Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tolerance: America’s Last Virtue

Supposedly the Greek philosopher Aristotle said that “Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society.”  I believe America is on the verge of a rebirth of sorts, but to be reborn implies something died; and yes, the old glory of America is on its last legs.  She is indeed a dying society, and amazingly, Aristotle was also a prophet, because America’s last virtue is undoubtedly tolerance.

But we Americans are like the oblivious King Hezekiah who opened up himself and his entire nation to his enemies.  Indeed, “At that time Berodach-baladan a son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.  Hezekiah listened to them, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and the house of his armor and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them” (2 Kings 20:12-13 NASB).

America was sick (and is actually still sick) but recovering by divine intervention.  And the world has intervened and feigned to wish her well; and like Hezekiah, America listened!  There is a proper openness and transparency, and then there is an improper nakedness and shame.  Our internal policies should be opened behind our doors only, and our government ought to be transparent only to her citizenry; instead we air all our laundry and wonder why we are openly mocked and disgracefully treated by the rest of the world.

The prophet Isaiah basically rebuked Hezekiah and said that Babylon would one day take everything he had showed them to their nation.  Hezekiah was a king that God said walked in David’s righteousness; but in this matter he was extraordinarily obtuse and oblivious to its implications.  Does that sound like anyone you know today?  America, like Hezekiah, has—in her past—walked in righteousness; but is she now?  Did Hezekiah recover from his illness only to be a doddering old fool the remaining years of his life?  Will America, after she is recovered from her illness, be a doddering old fool?      
America, like Hezekiah, has been tolerant in the wrong way; there is, however, a right way, a righteous way.  But first we must redefine what was once defined without ambiguity.  Too many think of tolerance as meaning anything goes, even anarchy or license; a popular maxim says, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”; and I believe that is always right, even when tolerating differing ideas and opinions.  Yes, be open-minded, but never to the degree that your brain falls out of your head! 

The irony in attempting to define the word “tolerance” is how tolerant people have become even in defining the word “tolerance!”  Here are just three (of many) definitions you can find all over the place today; note the vast variability: 1. “Tolerance or toleration is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry” (Wikipedia).  2. “Willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own; the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant” (Merriam-Webster online).  3. “TOL’ERANCE, noun [Latin tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828, online edition).

Now I hold the last definition to be the most authoritative for the simple reason that Webster’s definition precedes the others and is directly derived from the Latin word it originated from, “to bear.”  Sure, we ought to suffer (bear or endure) fools, but we do not have to promote them to positions of authority and make their foolish ideas and stupid opinions the policy or law of the land.

Enlarging our hearts and being inclusive of everyone has shrunk our minds and excluded America herself from her own shores; by embracing everyone and everything we have shunned ourselves and the face of our nation which once launched a thousand ships upon a thousand seas of merciful occasion.

Postmodern America’s borders are vanishing like the parameters of the dictionary definitions of our native tongue; we are becoming as confused as those whom God scattered away from the base of their colossal error, the Tower of Babel.  They were confused about the gate of God (Jesus Christ is the gate; He always was, and always will be).  They tried to unify around the works of their own hands and the vain designs of their own imaginations; if God had allowed them to be successful, they would have forever eclipsed God’s better way of unification and design.  Likewise, if America does not awaken from the slumber of hyper-toleration, she too will be confused and scattered.  

Of course the Bible, as is ALWAYS the case, has the answer.  A great picture of true tolerance and openness of mind and perspective is found n this excerpt of Scripture: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29-30 NIV).  And that is extraordinary, something to consider; but notwithstanding this excellent upgrade, there is something even better to lay hold of.  Behold, something greater than Solomon is here: THE MIND OF CHRIST; we HAVE the mind of Christ!

Though we ought always to be patient with all men, and we ought always to bear long with people, even showing deference to them in love from the heart, we never need to subscribe to wrong thinking and vain imaginations (in us or others).  It is time to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.  Indeed, it is time to be wiser than our enemies, smarter than our teachers, and more discerning than our religious overlords or elders; this will only happen in proportion to how much we study the Bible and give ourselves to prayer.  “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts” (Psalm 119:98-100 NIV).

Righteousness exalts a nation, not tolerance, and righteousness is inherently restrictive of some types of beliefs and behaviors; in God’s economy, subtraction and multiplication increases things, and narrowness of entrance exits as enlargement of purpose and perspective.  Let us tolerate from the heart and discriminate from the mind; let us open our hearts to the masses and close our minds to the enemy.  Enlarge your tents for increased citizenry, yes, but also close your borders to decrease enemy infiltration.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Being Cut to the Heart with Joy; willingly becoming a Living Sacrifice

“They were SAWN IN TWO” (Hebrews 11:37).

“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, PENETRATING TO THE DIVIDING LINE OF THE BREATH OF LIFE (SOUL) AND [THE IMMORTAL] SPIRIT, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 Amp.).

“Now upon hearing these things [the Word of God as preached to them by Stephen], they [the Jews] were CUT TO THE HEART AND INFURIATED, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen]” (Acts 7:54 Amp.).

In the course of faith exercised some were sawn in two, made martyrs for their faith; they are in the Faith Hall Of Fame listed in Hebrews (and the world was not worthy of them).  There are also pretenders, spawns of Jannes and Jambres, who feign to mimic holy martyrdom by deceiving many into believing they too can saw people in two, or be sawn in two, and live and be happy.  “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit”; “They have depraved and distorted minds, and are reprobate and COUNTERFEIT and to be rejected as far as the faith is concerned” (Jude 1:19 NASB; 2 Timothy 3:8 Amp.).

Indeed, “Sawing a woman in half is a generic name for a number of stage magic tricks in which a person (traditionally a female assistant) is APPARENTLY SAWN OR DIVIDED INTO TWO or more pieces” (Wikipedia, Sawing a woman in half).  Magic is very popular today; magic is also based on deception or trickery, the modus operandi of the kingdom of darkness.

In God’s Kingdom and economy, division is more like multiplication, attrition more like nutrition, and subtraction more like addition; what God has put together, let no man separate, but also, what God has separated, let no man put together.  When man splits atoms, disaster follows; when God splits Adams, victory follows.  Often, what is divisive to us is cohesive to Him, and likewise, what is cohesive to us is divisive to Him.  It’s like we use Enron math and cooked books, whereas He uses MIT math and raw data; Einstein said that God does not play dice, but if He did, He’d win.

The losing of our souls here to gain them in the hereafter is an emotive separation, a violent thing which we naturally oppose and often object to, but a necessary thing, a division in God’s divine economy which ends in victory and multiplication and salvation.

Surgery heals, but not until it further wounds; God’s incision, God’s separating soul from spirit is a surgical strategy.  He must separate us from our sins by separating us from the soul which sinned (and therefore must surely die); but no worry, God’s endless life (in Christ Jesus in us) which He possesses and gives to us in our spirits will resurrect us.  Though it kills our hearts to lose our souls, God applies the paddles of His endless life power and brings us back from the brink of death.  He is the Great Physician indeed!

Do not be deceived by those who dare to separate only in theory and malpractice; you DO have to die to live, you DO have to embrace the cross, you DO have to be circumcised, you DO have to lose to win, surrender to victory, be judged to mercy.  We, like the father of faith must raise our knives; we must be sawn in two!  Indeed, “He [Abram] brought all these [sacrificial animals] to Him and CUT THEM IN TWO” (Genesis 15:10 NASB).

We are going to be cut to the heart, cut to the quick, by God’s sword, His scalpel; either we appreciate it (knowing how sick we are) or we foolishly become infuriated and gnash our teeth (stupidly thinking we are healthy).  The Great Physician is great not only because of His surgical skills, but also because of His perfect diagnoses and prognoses abilities.  He, better than His patients, knows what ails them, and how to heal them.   

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a LIVING SACRIFICE” (Romans 12:1 Amp.).  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

To the Mature in Christ: the Babies are Coming, Get Ready!

A friend of mine well said that “Faith is not a formula; faith is a relationship.”  Sometime back I wrote an article entitled “Not a Formula, but a Fountain,” an article which agrees with my friend’s statement.  But there is more to say, and I think, a need to clarify this matter more thoroughly.

First I must confess that I personally have a natural disdain or contempt for formulations and rote-like learning models; I suppose I developed this dislike because even though I was a fast study who usually understood things very quickly (without too much repetition) I had to endure a mind-numbing amount of repetition at the snail pace speed of instruction made to the entire class I attended.  I was religiously taught elementary things in elementary ways for too long by strict catholic nuns (ugh!).  Though I speak this way, it probably did me more good than harm.

To train by formulation is a proven method, a method which undoubtedly results in making what is first a plastic overlay into an inner-laid second nature.  I have come to realize there is room for a formulation in both fountains and relationships; in fact, a fountain with no form sprays all over the place, and a relationship without rules has no definition and is therefore no relationship at all.

The law which is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ is a formula which brought us to a relationship, and the law which is holy and fulfilled by Christ is forever subsumed into His graceful nature.  The mercy which triumphs over judgment is now the judgment and is never one whit less holy as the grace given (as was the given law which was broken which required it). 

A relationship far exceeds a formula, rules, or law, but never to the degree to which it throws off any of them as an unnecessary part of the whole; I use grammar and other literary rules as I write this, but it is so mature and automatic to me, as though it were my very nature, enough as to be fountain-and-relationship like rather than rule-or-formula-driven like.

When we are young and immature in this way, when we hardly know God yet, we do well to live by defined disciplines, and yes, even formulations.  Though forms are restrictive, only as wide and as deep and as high as they are made by us, they also quantify a limit to be learned, a measure we can handle.  We must absorb God in bite sized and digestible portions.  Although God cannot be placed into a box or any other form, his Word, the Bible, by which we learn of Him aright, is learned in a way that must be line upon line and precept upon precept.  Though God is outside the box, He is also inside it; yes, He inhabits eternity, but He also graciously infuses Himself into our puny boxes and simple formulations.

A revival is coming, no, a reformation; and there is going to be an enormous wave of new births, salvations.  God is preparing the mature to teach what the young and zealous harvest.  God is preparing many pastors and teachers and mentors in this hour, and these mature saints must be knowledgeable beyond formulation, yes, but also well versed in formulas too.

Our goal is to be like Him, to MATURE no doubt; and the mature, to be mature, have internalized the formulations and disciplines of the faith.  Our walk with God is now habitual, our nature.  But to the immature and adolescent, there are yet formulated lessons to absorb and personalize.  Let us, the mature, us personifications of the faith, do our job, our Christian duty.  Let us stoop down, change diapers, and instruct the children; let us also teach formulas, because babies, well, they drink milk, yes, but nowadays, they drink FORMULA!