Christ is All

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett.

O lover to the uttermost,

May I read the meltings of thy heart to me

in the manger of thy birth,

in the garden of thy agony,

in the cross of thy suffering,

in the tomb of thy resurrection,

in the heaven of thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,

tread down his temptations,

resist his schemings,

renounce the world,

am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to thee,

as spiritual bridegroom,

as Jehovah’s fellow,

as sinners’ friend.

I think of thy glory and my vileness,

thy majesty and my meanness,

thy beauty and my deformity,

thy purity and my filth,

thy righteousness and my iniquity.

Thou hast loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,

my I love thee as I am loved;

Thou hast given thyself for me,

may I give myself to thee;

Thou hast died for me,

may I live to thee,

in every moment of my time,

in every movement of my mind,

in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,

but walk by thy side,

listen to thy voice,

be clothed with thy graces,

and adorned with thy righteousness.

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Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity- Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

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A Very Good Date Movie

“Chick flicks” are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not only because of the goofball characters, shallow dialogue and lack of substance, but because everyone assumes that the couple lives happily ever after just because the girl finally agrees to go on a date with the guy who’d been begging for the past 90 minutes. I think it can only be considered a true happy ending if the couple actually seals their vows under the alter at the end of the movie. I used to call that a complete love story.

And then I got married.

Now I know that wooing the beautiful girl was just the easy part – the prologue, if you will. But it’s marriage that really bears the weight of true “happily ever” love. And most of the time, it doesn’t hold it. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are wanting out of their marriage, or are doubting the stability of their love for one another. Our pastor preached a wonderful sermon on marriage last Sunday at Ninth and O Church, and you can listen to it here, called, “When Marital Dreams Turn to Matrimonial Nightmares.”

I consider the movie Sweet Home Alabama one of the best love stories to come out of the recent Hollywood vault. (The biggest reason is because there’s no sexuality. Some dialogue and projected world views might be unsuitable for children.) I’m sure there are others out there that are better, but like I mentioned, I don’t go out hunting for these types of movies. I consider it one of the best because it’s a movie about a fight for a broken marriage hanging on the balance between a second chance and divorce. What’s wonderful about it, is that the featured couple really never work things out between themselves, but they still give their marriage another go – they don’t wait till everything’s “perfect.” There are a couple of silly scenes, but all in all, I recommend it for spouses who need a boost of marital inspiration.

We live in a society that proclaims, if you’re not happy, then you’re free to go. That is the biggest piece of garbage that this country has swallowed. You divorce your spouse to hunt for another escapade, repeat the honeymoon, get married, have a bunch of fights … then what? You will never be fully happy with the person (or people) you married, but you will find the most joy in looking back at a lifelong commitment, unbroken by temptations and strife from within and outside the marriage. (Check out the movie Up for the best picture of marriage I’ve ever seen outside of real life). There’s joy. There’s happiness. Looking at your partner of so many years knowing that nothing has torn you two apart, as wild as a roller coaster you’ve been on, even when all things seemed hopeless.

If you’re stuck in a rut in your marriage, or if you just want out, or if you can’t stand just one more fight, I challenge you to get on your knees this very moment and beg the Creator of marriage to give you just a little bit more strength, a little bit more wisdom. Women and sisters in Christ, ask for a gentle and quite spirit which can prove to be more seductive than lipstick and perfume. Men and brothers, ask for the desire for integrity and dignity to stick with your marriage, through thick and thin, spurring every outside lust and temptation, and focus your attention back on your wife.

Couples, listen to the sermon, send the kids to bed early and have a date night and watch Sweet Home Alabama, and enjoy this excerpt from my upcoming novel The Man in the BoxRobbie Lake has been wanting out of his marriage due to the mundane nature of family life. So he finds a secret world hidden in a cardboard box which he returns to over and over again, fighting monsters and being hailed as a god – the complete opposite of home life. And one day his dad, noticing his family suffering the consequences of his absence, confronts him:

“I know I didn’t teach you much even when your mom was alive. But I had always hoped that you’d learned at least a little something from us while you could. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my marriage and I’m sure you have too, but the important thing is that you still get through them all. I don’t care if your kids rebel and run out on you, I don’t care if you lose all your money and you end up on the street, just as long as you end up on the street together. I pulled a lot of crap with your mother, but I never walked out on her.”

“You were let off easy because she died.”

“No. I still think about her. I still miss her. I wish we had more time together. Her dying only proved that had I left her when I wanted, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. But you and your issues that you’ve got with someone else or your work or whatever… you’ve got to deal with it if you’re at all serious about staying with Rosalynn to the end. The world’s out to tear you apart. Are you going to let it?”

Follow The Man in the Box on facebook.

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Aesop’s Fables

Being a fan of fairytales and folklore, I couldn’t justify passing up an opportunity to read the classic, Aesop’s Fables. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the whole book. Like Grimm’s Fairytales some of the stories were not as catchy as others, but I took the liberty to point out a few fun fables for you to chew on today.

The Cat and the Birds

A cat heard that the birds in an aviary were ailing. So he got himself up as a doctor, and, taking with him a set of the instruments proper to his profession, presented himself at the door, and inquired after the health of the birds. “We shall do very well,” they replied, without letting him in, “when we’ve seen the last of you.” A villain may disguise himself, but he will not deceive the wise.

The Moon and Her Mother

The moon once begged her mother to make her a gown. “How can I?” replied she. “There’s no fitting your figure. At one time you’re a new moon, and at another you’re a full moon; and between whiles you’re neither one nor the other.”

The Lion and the Mouse

A lion asleep in his lair was waked up by a mouse running over his face. Losing his temper he seized it with his paw and was about to kill it. The mouse, terrified, piteously entreated him to spare its life. “Please let me go,” it cried, “and one day I will repay you for your kindness.” The idea of so insignificant a creature ever being able to do anything for him amused the lion so much that he laughed aloud, and good-humoredly let it go. But the mouse’s chance came, after all. One day the lion got entangled in a net which had been spread for game by some hunters, and the mouse heard and recognized his roars of anger and ran to the spot. Without more ado it set to work to gnaw the ropes with its teeth, and succeeded before long in setting the lion free. “There!” said the mouse, “you laughed at me when I promised I would repay you. But now you see, even a mouse can help a lion.”

The North Wind and the Sun

A dispute arose between the north wind and the sun, each claiming that he was stronger than the other. At last they agreed to try their powers upon a traveler, to see which could soonest strip him of his cloak. The north wind had the first try; and, gathering up all his force for the attack, he came whirling furiously down upon the man, and caught up his cloak as though he would wrest it from him by one single effort. But the harder he blew, the more closely the man wrapped it round himself. Then came the turn of the sun. At first he beamed gently upon the traveler, who soon unclasped his cloak and walked on with it hanging loosely about his shoulders. Then he shone forth in his full strength, and the man, before he had gone many steps, was glad to throw his cloak right off and complete his journey more lightly clad. Persuasion is better than force.

The Gnat and the Bull

A gnat alighted on one of the horns of a bull, and remained sitting there for a considerable time. When it had rested sufficiently and was about to fly away, it said to the bull, “Do you mind if I go now?” The bull merely raised his eyes and remarked, without interest, “It’s all one to me. I didn’t notice when you came, and I shan’t know when you go away.” We may often be of more consequences in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbors. 

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Cult #1: Jehovah’s Witness

The official name for Jehovah’s Witness is, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They produce two magazines within their circuit: “Awake” and “The Watchtower.” Their Bible version: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).

Everyone who disagrees with Jehovah Witness’s – especially Christians – are not only wrong but are moral enemies and will be destroyed by Jehovah at Armageddon. Jehova’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Here is a brief history:

Charles Taze Russell: How it all began

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) rejected many views in his church as a teen. Particularly Hell and the Trinity. Adventist teaching told him there was no eternal punishment, so his faith in Scripture was restored but he remained distrustful of churches. By age 18 he formed his own Bible study empathizing Christ’s coming (predicted in 1874). He and Adventists believed it happened in a “spiritual and invisible way.”

In 1879 he parted was with the Adventist and launched the magazine, The Watchtower. He predicted Armageddon in 1914, but WWI started. He died 2 years later.

Joseph F. Rutheford predicted the end would be in 1925. He adopted the name Jehovah’s Witness (from Isaiah 43:10), and invented door-to-door witnessing. He originally said 144,000 people would go to Heaven. But because of overpopulation Rutheford said that everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness before 1935 would go to Heaven. If you became one after 1935 you can be among the “great crowd” living on earth in a new Paradise after Armageddon and the Millennium.

“New light” – A favorite Jehovah’s Witness term to explain its many changes in doctrine and teaching. Despite wrong predictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist they have never made any false prophesies.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society still operates on the same foundation laid by Russell and say he was the founder but they distance themselves from his theology and writings (except denying the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and Hell as punishment).

Jehovah’s Witness…

1)    Deny the Trinity – “Who ran the universe when Jesus was dead in the grave?”

2)    Deny Christ’s deity – Jehovah is the Almighty God who created Jesus. Then Jesus, the mighty god, created everything else. Jesus was archangel Michael before coming to Earth. He is still archangel Michael.

3)    Deny Jesus’ bodily resurrection – Christ rose as a s spirit that looked like a body. Jehovah does not resurrect bodies, he “re-creates” them. Because body and soul (which are one) have been annihilated at death, God must re-create the “life pattern” of a person and he can easily do this be retrieving that life pattern from his memory.

4)    Deny the Holy Spirit is God – It is an “invisible act or force” that God uses to inspire His servants to do His will. It’s like electricity.

5)    Deny Christ’s full Atonement – They give Christ credit for giving them the opportunity to work for and obey Jehovah – by doing what the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society teaches.

To be a Jehovah’s Witness means constantly trying to affirm your salvation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly working for a place in an earthly paradise where they will have everlasting life, but not in the presence of a loving Jehovah God. Instead, they will be ruled by Christ and the 144,000 anointed ones who remain in Heaven throughout eternity to enjoy immortality, as they serve as joint heirs and co-rulers of Jehovah’s glorious theocracy.

The Last Days:

Armageddon will bring about the destruction of 99.9% of mankind. After Armageddon, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there will be a time when earth will be repopulated by faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (who survive Armageddon) and billions of people who are resurrected (re-created from Jehovah’s memory bank). They will be taught truth. In the end, Satan and his demons will tempt people. If people fail they will be cast into the lake of fire and wiped forever from existence.

Jehovah’s Witnesses meet five times a week at Kingdom Hall, a term for church. They do not believe in immortal souls. At death their “life force” goes out of them and they no longer exist.

When confronting a Jehovah’s Witness, do so out of love and kindness, bearing in mind that all of their false information has been mercilessly shoved down their throats, but it sounds good to them because they are already “in.” Approach them with the bold truth and let the Spirit of God do the work that is saved for Him to do in that person’s life.

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Christianity is Like Buying a Zoo

I tend to stay away from sentimental family dramas. But We Bought a Zoo had a reputable director (Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire, Elizabethtown) and an interesting premise. So we checked it out for our monthly rental. I thought it would just be a fun little flick to invest a couple hours into, but this movie had me crying long past the credit roll at the end – and not because of the animals. (Of course, this always gives Sarabeth a good laugh.) The premise is in the title. A widowed father of two buys a home on a closed zoo property and becomes the manager of the zoo grounds and invests all of his money to reopen it to the public. When asked why he did it, he answered, “Why not?”

Becoming a Christian is like buying a zoo. It is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural and counter-intelligent. Yes, becoming a Christian is absurd. You’re investing your life to a cause that will require your faith, devotion, finances, choices, soul and maybe even your life. Let’s look at some other absurd decisions made in history:

Walt Disney reinvested all of his revenue back into his movies, even though he had gone bankrupt twice. He became the founder of one of the greatest and most successful empires in entertainment history.  His name is even more known that Theodore Roosevelt.

The invasion of Normandy could have caused the allies to lose the war. Instead, it turned the tide and today the world is free from vile Naziism and the free world is liberated from the tyranny of Communism.

A man named Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, beat, jailed and tortured for his belief in the resurrected Jesus Christ. But he kept preaching His story and defying the rulers who were dead-set against him, and hungry for his blood. Now, Paul’s testimony and his books have helped propel Christ’s movement throughout all the world setting captives free, from wealthy business tycoons to the lowliest tribesmen on the most distant islands. Millions of souls of will be in Heaven because of Paul’s words.

These were all absurd decisions.

Most things that are glorious on this side of Heaven (the pursuit of money, lust, certain tolerances) is an abomination on the other side of the Golden Gate. Anything that is stupid, or absurd, on this side of Heaven (self-giving, sacrifice, belief in an invisible, triune God) is glorious to God who sits on the throne.

To the outside observer, nothing about giving one’s life to Christ makes sense. “You’re relying on a dead Jew for the salvation of your soul?” “You’re praying to a God who allows children to be raped to give you grace?” “You’re giving how much to your church?”

There’s no doubt that the Christian life is a zoo. There are things that don’t make sense that even the greatest theologian can’t get a handle on. Yet, people every day devote their lives to the founder of the Christian movement, Christ Himself. And every day people die, or more accurately, are murdered in cold blood for their belief in Christ.

And then you’ve got the problems with the church. It’s no secret that the church is in need of maintenance. So much slander, gossip and false witnessing takes place behind its doors. (To those who have refrained from looking deeper into the Christian faith because of these things, remember that the church, like the earth, will not be made perfect until Christ returns. Further, Christ’s people have yet to be redeemed. When observing church members, ask yourself if love for their brothers and sisters overflows, if forgiveness is regularly extended and if repentance is genuine. If not, you may need to find a different church.)

To the outside observer, it is utterly ridiculous and mindless to subscribe to Christianity as a religion of choice. It may even seem absurd to the present convertor. Many people scoffed at Benjamin Mee for spending his life savings on a run-down, abandoned zoo. Many people will scoff at those who give their heart and soul to an ancient historical figure who seemed to to never be able to give a straight yes or no answer.

But here’s what I think is more ridiculous and absolutely insane. That a perfect, holy master and creator of the cosmos would single me out on one of the smallest planets amongst trillions of stars, on a dot of land amongst thousands of miles and depths of ocean, in the little-known city of Santa Clarita, California and say, “I want you to spend eternity with Me in Heaven.” …Me! Before I was even conceived, God knew that even after I accepted His gift of salvation, I would still grow up to be a lying, lusting, cursing, temperamental, selfish, lazy, disobedient, dead-head of a jerk. That His beloved Jesus, would die a gory death for this guy – me – who drops the f-bomb because the light won’t turn green. That His only Son would willingly become a bath of blood even while He knew my eyes would willingly wander to women who are not my wife. That the King of Heaven and earth specifically thought of me neglecting lost souls and yet continued to allow the spikes to be driven through His flesh so that I could join Him in Paradise is just absurd to me. Sending me to Hell would have been the smart thing to do. Who would honestly blame God for drenching this earth in Hell’s molten fires after all the damage we’ve done to it? But I’m still on this side of Heaven, so I have to assume that somehow it will make sense on the other side.

In retrospect, what was the bigger risk? Who paid the higher cost? It seems to me that our devotion doesn’t seem that high a cost compared to what Christ paid for those who accept His salvation. When Christ died, He received sinners. When we give our souls to Christ, we receive and inheritance that will never fade nor perish. So when someone asks why you became a Christian, or you’re contemplating it now, you can respond:

“Why not?”

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The Devil in the White City

History and fiction buffs unite! Though this book is purely historical, it is written like a novel. Who would have known that reading about the architecture of the extinct Chicago World Fair would be such a page-turner? Larson does a magnificent job at connecting many pieces of history to this one brief moment in time, when America awakened to its grandest potential.

There’s something about America’s past that makes me well up inside. When I see movies like The Majestic where all the townspeople are lined up outside the brightly-lit movie theater, or in The Music Man when the locals all gather at the center of town to dance the night away with their sweethearts, twirling, spinning, and twirling underneath multi-colored hanging lanterns, and fireworks exploding up above in the night sky, something in me cries out for the return of America’s glory days. The Devil in the White CIty does a marvelous job at recreating America’s prime, and the author never bores when describing the pure-white city as bright as Heaven itself, and so majestic that the Court of Honor alone brought grown men to tears upon seeing it.

True, part of this book is about a serial killer, but Larson, does not go into any gory detail, and handles the grim topic with care and tact. There are two murder scenes, but they are intended to convey fact rather than fear, and they pass by quickly enough. The murderer is not in contact with his victims, which may ease the tension for some readers. Aside from that, there is a brief mention of Jack the Ripper toward the beginning of the book that is a bit unsettling. I give these disclaimers because I know there are sensitive readers who may prefer to stay away from certain topics. I really wish books came with ratings and disclaimers like the movies.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

One of the delights of the fair was never knowing who might turn up beside you at the chocolate Venus de Milo or at the hearse exhibit or under the barrel of Krupp’s monster, or who might sit at the table next to yours at the Big Tree Restaurant or the Philadelphia Cafe or the Great White Horse Inn, a reproduction of the public house described by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers; or who might suddenly clutch your arm aboard the Ferris Wheel as your car began its ascent. Archduke Francis roamed the grounds incognito – but much preferred the vice districts of Chicago. Indians who had once used hatchets to bare the skulls of white men drifted over from Buffalo Bill’s compound, as did Annie Oakley and assorted Cossacks, Husars, Lancers, and the members of the U.S. Sixth Cavalry on temporary furlough to become actors in Colonel Cody’s [Buffalo Bill's] show. Chief Standing Bear rode the Ferris Wheel in full ceremonial headdress, his two hundred feathers unruffled. Other Indians rode the enameled wooden horses of the Midway carousel. 

There were Paderewski, Houdini, Tesla, Edison, Joplin, Darrow, a Princeton professor named Woodrow Wilson, and a sweet old lady in black summer silk flowered with forget-me-not-blue named Susan B. Anthony. Burnham [the central architect] met Teddy Roosevelt for lunch. For years after the fair Burnham used the exclamation, “Bully!” Diamond Jim Brady dined with Lillian Russell and indulged his passion for sweet corn.

No one saw Twain. He came to Chicago to see the fair but got sick and spent eleven days in his hotel room, then left without ever seeing the White City. 

Of all people. 

Suspense seekers and history buffs, you all ought to check this book out. It’s a lot of fun and very fascinating. And you will walk away with a deeper appreciation of the roots of America’s greatness, and why we are still the greatest country in the world 120 years later.

Also, how has this not been made into a movie? I hope Peter Jackson or Ron Howard are just waiting for the screenplay.

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