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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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.

The “Big Price” in Trump’s Tweet

It’s true, there’s a ‘Big Price’ for what happened in Syria. It is also true that what happened is evidence of a big price we all face.

It’s tempting to see the horrors in the world, or even the misfortunes, pain and struggles we face in our daily lives as being ‘of the devil.’ We see wrong and we cast a judgment. There are three groups:

Those who acknowledge (the Judeo-Christian) God will often say, “this isn’t from God.” This group sees the horror that happened in Syria as evidence of Satan working in the world.

Those who do not confess there is a God (Judeo-Christian or otherwise) will see this as supporting evidence that God does not exist. After all, how could a “good” God stand by and let this sort of thing happen?

The third group–which also acknowledges the Christian God–sees this not only as evidence to prove God’s existence, but as support for the Gospel, and our dire need for it.

As I’ve said already, I agree that there is a big price for what has been done. No one commits evil and gets away with it. It may seem that someone sins with impunity. After all, our very own President has allegations of immoral behavior, yet he sits in the chair of one of the most powerful offices in our modern world. Though many hope to see “justice” served according to their own agendas, there is no indication that their version of justice will be served.

Likewise, the election that Trump won had a true “lesser of two evils” dynamic unlike any we’ve seen in my lifetime. No candidate wore the “white hat” here.

The people in Syria who ordered and carried out the chemical attack on its citizens will not go un-punished. They face a God who has commanded that we treat life as sacred. More importantly, those people–long before they ever had the ability to carry out such genocide–have been gnashing their teeth at God in open rebellion against Him from birth.

It’s natural for a child to view a broken toy as the worst thing in the world. Likewise, it is natural for us to view the chemical attacks and the brutality committed as the more heinous crime. And yet, that’s not how God sees it.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28

In Matthew, Jesus tells the people not to fear those who can only kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28. 

This anticipates the martyrdom of Christs’ followers. Indeed, the annals of the world drip with the blood of Christians. The deaths of Christians do not get the tweets and condemnation of the world as other deaths and atrocities do. Today, there are Christians in hiding throughout the world. They are prohibited from gathering and studying God’s word. They are imprisoned under false pretenses. They are brutally killed. No one takes notice. It’s as if it doesn’t happen.

These Christians have paid a ‘big price’ in gratitude for the ‘big price’ that was paid on their behalf.

And that’s the ‘Big Price’ that President Trump, the leaders of Syria, and every human on the planet owes. It is the price for our rebellion against God. And we’re born that way. From the moment we open our eyes and with every breath thereafter, we believe we sit on the throne of our lives. We focus on what’s good for ME. I have RIGHTS. No one talks to ME that way.

Such is our main view of justice. When something happens that appears to trample on personal rights, we demand that payment be made. If we trample on someone else’s feelings, rights or person, they probably just got in our way. I’m quite sure the people who dropped the barrels of toxic poison on the women and children in Syria can justify their actions. We’re pretty good at explaining how what we do is justified.

Just like we excuse ourselves from the first, and most important commandment: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and strength.

If that is the first, and most important commandment, the one from which all others flow, we fail. And it is that commandment–or the breaking thereof–for which we all must pay a big price.

In Syria we’ve seen the power of those who can kill the body. But, one day, we will see the power of Him who can not only kill the body, but also has providence over our souls. It is this judgment that should cause us all to tremble in fear.

I’ll admit, I don’t tremble as I should. I have more of an intellectual fear of it than an experiential fear. I remember the time I started an outboard motor while it was in gear. It started up and threw me back, over the rails. Somehow I flipped around, my feet dangling in the water, reached up and managed to shut off the motor. Afterward, I trembled as I realized my feet were probably inches from the spinning propellor and that I could have fallen over and been chopped up. That was experiential fear and trembling.

We don’t have that because we are enjoying God’s common grace. We experience His mercy, which tempers the judgment we deserve. No matter our condition in life, we are experiencing far better than what we deserve.

It is tempting to say, “but I’m a Christian! I have stepped forward in faith and should be blessed!” And yet, the Bible never extends us the promise of material wealth or honor in this life. It’s actually the opposite. Psst. That’s how you can tell a false prophet, by the way–they usually promise earthly prosperity and health.

God’s favor and blessing on us is based solely on Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection. I can make no claim to God’s favor on my own obedience. He paid the ‘big price’ for me. My obedience–such that it is–is in thankfulness and love, not out of paying a debt.

I read that Mother Teresa lived her simple, austere life because she believed that in doing so, she removed some of the suffering of Christ on the cross. While some may offer a little happy frown and say, “that’s so sweet,” it’s actually blasphemous. Remember Peter who told Jesus that He shouldn’t die, and Jesus responded, “Get behind me Satan, you savor the things of men!” Or when Peter said that He would die before he would deny Christ, and Jesus said, “Would you die for me?”

We are not God. Our hands are covered in the worst guilt–our own–and we cannot remove the suffering Christ paid on our behalf. To suggest this is lowering the sacrifice, the big price, to something far less than what it was. When we do that, we lower our offense to something like a misdemeanor rather than the death penalty we owe. This effectively tells God, your honor and glory is a small thing and you shouldn’t be upset. In other words, we become the judge of God, rather than the other way around.

When we understand that God is not absent in the horrors of this world. He’s not asleep at the wheel. He directs all things, including these atrocities. We see death of ‘innocent’ children as appalling, and we should. But, instead of shaking our fist at God and saying, “Where were you?” we should humble ourselves and give Glory to God and say, “how could we?”

How could we blaspheme and neglect honor to God? How could we run off to violate His moral law? How could we usurp His role in our lives, setting ourselves up as the ones in charge?

When we see sin on display in the world it’s a cop-out to say, “that’s evil” and yet exempt ourselves from that indictment. That is evil. And our failure to glorify God for His pure, righteous, holy, good, faithful and powerful character only contributes to the evil in this world. How does it contribute? Because we’re feeding the enemy. We’re allowing the wound in creation to fester. We’re believing that our little, selfish ‘good deeds’ are able to pay what we owe.

Like the master in Jesus’ parable about the servants, we have been given a way to have our debt canceled out. We’ve been forgiven. Yet, when we assume that those around us are worse than us, and demand that they ‘pay us what they owe us,’ we essentially reject the gospel and forfeit the forgiveness we can have.

Let me explain that lest you think I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be consequences for sin in this life: There should be. A murderer should be brought to justice. The people responsible in Syria should pay a hefty price.

What I’m pointing out is that we shouldn’t regard evil, demand justice, and think we’re doing okay. There should be justice carried out in this life. We should ‘do justice’ in reverence to God, who is just. But we should examine ourselves and recognize that we fall far short of giving God glory. We are in need of His payment on the cross every day, every hour, every minute, every second. We cannot contribute one blink of an eye toward our own salvation. Any attempt to do so (with that as its goal) is actually evil (like a bribe).

We have a big price. But the beauty of the Gospel is that it has been paid. Our response should be humility and devotion to the Lord, as much as we can offer, knowing that it is less than a penny in the offering plate to God, but more than all the riches of the self-righteous who believe they are earning their way to Heaven.

Can I Agree with Pastors, and Still Hate Them?

The pastor thundering his audience with a quavering voice while tears stream down his face is a tired cliché. And yet, when I see some of the most popular preachers in the evangelical world, that’s pretty much what I see. And it drives me nuts!

Here’s the kicker: I agree with much of what many of them say (how is that for a sentence full of qualifiers?). I’m going to pick on a few … by name, so get ready.

Paul Washer. I think he has a lot to say that is very good. While he gets attacked for his “Lordship Salvation” as one who teaches that we’re saved by works, I disagree. He would never claim that our works earn one bit of our salvation. And yet, he works himself up into a trembling, sobbing, voice raising fuss in nearly every sermon (I say nearly because I haven’t heard all of them).

Recently, I heard an impassioned tale from him explaining how a friend showed him a trailer for … a movie. This is an old audio clip because the movie was Spider-Man 3. He tells, in his dramatic way, how the clip showed exciting images of fantastic things, all happening so quickly that he was exhausted by the sheer excitement of the images.

He doesn’t get out much.

He went on to ask, in his most desperate manner, how any child could enjoy playing with his father outdoors after seeing such a movie!?

Indeed. Could be why sports teams have pretty much vanished and dads are no longer going to the parks with their boys playing catch after that blockbuster.

How stupid! How absurd! I could make a similar straw man argument by saying, “A friend took me on a journey. He brought me to the middle of a vast desert. And there, before me, I witnessed a breathtaking chasm, a gulf of unimaginable size! Gazing down to the impossible depth, I detected a rushing, wild river! The beauty of this spectacle left me breathless with excitement and exhausted! And I thought, how could my kids every look up to me as a father, or enjoy spending time with me in our living room when there are these grand, exceptional places on earth!”

See what I did there?

Now, Paul’s point is that Hollywood isn’t real. The special effects that make Spider-Man swing on buildings and stick to walls … that’s all fake. And, if we watch that sort of thing, thinking it’s representative of reality, we’ll be disappointed. We’ll feel depressed with our lives because they don’t live up to being bitten by a radioactive spider!

Here’s the part where I agree with him. Hollywood is fake. Everything is fake. Women, and the way they respond to the male lead, is fake. The good, bad and suspenseful things that happen, are all fake. The actors are pretending to like, love or hate each other.

I laugh when Keifer Sutherland explains that his show 24 shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of torture since the events in the show are dramatic devices to drive the plot. And he’s exactly right. I’ve never known anyone to work on something that they actually expected to complete within 24 hours! They’d call it a night and save it for the next day.

And yet, we are tempted to buy into what we see on TV and in movies. Movies, and books, and news articles, and devotionals, and self-help books all present an image of something we want. And then promise to deliver it.

Christian publishing is no different. Paul Washer, is no different. They paint an emotional picture, incite a need, then deliver the “answer.”

In some instances, the answer is true. Other times, it’s a placebo and you’ll be no better off, and often a few dollars poorer.

While Paul urges people to purity, he’s absolutely right! We should turn from filth. We should reject the cultural maxims that “everyone knows.” We should renew our minds with God’s Word, no matter how silly it appears to society at large.

To do this we need to recognize the scams. When we watch a show, we should be able to spot when something doesn’t present reality. Have you ever noticed that the “experts in a field” on TV are all in their early 30s? Have you ever seen a show where a late 20-something talks about how they’ve been working “all their lives” for … And we might just eat it up.

FYI to Hollywood, putting glasses on a model and giving her a clipboard doesn’t make her a brilliant scientist.

By the same token, how many Christian books are sold on the basis of “We’ve been promised to have xyz … but, if you’re honest, have you felt that? Do you experience xyz on a daily basis? Would you like to know how you can get more of xyz? Buy this book, then the 20-part series of DVDs, attend the conference, buy the T-shirt, get the coffee mug, wear the bracelet …

I wish that all was hyperbole. Sadly, it’s not.

While I agree with what these popular pastors say … if they tell you how God spoke Whataburger …. Black man, grey pants …. pig tails … into their heads and they wrote it down … then they cruised over to a burger joint and LO, in walked a black man with gray pants!!! Don’t listen to another word they say. That was Matt Chandler, by the way. And he started that talk off with saying, “The same power that raised Christ from the grave is inside you … have you experienced that kind of power?”

He misuses the verses in Romans by changing “Spirit” to “Power” and then asks a subjective question that divorces the verses from their context. Then he tells a story that could have been on The Mentalist. Only on that show, it would be obvious that such random associations are not mystical, they’re coincidental.

This is just a couple of examples of why I hate pastors. I hate the emotionalism. The showmanship. I hate the CEO mentality that runs rampant in the so-called church. It’s evil. It blasphemes my Lord.

And yet, I do agree with much of what they say. But I can’t ignore those glaring differences.

Can I Make The Bible Say What I Want?

I suspect there’s a common misconception that someone can make the Bible say what they want it to say. Actually, there’s a lot of truth to that. We see it so often, it probably doesn’t even register as an event to us anymore.

We hear TV “evangelists” howling about how we should give money–not time, prayer, labor, but MONEY–in order to see the blessings of God and it sounds normal. Another “leader” in the church pulls some verse suggesting a blessing and then promises the thousands in attendance that God wants their lives to be filled with luxury NOW!

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What Is The Fear Of The Lord?

If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? That’s a gem everyone has heard at least once in their lives. Rhetorically, I hope. The answer is obvious–“Heck no!” Because we’d be crazy to leap to our deaths. We fear death.

For some reason, though, Christians want to re-define “fear” when it comes to fearing God. I’ve heard it said that the fear of the Lord is “reverential awe.” Which is fancy for saying, “really amazed.”

Some believe that at His return, the world will tremble in fear–or amazement– at the goodness of God. It’s a nice thought, but the Bible doesn’t support that view.

I won’t get into a deep study of all the uses of fear in the Bible, but the Greek word (NT) is phobos or phobeo. Not too hard to see where we get our word phobia or phobic. In Hebrew the word was yira, or mora. Regardless of the language, the words convey an emotional response ranging from unease to stark terror, or trembling reverence. Context around verses provides whether it is someone “striking terror” or someone “filled with dread,” or someone “falling on their face in fear.”

One thing is certain, if we experienced any of the fear associated with God, we wouldn’t be talking about it in a den with cups of joe.

Here’s something interesting, though. In doing this word study I found that the Old Testament was filled with “fearing God.” God asserts His omnipotence and men are taught their place in Creation. I’m brushing with broad strokes here.

When we get to the New Testament, there are more verses telling us to “fear not.”

Those opposed to the whole “fear thing” might be cheering and high-fiving right now. But not so fast.

Those verses are correcting God’s people’s view of fear. Since the whole Bible is good for instruction, reproof and godliness, we need to take it as a whole. We tend to fear things in this world. We fear the unknown. We fear dark corners, under our beds, or the lump of monster that’s slithering from our closet at night. We fear a bad review at work. We fear sickness or car repair costs.

Yet God tells us not to fear for what we should wear, or what we will eat, or where we will live. God knows our needs!

Yet, we’re also told to fear the one who has power over not only our body, but also our souls! We are reminded in Hebrews that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

We should fear … but we should fear rightly. If you make a practice of sinning, you should fear (but you probably don’t). If you have turned from a life of sin, accepting God’s grace in Jesus’ sacrifice, you should NOT fear condemnation, or death. Rather, we should fear offending God’s love for us.

To use a simple, yet relatable example, imagine a husband is out with the guys. He’s having fun at a restaurant, or bowling alley … and a girl he knew in high school sees him and they start chatting. Suppose the husband’s wife–who realizes he forgot his wallet–heads to the restaurant/bowling alley to deliver the billfold. Just as she walks in, the little tramp puts her dainty little hand on her husband’s chest, tosses her frosted locks back and laughs through her pearly white teeth, batting her eyelashes.

Just then, the husband catches sight of his wife at the periphery of his sight and feels heat race up his neck to his face, the other woman’s hand burning a hot spot on his pectoral muscle.

At that moment, the husband’s mouth dries up, his eyes widen and he stammers with cold, tingling fingers, trying to explain the innocent coincidence that resulted in this scene.

The fear he feels is not terror of condemnation because he wasn’t unfaithful. Being fully devoted to his wife, he just happened to bump into a woman he knew. Being polite, he engaged in small-talk. But, being sensitive to the love-bond between he and his wife, he realized how it could look, and the pain it might cause.

Granted, this is a bit embellished. In a healthy relationship, there wouldn’t be such melodrama. But, using absurdity to illustrate a valid point, we should have the same fear with God. For us, however, we could fill in the story. We’re often caught texting someone we shouldn’t (using the example above). Or we get as close as we can to flirting with another god, if not starting to go steady. We grow disillusioned with God since he doesn’t fit what we’d like Him to be, and we play the field of worldly ideas.

We should fear. And that fear should drive us away from those other gods and back toward the One who loves us.

For those who have rejected God’s love, they’ve rejected His rightful claim on them. And they should fear condemnation, which is coming at a time they won’t expect.

Out With the Old

As our glittery 2018 glasses land in trash bins and we sweep up the streamers from the floor, many have resolved to cast off the old and put on the new. 2018 will be a fresh start. New wine must not be placed in old wineskins! Let’s leave the past and press on toward the future. Great! We’re off … but we don’t want to strike out on the path only to realize we’ve left our GPS. As Christians, we have a Great Commission, but we still need the Bible. Today, having a firm understanding of the Bible is more dire than ever, and I’ll explain why.

It strikes me that when Paul and the other Apostles wrote their letters to the various groups of Christians, they weren’t always “preaching to the choir.” What they wrote came across as controversial. As a matter of fact, they simply carried on the example set by Jesus. Far from being a winsome, charismatic speaker, Jesus offended a lot of people. More than once people sought to kill him. Not so coincidentally, the same thing happened to the Apostle Paul.

Turns out, people don’t like new wine. Or new wineskins. They like the comfort of the old ways. And that’s bad.

Except, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we get that itch to have something new. We’re tired of the old lessons and we want that word of encouragement. This desire for mercy and grace is good, so long as it’s coming from a place where we recognize how hopeless we are before a Righteous, Good, Loving and Holy God. It’s good when we turn in endless thanksgiving to God for His sacrifice on our behalf through His son, Jesus Christ. It’s good when we understand that only Jesus’ righteousness covering us makes us acceptable to God and that apart from that, we have nothing to offer.

Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians when he says in 3:6: “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The “letter” refers to the Law of Moses, which condemns us before God. We can’t keep that Law. And even if we try to keep it, if it’s done apart from faith (like Cain) it’s not going to be accepted.

Believe it or not, there’s controversy around this verse. Some point out that Paul is showing that the Old Testament Law, the old Covenant is abolished. Others point to the words of Jesus that not one letter of the Law will be abolished and that He came to fulfill the Law. There are those who believe we need to follow all the letter of the Old Law in order to be pleasing to God, though we are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

I’m not going to deal with that controversy here.

There are still others who take that last part, “the Spirit gives life,” and contrast it with the Bible, or even doctrine. So, the “letter” means verses in context, discussions over a proper interpretation, etc. while the “Spirit” refers to less tangible things like the way we feel about people, the way we behave, etc.

It is certainly important that we behave in humility and love to everyone. But that’s not what Paul is referring to in this passage.

Some may take the “Spirit” and use it for the idea of new prophecy that people are allegedly getting. This is a dangerous trend that is nothing new. People claim that “God told them something” apart from the Bible, or “the letter.”

This is when we strike out and forget the GPS or our directions. The path ahead is exciting. We see a bright, new adventure spread out before us. We could certainly throw the map away and see where things take us. And for a while, that will be fun. But, when we get lost, we’ll probably get cranky and lose heart.

Paul wasn’t telling the Corinthians that they should toss out the Old Testament and just follow “The Spirit.” We need to understand what Paul meant by that phrase. In John 6:63, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The words of Jesus are spirit. We believe the writings of the Apostles are words from Jesus, as well. Thus, they are spirit. While some claim that God hasn’t closed off direct revelation and that there are “New Apostles” getting “new words” from God, we are commanded to “test the spirits” to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). So, whether you’re one who believes in new prophecies or not, we are commanded to be discerning of things people say.

That includes me, and this blog. I don’t want people taking what I say at face value. I want anyone who reads these words to search things out for themselves. We grow in our faith by encouraging each other to good works and a proper understanding of God’s word and who He is.

And we can’t do that if we toss out the Bible as being our GPS.