Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Johnny Poppin' 8; Children of God

1 John 3:1-3
1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

This has to be one of the most beautiful and reassuring passages in Scripture. How can I write anything to do it justice? How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us? That He calls us His children? Not in the mythological, legendary sense like our nation is a super race. Not in the false-doctrine, start-your-own-religion sense like we're the descendants of aliens or advanced beings who can transcend this material realm if we just tap into our inner powers. God is perfect and we are not He needs us to be capable of love and selflessness. We weren't before Jesus, our adoptive brother died for us on the cross, showing us how loving and selfless God is. He sacrificed His only Son so that we could become His children too.
1 John 3:4-10
4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Gotta admit, verses 6-9 there really gives me fits. Like Paul in Romans 7:14-25, I can't seem to escape sinning no matter how much I love and seek Jesus. It seems hopelessly complicated and hopelessly difficult, but (besides Romans 8:1-4) the part that clears it up for me because John reminds us of Jesus' great commandment, love. We aren't acting like God's children when we fail to love our brother. Who's your brother? Who's your neighbor? Jesus tells us in Luke 10:25-37.

What love God has lavished on us, to give us opportunities everyday to reflect His likeness by showing love toward others, no matter how different they are from us. Let's act like His children and bring honor to the family name. Let's make our Pappa proud!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Johnny Poppin' 7; The Antichrist(s)

1 John 2: 18-29
Warning Against Antichrists
18Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.
26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Children of God
28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
29If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

A lot of people like to use the concept of an antichrist to make people afraid.

Movie makers of 'the Omen' concocted a story about Satan's baby switched at birth with the stillborn child of a British diplomat who kills his nannies and priests who try to stop him.

Those who subscribe to mistaken doctrines of the millenialism and dispensationalism have tried to interpret the Revelation of John , chapter 13 to warn of an antichrist who will lead some kind of one-world government under Satanic control to try to thwart the coming 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ before the final judgment day. In fact, the term antichrist only appears in Johns letters, not in the book of Revelation. This kind of thing was declared heresy by the mainstream church by the 4th century. Still, whether because people like to think that they know or can predict how the end times will play out or because they want to scare people into becoming Christian, these false teachings persist. The irony is that John was writing against these very kinds of false teachings when he wrote 1 John.

Incidentally,  millenialsim may have it's roots in pre-Christian religions like Zoroastrianism, not to mention an unhealthy fascination with Nostradamus. Hitler offered a "Reich" or 1,000 year reign ushering in peace and good and a defeat of all evil (presumably Jews).

Most recently, political opponents of candidate Barrack Obama tried to spread rumors, mostly by viral emails, that he was the antichrist. They claimed that the according to Revelation, the antichrist would be in his mid forties, Muslim, and have huge popular appeal . Islam wasn't founded until 400 years after John wrote Revelation, and Obama repeatedly and openly proclaimed his belief in Jesus Christ.

Some of the types of teaching that John was warning his original readers about might have included those of Marcion of Sinope, a Greek Bible teacher who believed in two separate gods, Yaweh was the god of the old testament- which Marcion pretty much through out, and "God the Father," of the new testament.

Notice John explains that antichrists went out from us in verse 19? How many false teachers and false prophets operate under the guise of being "Christian?" 

"Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son." Who is an antichrist? Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

At John's time there was a movement called Gnosticism, or the "secret knowledge," a belief that we're all offspring of an imperfect god and can transcend the material world and become more god-like. Gnostics didn't believe that Jesus was the only begotten son of God, some thought He was an embodiment of the supreme being who came to Earth to bring this secret knowledge, others thought He was just an example of someone who managed to perceive the higher reality.

This false teaching is still showing up today, whether in things like 'the Da Vinci Code,' or various sects and cults like Scientology, that claim that salvation comes from the light within.

But John comforts us by reminding us to hold onto what we were originally taught and that our anointing being set aside for God's purpose in baptism still holds. We don't need some new secret, mystic knowledge, all we need is Jesus.

We don't have to be afraid of an antichrist or antichrists, all we have to do is to remember who the real Christ is and to trust in Him.

A final word, I should've included this in the original post-
"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:3

That verse is one of the ways I "tested" to be sure that President Obama is NOT an antichrist!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lighten up, Lutherans

I've never seen a happy or friendly looking portrait of Martin Luther. But if you've read much Luther, you realize what a great sense of humor he had. My wife and I wanted to make something for our pastor for Christmas this year. As much as I thought that he'd appreciate one of those "suffer the little children to come unto me" pictures of Jesus- I just couldn't bring myself to do it, they're SO many of them. And I don't know whether I could capture either Jesus or a bunch of children successfully. I'm not saying that they should re-make the 2003 movie "Luther" and replace Joseph Fiennes with Jack Black in the role of Luther or anything, but I don't see why he can't be portrayed as a jovial and approachable paternal or even grandfatherly type. Why must he always be so stern and sober?

"You have as much laughter as you have faith" ~Martin Luther

"If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there." ~Martin Luther

"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." ~Martin Luther

"He who sits  in heaven laughs" Psalm 2:4

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nixon had his tapes, Bush has 22 MILLION emails!

Nixon had his tapes, Bush has 2 or 3 YEARS worth of emails
• bogus intel to sell the Iraq war
• Valerie Plame CIA blown cover
• torture memos
• Abu Ghraib
• Guantanimo
• US Attorney firings
Who knows what other skeletons are in the closet!

Read or listen to the story on NPR this morning

Monday, December 07, 2009

Thy will, not mine

God, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me whatever you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. Into your hands I commend my spirit. I offer it to you with all the love that is in my heart. For I love you, Lord, and so want to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence. Amen.

A prayer of Charles de Foucauld

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Johnny Poppin' 6; Do Not Love the World

12I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
14I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
-1 John 2:12-14

This poem-like greeting is even cooler when you old Saint Johnny when he wrote it. When he first became a disciple, he was one of Jesus' youngest followers, a small town fisherman on the "Sea" of Gallilee. When he wrote this letter to the church, he was an old man on some island in the Aegean, far from his roots, toward the end of his travels through Greece and Turkey spreading the word of God across the world. He may have been in his 80's or 90's. So it was very tender and sweet to call us "dear children." He's not being condescending or patronizing, he's full of affection. Try to remember that this isn't some archaic historical document or stuffy, academic theological treatise. This is a letter. The whole Bible is God's love letter to His children, but try thinking about first, second, and third John as letters from your grandpa or a great uncle. It really makes it personal and meaningful.

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
-1 John 2:15-17

This morning on my drive in to work, I happened upon Chuck Swindoll's radio broadcast, "Insight for Living" and he happened to be teaching on this same passage. Click here if you'd like to hear what he had to say about it.

It got me to thinking, what is "the world" anyway?

Often Christian teachers mention three enemies to the human soul, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The Devil is obvious, a specific individual- intimidating but finite and already defeated by Christ. The flesh, well that's our own sinful human nature, our cravings, drives, and lusts (Romans 7:14-25). Sigmund Freud may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was right that deep down human beings can be motivated by pleasure and pain.

But what exactly IS this thing they talk about when they say "the world?" Is it the planet Earth? The environment? Soil? Dirt? I don't think so.

In the 1976 movie, "Network," Arthur Jensen, chairman of the company which owns a television network, explains his "corporate cosmology" to a mentally unstable network news anchor;

"There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast interwoven, interacting, multivariate multinational dominion of dollars. Petrodollars, electrodollars, reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today..."

No, I'm sure that a lot of you who know my political leanings are assuming that I'm accusing "the world" of being the financial world or maybe materialism or consumerism, but it's more than that. It is society, human culture, the holistic system of systems or selfish, short sighted, sinful humans- it is all of us together, collectively.

Call it peer pressure if you want to, but it's not a sentient, conscious, deliberate being like either our own selves or Satan. But it does have a gravity to it., a climate, and current, a sway. It includes all our lusts, all our sinful ambitions, including but not limited to money and consumerism too. Sex, power, prestige, attention, food, entertainment- sex, drugs and rock and roll- sex, politics, and religion- all of this constitutes "the world," and all of us together.

Is "the world" money and consumerism? You bet. I think it's also prejudice and discrimination and racism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds including homophobia and religious bigotry. It's hate. It's what Thomas Hobbes might have called being in a cruel, rough state of constant competition. Martin Luther King Jr. would have said that it included poverty, racism, and militarism.

It is "the way we've always done things," the way things are, societal and institutional pressures. It is the force that says that it's not okay to be a 40 year old virgin and the force that says that you have to be skinny and tall and tan and have big boobs or big genitalia and ripped abs. "The world" is the "they" that always seem to have something to say. It is the voyeuristic need to know who's doing who and who's on what and the urge to be famous on your own "reality" show.

1 John 2:15-17 warns against three traps of the world;- lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and boastful pride; Hedonism, materialism, and egotism.

But we are called to be in the world but not of it. To love the sinners but hat the sin.

In John's Gospel, toward the end of his ministry, before his suffering and death, Jesus tells us that we aren't at home in this world.

John 15:19 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples and for us too- John 17:15 "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

He reminds God the Father that we are aliens in this system of sinful systems.
John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Johnny Poppin 5: Living in the Light

7Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. -1 John 2:7-8
in the Gospel of John 13:34-35, Jesus told His disciples (John being one of them) "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

THAT is the whole point which I was trying to make in my past post on 1 John. They will know we are Christians by our love. All the law and the prophets is summed up in these, love the Lord your God with all your heart... and love you neighbor as ourselves. These three remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. That's not from the Beatles of from some tree-hugging, granola chewing, pot smoking hippie- that's from God.

Before you start thinking that this is light-weight, touchy-feely, girlie, panzy stuff- John gets pretty serious and hard core in the next few verses.

9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. -1 John 2:9-11
What causes hate? Why did Cain's familial love for his brother get overridden by enough hate to kill him? Ignorance? Fear? Anger? Jealousy? Pride? Being offended somehow? Insecurity? Competition for resources, for interests, for attention, position, control? Prejudice? All these things. Tuck away the word fear into a file cabinet in your brain, because we'll address it again later on in 1 John. For now, know that if hate is the opposite of love, fear is the opposite of faith. (you probably thought that it was the opposite of courage or confidence, but trust me on this one. And remember, that fear and love are enemies. Love crowds out fear and hate. I've always tried to explain "sin" to people as anything we think, feel, or do which damages our relationships with God or with others.

Mirriam Webster says that hate is an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury. When we hate, we dislike and what's more we wish ill for someone. I want to remind you that in Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus says that hate is pretty much equivalent to murder.

It's like the old joke; "I'm a pacifist. I believe in peace, and I believe in it so strongly that I'm willing to fight for that belief!" Note the irony.

But how often do we see it played out in real life? Animal rights activists so enraged by cruelty to animals that they resort to violence against humans. Or someone who is so "Pro-life" that they bomb a health clinic where they are performed, or that they assassinate a doctor who performs late term abortions while he serves as an usher at church.

I'm not trying to pick on the pro life movement or condone abortion- what I'm trying to point out is that ALL of us (myself included) tend to get complacent and assume that we're "good" Christians and don't sin, when every day we allow hate to influence our motivations and cloud our judgments, taint our reactions, and before long, it permeates every aspect of our unconscious without our even realizing it.

Lord Jesus,
this Advent season, come into our lives and open our eyes to Your light and may we live and walk in the light of Your love, no more to stumble around in the darkness of our petty, selfish hate- whether it be a burning, consuming hatred or a gradually corrosive yet hardly noticeable mundane and banal, everyday sneaky or subconscious hate. Instead, help us to abide by Your commandment to love one another, to love You above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves.