Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fighting Demons

We all have them, including me. Those thoughts whose origins are closer to hell than heaven; those impulses to control, manipulate, judge, imply, marginalize, insinuate, or outright destroy; those tendencies to procrastinate, do poorly, disregard, or leave undone; those indulgences of body, mind, kids, friends, prejudices and worse, spirit that deflect responsibility to liberals, conservatives, Arabs, humanists, fast food, and easy gods; those inclinations to throw up the hands, throw in the towel, give up, go the way of the world, and resign to the philosophy of 'that's just the way things are and they ain't never gonna change!' Oh yeah, and maybe a few real demons thrown in for good measure but mostly in less civilized cultures, our made up ones are far more devastating. These demons show up as anger-at the dad for never being around, at the mom for hovering around too much, the spouse who never gave what was needed, at the boss for crazy demands, crazy schedules and ridiculous pay. They manifest themselves as sloth and withdrawal or they go around as their more respectable cousins-workaholism and frenzied activities.You see these demons in the family SUV going to sporting games that fill the calendar and are filled with empty young people with scurrying thumbs and un-stretched souls. In truth they can tell you how to spike a volley ball, throw a curve ball, shoot a basketball and how to have a ball but not how or why to live morally and purposely. All those miles in the back of a suburban and no conversations about Jesus... The demons of modern society goad us on to greed, materialism, apathy, and a brand of moralism that leaves out God and coronates self. With a proper self-image, a good education, a dose of toleration, a proper goal, and a tenacious spirit there's not too much a man or woman can't accomplish in this world. Of course, if someone should happen to have goals beyond this world and its achievements we can just label them as zealots. My demon? Its pretty obvious isn't it. It's name is Cynic. The ancient Greeks birthed its name in a gymnasium extolling virtue and hard work but its history is long, its effects, well, there weren't many positive long-range ones were there? I must fight my demon. I often am beaten down and lost in the fray. It's true, if you don't believe me read the first three paragraphs again. How do I fight this wicked monster and keep it from stealing all joy and hope in a fallen world? The answer is almost too easy. It's so easy it can be overlooked. It is easy to see the effects of a fallen world. We must learn to look deeper or at least differently to see the effects of grace. We who have developed a taste for this juicy demon empty of spiritual calories can find the fullest spiritual feast a bit chewy and the effort to savor that meal a real pain. But if I will but feed my soul this one food, I find myself nourished to dream and fight and persevere while at the same time starving the demon of its power to corrupt. What is this miracle food? It is Truth, plain and simple found in the gospel of Christ. The truth is God has not now nor has He ever abandoned His creation or His people. At this time in our world of war and rumors of war, disease and drought, H1N1 and AIDS, genocide, suicide, and homicide, He still moves. More people come to faith in Christ every day than at any time in history. Estimates are as low as 45,000 and as high as 60,000 people come to follow Christ as Lord each day in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and even several thousand in North America. The church now has over 2 billion who claim Christ as Saviour.* (Rick Warren's mission's website*)The church is so robust in Korea, Africa, and South America that these regions have sent missionaries to the United States to strenghten the church spiritually. Young ministers are sensing the call to ministry in great numbers in many denominations. These young men and women are not enamored with thoughts of power or prestige but will genuinely go anywhere and do all things to advance the kingdom of God and proclaim His righteousness. Their music is different, their methods are unconventional but they are reaching people in places like liberal western Europe that a few years ago was closed to the gospel. As more people are hurting the budgets of churches across our nation have felt the crunch, yet, the outpouring to relief agencies from individuals and churches is keeping such ministries afloat. The Red Cross estimates that during the relief efforts after hurricane Katrina, that 90 % of the meals it served in actuality came from local churches and church relief agencies. The churches responded quickly and effectively while the large agencies and government were tied up in red tape. A large percentage of our kids can expect to live to be a hundred years of age and were it not for lifestyle choices related to obesity and drugs those numbers would apply even greater for our grandchildren. Diseases are being cured or curtailed. Lives are being extended. Limbs can be repaired and joints replaced as never before. The God who said 'be fruitful and multiply' also said to mankind 'fill the earth and subdue it.' That is happening at a rate like never before. The advances will never lead to eternal life by themselves but they may very well extend the time a human has to hear the good news that salvation for eternity comes by no other name than the name of Jesus. So how do you live in such a world where the demons are very real and are seemingly everywhere you look, even internally? Look to the Truth and that Truth is Jesus revealed in His word. Read it. It will help you read the paper and listen to the news with an eternal perspective. We can learn to live with and interpret the times with a faith that is real and balanced. It will see the reality of evil but know the limits of it. It can face the uncertainties of life because it is based on the Certainty of eternity. This faith founded and built on Truth can see the obstacles to living and keep moving forward with joy because this faith enables him to see the end of evil, pain, and suffering in the Kingdom of God. Even a cynic can learn from the Bible truths for living abundantly. When the army of Israel faced the Philistines, the soldiers quaked at the sight of Goliath and effectively said, 'how can we fight such a huge enemy?' David looked at Goliath and said,'How can I miss?' And when you face that greatest of enemies, even the one called Death, and he stares that blank, lifeless stare into your life, stare back with the love of God and watch. It is death that blinks. Still Staring if not Standing, Terry

Monday, November 9, 2009


I have hesitated to write anything about the tragedy of last week at Ft. Hood. So many capable writers, pastors, journalists and politicians have undertaken the task. Many have done so with somber beauty and crystal clarity. 'What could I add?' I thought. I was deeply saddened and enraged with teeth gritting anger. I (God forgive me) was a little miffed when I heard the gunman had lived. Did I really think I wanted another human being dead? I'm still not sure but one thing I wasn't too surprised about is that it happened. Maybe I'm becoming jaded so that even an attack on the world's largest Army post wasn't totally shocking. My lack of surprise had little to do with it being on an Army post, or that a fellow soldier did those people in, or that it was a Muslim that did it. I wouldn't have been surprised too much if a non-Muslim did it either. No it was something else that caused me to be only slightly surprised. Frankly, what surprises me is that there aren't more tragedies. Isn't that horrible to say? What's wrong with me? Am I sick in the heart or something? Maybe I am, but it's for another reason. I've read the Bible. It exposes the heart of humanity with awful honesty. No, there's not some secret prophecy hidden in Habakkuk or some other minor prophet that told me there would be a massacre in Ft. Hood. But the Bible does say this in Romans 3:23: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." What? You thought that meant we were just a little tarnished but basically good once Jesus polished us up a bit? No, it means we all have the evil that causes us to rebel against God and have the capacity to hurt our fellow man. Not clear yet? How about Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (The implication from the next verses and all the Bible is that only God can.) I looked up a dozen other "sinful" passages and they are amazingly consistent from Genesis 3 through the epistles of John--we are infected with the same evil and capable of horrific injustice. Lest we think we aren't, Jesus made it pretty clear how insidious, pervasive, and personal this sin is. Remember how He taught that if a man looks on a woman lustfully he's already committed adultery with her in his heart? If a man is angry with his brother he is guilt of murder (Matt. 5:21-22;27-28). The Bible also teaches of an evil loosed in the world who goes by the name of Satan. The Bible describes him as a thief, liar and murderer. Face it folks, the world is broken and we often trip over the rubble of our brokenness and break some more. I'm amazed more evil stuff doesn't happen and why doesn't it happen more? It's not because the human race is basically good. How many wars and massacres will it take to convince us of that? That's the bad news. The good news is that into a broken world where evil lives and breathes and has its being a tremendous power has also been loosed. That power is the grace and love of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore our hope is in Him and His power to forgive, cleanse, restore and re-create the hearts of men surrendered to His will. This power still moves and lives in the church, Christ's followers, to share the good news of salvation and hope through Jesus Christ. The hope we have is not just in this life but in the life to come. Our hope is an eternal hope that is not stopped by the bullets of a mad man or the ideology of madmen. Our hope is not defined by the length of physical life but by the quality (think abundant) and quantity (think eternal) of life lived by faith in Christ. Whoa, I went off in preaching mode there didn't I? Sorry about that. Capacity. Is that a full or empty word for you? I suppose that depends on how you answer. What fills you? We all have the capacity for evil, horror, and unspeakable sin. Some of it comes out in some peoples lives very publicly and tragically. For many people, the horror and evil is borne internally, with only the guilt and stress of keeping it in check causing our lives to crack a bit from time to time. Jesus has borne our sin. There is no need to carry the burden, it has been lifted. Nidal Hasan either didn't get the message or chose to ignore it. What was in his heart was exposed, and it came to the surface in a horrific act of cowardice and in a manner exposed the problem of the human race. We need help. It has come. Hasan cried out "Allah Akbar" (God is great in Arabic) before he began shooting. But he really didn't know what that meant. One day he will. What will you do with the good news of Christ? Please continue to pray for the families of those who lost their lives and for the recovery of those injured in the Ft. Hood tragedy. Terry