Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The arrogance of self-sufficiency

"I'm self-sufficient. I'm proud of it."

That was me, before I was saved. I was saved by grace of Jesus Christ. My parents were intensely interested in raising their children as "self-sufficient" and "independent". I heard those words so often. I had to 'figure it out' or 'do for myself' more times than not. By the time I reached adulthood, I was proud of all the things I could do by myself, for myself, leaning on no other. Asking for help was anathema.

Of course all the instilling of self-sufficiency was a stumbling block to bending the knee, realizing how hopeless I was on my own, and asking Jesus for help. The fact that He calls us and we don't choose Him is a grace that will manifest itself in untold aspects throughout all eternity. I never would have asked. He chose me.

The pagan heart builds many idols. Any and all idols are in opposition to God. Idols are an enemy of God, and at enmity with Him. For me, the root of all that vaunted self-sufficiency is pride. I was proud of all that I could do. I was proud that I needed no one. I was proud of my capabilities- capabilities I'd cultivated and no one else.

Anything can be an idol. Self-sufficiency is one.

The Chaldeans were swimming in self-sufficiency. This idol permeated their actions and drenched their hearts in evil. Habakkuk proclaimed against it in chapter 2 of the book of Habakkuk. This prophet pronounced 5 woes on the Chaldeans (though they were not named, this was the original target audience.) As scripture has one meaning but many applications, these verses can and do apply to us today as we learn object lessons about doing for ourselves and not bowing to God's will for us.

The fifth woe was the woe upon idolators (2:18–20). In poignant verses, God asks if idols can speak-

What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.(Habakkuk 2:18-19).

Oh! How terrible for the idolater who asks dead wood and stone to speak! How sad we seek instruction from dead objects and not the Living God!

Any and all idols in our hearts teach us lies. We are the maker of the idol, so because of our sin nature, it teaches us the lie of sin. Can stone awaken and instruct us in the ways of righteousness?

"But I don't worship idols," you say. "I don't ask stone or wood to speak."

Do you seek instruction from horoscopes? The sun? "Mother Nature"? Do you rely on your intellect? Your capabilities? Your money? All idols! All dead!

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a). God speaks of this New Testament truth in the Old Testament in Habakkuk 2:8, 2:17...

The Good News is that the rest of the Romans verse continues after speaking of the wages of sin, by a glorious promise.

but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:6b)

The antidote to self-sufficiency is humility. As this woman spoke so eloquently on Twitter this week,

Anna Crouse‏ @annacrouse_
Humility isn't a burden or humiliation or oppressive weight but is the only posture that can receive the wondrous grace gifts of God
Instead of "I can do it" we say "I can't do it. Lord I need you!"





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Resources

Elyse Fitzpatrick: Idols of the Heart
Do you feel discouraged, even defeated, in your battle against habitual sin? Are you dismayed or surprised by the situations that bring out your fear, anger, or distress? Elyse Fitzpatrick delves into the heart of the problem: deep down, we're all idol-worshippers who put our loves, desires, and expectations in God's place—and then suffer the consequences of our misplaced affections. Yet God loves his people and can use even our messy lives and struggles for his glory. Fitzpatrick shows us how to better search and know our hearts, long for our gracious Savior, and resist and crush our false gods. Includes questions for further thought.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Tongue is a Rudder: A Sailing Story

I lived on a sailboat and cruised up and down the eastern seaboard for two years. Just as there is with any lifestyle, there are niches within that lifestyle. The circumnavigators go around the world, traveling for weeks across the seas from one continent to another. These folks are serious, and they generally have sold all they own and permanently live on their boat.

Then there were people like us who lived aboard and cruised along the shoreline. Live-aboard cruisers don't usually venture far out to sea, though we may be without sight of land for hours or a day or so on an overnight passage. We usually keep our houses and relationship attachments, live this way for a period of time, and then return to life on shore. This is called "swallowing the anchor". For liveaboards like is cruising is more of an adventure than a way of live.

Then there are the folks who own a sailboat and dock it at a yacht club and sail for a few hours on the weekend. Many of these folks dream of living aboard or circumnavigating but haven't been able to do so yet.

Though there are tiers of sailors with varying levels of commitment and skill, the Sea can be kind or cruel to each one of us. When an emergency happens while sailing on the ocean it's just as life threatening whether you're near shore or in the middle of the ocean.

Annie C. Maguire wreck. Portland ME. EPrata photo
photo Collections of ME Historical Society. FMI on the wreck-Source
My husband and I had sailed from Maine to Florida with a variety of passages that included motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway,sailing across huge Rivers and Sounds, and making some offshore overnight ocean passages. We'd finally arrived at Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas anchorage, the traditional launching off point to cross the Gulf Stream to the nearby nation of The Bahamas. It's 50 miles, but a tricky 50 miles.

The Gulf Stream is a fast moving river of water atop the ocean. The Gulf Stream is about 60 miles wide and runs at an average surface speed of 5.5 mph. Since the boat can sail at around 5 mph it means that the combined speed plus the Gulf Stream's fast northward push means you have to make exact navigation maths and be on constant vigilance. You could get pushed to Ireland if you're not careful. A worse disaster would be pushed a few miles, or even a few feet off course and wind up on the rocks, shipwrecked on the shores of a foreign nation or in hazardous waters.
You need to stay on your toes regarding weather. You'll be traveling in open ocean, the islands are low, some anchorages will be exposed on one or more sides, and there will be potentially rough passages through reefs and cuts between islands. Source
The warm waters of the Gulf Stream (red). FL is at bottom,
the topmost island left side is town of West End, Grand Bahama Island.
So you start off from Ft. Lauderdale and let the Gulf Stream push you north and your sails push you east toward the intended harbor. The biggest danger is a wind that flows from the north tot he south, and meets the Gulf Stream waters moving from the south heading north. The collisions of southerly flowing air and northerly flowing fast water makes for a steep waves. Steep waves are rough because the front part of the boat (the bow) goes up and then down fast. At least with a rolling wave the boat can roll with it. A steep chop makes the boat pound. Pounding is hard on everyone and is hard on the boat.

Because crossing over the Gulf Stream is a bit dangerous and not for the fainthearted, mariners usually take off from the anchorage in little groups. Safety in numbers. Not that if anything happens we can go from one boat to another to troubleshoot the problem, but if the worst happens we can rescue a person from the water or call for the Coast Guard for help and stand by.

So our little clutch set off in the dark hours, so we would arrive at a time when the rising sun would be over our shoulders and not in our eyes. The weather report was for gentle winds flowing north, which would actually help flatten the Gulf Stream waters.

All was well ... sailing over the bounding main ... for a while.

The wind unexpectedly shifted from the south to the north, creating that dreaded sharp, steep chop. The boats took a pounding. Then the rain and thunder and lighting started. It was dark and it was rough.Then...one of the boats' rudders broke.

I think you know how important a rudder is. It is a tiny thing, relatively speaking, a small part of the boat. Not heavy like the motor, not showy like the sails. However it's the most critical part, since it steers the boat. Without the rudder, our friend's yacht was drifting helplessly in the storm, in the Gulf Stream, toward the reefs. They were at the mercy of waves, rocks, and winds. They had no control and it was terrifying.

When we put bits into the mouths of the horses to make them obey us, we can guide the whole animal. Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined. In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things! James 3:3-5

A small rudder can guide the whole boat. A small muscle like the tongue can guide the whole body. With the rudder not guiding the boat, it was at the mercy of other more destructive things than the pilot's inclination. Just like the tongue. The 'pilot' must be in control of the tongue so it does not become subjugated to other, more destructive things like slander, gossip, tale-bearing, and criticism. These are the rocks and reefs of relationships, as Jude describes in Jude 1:12-13, using the same sailing metaphors of waves, reefs, and winds.

I was busy handling our boat and my husband was on the VHF radio in contact with the stricken vessel. We all had slowed down and were kind of trying to circle around them and stay close. It was hard to do so in the storm. Eventually the other men talked him through and somehow he got his rudder fixed.

We were off course by then so we had to regroup and figure out how to get back on track. The winds were still high and we were in the hump of the Gulf Stream, the current was flowing fast. Entering West End Grand Bahama was a tricky maneuver of sliding between reefs through a narrow channel. We were off by a few feet. However you can see the destruction ready for the unwary in the Annie C. Maguire vintage photo above. They were only off by a few feet also.

Providentially, there was a Good Samaritan who happened to be carrying a VHF radio who happened to be walking the beach who guided us in. If he had not been there we would have ended up on the rocks. It's another example of how the Lord protected me until the appointed time for salvation, 13 years later.

I'll never forget the terror of our friends losing their rudder. Even though the James verse about taming the tongue by using marine metaphors is vividly alive for me, I still failed in this last week. I've repented. After listening to a lecture by Justin Peters on the importance of wholesome talk and the destructive inclinations of the tongue by gossip, I will do better this week. I do not want to end up on the rocks for correction. I am the pilot. I am in charge of my boat. With the Holy Spirit to guide me safely to port, I know I have all the help I need.

EPrata photo
The dark blob in the foreground is a coral head. Their sharpness can rip the keel or underside of your boat like a razor. The boat with two men on it is grounded. The water gets shallow very fast in The Bahamas. In the middle horizon, those brown humps are the land, which is just a few feet above sea level. Now picture trying to find the right channel, in the dark, in a storm, on 0 sleep in the last 24 hours.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Bible is so amazing

In my Bible reading there are some verses that have 'jumped out' at me lately:

do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:18).

He supports me. Isn't that a lovely thought? I do not want to be arrogant and take HIS glory away.

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Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16).

As a writer, I admire the beauty among this economy of words. Only the Spirit could inspire such gorgeous writing that proclaims such truth!

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For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11:7).

To behold such glorious righteousness is a thought that both encourages me and makes me tremble. What a day that will be!
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Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4).

I praise the Lord I do not have a lust for riches. I know people who do (did). Some spend their entire life accumulating, lusting for expensive things, hoarding wealth. Unless there was a miraculous deathbed conversion, they are languishing in a place where their riches do not profit them. Thank You Lord for Your righteousness that is indeed riches beyond measure.

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35).

How amazing that we will personally hear Him speak these words someday!

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The Bible is so rich, so beautiful. The many verses and passages and stories convict, inspire, point to the glory of the Lord...it's staggering that this Book contains so much and is so everlasting.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie Review: The Queen of Katwe

I spend almost more time looking for and reading reviews of movies than I do watching them. I don't have the time to waste on a bad movie during the school year, and though I have more time at home during the summer never do I want to watch something that will be blasphemous, offensive, or pass before my eyes things I can't unwatch. I know you feel the same.

Here is a synopsis and review of a movie I feel is worth watching for the entire family (tweens and up): Queen of Katwe. The movie summary says: A school-drop out named Phiona (pronounced like Fiona) living in the slum of Katwe sells maize along with her brother to help her family survive. Her older sister has already succumbed to the lure of being a kept women and the widowed mother is wearily but with dignity striving to instill in her remaining children hope where it seems that life is hopeless. At this moment in their family life Phiona is discovered to have an agile and highly advanced mind and is a genius at chess.

(Common Sense Media's review & synopsis here.)

That this is a true story and in fact it has recently occurred, which makes it all the more compelling. At the end of the movie you will see each character and what has become of them. In addition to the themes noted above by Common Sense Media is one that is often overlooked: the cycle of poverty.

The slum outside Kampala Uganda known as Katwe is one of the largest and most dire of slums in that country. The overwhelming filth, poverty, and dense living conditions are not glossed over in this movie produced by Disney. As Phiona rises through the ranks in chess championships and her world gradually expands, eventually she must come to terms with who she is and if her origins define her character or if her character will define her character.

The interplay of rich v. poor, impoverished origins v. entitlement impact the girl greatly. It's a similar theme shown in My Fair Lady. As Eliza Doolittle rises from Cockney impoverished flower girl to genteel lady she wonders where she belongs and who she is if she is no longer "poor" and has to struggle for survival. Will Phiona take the daring leap into the unknown or retreat into what she is used to, even though that means remaining a cog in the grinding cycle of poverty? At points, the outcome is by no means certain and the movie deftly shows why.

For family viewing, several scenes are mildly intense. Phiona's brother is run over by a motorcycle and Phiona's desperate near-helplessness to get him to a clinic and obtain the medical services he needs are gripping. Throughout the movie I'd wondered why the slum shacks are entered by walking over planks or pallets situated over a deep trench. The flood scene showed me. Monsoon rains are beyond heavy and Phiona's toddler brother nearly dies in a flood that sweeps through their derelict home. I read later that Katwe's seasonal floods are so bad that people sleep on their roofs - if they have a roof - so as not to drown at night.

The scene that most affected me is when the chess team has traveled to a fancy championship location and they are put up in dormitories for the night. The youth pastor who leads the sports ministry, including this chess team, is momentarily startled when he arrives at their room to tuck them in, all the beds are empty and all the bedding remained where it was at the first, neatly folded and piled on the end of each cot. A momentary panic rises in his eyes until he sees all of the children huddled up on the floor in the corner, slum family style, their own clothes and brought scarves and fabrics for covers. It was what they were used to.

The movie does not gloss over the entrenchment of the cycle of poverty the difficulties in rising out of it, and the lingering issues that haunt those who do, including prejudice of the entitled against the poor. Though one of the main characters is a youth pastor, and his chess club is part of a sports mission, no mention is made of Jesus or what denomination he is from or any religious discussions at all. However, he is depicted as a trustworthy man fighting for his charges with love and devotion. It's produced by Disney so the production values are excellent. Recommended.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is the Wisconsin company microchipping employees a fulfillment of the Mark of the Beast?

Prophecy is so important to the Christian. We are supposed to take comfort and encouragement in it. God is sovereign, therefore He has the ability and the right to ordain history beforehand, and He does. Then in His grace and mercy He gave us knowledge of what will happen. We rejoice in knowing He will bring all He has said to pass. (Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35).

Sadly, Prophecy as a field of study has gotten a bad reputation. One reason is that it is rife with the unstable who make unbiblical date-driven predictions. Another reason is that some passages are admittedly difficult and the unstable go astray when preaching them. These passages are not impossible to understand, because the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible for our edification and He helps us interpret it. However, prophetic passages do take some deep study. When someone unstable preaches on eschatology, the passages are twisted and the sheep gain a misunderstanding instead of illumination (and the goats too)..

Prophecy is important because it informs our holiness and behavior. As Pastor Mike Abendroth said,
"Prophecy drives behavior. There are ethical implications to all eschatology. Those that study eschatology the most in my opinion ought to be the most holy, because they are so pondering the return of Christ." ~Pastor Mike Abendroth, Bethlehem Bible Church/No Compromise Radio
There is a particular passage of scripture that is well-known to even the unsaved, and that regards the Mark of the Beast and his number of 666. Revelation 13:11-18 outlines what this is.

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

The Second Beast is the False Prophet. At the time of the Tribulation when the Church is taken out of the world and Jesus hurls His stored-up wrath on Israel and the pagans, the Antichrist will rise. The UNholy trinity will be Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the devil himself, satan. These three will appear to be the blessed trinity, they'll perform signs and wonders, deceive the whole world, and then once they have the people in the palm of their hand, they will force all to worship the Antichrist by receiving this mark on their hand or forehead. The Mark of the Beast is a mark of allegiance and worship.

Those who refuse to accept the mark will be unable to buy or sell, and so in effect, be starved or out in the cold so they'll die, if the antichrist doesn't catch them and behead them first.

Since the Mark is on the hand or forehead, and since it involves a number, and since it will be something that is trackable at points of sale, many have speculated that the Mark will be a chip-like piece of technology.

Normally, discussing the antichrist and his mark retains a whiff of unsavoriness due to these passages being mishandled so often. Worse, newspaper exegesis causes teachers to go off the rails. Newspaper exegesis is preaching prophecy from the news and not the Bible. We saw a lot of this with the Blood Moons. We will probably see this with the upcoming Eclipse.

However this week Dr Al Mohler remarked about microchipping and the Mark of the Beast on his cultural news and Bible program The Briefing. The mark of the beast was in the news. A Wisconsin company began microchipping its employees, and apparently the program is voluntary (for now). Legal and ethical implications abound, but also prophetic implications, all of which were discussed on Mohler's program. Here are several brief excerpts from the Mohler segment with my own comments interspersed:
If you're a Christian familiar with the Scriptures, then no doubt another dimension of this question is coming to your mind. It's come to the mind of others, including interestingly enough USA Today. In yesterday's international edition of USA Today, there is a story by Holly Meyer. It asks the question, is this the mark of the beast? As she writes, 
"The apocalyptic "mark of the beast" prophecy in the Bible makes some wary of a Wisconsin company’s recent decision to embed microchips into the hands of willing employees. The end times account," she writes, "in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation warns believers about being marked on the right hand and the forehead by the Antichrist." But she says, "inserting rice-sized microchips under the skin of Three Square Market employees does not fulfill the prophecy."
The mark is actually enforced by the False Prophet, not the antichrist, but close enough for secular people. Interesting that they know both the mark, his number, and of the antichrist himself. The Mark is a deliberate mark of worship. When the False Prophet causes all to take the mark, they know what it is for and why they are taking it. The enticement is being able to buy and sell, but it is first and foremost a Mark of the allegiance to the Beast, and it's going to be offered to the whole world, not just 40 employees in Wisconsin. We are not in the times outlined by Revelation now. So the issue fails on those three accounts as far as being a "fulfillment" of the aforementioned prophecy. Continuing with Mohler:
The USA Today story goes back to Proffesor Vlachos who said,"Taking the mark goes hand in hand with the conscience decision of publicly pledging one's allegiance or loyalty to the beast and worshiping his image." He went on to say that, "The mark is not a random number either. It always names the Antichrist, either numerically or alphabetically." The professor says to his students, "No name, no worries."
A similar kind of assessment came in the USA Today story by Randall Balmer, chair of the religion department at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He said that many evangelicals look to that book and current events in terms of something like a parlor game. But even as Balmer seemed initially to dismiss the speculation, he went on to say that he understood why people might connect the micro-chipping and the prophecy from the book of Revelation. "It may not be the 'mark of the beast,' but it certainly is a slippery slope.' He went on to say, "I think we should be cautious about allowing that measure of control or surveillance into our lives."
The last days of the last days all takes place within 7 years. There is a massive amount of prophecy that will unfold within that very short time. It could be said that the last 6000 years has been laying the infrastructure for those last 7. I agree that the microchipping is a slippery slope. The technology that will be used in those short, last 7 years is present on earth now and further, the minds and hearts of people on earth are being prepared to use it. After the rapture it'll all come together quickly. Dr Mohler concluded-
But at the same time, there's something truly haunting about the idea of a company embedding an RFID chip under the skin of an employee’s hand. We're told, of course, that the company will not be able to track the employee, but we also understand just how quickly this kind of technology can go from a matter promised as a convenience to a matter coerced as an absolute necessity.
... It also tells us something that this particular story landed on the front page of USA Today, the book of Revelation, the antichrist, and the beast on the front page of USA Today, even in its international edition as read here in Europe. It at least should be noted that even in this very secular culture there are those who immediately are asking the same question. Is this chip the mark of the beast? That tells us that even secular people still hear the distant hoof beats of the horsemen from the book of Revelation.
Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm so glad that this issue is being directly addressed, and in both a scriptural and poignant way, too. Dr Mohler said in his article that no, this is not the mark of the beast, but it is haunting. It's haunting in my opinion because of the conscious decision of many future millions to consign themselves to eternal destruction the moment they raise their hand to worship the beast and not Christ.

It's also haunting that the pagan world is so spooked and unnerved by this prophecy. Deep down, with eternity in their hearts, they know that wrath for sin is coming. In a dark, closed cupboard of their mind, they are aware of the prophecies and keep that door firmly shut...until an article like this comes along and they lose their atheistic composure. That's why when a false teacher teaches a date-driven prophecy related to prophecy, they mock and scorn when it doesn't come to pass, comforting themselves that it won't happen at all. (2 Peter 3:4; Matthew 24:48). When prophecy becomes fodder for jokes or badly made movies, they comfort themselves that it is just fiction. (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Please be the Christian like the ones mentioned by Pastor Abendroth: let prophecy inform your behavior and inspire you (and me) to urgency. We have to read prophecy in the first place, and then pray for wisdom and understanding to is grows us on proper holiness. Because, prophecy is important, even the strange and difficult passages like the ones mentioned in Revelation. Especially those.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Spot the self-refutation: Beth Moore

When the Be Still DVD was issued in 2006, Beth Moore’s participation in what was obviously a mystical/pagan promotion of Eastern Religious prayer practices caused an uproar. This was 11 years ago at this writing and Moore was seen as solidly solid then. Moore issued a clarification and retraction and apology for her participation, saying it was "hugely accidental" if she participated in something unsound. She assured her audience-

Beth Moore 1: "I am not involved in any kind of emergent church movement or any kind of mystical prayer movement."

Then she continued in her apology, clarifying her words that ended up on the DVD-

Beth Moore 2: "Here's what I intended to say: pray, pray, and pray some more and learn how to listen for God's response."

The two comments are from the same piece of writing. Do you see what I see?

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Here is Moore a few years later participating in a mystical prayer experience of Lectio Divina. Photo source: Sola Sisters.






The arrogance of self-sufficiency

"I'm self-sufficient. I'm proud of it." That was me, before I was saved. I was saved by grace of Jesus Christ. My parent...