Friday, February 17, 2017

The downside of Christian "help"

Today is my younger son's birthday. He is 27 years old and has battled many illnesses in his life. I, too, have battled illnesses and other issues. One of the types of continuous battles I have endured is the battle against Christian unhelpful advice.

Valentine's Day has just passed.

What Bible verses should I use for Valentine's Day, a day dedicated to friendship, to marriage, and to love?

I thought hard and long about this and I decided on the two verses below because it is my son's birthday and because I have experienced how false or imperfect love is often shown to those with sick children. I will add a nod to Valentine's Day, though. Since we're talking about love and friendship.

Marriage is another thing that Christians judge each other about. Christians who have been divorced after a five year marriage will attempt to give counsel to people who have been married for 30 years. Christians without sick children have attempted to counsel and judge the spirituality of Christians with sick children. Christians who insist on giving other Christians marriage or spiritual advice --whether on phone calls, or through emails, or in person should remember the following two verses.

The Bible states:

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy. Proverbs 14:10
 
It also states:
 
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Phil 2:3
 
It is understandable that as a people zealous of good work, we all try to help each other. But, this need to help another by sharing our wisdom with them often rests on these foundations:
 
A) "The person to whom I am speaking does not know what I know."
B) "The person whom I am helping has never had the thought I am now having."
C) "The person to whom I am speaking has not spoken to God or heard from God and/or is not speaking to God about this problem."
D) "No one has ever told this person what I am now telling them."
E) "My desire to tell this person what is on my heart is solely from God and not from my own desire to meddle."
F) "If the person whom I am seeking to help will only do what I say, then all will be well."
 
This kind of reasoning shows that we esteem ourselves and our ideas more than we esteem others. Consider, Job's friends. They were spiritual people and most Christians nowadays are like them. They want to give an answer to another person and they believe they know. But Job's friends are better than modern Christians. Job's friends at least kept quiet for seven days.
 
Like Job, many Christians suddenly have to deal with forgiveness issues after their friends have decided to help them with advice.
 
The Christian "friend" does not realize this. Neither do they realize that their advice can be felt as disheartening  and can feel as if the "helper" is subtly bullying and hinting at them. It makes them feel unheard and preached at. Primarily, however, the "helper" has put the wounded, sick, or sad Christian in the position of feeling unlistened to. There is something so tiring about people not hearing one's heart. And the sad thing is that the Christian who is intent on "helping" her fellow Christian often never seems able to simply shut up.  This shows that it is often not God speaking but that we are dealing with a Christian who, like Job's friends, has a judgmental need to hammer her friend with her theological hammer.

Sometimes, we love others by simply acknowledging that we believe them and the words they have said about their lives.

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet son and my kind, nonjudgmental and silent friends.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Two protective Psalms kids and adults should memorize


Two psalms that kids should memorize are Psalm 91 and psalm 121.

These are two protecting psalms and psalm 91 especially has a great reputation for saving people in and out of difficulties. This doesn't mean psalm 121 is a slouch. It has its own particular promises which I will get to. And it is easy for a child under 4 to memorize.

Psalm 91:

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

There are many promises in Psalm 91, more than I will go into right now.
And I've already posted about this on my blog and in my book Blogging the Psalms. But for a quick refresher, consider verses 5 and 6. Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High God are promised safety from evils that come in the night, from swift sudden deadly situations in the day, from plagues, and mass occult infections, and from any kind of destruction in the middle of the day. Those who have anxiety or nameless dread would do well to meditate on this psalm. Verse 3 promises to preserve the one who lives focused on and rooted in God from traps, snares, tricks, and other sneaky bait set by evil predatory people, and it promises freedom from pestilences everywhere.  In the Eastern Text, the phrase translated in the KJV as "noisome pestilence" is different and is "conspiratorial gossip." So, if you want to memorize and believe in that version, go for it!

Psalm 121

1 (A Song of degrees.) I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121 takes a more cosmic view of the universal salvation of God. Look at verse 6. We are promised that the sun will not smite us by day nor the moon by night. This might be a reference to when the Israelites travelled from Egypt and a cloud overshadowed them in the day to protect them from the sun's heat while a pillar of light lit their way at night. Like the Israelites, who were baptized with the same baptism as we are, we also are protected in Christ.  But on a purely speculative level, the psalm promises that --should the sun ever go supernova, or should the moon cause all kinds of moon-caused trouble (let's say tidal waves going berserk) the child of God will be protected because the Lord made heaven and earth. Yahweh is not like the Egyptian Gods who only supposedly ruled one area -- rivers, seas, livestock, flies, etc, the sun or the moon. The God of the Israelites ruled over everything in heaven and in the earth.

Moreover, He is able to preserve our soul, spirit, mind and body. He goes before us and after us for all time.



 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Little Yeast

I've been thinking of the following two verses:

Such persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. -- Galatians 5:8,9

And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15

We Christians have to be careful of what and who we allow to speak into our lives. Whether those speakers are pastors, televangelists, prophets (Pharisees) or worldly media or politics (Herod)

A small example. Christians in the USA began to use the media to preach religion. This became the Christian media. Then they began using the Christian media to preach politics. At the same time, the conservative secular media (political, social, and racial issues) saw how good it would be to have Conservative Christians on their side so they took on some of the messages of the Christian media. A strange merging began.

This is where the idea of a little yeast affects the whole lump.

Sometimes I find myself listening to a radio station and I really can't figure out whether it's a Christian station or not. The DJs talk about politics and racial issues and who should be ruling the government so much that it feels as if the Christian radio has lost its TRUE MESSAGE. I understand businesses have to make money, and listeners like listening to people talk. But the dough of conservative Christianity has been taken over by the yeast of Herod. The gospel of the kingdom has given way to the human desire to have an earthly paradise.

The yeast of the Pharisees has already infiltrated Christianity these past 2000 years. Legalism has surpassed Grace in many respect. People preach the tree of the knowledge of good and evil more than they preach the tree of life. The pure simple gospel is very rarely preached without folks adding cultural accretions.

Although Christian Bible-believing progressives don't really have a radio station -- that I'm aware of-- we should also be careful of the yeast of Herod.  We also should be careful of how we preach the gospel and what yeast we put into it.

 

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