Zeal for Country or Zeal for Christ: You Pick

One of Christ’s disciples is Simon Zelotes. “Zelotes” is not his last name. It’s a designation that Simon was a Zealot.

The Zealots were a branch of Jews that were, well, zealous. They were zealous about two things:

  1. Hyper-conformity to Jewish law
  2. Hyper-hatred of Roman oppression

Zealots were sometimes referred to as The Sicarii. A sicae was a kind of sword that they hid under their cloaks to bring out and surprise attack Jews who weren’t being Jewish enough and perhaps a roaming Roman.

Zealots were greatly distressed by the Roman gymnasium and the theater. They thought these were horrible influences on Jewish culture and violations of God’s law.

They rebelled against Roman rule and hoped to overthrow the Roman government. They felt any means justified the end, as long as “the end” was Roman defeat. This didn’t work. They were the main branch of Jews who inspired Rome to destroy Jerusalem in 70ad.

Many modern American Christians have much in common with the Jewish Zealots under the Roman Empire.

Many American Christians view their country as being stolen by immoral people. Many weep and howl against the influences of Hollywood and the “liberal media.” Many are moved with anger, often demonstrated by hostility. Although most are not carrying swords, nor killing anyone yet, I can see it being justified soon. The supposed love for Christianity is expressed by hatred toward its perceived enemies. Anger has become a virtue.

Here’s the amazing thing about Simon the Zealot. While being all hot and bothered about Rome, Simon met Christ. Simon followed Christ and never returned to fighting.

Perhaps when Jesus said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my disciples fight,” He had Simon the Zealot in mind. Simon put down his sword and followed Christ.

However worked up you may be about your poor America being taken from you, you are in no way more moved than a Zealot. Yet Simon the Zealot left it for Christ.

I encourage you to let go of America. There is nothing on this planet worth more than Christ. Sell all you have to get the pearl of great price. America is not that pearl.

If you must be zealous, than be biblically zealous:

be zealous of good works
be zealous of spiritual gifts
be zealous to repent
be zealous of God’s house
be zealous to give money to suffering Christians

In God We Trust?

Four out of five US currency bills in circulation have traces of cocaine on them. This isn’t one of those Facebook fear-mongering statistics either, it’s verified by Snopes.com! If Snopes says it’s real: IT’S REAL!

The main reason for this is that cocaine is a very fine powder and sticks to everything. It’s also because people use cocaine.

Our dollar bills have “In God we trust” on them along with cocaine. I love the irony.

Congress decided to put “In God we trust” on our currency in 1957. I recently read a fascinating account of 1950’s patriotic Christianity, which traced this phrase along with “under God” in the pledge (added in 1954), back to Republicans trying to defeat FDR’s New Deal.

The book is called One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse. It’s a fascinating glimpse into American Christianity and the glory days of Christianity in the 1950’s. Or at least the glory days of white Christianity in the 1950’s.

People who lived in the 50’s have fond memories of the time. Or at least white people who lived in the 50’s have fond memories. They often wish we could go back to when white Christians were on top of the heap.

People tend to forget that the 60’s followed the 50’s. There was a reason for this. Much of the Christianity of the 50’s was fake. It was surface, which lead many of the kids living in the hypocrisy to rebel like crazy in the 60’s.

Many Christians opposed using “under God” in the pledge and putting “in God we trust” on the currency. They had a point. I would have been on their side.

It was proposed to Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 to put “In God we trust” on newly minted $10 and $20 gold coins. Roosevelt said,

“My own firm conviction is that such a motto on coins not only does no good, but positive harm and is in effect, irreverence, which comes close to sacrilege.”

Many of the same Christians who think we should have Ten Commandments monuments that say “thou shalt not use the Lord’s name in vain,” supported putting “in God we trust” on our soon to be cocaine infused currency!

The urge to make our faith normative for people who do not share our faith will never work. Symbolic Christianity is worse than no Christianity. It really is. Because Symbolic Christianity gives people false assurance and, more importantly, is hypocrisy, which is one of the main irritants of God.

Israel had Symbolic Judaism. They had corrupt government with awful kings, yet the people maintained their symbolic faith until God wiped them out because He couldn’t stomach fake religion anymore.

I’m all for the separation of church and state. I’m for keeping the state out of the church and keeping the church out of the state. It’s like mixing fire and water. The Church’s fire will always be quenched by the flood of the state.

Christianity is about winning souls; not running states.

Why Books About Following Jesus Annoy Me (and a few exceptions)

I finished reading a book about following Christ. It was weird.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the book. Everything was fairly standard.

It just didn’t make any sense.

Most of the chapters told you some verses and then a handful of examples of people who “applied” those verses. The result of applying the verses was one of the following:

–their church grew phenomenally
–they saved tons of people
–they saved one person, but that was OK, because that one person saved tons of people
–they made tons of money but gave some of it to someone who saved tons of people
–they were burned at the stake

Most of the book was about how successful you’ll become by following Christ. It was all very happy and cheery. Oh sure, there was mention of people suffering persecution in China, but that was an afterthought.

The last chapter was about picking up your cross. It contained many examples of Christians being killed in other countries. So, picking up the cross consists of going to another country and being killed.

I know who the author of this book is. I’ve met him. You’ve heard of the place he works. Life has gone really well for him. He lives a nice suburban lifestyle. This is the kind of book I’d expect of him.

There are few books about following Christ that actually help you follow Christ. Most are as contradictory and odd as this one. They always take the edge off. They’ll mention the downside, but most of their stories contradict the downside.

The best way to learn to follow Christ is to read what Christ said and go do that. Don’t let comfortable authors tell you how to follow Christ. They won’t call you as far as Christ does.

Start with Matthew 5-7, then move on to the rest. Let the mind of Christ dwell in you. Know his Word and then follow it. Don’t worry about how many people you save; just follow Him.

There are some books that are exceptions:

Martin Lloyd-Jones “Studies on the Sermon on the Mount” is a phenomenal exception. “The Fact of Christ” by Carnegie Simpson. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Bonhoeffer. “The Moral Glory of Jesus” by J. G. Bellett are a few. They’re out there; they’re just hard to find, and most of the authors have been dead for about 100 years!

7 Thoughts About Abortion

There have been some videos about various folk from Planned Parenthood talking about selling baby parts and various other disturbing things. It is revealing. It is not entirely shocking, knowing the mentality of those who support such things.

I have some thoughts on the subject, you are not obligated to agree, but it’s where my thoughts are.

  1. Birth control was the first step to abortion.
    I have sympathy for the stand the Catholic Church has taken against birth control. There’s no way around it: birth control was the first step to our abortion culture. Kids are a huge responsibility and are rather inconvenient. I am grateful for birth control, in all honesty. My wife practically gets pregnant if she bumps into me in the hallway. The reason I have three kids is because I didn’t want four. But all of this is based on convenience and I do not know for sure where God stands on this issue, but I know what it has lead to.
  2. Economics and babies.
    The old take on the situation is that having lots of kids used to be a good thing because they could help work on the farm. But when we got all citified, kids became a liability, not an asset. I have some trouble accepting this view. Seems to me more mouths to feed is a liability no matter when or where. It takes many years before a kid can produce enough to “earn their keep.” This whole mentality, I think, is the real problem. Viewing kids as assets or liabilities is a bad thing. What about the handicapped kids? No way they will be a money making venture. Do we just keep kids that make us money? If your primary view of kids is economic, you are missing something. This economic view of kids has also lead to our abortion culture.
  3. Abortion is not new.
    Abortion and infanticide (killing babies) has been a historical occurrence. The Bible contains people groups who killed their babies. The Roman Empire of the Apostle’s day widely did abortion. The methods they used were absolutely disgusting. Even if abortion were illegal, people would still do it. The primary reason people want to kill kids is economic. Christianity is the only viable option to get people off worldliness. As long as you want the world’s stuff, kids will get in your way.
  4. Spewing vitriol solves little
    I think it is a good thing these videos have come to light. It shows the mentality of the groups who accept abortion. I have no problem with people spreading them. What do we do about it though? The only answer I can think of that would make a difference would be spreading the Gospel. The Gospel delivers people from evil. There is no other answer. Ranting and raving merely makes women considering abortion scared of you. It is better, always, to go do something to help, than it is to just talk. I encourage people to go find a place to help these women in trouble. Give of yourself to a real person, don’t just rest your virtue on how angrily you speak. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.
  5. Government won’t help
    Our government makes lots of money off the abortion crowd. They won’t get rid of it. These scandalous videos will be forgotten. Even if we cut funding to Planned Parenthood, abortions will continue. Changing hearts is the answer, not trusting princes. This is much more vague of a solution, it won’t stir people up. Causes, anger, and physical outcomes (voting, funding, amendments, etc) get people riled up; not slow, methodical, non-angry, sacrificial love. But guess which one the Bible recommends for every problem? The slow, sacrificial method.
  6. Abortion is evil. The world is evil.
    Abortion is inevitable on this planet. I hate to break it to you. Sin happens because sinners are real. And oh, incidentally, there’s lots of sinners. People do bad things. Many people are outraged at abortion and yet have horrendous relationships with their own kids. It’s always best to take evil and be humble. Examine your own heart. If kids are that precious to you, do your kids know this?! Do you act like they are precious? It’s easier to get outraged at someone else who is “worse than you,” than it is for you to do what is right. Watch your own heart.
  7. Babies go to heaven.
    To me, this is an amazing thing. All those aborted lives, in my understanding of Scripture (babies go to heaven), are in heaven. This is far from making abortion a good thing. Abortion is evil. It just is. It is only by muddying logic that it can be represented as good. Since aborted babies are nowhere near the age of accountability, they have had no choice at all, they are innocent. They will be in heaven. Most aborted babies, if born, would not have ended up there. This, again, does not make abortion OK, but it is somewhat consoling.

Pastors and Stand-Up Comedians

Stand-up comedian, Chris Rock, said:

I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

In their political views?

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Jerry Seinfeld also recently said:

“I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’ I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Christians, who claim that the PC culture is persecution, might want to rethink the charge. PC culture is just really dumb.

The people who are most hurt by PC rules, and restrictions on freedom of speech, are on the ends of the spectrum. Most comedians are known for pushing the boundaries. For telling jokes that make us uncomfortable, often demonstrated by our laughing.

Comedians who tell off-color jokes will be knocked out.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who speak about holy things. Thus the restrictions on the freedom to express religious opinions.

Pastors and stand-up comics have a lot in common, sometimes even on purpose. We’re both looking for reactions from people. We’re both trying to shock you. We both depend upon spoken language to accomplish our goals. Both get pounded on by hyper-sensitive types.

This is one reason why I am against censorship. Yes, it would be nice to get rid of porn and nasty stuff on the airwaves/cablewaves, but they’ll also knock out the end I’m on.

I’d rather allow freedom and let both sides duke it out. Yes, this means coexisting with evil, but the Bible implies that reality.

People have lost their sense of humor. Both secular and religious people are hyper-sensitive. It makes sense that secular people would be–they are defending themselves and their own ideas.

Christians, however, should be the least sensitive people on the planet. Maybe that didn’t sound right! We should be sensitive to other people’s pain, but we should not be hyper-sensitive about being offended.

The Bible is pretty clear about what to expect in life, it doesn’t sugarcoat things. We know that, in the end, our side loses down here. Paul said if you were to avoid sinners, you’d have to leave the world itself.

We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; we have no charge to keep the world unspotted from the world.

If eternity is what the Bible says it is (eternal), and God is truly who we have our faith in, I really do believe that calmness would be the logical outflow.

Relax. Stop being offended by words. Put your assurance in better things. Set your affections on things above. Seek first the Kingdom. Place your treasure in heaven where no one can mess with it.

When we do these things, calm and peace result. Hyper-sensitivity is proof of no faith. There is little faith on secular college campuses, thus there is plenty of hyper-sensitive people. That’s how it works.

Don’t turn the church into that.

Fatherly “Wisdom” and 5 Ways to Think Better

Lately we’ve been getting moles in our basement window wells. I remember one other time we had one of these moles, but this summer we’ve had at least four.

Yesterday there were two in one window well and one was allegedly eating a toad, if my daughter’s word is to be trusted. “It was disgusting.” She told me.

“It’s the circle of life, my friend,” were my words of fatherly wisdom.

How a mole eating a toad is a circle of life, I do not know. It seems rather linear to me, particularly for the toad.

Guess I should watch The Lion King and work that one out.

It’s amazing how much of my “fatherly wisdom” makes absolutely no sense. Since my kids attend public schools, it wasn’t til last year one was able to think enough to doubt one of my answers.

I generally respond as their teachers do, “Shush, here, watch a movie.”

My father is the one who taught me “fatherly wisdom.” Now that I am older I have come to realize how much of his fatherly wisdom was also completely inane.

Me: Dad, why is that light there?
My Dad: In case of night.

But my father was not a dumb man. He was a smart man and he was funny. He’d make stuff up. It just came to him. It just comes to me. We can’t help it.

I do this as a service to my children. I want to teach them critical thinking skills. What better way to do that than to make them entirely unsure whether they are getting a straight answer?

Gullibility is a disastrous thing. Notice all the verses in the Bible about paying attention: think, watch, be sober, be vigilant, walk circumspectly, etc. We are constantly hearing lies. Are we smart enough to catch them?

Christians should be known as the world’s best critical thinkers. It is part of our basic beliefs that one of our chief enemies, Satan, is a liar. We’re told that the church has deceivers going about to deceive. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That even our own heart is deceptive.

Despite all this, we seem to take everyone’s word for everything.

We follow a Savior who calls Himself “the Truth.” Yet we constantly chuck it and fall for lies.

I don’t know how to get Christians to think better. Part of it is a work of the Spirit, being given the mind of Christ (the Truth). Yet some of it is our responsibility, otherwise He wouldn’t tell us all the time to be sober, vigilant, watching, thinking. Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t believe everyone, especially people you don’t know, and especially people you don’t know on the internet! “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.That’s from the Bible.
  2. Double check. Before spreading that thing you saw, make sure it’s actually real. Snopes.com is a good place to start, although you might want to double check them too. Get your news from several sources.
  3. When reading Christian writing: always check Scripture references! Do they say what the author said it says? Does the context agree? Know the Bible so well you’ll be able to tell upon hearing whether you’re getting the Bible or not. Do not let someone else determine your knowledge of God!
  4. Read books about stuff. Expand your knowledge. Read some science and history. The more of this you know, the less you’ll be taken for a ride by a huckster.
  5. Don’t trust yourself. I know you think you remember things correctly, but you don’t. I don’t either. We get confused. Say “I don’t know” and then go do the work to know. Stay humble. Be teachable. Think. Learn.

My dad trained me to think twice before accepting what I hear. I thank him over and over for this. Or I would anyway, but he’s dead now. I am passing on the tradition to my children.

My children, who once believed that an unbalanced washing machine was a monster in the basement who once ate their dad, are learning to think.

If nothing else, this is a real nice spin to put on the fact that I have no idea how to answer their questions.

Further Reading:

The blessing of Cynicism
Love and Conspiracy Theories
Love Believes all things?

Count It All Joy When You Suffer!

Spiritual growth, growing into the perfect man Christ Jesus, is the main point of life after conversion.

Most profound and lasting growth only happens one way: through suffering.

Some play around with Christianity until it gets hard. The sun comes out and dries them up.

Others find a pseudo-Christianity that promises them health and wealth. But this only works for those who like their head in the sand. Life just doesn’t work that way.

The temptation of believers who want to grow, is to force growth in an unnatural way.

We get impatient. We approach spiritual growth like any other subject–give me the syllabus and let me get to work!

Others who fear work, either because it’s hard or because they were taught that spiritual work is bad, sit back and do nothing.

Spiritual growth does require work on our part. You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it.

But the work isn’t what causes the majority of the growth. Pain, suffering, and tribulation cause most growth.

All the work you do in learning the Bible, learning self-denial and discipline, all you do to focus on Christ, is merely preparation for when the pain comes.

Pain reveals whether or not you’ve done the homework.

Tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. Bible study wasn’t in this process. Bible study doesn’t create growth.

Tribulation is the test. The final exam. Bible study was the homework.

There are many who assume that since they know the Bible, they are mature. But this isn’t necessarily so.

What you do with suffering and pain reveals your maturity level. Tribulation will reveal whether you know a book, or whether you know the Author.

Welcome pain. Pain is your friend. Pain is helping you grow into Christ.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


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