The Interpreter Shows Christian a Stately Palace

From The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan:

I saw also, that the Interpreter took him again by the hand, and led him into a pleasant place, where was built a stately Palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which, Christian was greatly delighted; he saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.

Then said Christian, May we go in thither?

Then the Interpreter took him and led him up toward the Door of the Palace; and behold, at the Door stood a great Company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table side, with a book, and his inkhorn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein: He saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze: At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance, come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, Set down my name, Sir; the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his Sword, and put an Helmet upon his head, and rush toward the Door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force: But the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the Palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the Palace, saying,

Come in, Come in:
Eternal Glory you shall win.

So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled, and said, I think verily I know the meaning of this. Now, said Christian, let me go hence. Nay, stay (said the Interpreter) till I have showed you a little more, and after that you shall go on your way.

Advertisements

The Church’s Trump Dilemma

INTRODUCTION

I’ve decided to lay out the foundations of my claim that Donald Trump should never have been unquestioningly supported by Christian believers in the American Church, and how that support has damaged the veracity and witness of the Church in the eyes of the world, perhaps for many years to come. I did not draw these conclusions with flippancy or haughtiness, but I read, listened and wrestled with various viewpoints and information about this issue for nearly two years. While I could have written an even longer discussion on the unacceptability of the Church’s supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, for the most part I know Christians did not do so, which makes that argument unnecessary. Suffice it to say that many of the cautions and points I raise about Mr. Trump could also be applied to Mrs. Clinton. My goal in writing is to show the workings of my thought process and the conclusions I reached, both for my own sake as a kind of record, and in an effort to teach my children the necessity of a faith that asks pertinent questions and searches for answers without fear and, once those answers are discovered, applies them to real life, “knowing” them in the biblical sense of the word, letting the chips fall where they may.

I have always felt more concern for, and had more interest in, what is happening in the life of the Church than with the United States at large. I am not a nationalist. I’m not even very patriotic. I don’t pledge allegiance to a flag, and I don’t have an “America First” mentality. “Our citizenship is in heaven,” the apostle wrote. While here on the earth by God’s decision I am part of a larger Body of Christ whose purpose is to bring God glory and represent Him faithfully, to be perfected in love and unity, and to seek the good of the land of our sojourn. It’s a place where many different ideas exist and contentions often arise. But the aim of my life is to serve that Body. My allegiance, passions, prayers, energies and thoughts are with the Bride until my Master takes me home. The behavior of my fellow believers – including everything they have said and done in this election year – is of primary interest and concern to me, simply because I am connected to them for better or for worse.

Before I get to specifics, I must first touch on some general cultural dynamics within the American Church community which make this volatile and vitriolic election year a difficult subject to discuss with others, much less come to agreement on. While they may seem unrelated to my declared subject, if you’ll bear with me it will hopefully become obvious why they are pertinent to the larger picture.

Continue reading

The Fruit of the Land

It is in die Domini 15,037 and for the past several days I’ve been experiencing an unusual amount of fear regarding my financial and work situations. Now that I’m starting to regain strength from a long period of sickness, I find my gratitude for health hampered by the awareness that I must find employment and a means of providing for my family in an area where not much work is available and new medical constraints are a factor.

Last week my thoughts ran to the phrase, “the fruit of the land,” which is found in the book of Numbers, chapter 13. On the brink of entering the country promised to Abraham and his descendants, Moses sent spies – respected leaders from each of the tribes of Israel – into the land to reconnoiter it and its inhabitants. He specifically mentioned that they should “Make an effort to get some of the fruit of the land.” Their mission lasted forty days and they returned saying, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” Their assessment was that the land was good, but that they were unable to possess it because of the visible circumstances.

Although they had seen God’s power unleashed on the Egyptians, and tread on dry ground through the Red Sea, and witnessed God’s glory on Mount Sinai and in the pillar of fire and cloud, at that moment they turned to accusing God. They said it would have been better to die in Egypt or in the wilderness. They hatched a plan to find another leader, who would take them back to Egypt where food and shelter were provided though they were slaves. “Why is the LORD bringing us into the land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”

Tomorrow is Election Day. For months I have been hearing the older generation of evangelical Christians declare the necessity of voting for an openly unrepentant and immoral man “for the sake of the children.” Besides that I am personally in a place where the security and provision for my family is in my daily thoughts.

But here’s what I know. I know that God led me and my family to Brunswick County, North Carolina. Through the eyes of flesh, we lost the house we owned and the job which provided insurance and security. I lost my good credit rating as the house sat on the market for a year, unsold. The cause of my illness remains basically unknown, and even now my health is uncertain in the long-term. One after another doors were opened to bring us to this region, with signs confirming and the Lord’s provision and encouragement all along the way. Then a couple months ago, a prophetic word: You’re coming into a fruitful season. You’ve sought the fruit before and wondered why it wasn’t there, but it wasn’t about anything you did or didn’t do: it’s just a matter of the timing of God.

If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:19)

Because of fear and doubt, the people who accused God would not possess the land, though He had set His affection on them, delivered them from cruel bondage, and even pardoned them from immediate death. But God promised that their children – who must soon bury them – would indeed enter that land of promise. The best course of action for those truly concerned about their children is personal and collective obedience to God.

But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them. (Psalm 103:17-18)

It is one thing to behold and taste the grapes that someone brought back to us. That’s only the first step. It is another thing entirely to obey God’s command to possess the land. The Word must be made flesh. It is sweet to our taste, but bitter in our stomachs. God wants us to participate with Him in the process of unfolding revelation, of truth in the innermost being that is appropriated not just with mental consent or even rejoicing, but in daily experience where walls exist and giants walk.

In this Day I am encouraging myself in the Lord to live a life of expectation and faith, not one ruled by fear and doubt.

Apparent Discrepancies in 2 Samuel 23 & 1 Chronicles 21

A young man on Facebook said this in a conversation about the above two passages, which deal with the account of King David’s census of the men of Israel, which he used as “evidence” that the Bible itself cannot be trusted:

First, we already agreed we weren’t interpreting outside the context of the whole. So, in context of the bigger picture, God stirring David was because God already knew the outcome of the situation and was leading David toward a result he already wanted to happen. For some reason God wanted David to disobey, to meet an end of his. This is further evidenced by Romans 9. God makes arbitrary decisions on our fates regardless of what choices we make. We could be absolutely righteous, but if God wanted something else to happen, he would make it so regardless of our choices in life, for he has already decided everything. With that in mind, what purpose could he have for killing people (who I argue had no involvement with the census, other than being forced to do it by their king), many innocent people who did no other wrong than being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
And since you brought it up, you can argue the semantics of the first couple sentences and twist the words around so that it fits what you want it to say, but you can’t argue that the numbers given (in these accounts which you agree are the same) are completely different. In this supposedly divinely inspired book, two people give different numbers in accounts of the same event. Why the mistake? And if there’s this one mistake which we have direct evidence of, how many are there where we don’t have a second account to compare?

My response follows:

Continue reading

A False Gospel of Convenience

The morning of Day 15,010 has fallen on a Tuesday. The air is crisp outside and the meteorologists predict abundant sunshine and dry weather for the remainder of the week. Even though I am currently unemployed, I have quite a lot to do today: the yard debris washed in by Hurricane Matthew will take a long time to clean up, and I am working on creating an advertising brochure for a local business. Working in the yard the past couple of days I picked up a couple of fire ant bites: I am highly allergic to fire ants. Fire ants are capable of both biting and stinging. Whatever they do, even one ant’s attack causes significant hot swelling and an oozing, burning pustule, followed by painful swelling and itching which lasts a week or more. I take Benadryl sometimes to try and mitigate my body’s reaction to the little devils, and in spite of doing so last night I still woke up several times during the night with pain and itching on my ankle, where one got me two days ago.

I have not been able to get over to the beach to see the ocean since last week because authorities have kept the whole town off-limits to visitors since the hurricane. Apparently they’re having problems with flooding and the sewer system.

I need to do some quality reading today, as I have not been doing anything but checking the weather and the news concerning the election for almost a week. A lot of people I know are going a little crazy over this year’s election cycle. It’s the Christians I really pity, though. Fear is causing many of them to misplace their faith in a man who is incapable of satisfying their hopes: Donald Trump. It’s really grieved me to see people I respected – people who used to decry the lack of morality in our country – now back an unrepentant, solipsistic, immoral man as their chosen leader. Some are even prophesying in the Lord’s name or saying he is anointed by God, a kind of messiah-figure.

This election cycle has exposed American Christianity for what it really is: a heresy rooted in a false gospel of convenience. Same ancient problem that anyone with a heart to know can read in the narrative of the Scriptures which the Lord has given us for our guidance and edification. But people can’t or won’t see it. Revelation must come from God. Perhaps the Church will turn to the Lord and His revealed Word after suffering dashed hopes and disappointment as a result of this rash and carnal course. That’s my prayer.

I will close to pay attention to the work of the day. I am in Him.

15,000 Days Through Water, Fire & Blood

On October 1 of this year, I quietly celebrated an anniversary of 15,000 days in this reality, thanking God for life and the opportunity to know Him. I thanked Him for His plan and purpose, for His word which sustains me and gives me hope, and for the people He has placed around me: my parents, friends past and present, various servants of God who have touched my life, my precious beautiful wife, and the children He has given me. I praised Him for all the little things in life: a woman who reflects His love and lays beside me every night, hot coffee in the mornings, a body that functions and is recovering, and senses that can perceive and appreciate the beauty of mountains, seas and distant stars. I have never lacked a place to sleep, a place to live, clothes to wear, or food to eat. I took time to appreciate His diversity in creation and in the personalities of people: I thanked Him for giving me a searching heart and a mind that asks questions. I also considered the many experiences and trials I have encountered, the successes and failures of my brief life, and how faithful and unchanging His mercies have been through all of them.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

I meditated on my travel through waters: from my mother’s womb, from Christ’s side on the Cross, through the flood of baptism and the washing of the water of the Word. I thanked Him for the fires of life: the trials and sufferings through which the Holy Spirit burns the chaff of my existence and disconnects me from the affections of earth to which my soul cleaves. And I thanked Him for Jesus, for His plan of life through the blood and sacrifice of a God who knows suffering, who suffers with me. I thanked Him for repentance. I thanked Him for the eternal Church, a place of rest in His imperishable temple, and for the brothers and sisters to whom He has joined me in these last days in the measurement of time.

I don’t deserve any of it; nothing I have done or not done has merited my standing in Him. It is His good pleasure. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. If I should live another 15,000 days, I want to live them all in Him.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. – Revelation 4:11

His Truth is Eternal

Five in the afternoon of the 14,990th day of life in this realm, and I just used the Keurig the girls bought for our household last week to make a cup of coffee. It’s rare for me to drink coffee this late in the day but I’m tired and frustrated, and I figured it might perk me up a little before church this evening. I spent yesterday and today running around, toting people places and doing errands and getting nothing accomplished.

I’ve been jogging or walking nearly every morning for the past two months, along with lifting weights and a little yoga sprinkled in to try and loosen everything up. In the past, exercise would make me feel more energetic but on the heels of whatever’s wrong with me circumstances have changed and I just feel exhausted all the time. Most days I want to take a nap, or at least lie down. When I first got sick last November it turned out I had pneumonia and reactivated mononucleosis, on top of the raging asthma. I felt tired then, too. Now I find myself tempted to drink too much coffee or even dip nasty black tobacco, just to keep going. Stupid. I should just go buy some caffeine tablets, crush ’em and snort ’em up my nose.

It’s exasperating because I really want to get back to work. I’ve been throwing a few lines out into the job market just to see what bites. At this point I don’t know how I would return to work feeling the way I feel, but it doesn’t hurt to scope out the scene in case the long-term disability people decide to cancel my benefits or something. I went to the pulmonologist early this month and she seemed pleased with how my lungs sounded; she said she’d order another lung function test in January. I don’t really understand what her long-term treatment plan is: I can only safely take Xolair for two years because it’s got a lot of side effects, including higher risk of certain cancers. Maybe allergy shots are the next step?

I’ve been reading and praying my way through a study book called The Tabernacle of Moses by Kevin J. Conner. It’s a very enlightening and rewarding study of the Tabernacle. It’s weird that I’ve been in church my whole life and am just now getting around to carefully studying the Tabernacle, but recently I sensed it was something the Lord would have me do, so I ordered the book a couple weeks ago. In the introduction the author noted that in the biblical record God spent two of our “chapters” explaining the creation of the habitation of man, and noted how much we work and delight in studying all that pertains to that creation, but God then went into painstaking detail concerning His own dwelling place for 43 consecutive chapters and made subsequent reference to it repeatedly throughout the rest of the Scriptures. And I have basically ignored it my whole life. Conner mentioned that in the introduction too: that the subject is one of the least studied, explored or understood parts of the Word of God. It just goes to show we don’t value things that God has revealed, we don’t emphasize things that God emphasizes. It is blowing my mind on a daily basis and I find myself praising God as I study. His truth is eternal.

School Daze

It is a Friday morning and this is the 14,971st day of my existence by God’s design, calling, choosing and favor, and I awoke at 5 AM to thank Him for life. This has been an eventful week in our household, as all three boys are going to public school this year, especially for Garrett and Winston who are attending regular classes for the first time ever.

Both of them fussed about wanting to stay home today, Garrett saying he had a sore throat, and Winston saying that he “didn’t want to go to school every day.” We sent both of them to school: Garrett didn’t have a fever and Winston – the kindergartner – has to learn that school happens every weekday. It’s a big adjustment.

One amusing thing is that Garrett has said that for three days he’s sat down at a corner of an empty table for lunch in the cafeteria — at a different table each day — and the same group of girls has followed him, sitting themselves down wherever he has chosen to sit. Garrett is tall for his age and spent the summer lifting weights, and he also has a sense of style and likes to look nice. (He takes after my dad that way: my father never looked like a slob like I often do.) Garrett has just entered 8th grade, and since he is new to the school it adds an element of “bright, shiny and new” in the eyes of his onlookers there. It amuses me that Garrett seems mostly unaware of how attractive this might make him to girls at the middle school; when telling us about the “moving girls” he seemed to regard it as a total mystery. Of course I haven’t said a word to expound the mystery to him. I hope that as he becomes more aware he will continue to focus on his academics and personal growth and not get distracted by the wild drama that always plagues teenaged “romantic” relationships. I’ve been praying that God will send him a friend or two of the male persuasion, boys who have some background in families with morality, stability and good sense. I have talked to my children often of being friendly to everyone, but not getting too intimate or close to people that are plainly following a different path.

At the same time, I’ve told them their attraction to the opposite sex is totally natural. It’s just a question of proper timing.

Throughout my mid-to-late teens, I was interested in the Bible and pursuing God, and I sluffed off a couple of girls at church because they did not share my passion. There was one in particular named Jenny: she was even my “type,” a cute little thing. She was the most persistent, but eventually I told her I just wasn’t interested in a dating relationship because I was in school and wanted to build the foundation of my life before getting into anything like that. She quit calling. I never dated or got romantically involved with anyone until I was twenty years old, and that was with Sikki who is now my wife.

Sikki and I met at work: she was 15. I thought she was really strange and she felt the same about me. (In my case it was quite justified: my weirdness has been consistent.) Neither of us had any thoughts of romantic interest until three or four years later, when I sent her a bouquet of flowers as a graduation gift. Shortly after that, I nervously asked her out. She had three boyfriends before me, I think, and I believe I met all of them. In our many talks since then, she has expressed some regret about dating, but in our culture it is just taken for granted that you should spread yourself around quite a bit before settling down.

Some of the Christians I’ve known have an axe to grind about dating, being critical of it or disallowing it altogether. I’ve never been on board with a legalistic approach. I don’t think there’s a “right” or a “wrong” way to get to know people. (But that is the goal: getting to KNOW them, not getting attached and THEN finding out who they are.) There are three main dating dangers in my mind: being “unequally yoked,” spending a lot of time alone, and accepting without question everything that is “normal” in our culture. Our culture’s shifting expectations have led to nothing but busted relationships and people, so those accepted norms should not be leading believers around by the nose.

I’ve had three teenaged offspring who have started some exploration into relationships with the opposite sex, and Sikki and I have tried to guide them through it while at the same time making them aware of the inherent dangers and distractions of those relationships, but without uttering a commanding and absolute No. As their father, I try to make it a conversation and a learning experience, but I’m not interested in preventing their every pain and mistake. Otherwise, they’ll never learn how to function as adults in this world.

Another thing I try to emphasize is that they should take things very slow. It’s important to learn how another person reacts under STRESS. That is absolutely key to knowing someone. It’s all fine and dandy to date and have fun, but lots of people get into serious trouble because they don’t find out how the other party handles life when it’s adverse and painful.

Then there’s the question of “pressure” from the other person: if you’re telling them to take it slow and they’re rushing you into commitments or physical interactions or acting generally clingy and needy, you should move on. They don’t care about you or respect you; they’re trying to use you to meet some unmet need of their own. You’re worth waiting for, kid, and in the sphere of relationships, haste really does make waste.

I tell my kids a good rule of thumb is to try and find someone who loves Jesus more than they love you — you’ll recognize them because they will talk about Him all the time in regular conversation — preferably someone who could get along fine without you in their life. That will be a pretty complete, mature person. Or at least it will be someone who has a solid foundation when the storms of life hit.

It’s an ongoing process and I don’t have an action plan or divine directive except for some principles of Scripture that apply to all relationships. Me and Sikki are trying to figure it out, but the responsibility to train them is on me primarily since I’m their father. I pray for strength and guidance every day to accurately represent life in God to my children. I hope to inspire them to pursue Him on their own.

I just received an automated call from the school district that they will be closing early due to Hurricane Hermine, which is passing us today. I will close to address the concerns of life.