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His Word in His Words

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Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds . . . “

     How does God’s Word come to us?  Where do we find it?  The Bible tells us we find it in the person of Jesus Christ.  God used to speak to us through prophets but no more.  This is bad news to the many self appointed ‘prophets’ of today.  In ‘these last days’ God communicates with us through His Son Jesus.  The entire and sufficient source of that communication can be found in the Holy Bible.

     Matthew Henry sums it up nicely; “. . . the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the very marrow and kernel of all the Scriptures. The ceremonial law is full of Christ, and all the gospel is full of Christ; the blessed lines of both Testaments meet in Him; and how they both agree and sweetly unite in Jesus Christ . . . .”  Jesus tells us; “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)

     Some focus on dividing the Word into the Rhema Word and Logos Word based on the translation of the word ‘word’ in Scripture;  “There are two primary Greek words that describe Scripture which are translated ‘word’ in the New Testament. The first, logos, refers principally to the total inspired Word of God and to Jesus, who is the living Word. Logos is found in John 1:1; Luke 8:11; Philippians 2:16; Hebrews 4:12; and other verses. The second Greek word translated ‘word’ is rhema, which refers to the spoken word. Rhema literally means an utterance (individually, collectively or specifically). Examples are found in Luke 1:38; 3:2; 5:5; and Acts 11:16.”  (gotQuestions?org

     What’s the difference between the two types of Word?  GotQuestions?org goes on to explain:  “Some charismatics view rhema as the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to them at the present moment. They believe they should be guided by the Holy Spirit through inner feelings, impressions and experiences. Some believe that the direct words of God to the individual can also be imparted through the words of others, such as a preacher in a worship service or a friend who counsels them. Through these avenues, the Christian experiences God’s direct leading. There is also the belief that the spoken word has more power than the written word, but there is no biblical basis for such a belief.”

     While other Christians think the Rhema and Logos Word are essentially the same.  GotQuestions?org continues;  “Evangelical Christians, however, have a much different understanding of rhema, believing that it is essentially synonymous with logos. In other words, the specific guidance we receive from the Holy Spirit at any given time can only be discerned by the general principles laid down in the Bible. Where the Bible is silent on specifics—such as where a young person should go to college—then the Christian applies biblical principles (good stewardship of God-given resources, protecting one’s heart and mind from godless influences, etc.) to the situation and thereby arrives at a decision.”

     What does Jesus say?  Jesus says His Word is everlasting; “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35)  His  spoken words recorded for us in Scripture  are spirit and life.  (John 6:63)  If we abide by Jesus’ Word we are His true disciples; “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  (John 8:31,32)   If we keep His Word, we show we love Him and God will make His Home with us; “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23) 

     And here is the real issue – We must keep His Word – not subtract from it or add to it.  If our inner thoughts, feeling, and impressions notify us that we are getting some word – how do we know it comes from the Holy Spirit or our carnal nature or acid reflux?  We must know Scripture and make sure our thoughts, impressions and feelings line up with Scripture.    The Bible is the standard by which we can assess what  self appointed  ‘prophets’ or ‘apostles’ tell us.  Jesus tells us clearly that we will be given a Helper with this very important task of discerning; “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26)  A true Word from the Holy Spirit will always point to Jesus and His example first and foremost!

    We can and should go to God for help and advice in prayer and/or seeking answers in the Bible.  God will answer and His guidance will always align with Scripture and affirm Jesus.   Any true Word from God doesn’t arise out of the random firing synapses in our brains (our flesh).  Rather a  Word will come from the Holy Spirit and provide a revelation in which Jesus is high and lifted up and not what particular car we should to buy or what we should wear today.    Jesus tells us not to worry about such things.  (Matthew 6:25-34).  We know we will get Rema Words from God because Jesus tells us; “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)  Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will reinforce God’s Word in our minds and not feed us ‘a new word.’

     We must not invent or seek new words for guidance and direction and then say that God gave this word to us; “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. . . ” (2 Timothy 2:16,17)    The Holy Bible covers all.  The apostle Paul tells us; “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17) 

     God is very clear about messing with His Word; “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18,19)  Some say that this pertains only to the last book of the Bible.   John Wesley  points out; “This may likewise be considered as an awful sanction, given to the whole New Testament; in like manner as Moses guarded the law, Deuteronomy 4:2, and Deuteronomy 12:32; and as God himself did, Malachi 4:4, in closing the canon of the Old Testament.”

     The power and glory of God’s Word comes from God’s Word anything else just robs us of life and liberty.  Jesus says; “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31,32)

     Come Lord Jesus!

    

Returning to Egypt

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Why do guys go back to using?

And when they hit bottom or what they think is bottom why do they go back to places that didn’t help them become free in the first place?

Guys go back to using because they relapse.  Terrence Gorski says the approach to relapse should be informed by these points (among others);  “Relapse is common in two-thirds of all patients attempting sobriety for the first time;  Relapse is not a self-inflicted condition, it is caused by a wide variety of problems that can be treated; . .  . Relapse-prone patients are not hopeless.   Over 50 % of all relapsers will achieve permanent abstinence with effective treatment . . . ”

Relapse is not a case of  ‘sudden destruction’ or a moral failure in an individual; “. . . , in most cases relapse, is not self-inflicted. Relapse-prone patients experience a gradual progression of symptoms that create so much pain that they become unable to function in sobriety. They turn to addictive use to self-medicate the pain. ”  (Terrence Gorski)  For Gorski, effective treatment is providing relapse prevention therapy; “These patients can learn to stay sober by recognizing these symptoms as relapse warning signs, identifying the self-defeating thoughts, feelings, and actions they use to cope with them, and learning more effective coping responses. Unfortunately, most relapse-prone patients never receive relapse prevention therapy, either because treatment centers don’t provide it or their insurance or managed care provider won’t fund it.” (Does Relapse Mean Treatment Failure? By Terence T. Gorski)

Since Gorski believes relapse isn’t in most cases  ‘self-inflicted’ he doesn’t consider the possibility that relapse prevention therapy was provided and just not used by choice.  Any teacher will tell you that you can teach someone how to do something (like reading the instructions before  doing a task) and test them to see if they have learned but the application of the skill in the wider world is still a choice.  In fairness to treatment centres this possibility must be at least mentioned.

The second question is much more difficult to answer.  Some ‘treatment centres’ are just downright abusive.  They offer ‘freedom’ from addiction and the immediate consequences of jail or living on the streets by substituting one form of bondage for another.  What drives people to these types of places in the first place?  SOS for Sobriety highlights the condition of the addict prior to going into recovery;

Recovering alcoholics, addicts, adult children of alcoholics and co-dependents are especially susceptible to joining cults or sects. Often anxious, fearful, lonely, shameful, confused and depressed, we emerge from the fog of addiction vulnerable, naïve and gullible.. . . We are lost, seeking help, feeling abandoned and hopeless. Our sense of self-worth and self-esteem is abysmally low. We have no clear conception of our selves and a frail and uncertain sense of self-identity. Very often we are unsure of who we are or what the purpose of living is. In such a condition our powers of judgment and decision-making are impaired. Naturally, we follow the advice of those who seem to have our best interests at heart or have authority over us. Fearing death from alcohol or drugs, we voluntarily (or sometimes not) join organizations, which offer help and relief, but at a price. A price we are not aware of at the time and that we might not agree to if we new the consequences.”  (Staying Clear of Recovery Cultism)

Vulnerability is the operative word.  Everyone is vulnerable at some time.  Addicts and their co-dependents are especially vulnerable and will gladly pay any price to get out of the terrible fixes addiction puts them in.  This vulnerability combined with the targeting of vulnerable people by abusive cult like  groups is how individuals become enmeshed;

When anyone mentions the word cult or sect, we usually think of   groups like the Moonies, Branch Davidians or Lifespring. Many alcoholics and addicts fall for these and lesser known groups in desperation when trying to rid themselves of a miserable life of addiction. However, what also we fail to see is that many officially accepted recovery groups can also be cults hiding behind a thin facade of social respectability. Some psychologists and cult specialists have already raised the question of whether the 12 Step groups are indeed cults, endangering the long term psychological well-being of their members. “Groupthink” or thought control, cloning, mystique, self-confessions, “groupspeak”, veneration of texts and leaders, etc are some of the features of recovery groups typical also of cults. Indeed, one should also be wary of non-12 Step groups, psychotherapy groups and even secular organizations. Your support group does not have to believe in a Higher Power or follow 12 Steps to be in danger of being cult. Groups can be secular and scientific and still qualify as cults.  (Staying Clear of Recovery Cultism)

The methods of abusive group ‘therapy’ that gives such a stellar ‘cure’ are the very tools used to keep people from a true recovery.  As long as the ‘recovered addict’ is within the grip of the cult like organization he or she is ‘sober’.  If they leave the group – they leave the external controls that keep them ‘sober’.  They have never learned to think, act and choose for themselves.  Some unfortunate souls returning to an abusive ‘rehab group’ cry out;  “Why is this the only place I can stay sober.”  Here’s why;

It is probable that the limited success of groups like AA (“curing” around only 1 in 5 addicts) has nothing to do with the use of a therapeutic method and more to do with brain washing. Those 12 Step members who stay sober for long periods probably do so as a result of the cult discipline and mind control, much in the same way that certain religious cults achieve periods of enforced celibacy and other acts of abstinence.12 Step sobriety may be achieved through methods of thought control and identity destruction, coupled with group coercion, fear, reward and punishments, isolation, reality distortion, linguistic programming, indoctrination and threats.  (Staying Clear of Recovery Cultism)

Ultimately, when someone returns to an abusive cult like group after relapse, they return because they cannot stand the consequences of the drug of their choice or the withdrawal from the drug of their fake therapy or  both;   so they return to where they can escape from a reality they can’t deal with, be controlled and let the leader do their thinking for them.  This also provides the added ‘benefit’ of  the wider society, the returnee’s extended family  and/or  the court system to think that the addict is actually doing something about their addiction.

Dr. Jeffery A. Schaler describes the iron grip of the brittle cocoon of deception such groups place on their members;

Cults serve diverse purposes for individuals, the foremost of which can be a positive sense of community where values are focused, affirmed, and reinforced. The relationship among individuals in a cult is also hypnotic (Freud 1959; Becker 1973). People disagreeing with an ideology binding individuals together in a group are likely to be criticized, punished, and eventually excluded or shunned by the group. This rule reads “thou shalt not disagree,” for affiliation and membership in the cult rests on ideological consensus. In order for the cult to maintain its singular identity, the rule must be obeyed. Break the rule and break the spell. In order for a singular group identity to exist, individual identities must be minimized.

Sadly a return to an abusive rehab cult is a spiritual return to the slavery of Egypt for those with some stirrings of faith in their souls.   For rehab groups that claim to be ‘Christian’ in nature great damage is done to the spiritual well being of those they claim to serve.   The clients do not have nor are they encouraged to have  a sustaining faith in the Lord’s provisioning because the cult leader stands between them and God as their mediator and provider.  The cult leader becomes their god, and for such unfortunate people when life gets too much, they will  run back to the certainty of their leader’s prison;  “The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna. . .   (Numbers 11:4-6)

For some the whole pathological process of relapse, return, abuse, leaving and back to relapse repeats over and over again.

This is one of the vilest forms of hi-jacking the true Gospel of freedom.

 

That’s not a lot – that’s an army!

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A number of years ago when I was volunteering in a drug and alcohol rehab I chatted with a young man who had come from the streets to get off drugs.  He had been at the rehab for a few months and was back to himself being off dope and well fed.  He was reading the Ottawa Citizen and shaking his head.  I asked him what was troubling him.

“Homelessness”, he said, as he cited a very large number of people who were living on the streets in our country.

“That’s a lot of people to have with no place to live”, I said.

“A lot!  That’s not a lot – that’s an ARMY!”, was my young friends retort.  He went on to say;  “They’re all living on the street and they don’t care because nobody cares about them. What happens when they decide they’ve had enough?”

I remember being unsettled by my young friend’s view of ‘the problem of homelessness’.  I saw it as their problem but he saw it as a potentially bigger problem for me.  ‘Me’ – being all of us well fed, well housed and well clothed ‘stake holders’ in society.  There was an ‘army’ at our gates.

Andre Picard’s article in the Globe and Mail reflects on a huge largely ‘silent’ problem that looms in our cities and suburbs.  His  reflections on the terrible violence that erupted at our war memorial points to a potential ‘army at our gates’;

Some of the information that’s emerged about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s interactions with “the system” should give us particular pause. At best, he was a lost soul. At one point, he robbed a McDonald’s using a pointy stick with the aim of being arrested, hoping it would help him kick a drug habit.

There are many other troubled, disenfranchised young men like him. They populate our prisons, our schools and our urban streets, not to mention the basements of many suburban homes, festering away playing Mortal Kombat. Almost none of them will end up being murderers or terrorists, regardless of their mental health status. But it’s still a terrible waste. Our health, education, social welfare and economic systems are failing them.

As long as these young men are in the basement playing ‘Mortal Kombat’ and raiding mom and dad’s refrigerator they are no threat.  What happens when they are ‘kicked out’ for being lumpish freeloaders or leave the nest because ‘there’s too many rules’.  Many end up on the streets and then they may be recruited into a ‘hellish army’.

CBC news has reported that;  “At least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night” and; “Single adult males between the ages of 25 and 55 account for almost half the homeless population (47.5 per cent).”  (30,000 Canadians are homeless every night, CBC News Posted: Jun 19, 2013)

Andre Picard says compassion is needed as much as increased security.

In disturbing cases like last week, we want easily digestible explanations and quick, effective solutions. Sometimes, though, these don’t exist.

The malaise and desperation that results in young men killing themselves and others is not going to be legislated or policed away. We are going to need at least as much compassion as crackdown.

(We can’t legislate lost souls, André Picard, The Globe and Mail, Published Tuesday, Oct. 28 2014)

Why is. the need for ‘compassion and understanding’ so often an afterthought rather than a proactive measure?  Young men without a home, without a future, without a family are drawn to those who will accept them and give ‘meaning’ to their ‘lives’.

Do the hateful recruiters of invisible terrorist armies know better than us?

Halloween – what a waste!

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Halloween has become a big ‘holiday celebration’ in Canada.  Hollie Shaw writes; “Canadians have become so wild about Halloween we now spend more per capita on costumes, candy and décor than our U.S. counterparts do, with holiday-related spending that is second only to Christmas.”  (Financial Post,  October 25, 2014) Why?

Is it more than just ‘good fun’?  What does Halloween craziness say about us as a society?

Some claim that our fascination with Halloween is escapist.  In the US, Stephanie Skordas writes:

But why, during these tough times, are consumers willing to spend so much money on costumes they will use only one night? Wake Forest University English professor Eric Wilson, author of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, says it is because we have a natural fascination with the macabre. He says, aside from the obvious reasons that we just want a night of fun or love a big costume party, there are deeper reasons for the spending spree and our intense interest in vampires and zombies.

  • The harder the times, the more intense the desire to escape. “What is Halloween but a night we can pretend to be someone else, setting aside our worries or regrets,” Wilson says. “But when we remove the mask the next day, reality shuffles back into our lives like a relentless zombie. That’s true terror.”

The perverse pleasure of celebrating death and destruction. “There is a true joy to Halloween, the ecstasy of transforming into another creature,” Wilson says. “But in a time of financial crisis, when many are forced to face their limitations and mortality in unpleasant ways, it makes sense that Americans would be enchanted by dressing up as dead things, zombies and vampires and such.”

(Media Advisory: Halloween spending hikes reveal our fascination with the macabre, Wake Forest University,  Oct 8, 2012)

For the Canadian situation, Andre Mayer of the CBC news citing, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, author of Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night writes:  “While horror entertainment seems to drive the fascination with bloody imagery, Bannatyne says the trend also reflects a general desensitization to violence in light of post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, footage of which can be readily viewed on the internet.”    Halloween and our  increasing fascination with it shows a darker side to our social reality.

Langley Advance outlines an argument by Trinity Western University professor, Dr. Philip Laird;

“What Halloween provides to the individual is an opportunity to explore the dark side, the arousing side, or the fearful side of life in a socially acceptable environment,” Laird said.

“They are almost contradictory parts – you are exploring a part of your personality that at any other time of the year would be viewed as wrong, and yet for this one time of the year it’s acceptable and so people have an opportunity to expose themselves to things, to feel certain things, to get afraid on purpose, and to make other people afraid on purpose. That’s why Halloween draws people in,”

The dark side of this seemingly innocuous fun can take a wrong direction quickly;

Where Halloween goes bad is when there is depersonalization and the fear or the imposition of fear on others can be taken too far,”  . . .

“If we take people and strip them of their human qualities by putting them in a ghost costume, for example, they are no longer recognizable publically as themselves. They then can easily impose fear on someone else. There are a lot of people that will go beyond the socially acceptable limits during Halloween.”

While most consumers will only experience a belly ache or two after consuming copious amounts of candy, Halloween does have a negative side, Laird said.

Every year there is an increase in vandalism and drunkenness.

(TWU experts weigh in on Halloween horrors, Langley Advance, October 28, 2008)

Halloween seems to becoming a time for adults to act like children, playing out their deeper fears about death and violence.  Does this really help?  Children are being crowded out of Halloween to make room for immature adults who can’t seem to deal with one of life’s ultimate realities.     From a religious perspective it has been noted that our society doesn’t deal well with death.  The Catholic Register writes;

Death must be thought about, but it cannot dominate one’s thinking. The ambient culture makes both mistakes. There is the transformation of funeral rituals from occasions to mourn the dead into occasions of pretending that they haven’t died. The funeral has been replaced in many places by a sort of retirement dinner, featuring sentimental and silly stories, only lacking sincere best wishes for the future. On the other hand, popular culture — which is rarely restrained or modest — has a certain fixation with death.

(Our fascination with death,  Catholic Register, October 31, 2013)

When a society celebrates escaping into fantasy in order to avoid reality, it declines.  The decline of faith is a major factor in the increase of escapism and superstition.  Denyse O’Leary argues that ‘if people stop believing in God, they still have to believe in something’.   O’Leary advances a good case for the idea that a solid faith in God provides a decreased susceptibility to believing infantile and superstitious nonsense; “One explanation may be found in a detailed survey undertaken by Baylor University (2007–8), which reported that traditional Christianity sharply decreases credulity about dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology.”  (Denyse O’Leary, Decline in belief in God masks rise in superstition, 2 January 2014)

How sad that we Canadians as  adults are opting to spend 1 billion dollars  on Halloween because we are insecure, childish and seek to escape from reality rather than deal with it.  That money if applied to education, housing or hospitals  could do far more good but that’s an adult thought.  An ancient writer in a in a book few read anymore, describes what is happening; “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint . . . ” (Proverbs 29:18).

Lest we forget

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When my family is attacked I become extremely defensive.  Forgiving someone who hurt me is far easier than forgiving someone who hurt one of my children.  There are times when forgiving seems  impossible.  Words fail to in any way describe the pain and loss of  Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s family and Warrant Officer’s Patrice Vincent’s family.
Yet against all the anger, pain, and grief – people manage to reach out.  The Globe and Mail reports;

In a statement released on Friday, relatives of the slain soldier [Warrent Officer Patrice Vincent] offered support for the family members of Mr. Couture-Rouleau, who had tried to deal with his increasingly militant views.  ‘Our thoughts … go to the Couture-Rouleau family, who are living through difficult moments,’ the statement said.  The statement also offered condolences to the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot by a lone attacker on Wednesday in Ottawa. ‘We share your sorrow and all our heart is with you.’  The statement said WO Vincent was very proud to serve in the Canadian Forces. ‘His loss leaves an immense void in our hearts,’ it said.

Family of killed Quebec soldier reaches out to attacker’s relatives, TU THANH HA, The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Oct. 24 2014

And what of the killers?  It’s very difficult to have compassion or forgiveness for them.  Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother describes her son’s mental and spiritual condition

At the heart of this tragedy, she wrote, is mental illness. Bibeau said her son, who police have said was raised in Montreal, had a serious addiction to drugs, which surely affected his mental state. His conversations were strange — he often spoke of the devil, for instance — leading the family to wonder, “Was he crazy?”

The family tried to help, but he resisted it.

He was an unhappy person who was “at odds with the world,” and so he turned to religion and Islam as a way to make sense of it, Bibeau wrote.

Because religion is not something she can easily relate to, conversations were often one-sided, with him doing the talking and her doing the listening.

(National Post, “Ottawa shooting by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was ‘last desperate act’ of a mentally ill person, his mother writes”,
Douglas Quan, Postmedia News, October 25, 2014)

Forgiving is a deeply spiritual choice as is taking vengeance or hatred.  In world where  little attention is paid to the spiritual dimension of life, it is still possible to find beautiful expressions of forgiveness.  David’s story of forgiving those who beat him senseless because he belonged to a ‘different tribe’ is stirring example:

David was walking along the city streets when a group of young men approached him. They were from a different tribe than David. Because of recent tribal tensions, this was reason enough to want David dead. The group surrounded David and began relentlessly beating him and throwing rocks at him.  A group of soldiers found David lying on the street with several cuts and bruises, barely alive. They brought him to a hospital, where he made a gradual recovery.

David’s heart  did not become a victim of hatred and the lust for revenge ;

When David came to the Bible study, he was quite thin,” said the missionaries. “He and his wife were living off only her wages because David was too afraid to return to the streets where he had been so badly beaten.”

After a few months, David heard a knock on the door. It was the soldiers and they had captured the men who were responsible for his attack. The soldiers were there to offer David a chance for revenge—a front row seat as they would beat up the group of men.

But the lessons in forgiveness were hard at work in David’s heart.

“David refused,” said the missionaries. “He said he could never give someone permission to do to another human being what had been done to him. He said that he forgave them and was praying that they would have new hearts.”

Since the attack, David’s health has improved and he has gained back much of his weight. mPraise God for healing this man and for the Christ-like example that he has demonstrated. Continue to pray with him that others will follow Christ as a result of his actions.

A TRUE TEST OF FORGIVENESS, Christian Reformed Church, October 15, 2014

Terrorism is tribal.  Domestic terrorism, lone wolf terrorism, international terrorism, religious, ideological and political terrorism all have  spiritual tap roots that sink deep into a primordial hatred of ‘us against them’.   How do we protect ourselves from it?  How do we ‘fight’ it?   What modern sociological, forensic, economic and political strategies are available and effective to deal with something rooted far deeper than modern institutions and postmodern mindsets?  How can we be free of the prison terrorism places us in?

Around two thousand years ago a young Jewish teacher brought a radical message to His people;

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

He was executed and as He was dying His cry was for forgiveness for those who were killing Him;

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One”. (Luke 23:33-35)

After any terrible tragedy involving the death of innocent people when the immediate emotions of anger, outrage and fear subside we will be faced with a choice.  Hopefully, reflecting on  the spiritual dimension of reality will guide our thinking.  We can choose to harden our hearts and enter terror’s prison cell or we can reach out beyond ourselves to freedom.

Lest we forget to forgive.

Who are you really fooling?

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Working with people in recovery is as rewarding as it is frustrating.  There are a lot of negative attitudes that you have to deal with in yourself and  in those you minister to.

The attitudes in yourself that can really get in the way are not easy to deal with because you have to be very honest.  And that hurts your pride.  It does mine.  For me, the biggest obstacle in reaching out to those who are struggling with addiction is the urge I have to solve everybody’s  problems.  We all know that doesn’t work very well. You get exhausted and then you get angry and resentful because people don’t do as you want them to do.

You forget that even you don’t have a very good track record in that department.  Paul’s famous admission; “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate . . . ” (Romans 7:15) should remind us not to hold others to a standard we can’t even live up to most of the time.  Paul tells us; “. . .  you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The reality is that it’s not my job to solve other people’s problems or to change them.  I have been given a message to bring to people; ” . . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation .  . . ” (2 Corinthians 5:17,18)  The fullness of this message when heard and held on to by those listening will do the work and change their lives; “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  (Philipians 2:13)  I am not anybody’s saviour. Jesus saves us all!

One of the biggest  roadblocks  addicts and recovering addicts put up to hinder the delivery of God’s message of reconciliation is the  attitude that people who have never been addicted don’t understand the addict’s problems and so have nothing worthwhile to offer.  On the one hand they see sobriety as something desirable but believe life long sober people don’t know what they are talking about.  Often this attitude is earned by many insensitive and outright ignorant things us ‘do gooders’ say.   Anna David illustrates the attitude and why all of us have earned it at some time or another; “When you’re sober, many people just have no clue where you’re coming from. Here are five not-so-informed things “normies” normally say to me—and how I attempt to respond.”  The best thing I have found as a ‘do gooder’ is to listen, listen, listen and when I’m asked stick to God’s message of reconciliation.  I’m living it out as a repentant (and repenting) sinner so I can speak about it.

The real damage this negative attitude towards ‘non- addict’ sober people is that a kind of negative pride grows in the addict or recovering addict.  They have all the ‘street smarts’ you don’t and so you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Anything you say is discounted because ‘you don’t really understand’.  Sometimes they begin to think they are smart because they ‘outsmart’ other people who want to believe in them.   The tendency to manipulate, play on a person’s sympathies and score some money for smokes or a phone card becomes impossible to resist in some cases.  Using starts well before the drug of choice – it starts with using those who mean you no harm  and why not take advantage of them – ‘they don’t understand’. 

Eventually, this traps a person in lies – little and few  at first growing in the moldy darkness of the person’s twisted ‘street pride’ to big and nasty at the end stage.  Ultimately the pride that the attitude ‘people just don’t understand me’ brings a person to is self deception.  And for an addict that is the killer; “The most common reason why people relapse after a period of sobriety is that they become stuck in recovery. This often happens because they have stopped being honest with themselves and other people. They feel unwilling to face a challenge on the path before them so they try to hide from it in denial. No further progress can occur until the individual can clearly acknowledge what the problem is and be willing to take action to remedy the situation.”  (The Importance of Honesty in Recovery)  You can hide and fool most everybody in your life including yourself but you can’t hide from God; “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. ”  (Jeremiah 16:17)  This is as true for me as it is for the relapsing person – none of us can hide from God.

Again, pride works a terrible destruction in the recovering addict’s life.  He believes he’s so smart that he outsmarts himself with denial.  He measures other people with a twisted broken yard stick and finds them lacking.  He then justifies his lack of honesty with the idea that they wouldn’t understand and can’t really ‘solve’ his problems never thinking that they aren’t  responsible for his problems.  He is.  Men are responsible for solving their own problems by working their own program; “. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; . . .  Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life . . . ” (Philippians 2:12, 14-16)

That’s true recovery!

He who restrains

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2 Thessalonians 2:6,7 “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

     Things are pretty bad today but why aren’t they worse? What’s holding the chaos back?  What held the chaos back in Paul’s day?  Some of the older commentaries say that Paul was referring to the Roman empire.  As the only global power at the time Rome exerted a ‘law and order’ influence on the world that kept things from spinning completely out of control.  Matthew Henry writes; “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.” And John Wesley’s Notes say the restraint is due to; ” . . . The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”

     Other commentaries argue that God is (and was) the restraining power at work; “Though Paul wrote these words nearly two thousand years ago, we should do not let anybody deceive us. Prophecy can be fulfilled very quickly, and God is busy laying the groundwork for the fulfillment of these end-time prophecies. When everything is in place, it will happen swiftly.” ( Forerunner Commentary

One position doesn’t preclude the other.  God ordains all human authority for His purposes.  These human institutions and authority structures provide a framework and organization that at its best shelters us from the full ravages of a world gone completely feral.  In that sense the ‘He’ mentioned in the Scripture would be the Person who appoints any ‘state’ or ‘office’ with its authority.

     The Bible  tells us to be law abiding citizens; “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1,2)   Why does God care about orderly law abiding living?  It is in His character to want what’s best for us.  That’s why he sent a reluctant Jonah to Nineveh – Jonah didn’t care about the people there but God did; “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock” (Jonah 4:11)

     People often wonder – ‘Where’s God when there is so much trouble?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God stop this terrible stuff from happening?’ They fail to see that God is at work in His timing not ours; “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:4,5)

     All creation is waiting for God to bring fulfilment and peace according to His promise; “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body . . . ” (Romans 8:22,23)  God is making good on His promise, daily for you and for me and for all creation!

     For those without faith in Jesus, Yeats’ poem The Second Coming describes the terrible advance of the ‘lawless one’;

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, /The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere /The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction,/while the worst   Are full of passionate intensity.”   With a terrible foreboding the poem ends; “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” 

     Without faith, all hope and peace will be lost.  Those that do not love the truth of His Word will be devoured by the vortex of the beast’s widening gyre; “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

     The Bible tells us to stay the course; “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14-17)  As the’ rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem’ many will be drawn away from the Word.  Law and order will decline and lawlessness will ascend.  Standing fast is the only way to prepare.  Standing fast is the only way to weather the storm to come.  Hold on to your faith!
 
     When we stand fast in His Word we will be prepared for His return; “. . . will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18, 7,8)

     Praise the Lord!
    

    

    

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