Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing for War

The American military is publicized as the best prepared military in the world. I have seen, nor heard any reason to think otherwise.

They make this claim based on the amount and types of preparation demanded from our troops. Eight weeks of 'boot camp' is just the beginning. There are continually drills to keep soldiers physically ready. Exercises are habitually forced on GIs to test their mental metal. The are prepared for the worst of enemies.

Those who teach or preach that once you are a Christian everything will be lovely are simply, but kindly, wrong.  They neglect their enemy. My enemy is out to do me harm now that I claim to be a disciple of Jesus.

The Bible repeatedly presents the devil as injuring God's warriors.

     * Nehemiah recognized the plot of Sanballet & Geshem as they planned "to do me harm."
     * Anger, Wrath and Fretting "only causes harm".
     * The devil is called my "adversary".
     * Jesus says the Devil is a murderer and the father of lies
     * On occasions the "wicked one" "snatches" the "word of the kingdom" from individuals.
     * We all know how he tempted Eve, and the sad outcome of that confrontation.
     * What did Satan do to Job, God's servant?
     * When Satan won the battle with Judas, what was the end result? Betrayal?
     * Satan infiltrates our ranks when he "transforms" himself.
     * He decimates God's army with with fake wonders & signs.

So if anyone thinks Christian living is like being on the playground, the need to reconsider. He just WANTS you to think its a playground. Its really a deadly battlefield.

The Devil is going to fight you with every gun he has until you are back in his powerful army. It is a life or death struggle everyday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They Stone Their Gods

I am constantly surprised with how fast large numbers of people change their minds (as though I never would do that--haha!)

Two years ago President Obama was hailed as the new hope to change Washington, D.C.  Now he is, on occasion, viewed as a liability to his own party.

Katrina roared ashore into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast causing catastrophic levels of damage. The outcry from my part of the nation was to help 'American Refugees' to get their lives back. It has been five years, the city hasn't fully recovered, lives are still not repaired, and the attention has shifted to the BP oil slick clean-up.

Man is a fickle species. They have been for more than 20 centuries. 

I read a story recently about a lame man being healed by two out-of-town dudes. When the locals saw him jumping, whooping, and 'hollerin', they assumed the Gods had come down to earth. They called the strangers (Gods) Zeus & Hermes.

It was everything the duo could do to dissuade the citizens in making sacrifices to them. You would think the people would put them on a 'pedistal' forever for doing such a noble thing. But it was only a short time later that leaders from a neighboring city came to town, and quickly stirred  up the people. Before you could sneeze, Paul is stoned and drug from the city as dead.

Maybe the best example of men changing their tune was what happened to Jesus. On Sunday he was given a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but by noon Friday he was dieing on a cross.

Does this show the fickleness of men? Or does it reflect the work of infiltrators?
I believe it was neither. I believe these were the successful works by the "rulers of darkness", the same ones we fight against.

What do you think?  Click on the comment link and give everyone your thoughts.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Is Responsible?

Who has never made one life better?

Who would never urge one person to do right?

Who is responsible for the child with swollen checks in the emergency room? Could it be an enraged father?

In the E.R. is a black, blue, and green teenage girl. Her drug-crazed 'boyfriend' thought she was a punching bag. Who's responsible?

The alcoholic passed out in the grass with the near-black complexion was 'helped' by whom?

Who is responsible for the starvation in Somalia?

Who keeps the middle-east in turmoil?

Who creates ego-maniacs in Hollywood?

Apathy in Christ's church is caused by whom?

Who prompted Bethany Storro to throw acid on herself and blame a "random black woman"? (Arkansas Democrate-Gazette, 9-18-10)

Who incited Dallas Amber Smith to stab a man because he teased her about having stinky feet? (Ibid)

Who caused James Willie Jones to storm a school bus and threaten children because they were reportedly bullying his 13-year-old daughter? (Ibid)

David Garrett stole the identity of a dead baby to get a false passport. (Ibid). Who made him do it?

There is no mortal man this evil.

Is this a real enemy?

Who's is ultimately responsible? 1) The Devil a.k.a. Satan; 2)principalities; 3)rulers of darkness
So how do we fight against him / them?  James makes it simple. Resist him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wrestling Passively

It has been a long time since I watched WWE RAW on TV, but it is quite popular.

When I was living at home with my parents in the last  millennium, I watched wrestling on Saturday afternoons. It looked real, but the impact of bloody faces loses something on a black & white TV. And, like today, the viewer must decide if it is real or 'staged' for show.

Imagine this. A tag-team enters with great pomp. Meet the 'good guys'. The crowd goes wild! Excitement! Anticipation! An announcer directs the audiences' attention to a duo dressed in black tights entering from stage left. Deafening boos. These 'bad guys' have no chance. The expectation of the slaughter has the crowd at a fever pitch.

In the ring each wrestler glares through steely eyes at the doomed opponents. Faces contorted to produce fear in the foe. Muscles flexed to create awe in the soon-to-be victims. Accusing fingers are pointed and shaken indicating intent. Verbal challenges explode from mouths. 

Meanwhile the crowd chants for their heroes, boo the sinister villains, and cheer every expression of the gallant. 

When you think the warriors are ready to jump over the top rope and clobber each other, all the wrestlers climb down from the ring. They wave at the crowd as they enter the locker rooms. Its over. Everyone goes home.

Ridiculous? Absolutely. 

But this is how some so-called Christians 'wrestle' -- passively.  They attend services. They distort or sadden their countenance. The glare at Satan. Spiritual intent is flashed. The devil is verbally challenged. Everyone gets excited. Then the service is over. They wave at their friends or the preacher, and then go home.

Passive Christians are unprepared for the real world with the real enemy. On Sept 8, a lion trainer was mauled by a lion. Was he being passive with the male lion? Passive Christians will too be mauled by the 'roaring lion'. Was the apostle Paul stoned for being passive? 

Are we ready to wrestle the real enemy that will devour / eat us? Or is this just 'staged' for show?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Music to a Traveler's Ear

I have been blessed to have traveled to two former Soviet block countries (Ukraine -- 5 times, and Belarus). Each trip required landing in either Amsterdam or Vienna after a long night flight over the big pond. Each airport was full of people, but so little I could understand. I know no French, Spanish, German, Hindi or other Asian language or middle-east language. And on the first trip I knew no Russian. The mixture of sound that was unmistakable. 

When I landed in Kiev the sounds were so strange. There was no hint of English anywhere. There was no auditory clues to know what to do or where to go. A certain uncertainty envelopes you and you use all the visual clues you can find, just to find the men's room. 

Then you hear a most welcome sound in the midst of a turbulent room. Someone has just spoken your name in broken English. You hear it through the clutter of voices, and scan with your eyes searching for the origin of this welcome sound. It is the most wonderful sound in 40 hours of traveling. It's truly joy to your ears.
About 9 a.m. on a Sunday it must have sounded much like the modern airports of today. People from more than 17 regions of the Roman world were in town to celebrate this special religious holiday.

The reports of how tornadoes sound could have been similar to what those foreigners heard -- the sound of a powerful wind -- but no wind. Can you see the visitors looking around for a visual clues to match the sound? 

And then they heard the 'music' of their own language, being spoken by Galileans???  Is it different than listening to Cajuns speaking fluent Chinese, Arabic, German, or Bemba (an African tongue)?

Galileans were often racist, socially unstable, and occasionally violent. Galileans hid political activist like Judas of Galilee. Jesus' parents and Jesus himself retreated to Galilee to avoid political fallout. And it was not the kind of place any Messiah / Christ would claim as home. And because there was no local community college with night classes the people were considered ignorant, without class.

Yet it is some of these 'scoundrels' who are speaking a beloved language in a very far away land. They want to listen and investigate what is happening. 

Do you see it? Twelve different languages being spoken by twelve Jewish men to outsiders from distant lands. People moving to get close to the man speaking in their language. 



Neither. It was the promised miracle to introduce God' new way to worship him--HIS church.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"I just step on your crotch..."

In the September 9, 2010 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Section B had an editorial worth reading. It was about 'sagging'.

The 'Barnes Notes' version.
The white writer was a guest at a black family reunion, being a long-time family friend. This family had a preacher, who, this day, was breathing "brimstone" as he called for "...fathers to be fathers, and boys to pull up their baggy britches."  

The preacher continued with references like "...if you want to move up in this world your pants have got to come up too." He pressed his point by reminding everyone how those who are successful at work groom themselves acceptably, and those who are not trying to get a job wear the low-riding pants. Besides, if they were hired, they would spend 1/2 their time pulling their pants up and not working.

Poking fun, he spoke of how he could win any fight with a 'sagger'. "You can't fight with your pants down, can't defend yourself. All I have to do is dance around until your pants fall." The he added, "If I really want to whip you, I just step on your crotch when your pants are down."

I'm sorry. I couldn't hold it any longer. I laughed out loud. So many of the statements were spot-on.  

Keeping my pants from sagging, especially for style, is NOT one of my struggles. There may be enough dun-lap to case them to be pushed down, but not for style.
Instead we may be encouraging boys to remain unemployed, to be with the wrong group of friends when we keep our mouths shut and don't tell the young men to pull up their pants. Maybe? 

What do you think? What would Jesus say or do?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strange Sunday

It was a strange Sunday. It was as though God was directing things himself.
Every preacher in every congregation preached about lieing. Every sermon referenced Ananias and Sapphira.

Ananias & Sapphira sold a piece of property. They wanted the glory of giving 100 per cent when, in fact, they had kept some of the money for themselves. The day Ananias made the contribution, Peter asked him if this was the full value of the property, if the were giving 100 per cent. Ananias said, "Yes." In the short version, Peter told him he had "not lied to men, but to God." He immediately dropped dead.

Three hours later Sapphira showed up. Peter ask a similar question. She too answered "Yes." Peter told her how her conspiracy with her husband effectively tested the Lord. He said the men who had just finished burying her husband will "carry you out." Just like her husband, she too dropped dead.

On that strange Sunday invitation songs were sung. None of the liars repented. They felt the could get away with it this Sunday like all other Sundays. In retrospect it seemed as if God would give the one more chance to make a change. Was God waiting to see if their commitment was to him or to continue sinning?

That is when it happened. The last song had been sung. The closing prayer voiced. People were starting to visit. Suddenly, in every congregation, one man and one woman, known liars, dropped dead. 

This time preachers did not console the families. This time each congregation knew why they died.

Should members be fearful? 

Will lies continue without any second thought? 

Would there be more living without cut-throat competition, brutal tempers exploiding, or addictions?

It should.

But my opinion is that the increased purity would be short-lived. Some disciples will lose their concentration on what happened and go back to their familiar sinful paths.
Why so cynical? Let me ask two questions. First, to show man's tendencies, are you as patriotic as you were on September 12, 2001? Second, would a growing disciple have heard of Ananias and Sapphira and made changes? Just as our patriotic fevor has declined, so has our "great fear...on all who heard these things.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"You want ME to do WHAT???"

He might have said, "You want me to do what???" But he didn't. He felt he was just an ordinary man, but one working hard to dedicate himself to Jesus. No, he didn't live it perfectly. He made ordinary mistakes that any follower might make. He used ordinary language, not like an orator. He lived in an ordinary Jewish home, not like those upper-crust Pharisees in Jerusalem. His home was plain and adequate, not large with plenty of servants. He was just an ordinary man.

But this particular ordinary man had been asked by the Lord to do what most would think as crazy, if not insane. His God-directed mission was to go to the world's most potent persecutor, the Disciple-Killer. He was to talk to this legally-empowered, follower-destroyer about his inability to see and his need to immersed to have his sins forgiven. And the persecutor knew more Bible than he did. An extra ordinary missions given to an ordinary man.

I can just see this ordinary follower approaching the dwelling of the persecutor. I see him hesitate just a moment, before his knocked on the door. I am sure he swallowed twice and took a deep breath. Then he did what God had told him.

Without hesitation, intensely, anxiously, almost hurriedly, the persecutor listens to the words. The persecutor jumps up and tells everyone to "Hurry up! We are going to the river right now!" He follows every instruction of the ordinary man.

The ordinary man can hardly believe what is happening. He is in the river. He baptizing the repentant persecutor. He hears himself say, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost for the remission of your sins." All he was doing was what God said,  "Go,...". A simple man following simple orders.

I am sure he didn't know all the 'softening up' God had done with this tormentor. He didn't know the awkwardness the persecutor felt. He did not know the pleading prayers the oppressor whispered. The persecutor's fasting may not have been obvious to this simple, ordinary man. The ordinary man had heard a simple message from his Lord, and did it. Now, this little plain man felt like a dragon slayer.

It is then I remember a passage from the Book of Acts about how Jewish priests became followers.

I know an ordinary man in Missouri I'll call 'Steve'. He is about as ordinary as they come. He looks after the animals that provide his income. He lives in his wife's grandparents home. He drives small cars and big trucks. He wears blue-jeans and a cowboy hat often. He is just an ordinary man.

But this ordinary man visits with his friends about Jesus. It doesn't matter to him if they are leaders in the Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal churches. He doesn't know if God has been 'softening them up' or not. He talks with them about their souls. He doesn't see himself as a dragon-slayer. I'm certain he seems himself as an ordinary follower who heard his master say, "Go....".

Do you feel religious leaders are too staunch and unchangeable for you, an ordinary follower, to attempt to study with them? Do you feel they know more Bible than you do? Are they unreachable? Or are you afraid? Do you pretend to not hear the Almighty One saying, "Go,..."???

Tell us what you think in the comment box below. Then send this address to 10, maybe 15 of your friends. Help us grow TheStruggle.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fingernails on the Wood.

If you heard him, you would think he sounded much like Jesus. He kept on asking and telling the people the time for change had come. They would not listen. After many years, like Jeremiah, he had not changed a single life. But he continued to do what the Master said.

Like quality scientists, like me (this is where you are to laugh.), he collected samples everywhere, making notes, and gathering life-sustaining information and supplies. Like Darwin on his round-the-world trip of the 1830s, he observed as much as possible and collected what he could. Besides, he himself was going to take a long trip soon. 

Over the years he had traveled so many places and met so many people. Many of them worked with him, but did not comprehend his mission. He was considered goofy, and was always the blunt of their jokes and insults. But he supported them when their family members died. Though they ridiculed him, the community remembered how he and his sons helped them when the earthquake hit six years ago. He was always trying to do right in a town gone wrong.

Then, 15 days ago, he boarded the ship for his journey, doing what the Captain said. The Captain shut the door. He and his wife, his three boys and their wives, were the only ones on board. All the supplies were in place. It was time to set sail.

And then, almost immediately, for the first time in earth's history, it began to rain. And it kept raining in the desert. After 15 days the water was getting dangerously deep. His friends, who had thought he was 'nuts' for building a boat in the desert, had come to the boat looking for the help he always so ready to give.

But no help this time. He, nor his sons, had the strength to open the door and save them. It was getting deeper every moment. His heart ached as he listened to their weakening voices calling for help. They just kept holding on to the boat, their life-raft. He could do nothing.

And then he heard the most horrifying sound ever. It would sear his ears and singe his heart. It was like a scene from the movie Titanic. His neighbors and friends, the very people he had grown to love, the ones he had helped so freely, those who wouldn't listen to his pleadings to change all those years, had been holding on to the side of the boat. It was the sound just before everything went quiet. He heard their fingernails scraping the wood down the side of the boat as they drown, sinking into the deep.

He slide down in a heap on the floor. He sobbed uncontrollably for hours. The sound would not go away. He couldn't get that sound out of his ears. It would be remembered forever.

Yet, Noah never questioned God. It was The Captain who had given him the message of repentance to preach. It was The Captain who sent him all over the world looking for that special wood and gathering supplies for the animals. It was The Captain who had shut the massive door separating Noah and his righteous family from all the sin-filled ways of men.

I'm not Noah. But I will remind you about a time is coming when this world will NOT be destroyed by water, but a time when it will "melt" with fire. And God is collecting 'reservations' for that final trip of mankind.

Please, confirm your reservation as soon as possible. Unlike Noah, I don't know when The Captain is going to shut the door.