Friday, August 08, 2008

holy reverential blasphemy

I saw on the news this morning that a church bus had an accident and several people were killed.

I've been thinking lately about blasphemy and "taking the name of the Lord in vain." I think we Christians have a certain annoying piety in which we continually blaspheme God thinking we are giving him glory. Most of us would probably say "I never take the name of the Lord in vain." And by that we mean, we don't say cuss words or we don't say "oh gee!" or "Oh God!" or "Oh Jesus!" or "Holy crap!" But nevertheless, we still blaspheme God's name.

There I was at the deli rewarding myself with my once a month greek salad when one old lady customer mentions to the waitress and to another customer that someone she knows has died. Up come little miss spiritual waitress, "It was the man's time, then. Don't worry. God took him." The old lady customer said, "I don't believe God took him." But that was pretty much it. I so wish I could have just jumped into the conversation. But for all my chattering here, I honestly hate religious debate. Aside from the fact that the young waitress quickly dismissed the old lady's pain by a platitude (as if platitudes can heal pain) there is that little bit of nastiness which has got to be the worst blasphemy of the Christian church, a heresy that has caused more harm to regular people than I can think of. The God is sovereign heresy. The Nothing happens but what is God's will blasphemy. The God has power over everything heresy.

Folks, the Bible tells us that God cannot do certain things without us. We are co-laborers with God. It is God's will that all men should be saved but God rarely saves folks without using preachers. How shall they know if they have not heard? God has chosen the foolishness of preaching.

God wants us to go to heaven but we cannot go there unless we repent of our sins, turn from our wicked ways, trust in God, and forgive our enemies.

God wants us to do good, and we cannot do good on our own. We need God to help us in our march toward holiness. But God cannot force good into us, we have to resist the devil.

God wants us to be well but if we eat the wrong things, or if we do not persevere, or if we do not allow the living word to transform our body or if those who pray for us do not have faith. we will not reap.

How many times have I heard ministers make a theology of disbelief, looking pious as they tell us that suffering is piety...and all the while turning over the faith of many by telling them not to hope for miracles.

Check out some of the verses in Psalm 78


7That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
9The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10They kept not the covenant of God,
and refused to walk in his law;
11And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.
Interesting that being armed and carrying the armor of God and turning back in the day of spiritual battle is considered as not keeping the covenant of God.


17And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
18And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
19Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
20Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
21Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
22Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:


Can God do this? Can God do that?

40How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!

41Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
42They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
43How he had wrought his signs in Egypt,
and his wonders in the field of Zoan.
56Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:
57But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.


Much of this misunderstanding about God's power and sovereignity comes from folks not reading a Bible verse in its entirety. A lot of these verses have a condition in them.

Hebrews 7:25
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them

Galatians 5:6 states that Faith worketh by love. You may have tons of faith but hey, if you have no love...your prayer may not be answered. So don't blame God. The power to get the prayer answered depends on how loving you are and if you can forgive and love your neighbor.

And this one: People always say that God is able to make all grace abound ...but they often don't remember the first part of this passage:
6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:


Check out Romans 8:28 which Christians often quote only as "all things work together for good."
But the actual quote is:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Break it down:
Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good .... to them that love God... to them who are the called .....according to his purpose
.

So, do we love God? Are we the called? Are we intent on God's purpose?

When someone's husband was two hundred pounds overweight and doesn't exercise...then he ups and dies, God did not take him.

When someone dies in the middle of making love to someone not his wife...God did not take him. Probably more of a case of reaping what he sows. (I read a statistic once from a secular book on sex. It shows that less than 1% of people who die die while having sex, but of those who die in the middle of sex, 87% died while committing adultery.) Folks, there is such a thing as "be sure your sin will find you out." It's not God killing you, it's your sin that's killing you. Dying from Risky sex doesn't mean God punished you. Hey, you might get to heaven, but it's your lifetime that brought you there sooner than expected. It wasn't God who whisked you over there because he wanted to punish you. Or because he loved you and wanted you in heaven with him. Puhleze!

If a bad car accident happens to someone who doesn't love God or never once thought of God, this verse does not apply to that person. First, God only chastises his children, not strangers. Second nowhere in the new testament does God chastise people with illness. In the old testament illness was a punishment not a sign of God's love. So why do people say, "God must know what he is doing?" Folks, God had nothing to do with it. Don't these folks know about the devil? Don't these folks know that death and life are in the power of the tongue and someone might have said something negative that accidentally cursed a person? (Yeah, I believe this stuff. I've seen it in action. A friend of mine got a bike and another friend kept saying, "You're gonna die on that bike, you know. That thing is dangerous." My friend replied, "Well, if I die, I'm gonna go in a blaze of glory." A month later, my friend with the bike died. IN A BIKE ACCIDENT. My friend who had warned him went around saying, "I had warned him." And walked around feeling like a prophet. How many times have mothers said to their sons, "Why do you always fall for these no-good women? You don't want to end up with all these babies over the place." Then...the next thing you know.

Sometimes God does take someone but not as often as we say. The problem is more likely to be caused by the devil, caused by our own words or caused by living in a world where accidents happen. But when we hear someone say something glib about "God took them to test us," let's remember that the Bible says, "When a man is tested, let him not say that he is tested of God because God tests no one." And let us not think that God "gave us a handicaped child" because he wants to purify and test us. God doesn't do that kind of thing...unless he is determined to give you a miracle...as in the case of the man born blind. (And even there, there's a possibility that the translation is a bit off.)

Anyway, just had to get that off my chest. Too many atheists exists nowadays because some well-meaning Christian told them that God had taken their little sister or had killed their parents. We don't know why some stuff happens, we should stop spouting off to "comfort" people. We only end up looking smug and blaspheming God.

As Christians we allow our gentle meek and mild God to grow up. But sometimes we go so far into accepting God's inscrutability that we start saying that God does evil things to us in the name of love. But God doesn't do evil to us. He has already punished Jesus for all the sins we will ever be punished for. All that is left for a real child of God is a reward judgement. Perhaps we have a chastisement if we are really on the wrong path. And perhaps if we sin a sin unto death, our sin finds us out and destroys us. Not God. But an atheist would rather cling to a God who always saves the innocent and allows life to be fair. But Jesus was innocent, wasn't he? God may not save us out of our mess. Or, he might be trying to save us out of our mess, but we don't have the faith or the persevereance to co-labor with God to get us out of our mess.

The childlike innocence of the atheists is one that says, "I want a God I can understand. I want a world where I don't have to rely on faith but on what I see." It's a little different from the trust we are asked to have in God. And basically, atheists are relentlessly loyal to this understandable, good, protective God who hurts their enemies and protects their friends. And they would rather have no god at all than a God who they can't understand or a God who allows the evil in the world. They want a god who is sovereign over all." Trouble is, though, if we start asking God to remove evil from the world, where should he start and where should he end? Should he allow us to cheat our friend or steal our friend's boyfriend? OR should he only tackle folks who do stuff like kill 6 million Jews? If we start asking God to step in and remove all evil, how long would we last?

Christians on the other hand go so far into the "God is sovereign, God is inscrutable" path that in trying to avoid the ditch on one side, they go into the ditch on the other side. They say things such as "this is my thorn in the flesh." Well, as Smith Wigglesworth would say, "To what wonderful degree of holiness have you reached that you should have a thorn in the flesh?" Thorns in the flesh (whether an actual illness or a spirit knocking you about) is very rare. Most of the folks I've seen who claim to have this just plain aren't that holy. And when Christians start saying that suffering can turn people to God, I can only half-agree. Suffering might turn people to God but often it turns people from him. And even if it turns people to God it doesn't necessarily lead people to repentance. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that anything but the Holy Spirit can bring conviction of the truth of the revelation of the reality of Jesus' redemption and gift of salvation.

Sure, we have trials on earth. But those trials involve being persecuted by the world, being persecuted by the devil. Our trials come usually because we are in the world, because we are God's children, and because of our own self getting us into trouble. They generally don't come from God. We endure them because God is with us, not because God sent us.
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