Archive | April, 2012

Slavery

20 Apr

On a recent trip to Central America it was evident how debilitating the Catholic religion is to the people who practice it.

Depending on the country, between 60-98% of Central America is Catholic. The Catholic religion has had several hundred years to shape the area in its own image and now, as a sort of aquarium it provides a look into the effects of Catholicism on culture and people. A person can look and see what the effects of Catholicism as introduced on an existing population are.

We are inevitably influenced by what we dwell on. Irrespective of those many who would protest otherwise, perhaps the greatest single influence on an individual’s personal identity is how he or she sees his or her Creator. It stands to reason that this is even true if people do not believe in a Creator. You have to come from somewhere, and if you trace it back and that ‘somewhere’ is actually nowhere…

Even the evolutionist can’t get away from it, I think.We all come from somewhere, even if its nowhere, and even atheists identify with their parents, who came from their parents, who somewhat earlier descended from their parents, the monkeys. Sobering.

The Catholic representation of God is one of formalism, exclusivity, distance, tyranny. That image is impressed, to a greater or lesser extent, on the minds of every Catholic child, and as the mind grows and develops it can’t help but be impacted by the identity of the being it bows to…

What does it say about this god that he wants penitents to repeat the same phrase over and over to obtain absolution? That he wants people to count beads and say ‘hail Mary’s’ so that he will forgive them for the wrong things they do? That he wants his services in Latin, even though no one understands it? Or that that was what he wanted for over a thousand years, but recently he’s yielded to popular pressure and he lets the priests say mass in English? If that’s the guy that is responsible for my existence, what does it say about me?

He is exclusive and distant. He won’t talk to just anyone. He only talks to the Pope and certain saints whose knuckle bones are under an alter, he discourages reading the actual Word of God yourself because it can’t be understood by commoners (that’s what priests are for), sins can’t be confessed to him directly – they have to go to a guy you can’t really see in a booth who might be playing Tetris instead of paying attention, he leaves people to burn in hell supposedly for absolutely ever without paying the slightest mind to their cries (presumably because he is busy being formalistic with the people he has allowed into heaven, who of course are all Catholics, according to church doctrine.)

He leaves people in purgatory for years and years until someone on the outside does enough bead counting to get them out. He delights in burning and strangling and otherwise mutilating people who disagreed with his representative, the Pope – at least if you can believe that ultimate bad press book ‘Foxes Book Of Martyrs’ and all the historical accounts of events like the Inquisition. He rarely requires any justice or punishment for priestly abuses of his children. And what does that say about him? The Catholic god does not care much if his children are repeatedly beaten and sodomized by his representatives… he lets the Pope just move them to a different location to do it all over again. What does that do to me, if that’s the guy who I’m supposed to worship?

Beholding such a being, worshiping such a being (and how could a person worship out of love?) is identity shaping. And that is what is evident about Central America. Countries are only its people, together.

It’s not the poverty. Yeah. There’s poverty. Lots of it. But the people are held in the grip of misery.  It is a religion of fear, devoid of love. Where there is no love, there is no hope.

Is it a coincidence that majority Catholic nations are given to governmental indifference, corruption and injustice? Is it a coincidence that many people are apathetic and indifferent to their fates, believing that they are unable to change anything because no one will listen to them, not government, not the priests, not God?

Is it coincidental that most throw their garbage on the street instead of in the garbage bin, or that an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is strangely lacking? That imagination is stagnant?

Do you think its a coincidence that the most successful, innovative, liberty-loving nations on earth have their roots in Protestantism? Or that as that Protestantism becomes corrupted and either Atheism or Catholicism gain ascendancy those nations are increasingly stagnant in social cohesion, ethics, imagination, justice, independence?

Is it far fetched to think that what I believe about my Creator, His expectations, His hopes, His plans, His very character will fundamentally impact how I see myself? Others? Life itself?

No.

What I saw in Central America were people who were captives to formalism and superstition – it had crippled their minds and captured the potential of their humanity.

Now think of how you see God. Do you see Him as Christ presented Him? That is one reason that Jesus came to earth, to dispel the myths and shadows around the character of God. There are a lot of myths about God. Catholic culture is full of myths about him.

It is in the person of Christ we see the Father, for Christ is the express image of His person. Jesus said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” In the Father there is no darkness at all.

So what is He like? He’s like Jesus.

Humanity naturally fears God. We know we are guilty and undeserving. But the Gospel shows us that Jesus paid the blood price for us, and that He promises to make us new. He tells us that His Father loves us, and wants to be with us in the same way that He is with Christ Himself. Jesus teaches us how to pray, and there is no human priest required for the Father to hear.

The truth is as far from the error as east is from west. As far as liberty is from slavery.

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The Small Things

18 Apr

One line really captures my attention in the below reference: “He fails of gaining the grace, the power, the force of character, which is received through unreserved surrender.”

The butterfly must struggle to emerge from its prison cocoon to force strength into its tightly curled wings. It’s inheritance is that of winged glory. Yet it will fail to become what it might if the cocoon is opened by an outside agency. It must not falter in its efforts to emerge or it will never fly.

These little duties or tasks with which we are surrounded, some of them annoying or small – they are important. I’m saddened to say that I have not always done them with fidelity.

Yet tomorrow is another day, with new opportunities to redeem the time. That is true both for you and for I. Shall we not strive for glory, in honor of Prince Immanuel?

The following quote is taken from Prophets and Kings, by Ellen White. It is based on 1 Kings 19.

The prophetic call came to Elisha while, with his father’s servants, he was plowing in the field. He had taken up the work that lay nearest. He possessed both the capabilities of a leader among men and the meekness of one who is ready to serve. Of a quiet and gentle spirit, he was nevertheless energetic and steadfast. Integrity, fidelity, and the love and fear of God were his, and in the humble round of daily toil he gained strength of purpose and nobleness of character, constantly increasing in grace and knowledge. While co-operating with his father in the home-life duties, he was learning to co-operate with God.

By faithfulness in little things, Elisha was preparing for weightier trusts. Day by day, through practical experience, he gained a fitness for a broader, higher work. He learned to serve; and in learning this, he learned also how to instruct and lead. The lesson is for all. None can know what may be God’s purpose in His discipline; but all may be certain that faithfulness in little things is the evidence of fitness for greater responsibilities. Every act of life is a revelation of character, and he only who in small duties proves himself “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” can be honored by God with higher service. 2 Timothy 2:15.

He who feels that it is of no consequence how he performs the smaller tasks proves himself unfit for a more honored position. He may think himself fully competent to take up the larger duties; but God looks deeper than the surface.
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After test and trial, there is written against him the sentence, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” His unfaithfulness reacts upon himself. He fails of gaining the grace, the power, the force of character, which is received through unreserved surrender.

Because they are not connected with some directly religious work, many feel that their lives are useless, that they are doing nothing for the advancement of God’s kingdom. If they could do some great thing how gladly they would undertake it! But because they can serve only in little things, they think themselves justified in doing nothing. In this they err. A man may be in the active service of God while engaged in the ordinary, everyday duties–while felling trees, clearing the ground, or following the plow. The mother who trains her children for Christ is as truly working for God as is the minister in the pulpit.

Many long for special talent with which to do a wonderful work, while the duties lying close at hand, the performance of which would make the life fragrant, are lost sight of. Let such ones take up the duties lying directly in their pathway. Success depends not so much on talent as on energy and willingness. It is not the possession of splendid talents that enables us to render acceptable service, but the conscientious performance of daily duties, the contented spirit, the unaffected, sincere interest in the welfare of others. In the humblest lot true excellence may be found. The commonest tasks, wrought with loving faithfulness, are beautiful in God’s sight.

As Elijah, divinely directed in seeking a successor, passed the field in which Elisha was plowing, he cast upon the
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young man’s shoulders the mantle of consecration. During the famine the family of Shaphat had become familiar with the work and mission of Elijah, and now the Spirit of God impressed Elisha’s heart as to the meaning of the prophet’s act. To him it was the signal that God had called him to be the successor of Elijah.

“And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.” “Go back again,” was Elijah’s answer, “for what have I done to thee?” This was not a repulse, but a test of faith. Elisha must count the cost–decide for himself to accept or reject the call. If his desires clung to his home and its advantages, he was at liberty to remain there. But Elisha understood the meaning of the call. He knew it was from God, and he did not hesitate to obey, Not for any worldly advantage would he forgo the opportunity of becoming God’s messenger or sacrifice the privilege of association with His servant. He “took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” 1 Kings 19:20, 21. Without hesitation he left a home where he was beloved, to attend the prophet in his uncertain life.

Had Elisha asked Elijah what was expected of him,–what would be his work,–he would have been answered: God knows; He will make it known to you. If you wait upon the Lord, He will answer your every question. You may come with me if you have evidence that God has called you. Know for yourself that God stands back of me, and
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that it is His voice you hear. If you can count everything but dross that you may win the favor of God, come.

Similar to the call that came to Elisha was the answer given by Christ to the young ruler who asked Him the question, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” “If thou wilt be perfect,” Christ replied, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.” Matthew 19:16, 21.

Elisha accepted the call to service, casting no backward glance at the pleasures and comforts he was leaving. The young ruler, when he heard the Saviour’s words, “went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Verse 22. He was not willing to make the sacrifice. His love for his possessions was greater than his love for God. By his refusal to renounce all for Christ, he proved himself unworthy of a place in the Master’s service.

The call to place all on the altar of service comes to each one. We are not all asked to serve as Elisha served, nor are we all bidden to sell everything we have; but God asks us to give His service the first place in our lives, to allow no day to pass without doing something to advance His work in the earth. He does not expect from all the same kind of service. One may be called to ministry in a foreign land; another may be asked to give of his means for the support of gospel work. God accepts the offering of each. It is the consecration of the life and all its interests, that is necessary. Those who make this consecration will hear and obey the call of Heaven.

Permanence.

15 Apr

It’s been a month. And I can sure tell by looking at the increasingly humble statistics of this blog. The world is as tired of reading about Rick Santorum as I am of writing about him. But never fear – unless Santorum winds up on Romney’s ticket as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate, I am finished blogging about him for a while.

I was in Central America on a mission trip for almost the past 3 weeks. The trip was a blessing and will doubtless provide ample blog ammo in the days to come.

But tonight I simply want to recount that a friend of mine’s house burned to the ground this week. He awoke to find it in flames around him and had time only to grab a few personal items and escape. He says it must have been his guardian angel that woke him to his peril.

I wrote to him to tell him how sorry for his loss. He wrote me back, and I hope he won’t mind me posting his response.
“Thank you for your kind thoughts.  Things are going pretty good.  There are a couple of things you can count on in life:

-your stuff is going to burn up in the lake of fire and in some cases sooner
-you are going to die and leave your stuff behind.  If you live to see the second coming you can escape death, but you will still leave your stuff behind.
So, remember what is really important in life.  You can take two things to heaven:
-your character
-and people you have influenced to make right choices.
Cleaning up the the rubble, I found a piece of paper with the following written on it:
           “When the Light of the world passes by, privilege will be discerned in            hardship, order in confusion, success in apparent failure.  Calamities will be seen as disguised blessings; woes, as mercies.”
-Education, page 270.”

 

His response made me think again, as I have so often of late, about the transitory nature of this life, and of the vanity of our pursuits. They can be taken from us in an instant. This happened to my friend. Yet he does not count himself poor. That which is most important to him cannot burn.

Can we say the same thing?

What we eat, what we wear – Jesus said that a man’s life consists not of these things. He told us because it is easy, natural, for the fallen heart to think otherwise.

Jesus counseled the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:18 to buy of Him gold tried in the fire.

Now Laodicea had a lot of gold. That was one of their problems: they were rich and increased with goods. They thought they had need of nothing because of their temporal prosperity. But Jesus told them that they were wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked, but did not realize it. He offered them something real, instead. Something eternal.

The gold Christ offers to us here, at the end of ages, is the gold of His spotless character, the purity of a reborn heart that works by faith and love. The self sacrificing service of a reborn heart lays up treasure in heaven.

Everything else though, will burn up, melt, and be consumed.