Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hard Stop

I mentioned in a comment a couple of days ago that I am always at work and don't get on the internet at all when I'm not. My wife has a DSL connection, which is what I'm using now. She's not really good about sharing.

My company has decided to block all blog sites. This is certainly their right, and I will respect their decision by not trying to find a way around the firewall. I can still access news, and sometimes blogs are news, but it's not my connection.

So, friends, this means I will be visiting your sites much, much less frequently and probably not posting here at all, or only on special occasions unless my wife decides to share her logon with me.

It has certainly been enlightening and a pleasure sharing and hearing.

Those of you who have my email, keep me on your list and keep in touch.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

After Its Kind

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:4-10

For some of us this is a very troubling passage. You can hear people explain away the concept by emphasizing the word “practice” and talking about habitual, persistent sin. I think it is more enlightening to go back to Romans and read chapters 6 through 8, maybe throw in chapter 3 to start.

Speaking strictly for myself, I know that within me lies the potential -- and often the intent, to do right, and I know what is right and what is not about 95% of the time. With most decisions in the course of a day it is easy enough to know, if not always easy to do the righteous thing. There is a small but very important subset of possibilities over which we will have to pray, struggle and agonize, but a lot of life is pretty simple if we just want to do right. And therein is a key to understanding because, just as within me I find an intention to do right, there is also, very often, an impulse to take a different way, to do the wrong for my own benefit, pleasure, ease, or profit. What John is pointing out is the very obvious: Dude, listen up. The wrong? That’s not God.

Who am I fooling if I claim to be born of God yet live like the devil? Why would I do such a thing? Forget the sin part for a minute. I think in general the mainstream of Christianity spends too much time talking about what we should not do. Most of us have that down. Knowing God and being known of God is what we are after. It’s like the Karate Kid. How far along would the kid have gotten if he had just hung around outside the old man’s place and talked about how great the old guy was or how he knew all about karate? We do the good stuff which is the God stuff so that we know God, and, as Jesus says, more importantly, so that He knows us. This is why simply being conventionally and acceptably good, as many atheists are, is insufficient. They know the conventional moves to be accepted in the open class with all the rest of the losers. Chuck Norris is still going to kick their asses because they’ve never encountered the Master personally, so they don’t really know how good good is. If you are “as good as anybody else”, then as the over-all relative goodness declines, you decline with it. In the end, as with the dumbed down SAT’s or inflated currency, it doesn’t mean what it used to.

Another thing we learn here is that Christ was revealed to humanity in order to destroy the works of the devil. Focusing only on externals, it is hard to see how that has worked. The devil has built an impressive edifice, but it is founded on a lie. You can be as gods, knowing good and evil. Jesus destroyed the very foundation of the devil’s work by destroying that lie. The Lord lived never knowing evil. By knowing Him – the Good – only, we can truly be as gods. For what else would the sons of God be? (No, I’m not a heretic. It just sounds like it.) By shunning evil we are “not missin’ a thing”, as REO Speedwagon used to say.

Jesus took away sin, as the anti-type scapegoat, and thus broke down the barrier Adam had erected between God and man. Man is no longer left to an isolated, relativistic existence. In that isolation, he was not as a god but rather as a devil, for that is the devil’s nature. Don’t blame it on the devil, for, though it was his free choice once, he can now no longer help himself any more than we could. The laughable part of Satan’s lie was that “your eyes will be opened” -- quite a statement coming from the eternally blind. We were all locked in the soul subbasement together, and all we had were the remotes. Is it any wonder we did so much damage?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By the Mark

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we will see Him just like He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. – 1 John 3:2-3

The other day Rick quoted Matthew 20:20-28 about the mother of James and John coming to Jesus and requesting that her sons have places on the right and left hand of the Lord in the Kingdom. In response Jesus asks first if they are willing and able to drink of His cup, or, in other words, to suffer with and for Him. They answer, somewhat overconfidently I suspect, that they are able. Still, the Lord says, even though you will do that, those positions of authority are not necessarily for you.

I had a friend many years ago who was an engineer and quite a bright man. In addition to being a good engineer, he was a licensed minister in a large Protestant denomination. He told me once that he thought all his life he was destined for great things. He married a woman who had the same belief about herself and him. She studied music and was a decent pianist. I liked them both, though I was not always comfortable with them. They were, in a word, flakes. Eventually, the flaky, grandiose thinking led them to do some really stupid things and wreck their lives. A cold analyst would have asked them, since they had never accomplished anything of notable significance, where did they get their delusions of grandeur?

Others of us may have to guard against a tendency to go too far in the other direction, thinking that worth is solely a function of what we do rather than what we are. To crave fame and status is an alluring trap. To think we will never amount to anything, that we are unimportant, and that what we do makes no difference is just as dangerous. We really are children of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, reconciled to our Father through the Cross. While it is a glorious truth, it does not mean that we are destined to any glory or renown in this life.

It may be best not to think of it as “this life”. It is this journey, or this path. No matter how we perceive it, it is a path of purification, whether we plunge into the filth and are cleansed through suffering, or we reach some point of awareness where we purify ourselves. Ridding ourselves of the clinging delusion is why we are here. I have even started to wonder if this isn’t why I have had such a struggle as I have been going systematically through First John. Is there something in this little letter that strips away the dullness, that wipes the fog off the mirror and allows me to see more clearly who I am?

We are children of God. Children have lots of ideas of what it is like to be an adult. One of the endearing things about little ones is how they perceive what their parents and other adults are doing or saying. They are trying to understand, with mixed results, why certain things happen. It is sad to see a child, with that limited comprehension, forced to “grow up” too soon. I think our Father in heaven is careful about this. He knows what we can handle. He knows when to let us play. He also knows when to push us, to pull back the veil and show us more of the truth, because worse than growing up too fast is not growing up at all.

I am not sure how that works: “…when He appears, we shall be like Him because we will see Him just like He is.” Does that mean that seeing Him will transform us? Or does it mean that when He appears to us, we will realize that we have been transformed? Both? When I see Jesus, I will see who I really am, and I will be awestruck. When John talks about “this hope”, he’s talking about the hope of seeing the Lord, the hope of obtaining even a glimpse of the Real and the True. When I see the Lord, I won’t have questions. The face of God will be the glass in which I see. I will understand all that I have endured. By the light of His countenance, I will read the message in my scars.

Blessed are the pure in heart, Jesus said. Why? Because they shall see God.

I will know my Savior
When I come to Him
By the mark
Where the nails have been.

(David Rawlings/Gillian Welch)

If you can find it, Dailey and Vincent, on their eponymous CD, do a definitive version of “By the Mark”.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Good and Dumb

I am thinking about starting a new political party or at least coming up with a new tag or identifier for freedom lovers. I can’t really call myself conservative because things are going to have to change. The terms independent and libertarian have some baggage, and Republican is buried under a pile of moving vans. Classical Liberal is what we are but that often requires some explanation. I thought about naming it after some great historical figure representative of our views. G. K. Chesterton comes to mind. We could call ourselves Chestertons, Chestertonians, Chesters, or Men with Chests. At this point, though, I am leaning toward someone more modern: Kirk, Hayek, Reagan, Buckley. Nope, Buckley is out. Chris has ruined it. How about Mark Steyn?

What do you think of the Steyn-Way Party? Our logo could be Uncle Sam seated at an upright piano with the Constitution in front of him like sheet music. Our motto? “Play it again, Sam.”

I guess my blog is mostly religious because what I most like to do is take a verse or two or three and figure out how they apply to me. This week I am very tired and more than a little irritable, and, as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t feel like praying. I haven’t been this tired since I made $48 one day hauling hay back in 1972. They paid us two cents a bale. I hauled from eight o’clock in the morning until one o’clock the next morning. We loaded and unloaded 2400 bales of hay, none of which grew under our feet. I was bucking and doing a good deal of the stacking from the ground, and because I could throw higher than anyone else, I handled every single one of those bales when we put them in the barn. And I would have gone back the next day – I was young then and could recover more quickly – if it hadn’t been for the chicken. But that is another story and I want to talk about the fallacy of “the best and brightest”.

Sarah Palin is not one of the best and brightest. I don’t know what her plans are, and, at this point I really don’t care. I hope she capitalizes on all the flak she’s taken with a book deal or something and salts away a few cool million soon-to-be-monopoly-money dollars, but if she doesn’t want to run for public office anymore, that’s up to her. That’s the thing about America. We don’t need any Special Person to be president, governor, senator, speaker of the house, or speaker for the dead. We have a system that could be run by almost any fool. Unfortunately, it is mostly run by lawyers instead.

Now there are unquestionably good lawyers, just as there are Major League powerhitters that aren’t on steroids – hmmm, OK, maybe – just as there are adult film stars who aren’t riddled with STD’s. Forget it. The point is that being a lawyer doesn’t make you a bad person, but it doesn’t make you a good choice for governing the country either. In fact, when you think about it, having lawyers make laws is kind of like having Scooby-Do in charge of the Scooby Snacks, or having Shaggy hold the chocolate √©clairs, or having a drug addict in charge of the pharmacy.

At the federal level the America system should be almost a turnkey operation. We were given a republic – if we could keep it. It was never the founders’ intent that we should turn it into a meritocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, celebocracy, or even a bozo-ocracy. The questions are simple. Is it in the Constitution? Yes or no. Is it any of the federal government’s business? Yes or no. Is doing nothing worse than creating more government bureaucracy? Yes or no. If all the answers are ‘Yes’, do the absolute minimum necessary. This does not require great intellect but good judgment. It doesn’t take a genius. All it takes is honesty, integrity, and a modicum of common sense. The problem is that all the honesty, integrity, and common sense within confines of Washington, D.C., would fit into a flea’s navel with room left over for Al Franken’s sense self-importance and Al Gore’s carbon footprint.

We can argue about how intelligent Barack Obama and his cohorts actually are, but that misses the point. Our government is not about how smart people are but how good they are. Forget the clever. Clods will do fine if they are honest clods.

This is why Republicans are so much more susceptible when their integrity is questioned. Those who vote for Democrats have bought the lie of elitism and the idea that the “best and brightest” should go into government work and “run things” for us. Character is secondary if considered at all. Republican voters still – whether they think of it consciously or not – realize that character is the only thing that matters. If a man will lie to his wife, he will lie to us. If a person’s word is no good, the person is no good. A dishonest man is dishonest – shocking, I know -- and has no place in government.

Government does not require the best and brightest. Why do we think that all the best should be going to law school or medical school or business school? If you’re so damn smart, why don’t you produce something instead of talking about something? Of course, we do need legal experts and advocates, and we all want a really good attorney when we need one. Some people go into the legal profession because their gifts lead them that way. I have a cousin like that who is a corporate lawyer. Perhaps Obama became a lawyer because he was genuinely interested in helping people fight the system. That would be the system with thousands of often conflicting and contradictory laws created by lawyers. Again, we have left the keys to the evidence locker with the cocaine addict.

Those who most often vote Republican may instinctively recognize that this country cannot exist with only lawyers, doctors, and financiers. Somebody somewhere has to make something. We need farms and mines and factories. Somebody has to create and innovate. Somebody has to add value. The founders and their spiritual descendants, the Steyn-Ways, view government as a peaceful, predictable structure within which the individual can pursue their dreams and goals and adventures rather than government being the driving force of society.

Similarly, government service should not be viewed as a career but a temporary sacrifice, just as many young men and women enter the military solely to serve their nation for a few years then move on. Since we have far too many entrenched politicians who refuse to voluntarily move on, we need to encourage them by enacting term limits on all elected offices, as well as lifetime limits on the number of years a person can serve in total. We don’t need experienced law-makers or representatives who “know their way around” any more than we need really-really smart people making our choices for us. Why? Because “they” should not be making MY choices! They should not be deciding how many cars to build or what kind to build or how many miles they should get per gallon. Yes, if that were necessary, we would want the smartest people making those decisions. But it is not necessary. In fact it is already being done by a sort of non-governmental entity. It’s a little thing we like to call “the free market” where we make our own decisions.

So, next time you go into the voting booth, I encourage you to vote for the men and women who are good, honest, and righteous even if they don’t look as good or sound as slick or even seem as clever as their opponents. Vote for the people who offer to term-limit themselves, and if they fail to carry through, give them a hand by voting them out. I don’t want to be governed by the elite but by the law, that is, the Constitution.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

For the Greater Good. Of course.

Have you ever seen one of those cartoon speedometers that will spin all the way around, and it keeps spinning faster and faster until it flies apart? If I had one of those on my forehead, that's what it would be doing.

But, I've finally managed a brief midnight respite with warmed over coffee and dropping humidity such that I have the window open after the storms have passed. While wolfing down an evening meal, I caught the new health-scare ad that Obama's cronies are funding in an attempt to stampede the sheep in the direction of the plantation.

Here is a perfect example of the government in action. Imagine similar state-employed cretins making decisions about whether you can have access to a doctor.

It seems that a lot of rain fell in Missouri this spring resulting in lots of run-off into the Lake of the Ozarks, a primary tourist destination for folks across the Midwest. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources -- the folks who would put a meter on my private well if they had the nerve -- decided that elevated levels of E. coli didn't need to be reported.

Here's the text of the story linked above on from the Kansas City Star via the AP:

A state agency acknowledges it withheld a report for four weeks that showed the Lake of the Ozarks had E. coli above safe levels. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said it withheld the report around Memorial Day because of concern that releasing it would hurt tourism and businesses around the lake.

Heavy rains in May washed the bacteria into the lake, which has since returned to safe levels. For a month, the DNR refused to show the report to residents who were demanding to see it.

DNR spokeswoman Susanne Medley said the agency wanted to make sure it didn't panic the public. Some critics say the decision not to release the report immediately was a cover-up that put the economy above public health.

But, but, it's the government. They're all good -- not like those eeeVille corporations. How could this be?

Our lesson for today, boys and girls, is, "Do not trust the government with anything". All bureaucrats and politicians want is to: a) line their pockets with our money; b) control us because they are control freaks; c) keep their cushy, low-stress, welfare-lite jobs; d) build weird little empires on the public dime; e) all of the above.

As you can see the "greater good" argument really is a question of the greater good for whom. Does it serve the greater good for children swimming in the lake to get sick and perhaps die? Death is not that uncommon with little ones (the ones perhaps most likely to ingest lake water while swimming). They can't handle the extreme dehydration resulting from an E. coli infection. Or perhaps DNR thought "greater good" meant more tax revenue from the businesses at the Lake.

Give me free market greed over government control any time. Cut DNR's funding and I can use the tax money I save to test the water myself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Are You?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. – 1 John 3:1

Paul warned the church at Corinth against isolating itself from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). He told Christians to shun those who call themselves “believers” yet continue to live in licentiousness and immorality. The purpose of such rejection is to awaken the alleged believer to the incongruity of his or her position. On the other hand, Paul says there is nothing wrong in associating with those of the world who are greedy or immoral. We expect them to live as they do, and we are primarily in the world to be salt and light. Our association with the ungodly provides them with a positive example and a new perspective which may infect them with love of the Truth.

It should not come as a surprise to us that, in spite of our best efforts Рor perhaps because of our best efforts in the Spirit, the world does not recognize us. Having never known our Father, how could they see the resemblance in the sons and daughters? To them our beliefs and behavior makes no sense. They ridicule our naiveté and mock our faith. People who call themselves Christians have given the world plenty of ammunition through hypocrisy. Yet, what often gets quickly labeled as hypocrisy by the worldly watchers is only the stumbling misstep of a child learning to walk.

Walking in the Spirit is impossible for fallen man, and it is far from easy even for the redeemed. Though we have trusted in the work of the Cross and been reborn in spirit, and even though our spirit is now in union with God and a temple of His Spirit, it is tough to rely on those new spiritual appendages. If pigs did sprout wings, I wonder how many of them would really try to fly.

We have been transformed whether those around us recognize it or not. It is the truth and remains the truth. We cannot allow the opinions of those who have no knowledge of our new life to keep us pinned in the mud when we are now creatures of a different medium.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Forkin' the Road

Following up on yesterday’s post, I recall the words of Christ, “Strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life.” To get on the right road means that we have to pass through a very restrictive gate. There’s not a lot of room for baggage. It’s pretty much the shirt on your back. There is just no way we can turn some of our fantasies, our highly inflated opinions, our prejudices and preconceived notions such that they will fit through the narrow gate that lets out onto the road of life. As attached as we have become to that load, if we are going to move forward, we are going to have to leave it behind.

Sometimes I think the gate almost gets blocked by all the bizarre ideas that have been dropped on the other side of it. Maybe that makes it easier for some folks to find. Just look for the big pile of junk. The gate is right on the other side of that. Once we make it through the gate, the road remains narrow. It does not lend itself to accumulation. It can get lonely at times.

Jesus contrasts this narrow way with another road that ostensibly traverses the same country. The difference is that the other road is broad and well-traveled. There are many people on it. It is smooth, well-maintained and seems to follow a better route than the narrow, rough and steep way which the Lord would have us take.

The difference between the two roads is more than superficial for they do not end in the same place. The wide road leads to a great abyss, descending smoothly and gradually until the last few feet. All the while it presents a grand view of a gleaming, beautiful land. The traveler’s eyes are drawn to the illusion so that he does not realize until that last fatal step that he has come to the precipice.

There is yet a greater and more significant difference between the ways and that is what may accompany us as we walk the road. As I noted, the narrow way with its restrictive – perhaps I should say, exclusive entrance limits what we take along. The broad way had no such limitation, and one may enter it from any point. Then, again, there are many companions on the smooth, expansive path, while fellow travelers on the other course are rare. One in particular will not go along if we chose the easy way and that is the Lord, though there are many who walk it chanting His name like a talisman.

I am up against the same difficulty as yesterday because I am talking about things that diverge while occupying the same space. Jesus used the parable of the wheat and tares in the same field. The difference is not in the place they are but in the nature of what they are. I repeat, the roads appear to traverse the same territory, and, in fact, they seem to overlay one another for much of their extent. The road of life, though, is a razor’s edge we walk hand-in-hand with Christ that leads us safely across that great gulf into which those on the road to destruction plunge without remedy.

The broad road is the freeway of the world system. The narrow road is the King’s High Way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What’s the Matter With the Mill?

If you know that He is righteous, you know this as well: everyone who does what is right has been born of Him. – 1 John 2:29

This is the last verse in chapter two, but it is also the main theme of a major part of the third chapter. Doing right or not doing right gets thrown at us repeatedly as we move forward in John’s letter.

Paul said, “In me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing.” This is not a view that is appealing to modern man. Of course there is good in us, we argue. We merely need education and enlightenment, the benefits of a proper diet, the right kind of exercise and entertainment. It might be a good thing, too, if we could wean people off that “old time religion” and their various superstitions.

Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit.” This poses a problem for me. All of human culture -- education, economics, government – all is born of the flesh. There are stand out exceptions – Van Gogh, Mozart, the Kawasaki KL650, Tina Turner, Toy Story 2, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, Dune, but by and large the world system is born of the flesh. It is all a corruption of the ideal, a derivative of the Truth, a shadow of the Real. That does not mean that it is “evil” as a whole, and it does not mean that some things are not better than others. Maryanne is better than Ginger. The Articles of Confederation may be better in many ways than the Constitution. Sure, it might be that by now we’d need a passport to go from Kansas to Missouri, but is that really a bad thing?

The spirit and the flesh strive one with another. The spirit is willing, as the Man said, but the flesh is weak. We recognize and home in on those flashes of truth that break through upon us like lightning out of the storm, but we will never be able to really grasp the truth and make it real and manifest in this world.

Or will we? What if we were able to stop operating out of the flesh and began to build by the spirit. Pentecostals frequently quote Zechariah: “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” Look again at what John says, “If you know He is righteous”. What if we could trust Him perfectly and completely in every situation? We could if we knew He was perfectly righteous and trustworthy. What if we always walked and worked and lived by Kingdom principles instead of the second-hand rules of the world system?

To be born of Christ is to do right, not in some legalistic way – though doing right is better than doing wrong, even when the motive arises from the flesh. That is, the world was a better place when we were more polite, decent, hard-working people, but I don’t think we were that much closer to the Kingdom. To do right as Christ did means to shut the old man down, ignore the world system, and walk according to the dictates of the Spirit. Spiritual direction arises out of studying Scripture, praying, and meditating – not out of analytical thought.

Now, at this point, I’m supposed to say there is nothing wrong with analytical thought. I would normally say that, except that I know it is not true. There is something horribly wrong with it when we think it will deliver us from evil or lead us out of bondage.

I wish I had a simple dictum to follow, an elegant epigram that I could impart. Don’t shop WalMart downwind from the Amish (wonderful, good-humored people just deodorant-challenged). But I don’t have anything like that. What I do have is that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, able to divide soul from spirit – as we’ve talked about before.

The world system is organized and Satanic, opposed to God and hostile, in particular, to Jesus Christ. Yet the sad thing is that the world is always trying to mimic God, fake righteousness. Satan is attempting to create an imitation of God. It’s called the state. He imitates the grace of God; they call it welfare. He imitates salvation; they call it wealth. He imitates deliverance; they call it education. He imitates healing; they call it medicine.

I wish I could say that by rejecting politics – an ersatz religion for some, or not watching television, not listening to popular music, not going to doctors, being uneducated, or whatever – I wish I could say that would make us spiritual. It won’t. Discernment, dividing soul from spirit is as much an external necessity as an internal one – if there’s any real difference.

We can’t operate the way world does. We can’t fall into their traps, but there may be two working in the field then one will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding at the mill, and one will be taken while the other is left. We will look like we are doing the same thing as the worldling many times, but we are doing right because we’re born of Him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

We Have A Problem

So now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. – 1 John 2:28

In one of Gagdad Bob’s posts last week he made the statement: The local ego is "exteriority" as such. When you think about it, it's the only thing that is "outside" the cosmos. It is merely a kind of Darwinian adaptation to external circumstances, and is therefore largely a mirror of the environment. It is more or less exiled from spirit, and in need of deliverance, or salvation.

Abiding in Christ or remaining in Him is the way of deliverance from this hellish isolation. Back in the ‘70’s sometime I read a book called Marooned about astronauts in an Apollo space capsule that lost power and became stranded in earth orbit. If I remember correctly, the book and a movie based on it preceded the Apollo 13 near-disaster. The difference was that the fictional astronauts lacked the backup systems of the lunar module that Apollo 13 was able to deploy. In the book the danger was that the astronauts would run out of oxygen before a rescue mission could be launched by NASA or the old USSR. If no action were taken to bring the men down, they would soon asphyxiate then continue to circle the planet in a slowly decaying obit until they eventually entered the atmosphere and burned.

It is a good spiritual allegory. We often think of ourselves as part of this group, that family, the masses of humanity, a citizen of this country or that state. The truth is, though, that all of those associations are sort of illusory, and they are certainly temporal. Apart from Christ, our permanent state is one of isolation. We might as well be stranded in a powerless spaceship. If we really consider where we are, we will realize that every breath draws us closer to our last breath. Our orbit is spiraling down to destruction. The end may be near or not but it is inevitable. But it need not be so. Jesus has provided a way of escape. He offers us a free ride home. We just have to enter His ship and remain with Him.

Another way to look at this Scripture is to consider the importance of the words “boldness” and “ashamed”. Remember that prior to the Fall, the man and the woman were naked but they were not ashamed before God. There was no ego, so there was no place to step outside and look back in. Adam was what he was and he thought nothing of it. We may talk more about this as we go along in First John.

We are moving toward that Christ-like state where we think nothing of self, where we are pure. Meanwhile, as long as we are in Christ, we are covered. To take away Adam’s shame, God killed an animal and clothed the man and woman with the skins. Our shame is removed when we put on Christ and are clothed with Him. The unredeemed ego remains naked and exposed. This is not obvious as long as it is cloaked in darkness – which explains why the saint is not all that welcome by everyone. But even if the outsiders can keep us at bay, some day Christ is going to appear to them. The light will come on, exposing them, and making them ashamed.

This shame is not the function of any particular sin or set of sins but of the very nature of self, of the self-consciousness that differentiates self from being, if you will. It seems to me sometimes that if I could stop thinking I could stop sinning, and I’m pretty sure that if I could stop self from stepping away and looking back, I could definitely be free of sin.

I can lose self and remain in Christ, or I can cling to self and remain marooned.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Because You Know

Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, "Antichrist is coming," even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I have not written to you because you don't know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? He is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son can have the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well.

What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don't need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him. --1 John 2:18-27

This is a rather long passage compared to what we usually do, but it is tied together by the words “anointing” and “knowledge”.

Even as John speaks of the antichrist, he is speaking of anointing, for not only is an antichrist one opposed to Christ, but it is often one who functions as a false Christ – that is a false “anointed one”. We’re not talking politics today, but we’re all certainly more familiar with that idea after the last couple of years worth of saturation obama-ing.

When this passage first grabbed my attention many years ago I saw it strictly in a religious context of false teachers and charismatic cult leaders drawing people away from Jesus as Messiah. Only later did it occur to me that it was applicable in other areas of life. What is pop culture except the fascination with a celebrity’s false anointing? I’m sure one of the reasons Oprah left Reverend Wright’s church before Obama is that the false anointing of Wright was stepping on Winfrey’s antichrist tendencies.

I suppose there is a question as to whether Oprah really sees herself as anointed or whether she is seen as an anointed one by her fans. It is clearer in the case of one of Gagdad Bob’s favorite targets, Deepak, who, if he is capable of understanding at all, thinks that he is anointed. Consider, too, someone like Jim Jones who may well have started off as an anointed person, but abandoned the true for the false.

Jesus is the Lord’s Anointed One, the Messiah or Christ. John says, though, we have an anointing from the Holy One as well. Our anointing is a function of the presence of the Spirit in our lives. Just as oil was poured on the priest or king, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us. And, just as with the king or priest, the purpose of the anointing is to set us apart to carry out the Lord’s will. We cannot anoint ourselves, nor can we use the anointing to gratify or glorify self. With the anointing comes knowledge that enables us to reject the false and deceptive. As the song says, “I was blind but now I see.” It truly remains amazing to us how such eye-opening grace is given.

I know when the subject of Antichrist comes up it can get a little freaky. The Lord seems to be saying here that, though there may be an ultimate Antichrist, there are many who operate in opposition to the Christ of God on a lesser scale -- lesser only in terms of quantity, for the eternal destiny of a soul is often at stake in the battle. This led, in John’s day, to an apostasy, a falling away of those who were not truly of Christ, indicating it was the time of the last hour.

The warning remains for us. We must hang onto truth and thus remain in the Son. There is a falling away from truth right now, a phenomenon that seems to be accelerating. The antichrists among us will claim this is because the truth is not true, or that it might have been at one time but it is no longer applicable. The lies will have an appealing sound for they offer us ease – not peace but ease. Yet there is no reason for us to be deceived. We all have understanding and discernment through the anointing we have been given. We can trust the Spirit who teaches us and leads us into all truth. Sometimes He uses human teachers to instruct, but even then we do not trust in the person. We trust His anointing upon the person.

Finally, we all know there is no point to explaining to those who don’t know. We only know because we know already. I suppose it seems unfair to some, but I don’t believe anyone who wants to know will be lacking. It’s not just the militant atheists that don’t want to know, either. From my experience I’d say the majority of Christ-deniers might even be church members, who, having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof.