, “You know I’ve always thought the liberal ways were more your style.” He draped the bag around his own shoulders, then checked inside as he walked around her, staying close, leaning in to her face. “I’m glad to see you took such good care of my stone. You realize it is a great discovery. I assume that is why you took it. You’re smart, after all. It’s one of the many things I love about you.”

She held her tongue. She’d learned that Khalid preferred the sound of his own voice.

“You know you’re in trouble. Don’t you? It isn’t like the time you tried to sneak away in Jordan. If you had simply tried to flee, I’d understand. But now, you tried to take something from me.” He leaned in, nearly touching his nose to hers. “You insult my honor.”

Around her, the patrons meandered across the marble floor, transfixed by their phones, talking with their friends, ignoring the scene playing out in their midst. To them, it was just another day. Amid their luxury, their TVs and smartphones, they’d never know Nadeen, or care that she’d been stripped of the dignity they enjoyed each day.

Khalid hooked his arm around her led them toward the mall’s entrance. The Westerner followed at a distance.

“And yet … and yet, while this is a great offense,” he breathed deeply and sighed, “I am not without mercy.”

Nadeen hated the hope that rose in her chest. She loathed her involuntary response to Khalid’s broad, white smile and relaxed personality. She despised how she’d catch herself thinking that he was, by nature, a warm, good man, but that it was she, and her disobedience, that incited him to rage. Yet still, she turned and gazed into his soft, brown eyes, anxious to hear how she could prevent the punishment she had coming.

“In fact, Nadeen,” he said, rubbing her arm with his  hand, “If you help me, I will offer forgiveness. And not only that, my love.” He favored her with a dimpled grin. “I will also ensure you are reunited with your family. Either here in the kingdom, or back in Morocco.” He snapped his fingers in the air. “What was the town’s name?”

“Marrakesh.”

Khalid smiled and nodded, “Of course. The crown of the old imperial cities. Such a suitable place for you.”

She leaned toward him. “You know where my parents are?”

He nodded, then fixed her with his eyes. “It would be my pleasure to restore your family.”

They pushed out into the heat of the day, passing through the incoming shoppers and stepping to the curb where Khalid’s men had parked their van.

“Just tell me who it is you contacted and how you intended to deliver the stone. Once I know that, I’ll make the arrangements. You’ll be heading home.” He dropped his gaze to the pavement, a shadow on his face. “Of course, I’ll miss you.” He offered her with a sad smile and pushed a strand of hair away from her face.

Nadeen nodded. Her mind swarmed with thoughts waging an inward, heated debate. Deep inside, she knew she couldn’t rely on Khalid’s promises. When they’d first met, while she cleaned his suite, he’d asked about her family, expressed regret at her plight as a girl taken from her home and forced into labor. That day, he’d promised he’d find her family, do his best to get her back home. Six months later, the only times that promise arose was when she had spurned him in anger, following his cruel treatment. It was the proverbial carrot. The stick, however, was the only thing she experienced.

“A name, Nadeen. That’s all I need. I have spoken with your father. He was so happy to know you were all right.”

Glazing into his eyes, she hoped to see a dark glimmer of a lie betraying him, anything to convince her he was the evil man she’d known so many times. But his eyes were smooth and sympathetic.

Matt Chandler — The Gift of Prophecy

I mentioned this in my last post, but I don’t want anyone thinking I’m just making stuff up. Here’s the video (audio, really) of Matt with his hokey “prophecy.” I’ll wait while you watch/listen, then we can talk about it.

 

 

First off, he misquotes scripture: “If that same power that raised Jesus from the grave …” Let’s just stop there. He gets it from Romans 8:11. Only, Paul doesn’t use the word “Power,” he writes “Spirit.”

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  Rom 8:11 ESV

Okay, so Matt goes on to say, “…why don’t I get to see it? Why don’t I get to walk in it? Why don’t I get to taste it?” This is the typical sales pitch. We’ve left the Bible and are now in the experiential realm of marketing and deceit.

See, faith is not about experience. We are to walk by faith, not by sight (or feeling, tasting, etc.).

He says, “like so many others do … in the Bible…” That’s something we could test right there. Do ‘so many’ in the Bible taste, experience and see this “power” that raised Jesus from the grave? What did their experience resemble?

I’m sure most charismatics will point to the day of Pentacost when 200 people witnessed the Spirit descend like a flame. They might point to the miracles performed by Peter, or Paul.

They’re not likely going to point to Elijah running for his life and wishing he was dead. They will ignore the fact that being a bond-slave of Christ left Paul, the once great Pharisee, reduced to a trembling, blind, stuttering man in rags and chains. They gloss over passages where Jesus promises persecution, false accusations, imprisonment and death.

So, do we experience the “power?” I hate that term. Paul wrote Spirit for a reason. God isn’t a “power.” He’s Spirit and Truth. The New Age speaks of Power that we can tap into and experience.

Anyway, back to the video … here comes the fraud.

We’ve been given a twisted verse, a challenge of our experience based on that twisted verse, now comes the proposition of what we’re missing.

He throws a curve ball, frankly. Many pastors used to use this as a chance to say, “you’re not giving me enough of your money!” That still happens, by the way. But here, he suggests we’re not living lives that would warrant this mystical power.

He goes on to say how he then engaged in an occult practice known as automatic writing. I’m fairly certain that the Lord, in all the verses condemning occult practices, didn’t secretly want us to engage in them. Nonetheless, Mr. Chandler’s “experience” would tell us otherwise.

We need to expend risk and faith to experience the power of God. I’d like to see a verse for that. So, his example is a challenge by some guy to ask God what He’s doing through automatic writing (an occult practice, mind you).

He suggests that if he doesn’t tell people about this, he’ll be in “trouble with God.” This would suggest that God has told him to tell everyone about his dabbling in witchcraft.

Sure.

His story proceeds and he gets snippets of words from his god (small ‘g’ is intentional). He does admit that this sounds like Voodoo. He says he had to clear his mind, like “The Force.” All of these admissions should have rung some bells for this guy.

He then writes down three things: W Burger, Black guy in grey pants, pink pigtails.

He then goes to a fast-food joint, Wataburger, sees a black guy who had a daughter who wore pigtails.

Wow. Really? This is amazing! The power that raised Jesus from the grave now gives us mental charades through occult practices.

Now, the story comes together with the man’s daughter–that very night–getting saved. That would be the work of God. The story, however, is a work of fiction.

I flat-out reject this story. It’s based upon twisted scripture and serves to elevate the speaker to a level of one who is getting messages from God. Guess what? I get messages from God every day when I open my Bible. So would you. God has not ordained a secret, special group of men who condescend to us. He’s revealed Himself in His son and we read about this in the Bible.

He recognizes that the story “elevates” him, and he tries to deflect that. But, it’s like those who are “so humbled” by the large groups of people wanting their autograph. It’s false.

This sort of story is told like a ghost story, only with Christian goosebumps. Would it have the same effect if he said a man came in and asked them to pray for his daughter, then they find out she got saved? Would that be less miraculous? No. It would simply be more realistic. And boring.

I do believe God is working every second. He is in sovereign control of every atom in His Creation. We are never far from God’s power. We don’t have to “take risks” to see God work. We don’t have to engage in witchcraft to hear God speak to us.

Rather, what we need to do is be obedient. God may lead us through a land He’s promised us (hypothetically speaking) and never let us own it (Abraham reference). He might lead some to die as a martyr, while another lives out their days as an exile (Peter and John). In all these things, what He’s called us to do is submit to His authority in our lives. That means we put away the things of the flesh, the sins of our culture and give glory to Him.

Let’s get back to the verse Matt mangles. How does this verse end? “… will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” This isn’t the same as experiencing power. No, it’s about receiving true life. Romans 8 is about not being condemned for our sins because we belong to Christ. It’s not about experiencing some personal impression of what power should be. 

This strikes me as Christian adrenalin junkie behavior. Instead of sky diving or bungee jumping, the Christian adrenalin junkie will clear their mind and wait for God to give them images, or go around asking people if they have pains, then pretend to heal them. These lunatics go around acting like kids who just found a cool toy and they want to use it. They’re like the guy in Acts who got all excited seeing Paul heal people and wanted it for his own use. For the record, the guy was reprimanded.

Matt Chandler’s story disregards what faith really is in favor of what you could find in New Age circles. He’s just Christianized it. He’s bringing strange fire before the Lord. We should be very careful about such men.