Nov 16, 2009

The Ugly Gospel

The Gospel that saved my own soul, and that of so many others, had what might be called, An Ugly Side. In other words, it had a dimension composed of things which simply did not fit well into my initial idea of a Beautiful Gospel.

I much preferred that idyllic Beautiful Gospel, of course.  It was a Gospel that I could easily appreciate, a Gospel of forgiveness, and grace, and compassion, and God's unconditional love. But nevertheless, I could not seem to escape those relentless intrusions from that Ugly Side.

For example, when I first encountered Christ through that more pleasant Gospel, the Ugly Gospel insisted that I take the time to actually survey and acknowledge the darkness of my own heart.  What bitter pill to swallow. 

Nevertheless, I was pressed by this more unpleasant Gospel to confront the real depths of my inner darkness. I didn't really like that process. But, as I looked, I was very humbled (the whole purpose of the exercise) to discover that, indeed, my inner darkness actually did run much deeper than I ever knew before.  

It was also this Ugly Gospel which brazenly declared that I could no longer be in charge.  I had interpreted the Beautiful Gospel to be merely a kind of do-over opportunity where my life schemes would now become God-blessed, and thus, much more successful.  

But, the Ugly Gospel was quite insistent on a complete reinterpretation of that childish thinking. That Ugly Gospel clearly stated that the way forward was not at all about my plans, but all about God's plans for me.  It presented as NON-NEGOTIABLE, the idea that I must be wholeheartedly willing to embrace, not only God's directions for my life, but also the entirety of His value system.  

Now, I ask you, what human being would ever want to give up their personal sovereignty in this way? Who would ever be willing to surrender their schemes, and their dreams, and their personal destiny to someone else - even to God? 

Well, wait. I guess, I would. Because, I did.  And really, now, it doesn't even seem like much of a thing - especially when you  consider how messed up my life was and what I got in return.  

I guess it was also the Ugly Gospel which demanded that I recognize my own limitations and my very real vulnerabilities (that humbling thing again). It was the pressure of that Gospel which helped me to finally take a realistic view of life. 

And, being forced to face up to my own frailties helped me to really see the overwhelming complexity of life's treacheries and just how vicious and heartless its randomness can be. And, that, in turn, helped me to see my own absolute inability to face up to and manage life's challenges without God's help. 

And, in truth, I guess it was also the Ugly Gospel which helped fashion my new idea of what I wanted for an outcome to my personal story.  Under the press of that Gospels larger view of things, I was able to see that what I really wanted and needed was a destiny which truly got beyond just the small, now stuff to the big, eternal stuff.  

But, when you wrap it all up in a sentence, what the Ugly Gospel ultimately taught me is this:  The way up is down. The way to rise is to truly bow in thorough humility before God. 

But, what a wonderful surprise to find complete victory and fulfillment through that humiliation.  To be sure, the process of my humiliation did seemed kind of harsh and unattractive at first - but now - not so much.

Now, after a million conversations, tender moments, and profound insights; after debating the issues, crying together, laughing together, and sorting through the complexities of life - I have now confirmed that it is true! A very durable and deeply fulfilling friendship with God does, indeed, grow out of this Ugly Gospel Process.  

So, by now, you probably see my dilemma. My Ugly Gospel is all mixed up with my Beautiful Gospel. And now, I can no longer tell the difference between the two. What is a boy to do?

Nov 2, 2009

The Ending

How do we keep the affairs of this life in check? How do we hold to the godly priority which the Apostle Paul gives us in Romans, chapter 2, where he says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

How can we insure that our immersion in this physical / material world will not rob us of the pilgrimage attitude that the Hebrew writer speaks of regarding people of faith when he says, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland."

How can we be sure that the divine imperative of Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." will not fade under the long abrasions of a busy life which demands so much?

Well, there are ways. There are some that you would probably expect me to mention: staying in the Word of God, maintaining the good habit of going to "the Garden," and remaining involved in the Church. 

But, beyond those things, I think one of the most effective ways to stay consistently motivated in Christ is simply to occasionally revisit, with some focus and intensity, the seriousness which surrounds the outcome of the human soul.  When it comes to the destiny of our soul, it really helps to regularly reconfirm to our self, this simple imperative: "I must not mess this up!"  

Indeed, there are no do-overs when it comes to our ultimate end.  So we dare not let the Devil, or stupidity, or ignorance, or laziness, or bad theology, or any other thing keep us from our own true success story in Christ.

We must not inadvertently insulate ourselves from authentic truth with a bunch of half-baked, cobbled together, sound-good religious clich├ęs. We must not excuse ourselves. We must not delude ourselves. And we must not be distracted by the siren song of the material attractions that are all around us. 

So, it really helps to occasionally focus on the importance of how our personal story will end.  And, it helps to remember that we are really only here to write that ending.

And, regarding this occasional reality check, here is what we know. We know (at least some in our species do) that God has given us a revelation of redemptive truth in Jesus Christ. And, indeed, He has taken a long time and extended great care to show us the correct redemptive path through Christ. But, we also know that this true path has become shrouded in confusion.

For various reasons and motives, human beings often misinterpret the redemptive truth or ignore it altogether. And when you add to those mistakes, the adversary's half truths and outright lies that have been inserted into the mix of our religious thought life, honestly, it's no wonder so many have trouble writing a successful ending to their story.

Nevertheless, it remains a fact of reality.  A large part of the responsibility for sorting out this informational mess is, indeed, on us.  It is up to us to decide our way through the fog of Satanic lies, ambiguous and phony religion, silly philosophies, and our own demanding "druthers" to arrive at authentic, divinely-given truth.

The decision to reject or embrace an idea, to pick and choose our devotions in life, and to set priorities is ultimately ours. Thus, while it is true that the Holy Spirit constantly whispers guiding truth to each of us; in the final analysis, it remains our responsibility to pick out the ring of God's truth from the rest of life's discordant notes.

And if, indeed, we fail in this vetting task, so that we sort it all out badly, then the correlation is very direct.  In that case, our personal story will also end very badly.  And, no disaster could possibly be worse or more absolute than the final wreck of the human soul.

In that event, we are plunged into an abyss of unimaginable suffering. And worse yet, that suffering will never end. 

Thus, the crushing atmosphere of complete hopelessness will surround us. And we will forever become one of the nameless, faceless millions in a churning, screaming sea of failed humanity - all victims of their own bad calls in this life.

And, to be sure, there are, indeed, a lot of distractions in this life which would take our time and energy away from what is truly important. There is a lot of bad information which deceptively passes itself off as truth to take us in the wrong direction. And, there are many of us who just don't much care either way because we're too busy chasing the toys and trinkets of life. 

But, be assured, standing on that "forever brink," the burning questions will not involve money or hobbies or jobs or ownership. Rather, the questions which will then rise urgently to the top will be those of personal investment, and directions, priorities, and choices. But, in that last terrifying hour, there will no longer be any opportunity to improve our answers, and thus, our end.

So, it really does help to occasionally reconfirm to our self, in the strongest possible terms, that there actually is one issue which truly supersedes all others.  It is this issue of how our personal story ends.  And, we gain even more help when we add to that confirmation, one more:  the certainty that we are writing that ending every single day in the script of our every decision.


     "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

     "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 

     "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

     "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." 
     - From:  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John

Sep 27, 2009

Classic Evil

There is a reason why the Darkness continues to use the same old tired, tattered, and torn tactics against a gullible and/or uninformed humanity. It is because they continue to work well. The simple truth is - we just never seem to "get it." So, generation after generation we "get it" in the neck.

Satan's treachery is not hard to spot, really, as it has been around since Adam and Eve. And it is very well exposed in the book of Genesis. When we read, with godly enlightenment, the account of the adversary's subversion of the first couple in chapter 3 (NKJV), we can easily see what we should be on guard against. Consider what the verses say there...

Genesis 3:1. "Now the serpent was more cunning [subtle] than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?'' (Brackets added)

There are actually four of his favorite tactics revealed in this first verse alone. The first is Subtlety. The adversary's approach is never, never, never straight forward. Always there is a hidden agenda that he begins to pursue from an oblique direction. 

Have you ever met an alcoholic or a drug addict that started out to be one, to ruin his or her life through substance abuse. Probably not. Rather the dark voice simply promised them a "good time" or "relief from the pain" or some other angular enticement from which to begin to move slowly toward his real agenda - the destruction of another human life and soul.

The adversary knows that the gullible will always go for an easy lie over a hard truth.  And, he knows that we are prone not to question personal benefit. So typically, that is the point where his subtlety originates. 

He usually offers the easy, the fun, the gratifying, the immediate, without ever showing the real or extended cost. He always shows the "bait." He never shows the "hook." That is the substance of subtlety; and it still works well on humanity, even today.

The second tactic revealed in this verse is the Characterization of God as "intrusive" to the human existence. The taunting tone in the verse is that of someone greatly offended. It’s more like, "Surely God did not dare to say that you could not eat of all of the trees in the Garden!" 

The idea is to make God appear restrictive rather than protective, which was the real circumstance. So God was made to seem evil instead of good because He imposed restriction. That tactic, to plant the idea that "God is somehow holding us back" has always been very effective and still works quite well on a clueless humanity today.

The third tactic revealed in this verse is Superfluous Dialog. He simply got Eve to talking about something which needed no discussion at all. The adversary has known from the beginning that "truth can be talked literally to death." 

So he merely gets us to talking, for example, the moral tenets of God's word.  It goes something like this. "Well, now let’s talk about this for a minute. Is homosexuality really wrong? Is morality, itself, really all that necessary to the well being of society. Couldn't we have a better and more inclusive society if we were not so inhibited by these archaic ideas. Let’s at least open a dialog on the subject. That is only reasonable." 

Thus, he robs a susceptible individual or society of moral direction and fortitude by simply talking away clarity. So good principles simply die the slow death of "stupid and superfluous dialog."

Finally, the fourth tactic of the adversary that is revealed in this verse is what we would, today, call "Spin."  To add Spin is to present the truth in a way that flatters your purpose and hides any contrary indications. 

The mis-characterization of God that we discussed earlier is a good example of Satanic spin. The benevolent restriction that God placed on the first couple was presented in such a way that it appeared to be a bad thing instead of a good thing. The adversary did not technically misquote the idea, he just used wording and voice inflection to color is presentation in a way that gratified his subversive purposes.  Hello spin.

Verses 2-3. "And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'''

So the woman, now caught up in the superfluous dialog, continues the conversation. She starts to clarify the truth for the adversary, believing that she can correct his misconception with good information. 

How naive we sometimes are when it comes to spiritual treachery of Satan's Hidden Agendas. She had no clue as to what was really in play here - as is ofter the case with most of humanity when it comes to the adversary’s destructive plotting.

Verses 4 -5. "And the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'  [Brackets added]

The adversary knows that to achieve his hidden agenda he must remove the idea of consequence. And, in doing so he reveals his another classic tactic of his subversion. It is to Confront  divine truth and paint it as ridiculous." 

So here, in a brazen confrontation of the God's truth, he completely reverses what Eve has been told. He says, in effect, without presenting any real basis for his statement, It just isn't so. You will not die if you do as I say.  It would seem that Satan's idea is that - if you say it with enough confidence, they'll believe it. And so often, that is, indeed, the case.

Also, in these verses, we see another classic tactics of the Darkness:  the use of entirely lie-based promises.  When the Devil says to Eve, "You will be like God," he is actually using that lie as the means to assure her of a false promise.  He is indicating that  she will no longer have to be dependent on God.  Rather, she can become her own god, and thus, the master of her own destiny. And, apparently, the glitter of that promise blinded her to its baseless nature. 

And, this first lie-based promise was quickly followed by the second one that Knowledge is the key to that end.  Satan says, "You will be like God, knowing good and evil." 

The truth that he does not tell Eve is that the knowledge that he is encouraging her to trust in is not an objective knowledge which is rooted in God’s all knowing wisdom. It is an entirely subjective knowledge. In other words, good and evil will then center entirely around what seems good or evil to her, and for her.

 And the knowledge that Adam gains from that same forbidden fruit will be exactly the same:  what seems good or evil to him and for him. And on and on it will go throughout the ranks of humanity. Welcome to the source of all human conflict and the bane of the human experience - a subjective, a very personalized view of good and evil.

So, Satan brazenly lied to Eve to awaken a false sense of promise in her. Sometimes he lies by omission. Sometime he lies by using partial truths. And sometimes his lies are absolutely brazen, as were these.  

But lying is the very backbone of his classic behavior.  And he is good at it. So much so, that literally countless souls have perished on the rocks of the siren call of his pleasant lies.

Verse 6-8  "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden."

Finally, we note the outcome of the great treachery when it’s finished. "...And Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God..."  The outcome is always the same.  It is a lonely and guilty isolation from a loving God. 

Adam and Eve turned their back on God’s love and, instead, chose a deluded course of self-determination. It was a foolish choice based in lies and subtle deception with no substantial promise at all.

And sadly, even in this late hour of history, humanity still goes for that same old tattered and torn treachery. And even when Christ clearly exposes this devilish deception for what it is and offers a the better way, still, many choose delusion over God's liberating truth. 

Perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves  is to simply return to the Program and refresh our memory as to who the Players are:  

     The Good Guy ....................God
     The Bad Guy ......................Satan
     The Child in the Room ......Humanity

Maybe if each generation could simply master this much as they enter the theater, it would make it easier for them to then follow and correctly interpret the true plot of The Redemptive Drama.  

Sep 7, 2009


The Apostle John said, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."  Love is always at least as much what you do, as it is what you feel. And sometimes it is entirely what you do as opposed to what you feel.  

In any case, love, as an action, must never become dependent on emotion to survive or to express itself. And, in all cases, love must always habor its basic identity as a vibrant sense of moral responsibility for the well being of others.

The simplist concept of sin that I know is merely this: Selfishness, And, active love is both the absolute antithesis and the perfect remedy for that flaw. 

Thus, very basic to the new character that we are given in Christ is the reality of a love which acts in devotion to the well-being of others on all of the commons of life: in the family, the workplace, the school etc.   And, it does so always - in harmony with divine truth.


How long prevails the darkness Lord
That snares our dreams
And rears the head of the ugliest things.

We weep and fight and struggle and kill
To have, and to horde,
Only to find that we weep the more.

We crush the dreams of others
To mortar the tower of our own
And still it does not rise.

On any scale, the circle of one
Is always far too small.
Enduring joy only lives in the broader circle of all.

And though we emerge from the human sea,
One, alone, to scoff at the rest,
Yet time, and wisdom, and the judgment of God will put us to the test.

And finally, far too late we'll see,
That all along, we were but trapped,
In the circle that was Me.