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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What is Dear to You, That You Would Trade for Stew?

One of my Christmas presents is the audio from Catalyst 2010; since it was a direct download, my mom wanted to get it out of the way.


Let me just say that Andy Stanley’s ability to communicate, Mark Driscoll’s contextualization, Erwin McManus’ creativity, Francis Chan’s wonder , Craig Groeschel’s authenticity, Matt Chandler’s holy sarcasm, NT Wright’s scholarship, Piper’s scriptural sufficiency, and Rob Bell’s “mystique,” would make one heck of a pastor.
I have no idea why I just said that, probably alluding to Facebook discussion I had earlier today.


The first talk from Catalyst 2010 was by Andy Stanley and once again, God used his message to communicate to me very effectively. He made the follow question/statement:

Who would trade their entire future, their entire legacy, their entire life for a bowl of stew? I would; you would, if it were the right bowl.

The passage he used was from Genesis 25:29-34 where Esau sells his birthright to Jacob in exchange for some lentil stew.

He went on to talk about our appetites and how we make really bad decisions as leaders, as people, because we are looking for the elusive fulfillment for our appetites. He warned the crowd and he warns us that some of those appetites won’t be fulfilled to later and others won’t ever be fulfilled in anything but God himself. When our appetites tell us, “now,” we need to reframe them so that we see them with the proper perspective.

Else, we will trade what is precious, irreplaceable to us…for a bowl of stew.

That got me thinking, what is precious to me, that I would trade, for a bowl of soup; if I listen to my brain’s lies and my heart’s deception?

Pastor Tim taught on the subject of “Minding Your Mind,” on Sunday evening and what he had to say about the brain’s lies and the heart’s deception seemed echo back at me as I listened to Andy’s session. I wrote in my journal the following lines,

We do not have the ability [on our own] to discern our thoughts; we have a traitor in our midst [ie within us].The enemy is let in [our minds] by this fiendish, Benedict Arnold who is bent on ruining the image of Christ in our hearts.

Pastor Tim and Andy Stanley are both correct; they are echoing the thoughts of God in the Scriptures: we cannot trust ourselves; we cannot be ruled by our appetites, our desires.

So, what would be my “bowl of soup?”

I think there would be several, but the one’s that stick out are:

- The “right” woman. I have been known to throw away quite a bit for the possibility of happiness and love. If put in the right way, in the right situation, in the wrong mindset, aside from the grace of God, I would make the trade.

- The “right” job. I have never been one for making lots of money or having lots of stuff, but I love my freedom and that requires money. If someone were to offer me the right position, with the right terms, even it was not God’s will…I would make the trade.

- The “right” opportunity. There are dreams and aspirations that I have (a lot from God and some from the flesh); if the right means, right people, and the right situation were to develop, even though I was clearly not ready, I would make the trade.

There is a reason Jesus asked the question,

“Why would a man gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul?”

He had seen it happen way too many times; perhaps this puzzles God as much as it puzzles us. I am not saying he does not understand it or that he cannot explain it; but that we would choose something or someone other than all he is and all he has for us…perhaps is unfathomable.

What is it in your life that is precious to you, that you would give up for the right bowl of stew? What is inside that bowl?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unwise = Sin (?)

One of my friends sent me a text message the other day inquiring about the legitimacy of polygamy in the Bible. I replied that while polygamy (except for Israel’s and the Church’s leaders) is never prohibited; it is also never presented as a wise or profitable choice (just look at the biblical examples and you will see for yourself; no I will not list them; read your Bible!) in the Scriptures.

My friend’s response was,

“So, you are saying that it is not sinful, just unwise?”

That is a very interesting question:

If something is unwise (for you or for everyone), is it a sin? Or is it something that is ok that just leads to sin?

Now, I am going to have to say that Scriptures speak very highly of wisdom; in fact, a whole book is dedicated to the acquiring and applying of wisdom. Wisdom is seen as coming straight from the Lord himself and without God; Solomon would not have been so wise (too bad he did not use any of that wisdom to build his character). Wisdom is very foundational to understanding and navigating life.
But is it a sin to make an unwise decision?

There are some (like my distant mentor Andy Stanley) who would say that one makes an unwise choice because of a sinful attitude or motivation. The action itself would not be a sin, if it were done with the right motivation. Now, there are some actions and choices that should never be made (clear cut sin), but there are other unwise decisions that come from a sinful leaning and direction in one’s heart and thinking process.

So in essence, yes, an unwise decision is a sin.

Every time we decide to not think and be good stewards of the knowledge and wisdom God has given us and we make a poor decision; we are sinning. Sometimes we sin from ignorance and other times we send from willfulness, but it does not matter; sin is sin.

What would happen if we started understanding that our unwise decisions are a result of the bent of our spiritual lives? I think we would stop blaming other people for our bad choices; we would start to own up to our rebellion against God. More importantly, gray areas of life would be easier to navigate.

For instance: Drinking.

The Bible has good and bad things to say about alcohol (much like it has good and bad things to say about sex). So, we cannot make a clear “yea” or “nay” from the Scriptures. But here is what we can do:
Andy Stanley poses an excellent question regarding making wise decisions in The Best Question Ever; here is that question:

In light of my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams; what is the wisest thing for me to do?

Past Experience

I know that in the past (and even in the present) members on both sides of my family have fought alcoholism. I know that alcohol has either directly or indirectly killed people who are dear to me. I know that in the past I have had an addictive personality and that these addictions often involved coping mechanisms for bad emotions.

Present Circumstances

I attend Clements Baptist Church which does not approve of the consumption of alcoholic beverages; especially by its leaders. I am a Southern Baptist, who traditionally have opposed the consumption of alcohol in all but missionary endeavors to avoid offense. I am making zero money and even when I do make money; there will do room for alcohol in my budget.

Future Hopes and Dreams

Alcohol has the serious potential to wreck my future as a husband, father, pastor, you name it. There are some churches that would not have me as pastor if I drank and there are some people who would be seriously offended with me; this could hamper future, beneficial relationships. If I became an alcoholic a huge sum of time, money, and energy would be spent trying to feed my addiction or to get me away from the habit.

The result:

Considering my past experience, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams; it is seriously unwise for me to consume alcohol.

Now, that I have acknowledged this; if I do not follow through with the wisdom that God has given me; it is a sin for me to consume alcohol anyway.

Using this filter, what are some things that you are or are thinking about doing, that could potentially be unwise, and thus, sinful?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Glorious Defeat- Final Reflection on Purity

This weekend, fifty something kids made vows of purity before God, their families, and the body of Christ.

I would like to be able to follow each one for the next ten to twenty years; I would like to see just how impactful this weekend really was. My goal is not to cast doubt on the genuineness of the intent of most of these students; my goal is to cast doubt on the follow-through of many of these students. It is one thing to go through the whole emotional ceremony of being pure; it is quite another to actually live it out in daily life, especially when there are no consequences other than breaking the heart of God.

There was a young man, a college age student, who said something that I deeply respect and who quoted the verses that I used with one my sessions:

Ecc 5:4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.

Ecc 5:5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. (ESV)

He told the gathered teens that he had, “never taken the vow, because he can’t keep a promise. He let his actions speak for him, rather than making a vow he won’t keep.”

I wish that many of us had half of the integrity and humility that this young man has.

How many of these students vowed something that they will not be able to pay? Only God knows the answer to that and I am not about to go around deciding whose was and whose was not a genuine decision. Yet, the young man’s words bear a weight that I cannot help but acknowledge; the seriousness of making a vow of purity and then breaking it.

Vows are often connected to emotions; they are not always emotion-driven, but a good portion of vows that are made are in the heat of the moment. Many times, we commit to something we are not even really convinced is the best way to go. How many people have “made a decision for Christ” and not really know whom they were supposed to believe? How many people have turned their hearts to God, supposedly, and have not even considered the ramifications of their actions. Thus, we have many, many conversion stories but so few actual converts; people jump with their emotions without counting the cost.

What is the cost of purity?

The answer is anything and everything; Jesus went as far as to say to hack off your own limbs (if your limbs were the actual problem, but a blind man can lust as well as a seeing man) if it meant you could maintain your purity. But what is purity and why is it so elusive to us? Are we unwittingly half-teaching the importance of purity and its effects on our daily walk with Christ?

Purity is found, as with all things spiritual, in love. Love gives; it does not demand, nor does it seize by force. If you are pursuing someone (any type of relationship) simply for what you may take from them, then your relationship is impure and based on lust rather than love. Purity then, is not a set of rules or even a state of being; it is an active pursuit of the God who is love. Purity is pursuing the holiness that comes from being set apart into the love of God.

So in order to pursue holiness and to be set apart into the love of God what must we give up? Or rather a better question is what can we give up? If my overarching desire is to pursue holiness in being set apart for the God who is love; what can I freely and joyfully rid myself of in order to pursue God with everything I have?

This is an entirely different mindset from our traditional list of rules and the old question, “how far is too far?” My answer is, if you even have to ask that question, you have already gone too far. We don’t need to be teaching behavior maintenance, we need to be teaching each other what it means to love and respect and protect one another in the love of God! If we love someone, are we really going to push them to compromise their purity until we take what is not ours?

Justin, our youth pastor, really put it well when he talked about how every time we take something in our lusts; we are robbing someone else of something precious. He used the story given to David by Nathan the prophet after David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, murdered. It was a powerful image, and one I think that we should keep in our minds as we approach this subject. Then, it becomes a matter of, “do I love this person enough, to not only respect him/her, but also to love their parents and their future spouse by protecting and guarding what is precious to them?”

Purity takes on a whole other meaning when its more than just you and the other person; we are interconnected and what hurts one, hurts the other. Christ made us this way so that our actions would have consequences for more than just ourselves. When we are diseased and ailing; the whole body suffers a long with us.

So, where do we go from here?

Let me be the first to second, the young man I spoke of earlier; I too am wary of making vows to God. On the issue of purity, across the board, I have suffered greatly. I daily have to remind myself that my righteousness does not depend on my performance, but on what Jesus Christ has already done on my behalf. All of the power, strength, and most importantly love, is available to me through the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me. If I do not pursue of life of purity it is my own fault.

I entitled this blog “The Glorious Defeat,” because being pure is about being defeated. I am now moving from the abstract thought of purity and landing the plane to a more practical level.

I used to think that there would come a day where I would be able to enter a perpetual state of purity (there is such a day coming, but not till Christ returns). It is interesting how we hate the struggle so much; we would rather do anything but struggle. I used to think it was because I desired to be like Christ and that to do that, I needed to be untouched by temptations to impurity.

I was wrong.

There is a reason we hate the struggle; it’s called our flesh. You know the verse that talks about the enemy masquerading as “an angel of light?” This is one of those instances. When we are in the midst of the struggle we want out of it; it kills us that we struggle. In fact, we firmly believe that if we did not have to struggle we would never sin. So, why then does the author of Hebrews admonish his readers by stating that they “have not yet strived unto blood?” That says struggle to me.

Now, I admit that we are supposed to flee temptation and there are some temptations we should physicallyflee from. Yet, I believe that the “fleeing” we have to do in many cases is a fleeing to God in prayer. Sometimes this involves making your body-temple turn to God in worship. This is not you doing the work; you are simply making your body yield to God. God is then able to do the work, and he does provide a way out in the midst of our temptations.

The struggle is actually a good thing; oh, and one more thing.

Most of the time, you will lose.

Ah, you will progress in holiness and purity; your old nemesis will be vanquished under the blood of Christ. However, you will find new enemies within yourself every time an old one is put down. The number of victories you will win will dramatically increase to the glory of God, but most of the time…you will lose.
This is where we come to the difference between the pure and the impure.

Those who are pure live a lifestyle of repentance; they are not victorious warriors; they are broken sinners. The pure are the ones who will engage in the struggle and they will lose, but they are ok with that because it is not about their victory, but their defeat. They realize that they are the problem and that the only solution is an even more thorough bearing of their weaknesses; for in their weakness Christ becomes strong. They are defeated, but they are never beaten. They lose the battle, but Christ has won the war.
The impure don’t want to struggle; they want to be like Christ without having to face the temptations that he faced. They want to be gods not men and in their arrogance they are routed; even if they manage to control their external behavior, the inside is full rotten corpses. They believe that their regulations or their willpower will save them; they believe their willpower will impress God enough to “help them out a little bit,” so they can handle the rest.

They are blind fools.

Do you wish to be pure? Be broken.

Do you wish to have victory? Accept defeat.

Do you wish to have strength? Embrace your weakness.

Do you wish to be free? Become enslaved.

Do you wish to live? Die to yourself.

The Gospel is a paradoxical message that seems foolish to the world, but if we don’t follow and practice ourselves, then aren’t we claiming the exact same thing?

Where has your pursuit of purity brought you; is there anything you would like to share?

Grace and Peace


Executive Order 16661: 7:31 am

I had never been so humiliated and insulted in my life
There were days when my word was law, people did what I said because I knew what I was talking about. I still know what I am talking about; we should never have hired that beat-knick yuppie of a pastor. Ever since we hired that arrogant, sorry I almost forgot who I was, we have had nothing but grief and we have seen nothing but trouble.
Before you pass judgment, you need to understand what I am trying to say and then maybe you will understand the way I felt at the time.

Before Neil came to our church we were averaging a good number of folks and our membership rolls were on a slow, steady incline. This was unusual considering that most churches in our area were suffering severe declines due to a change in the population demographics in our area. However, we managed to assure our members that what was going on outside of our walls, would never penetrate our fortress of safety. We had several people who were law enforcement officers and we encouraged them to carry their guns to the services; we were not going to have any martyrs on our hands. We were not really afraid of that, but we were afraid of the church getting broken into and robbed; thus, we hired some security guards to make rounds at night to ensure the miscreants were not messing around or in the Lord’s house.

It was a wonderful time for the whole congregation; I had never been more proud to serve as the head deacon for our church. I had been made a deacon almost twenty years ago, and I was appointed head deacon a little over a decade ago. It was proud moment for my wife and I, and our three children. My dad was still alive at that point and he came to my selection service; never did I feel more humbled than I did watching my dad congratulate me for my service to God. Our old pastor, Nicholas Bradford, was a personal friend of mine; I have many fine memories of the man who mentored me through some pretty difficult times in life.

At one point in my stint as a deacon, my wife and I had an issue arise in a marriage. We were fighting over the sorrow our oldest child Zachary was giving us. We could not decide what to do and our lack of agreement caused us to become bitter toward one another. I am pretty sure if I had not gone to Pastor Nick for help that our marriage would have come to an end. I remember the day I went in to his office:
He reached out and shook my hand; it was not hard but firm and comforting. I sat down not sure how to begin.

Pastor Nick began for me.

“George, the talk we are about to have does not concern you as a deacon, it does not concern you as even a member of this congregation; it concerns you as a child of God. I am here to help you George, because I love you as a child of God.”

After that, any worries that I had about him making me step down from the deacon board or humiliate me in front of the church were erased. Through the counseling that Pastor Nick gave to my wife and me, we were able to work through our parenting conflict and resolve for it not to affect the bedrock of our marriage; we even reaffirmed our love for one another. It was an amazing time in our lives and transformation that occurred launched me into the head deacon position once Horace Getty, our church’s oldest member and head deacon since the days of Moses, suffered a stroke and had to be hospitalized and then placed in hospice care.

I will forever be grateful to Pastor Nick.

Pastor Nick preached like an old grandfather telling his grandchildren a bed time story. He had a knack for being able to bring peace and calm to any and every situation, to every troubled heart. He spoke often of heaven and how glad he would one day to be there. He spoke of good ole-fashioned family values and how brokenhearted he was that the country was heading in the direction in was heading. He often told us that the best way to survive the changes, even in our own neighborhood, was to huddle together. We were family and Pastor Nick acted like our spiritual father, always admonishing us to love each other and to be available to help a hard working brother or sister in need.

So, considering the strong emphasis on family and solid values, our church drew the upstanding and good people from all over our city into its doors. Those were the days you were greeted with a firm handshake and a polite hello. Men and women dressed in their best Sunday clothes and wore the customary smiles of those eager to fellowship in the house of God. Every once in awhile one the riff raff from the neighborhood and we would politely but firmly direct them to the back of the sanctuary away from the more decent folks. If it were up to me, we would have thrown them out, but Pastor Nick insisted that our doors by open to such folks, so we did what we could to protect everyone from them.
We enjoyed our lovely church with its lovely people; it seemed that we were going to be blessed forever.
But then tragedy struck.

Pastor Nick had a heart attack at home one Wednesday night after bible study. His wife, Kitty, had long since passed away and pastor Nick insisted on being able to live by himself. One of our deacons, Jeff Foxworth, found him on the floor, when he came by to give a dessert him wife had made him the next morning. The coroner estimated that he had been dead since about 9:30 that evening. He was found within a foot of his telephone, one hand outstretched, the other clutching his heart; his KJV Bible lay open on the other side of the couch where he must have been studying. The passage it was opened to?
Revelation 3; eerily highlighted was verse 17:

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

We gave Pastor Nick the best funeral a church could afford; countless members stepped up to the pulpit and shared stories of how Pastor Nick had touched their lives. Every moving testimony was a golden tribute to an amazing man; someone we will miss dearly until we see him again, in that golden Heaven he loved to preach about. We said our goodbyes and paid our respects and then put Pastor Nick in the ground. I have never seen such a touching display of church unity and I was confident that the church was more than prepared to choose a successor worthy of his legacy.

I was a fool.

I slammed the door as I entered the house, enraged that I had just been told to leave my own church; the church that I had served in as head deacon for over ten years. I was the one who was overreacting? I was the one who was out of control? They wanted me to trust them after what they did to our church, to mychurch. They were all puppets of that snake charmer, even Kurt; Kurt was the one man whom I thought would have some sense left up in his skull. Kurt was like Pastor Nick’s Timothy; everything he learned about the ministry came from him! What would he say if he knew this was how Kurt Armstrong had decided to repay him? I tell you what he would do; he would run that ungrateful son of witch out town, that’s what he would do. As far as I was concerned, Kurt was a traitor unworthy of the title “pastor,” and he was a coward; the one opportunity he had to succeed and continue Pastor Nick’s legacy he abdicated for change.

Well, change ends today; all of you are about to feel the wrath of Almighty God.

I was through trusting idiots.

“Lindsey! Lindsey!” I roared as I crashed into my house, blood pressure reaching dangerous levels.

“What, dad? I was on the phone with someone. Is everything, ok?”

“NO!” I was letting my anger boil, “No, everything is not ok. I need to talk to your mother; has she gotten back from work yet?”

My wife Vicky worked at the hospital a few blocks down from the house; she often worked nights. She walked to work; otherwise I would have known whether she had returned. I had advised against her walking alone, especially at night, but she assured me that she would be fine and that she needed the exercise. I knew when I could put my foot down; that was not an issue that I wanted to die over. Still, it made me slightly anxious for my wife’s safety and when she was a few minutes late, I would often worried. There was one night when an inmate had broke out of the city jail and was reportedly in the area around the hospital, around the time Vicky was on her way home. I called her and asked her to stay at the hospital until someone could come and get her, but she refused insisting that she had ways of defending herself. While I knew my wife a black belt in jiu-jitsu and could defend her; but even the best defense fails when someone has a gun. I had worried myself senseless right up until the moment she had walked into the door.

“I haven’t heard her come in; I told you I was on the phone. What is going on dad?”
I debated about whether I should inform Lindsey about these things; she was a little too close to Neil’s brats.

Like father like sons.

“Our pastor,” the words wreaked and tasted horrible coming out of my mouth, “has gotten spooked and decided to cancel our church services. Cancel our church services on the very day that the mayor and his family are supposed to make a visit.” I let the words linger in the air, hoping I would have to as little explaining as possible.

“Ok, so the mayor had planned to come today? He can reschedule and come next week.”

My daughter, bless her heart, was such a simpleton.

“No, dear, the mayor is a very punctual man and he has already scheduled visits to other competing churches. If we do not entertain him today we will not ever get to entertain him. He is very interested in our church, for whatever reason, and need him to stay that way.”

“Why is it so important that the mayor come to our church? I mean, you act like something awful will happen to us if he doesn’t.” Lindsey’s questions were becoming more probing and they were making me uncomfortable.

Lindsey had not seen the church’s recent financial statements, another testament to the “blessings” bestowed on us by Neil. When Neil arrived we were way in the black; saving most of our money for a rainy day or if something awful were ever to happen to the church. The first thing that Neil did when he took over was to propose ways to spend it because, “a church that does not use what is entrusted to it, is not living by faith and is not being a church.” So, we spent it all, every last blessed cent, we spent on Neil’s various “community enrichment” programs. Now we were left with nothing and the church’s budget was sailing deeper and deeper into the red. It did not help us any that there was a new crowd joining our church in massive numbers; a significantly poorer and sketchy crowd. Many of these folks did not have more than a part time job and could not support the kind of initiatives we were trying to take on. While we were falling behind in the bills we were just supposed to “trust God and live by faith.”

I am going to trust God and wring your neck.

“Lindsey, our church has been growing a lot lately, and that is good,” but was it really? “However, these folks don’t make as much money as we would like in order to support all of the,” ugh, why must I say this, “wonderful programs and ministries that Neil has started.” I took a breath to recover from the treasonous statement, “Therefore, if the mayor were to start attending our church, he would attract a more influential and,” had to choose the words carefully, “a more willing crowd that would have funds to invest in our church’s many projects.”

I was hoping that this would satisfy her curiosity; I was wrong.

“Wait, dad, so you are telling me that you want the mayor to attend our church because of the money you can get out of him? You want to draw a snootier, affluent crowd to the church because you are more worried about finances than getting the Gospel out?”

Her words knifed me in the heart, but I was not undaunted.

“I want our church back, Lindsey! Don’t you miss the good ole days when church felt more like home than some sort of freak-show circus? Look at the people that..”

“Yeah dad, look at the people; look at the people that Christ gave his life for. Look at the people coming off the streets, out of their drug addictions, escaping prostitution, and who are being set free from demon possession, yeah, dad, look at those people.” Lindsey was getting angry but I pushed forward.

“Yes, that is all great, but where are the morals? Where is the respect? Should we have to worry for our lives every time we go to the parking lot that we’re going to get mugged or killed by some deranged homeless bum? Oh, and fine thing our pastor did by joining this conference of churches; it appears he has made us a target of pranksters as well; probably some of the same people who sit in our…”

“ENOUGH, dad!” Lindsey was shaking now, “Enough! I have heard enough of how you hate the very people God has such a heart for! You’re the head deacon for Christ sake! How can you say these things? Our pastor is trying to protect us and you are more concerned about getting the Mayor’s tithe!”

I would not let my daughter speak to me that way.

“Now you listen here, young lady! You have been spending way too much time with those demon spawn children of Neil’s; they have turned you against me, against your own family! I will not have my daughter questioning my spirituality. I am your spiritual head, not that feral wolf that is ripping apart our church and you will respect me that way! Do I make myself CLEAR?” I had put her in her place, I was sure of it.

“The only thing clear, dad, is that you have no love in your heart; you do not care about the Gospel at all.” with that soft, stinging rebuke, she left me staring at her back as she closed the door to her room.

I did not know what to say; for a minute I just stood there shaken.

Do you understand the Gospel at all George? Do you?

It was a strange sensation; almost like a voice was shouting at me from far, far away. I could not hear what it was saying but it was a sweet and almost pleading sound. Why is it pleading? Why all of this begging; what does it want from me? This was not the first time I encountered the dark siren and its mournful cry; there had been many times, many moments where it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to listen.

You are lost, George, you have no idea where you are going or where you need to go. You’re drifting, George, straight into the abyss.

“No, it cannot be! I know the right way; I exemplify the right way! If it were not for people like me, there would be no right way! Leave me alone foul, tempter…leave me be!”

“George, George dear; are you alright?”

I snapped out of my confusion; out of the trance that had engulfed me.

My wife, Victoria, stood in the door with a look of love and concern. She was in her nurse’s uniform with her satchel strapped across her chest; she was definitely a sight for sore eyes; and a savior from the phantom,

“Oh, uh Victoria, I…well, I uh…”

“George, what is the matter; you’re as pail as my mother’s lace curtains! Here honey, why don’t you sit down?” She made her move toward me but I stopped her with an upturned hand.

“No, I am fine, Victoria. The events of today have just gotten me a little riled up.”

“What events?” Then she looked me worriedly, “George, your blood pressure! Remember what Dr. Smith said…”

“I will be fine, Vicky, really; once I have taken care of that pastor of ours. He has decided to cancel services because of text message! A text message, Victoria!” My temper was rising again, “Not only that, he has turned my own daughter against me! I tell you, Vicky, she has been hanging around those two brats of hisway too much. I have half a mind to make sure she never talks to those two again.” I was once again fuming and I could feel the blood squirting.

“Well, George Sinclair, you would have half a mind if you did something as ridiculous as that! Your daughter is smart enough and spiritual enough to be able to tell when she is getting fed garbage, I mean you should have heard…”

“Wait, did I just here you say that my daughter is more spiritual than I am? I was the one who she defied, openly defied; she just spit into the face of everything this family and our church has held dear! At least we used to before that viper began poisoning people’s minds!” I was enraged then; my own wife had turned against me.

“George, what are you talking about? I am not sure you are making sense…”

“SENSE? I AM MAKING PERFECT SENSE!” my volume went up way too high and Victoria gave me the warning she always gives me when I have gone too far, so I stepped down my tone. “The mayor is supposed to come to the church this morning and because of a threat from some prankster, Neil is cancelling the service! We need the mayor; we need more people like the mayor! We need them to invest in our church or it is going to go under! I would not be surprised if he staged this whole incident just so…”

“George, that is enough.” She did not yell, but I could tell Victoria was getting angry. “I loved Pastor Bradford as much as you did, but he is gone. It is time that you start examining your motives; if Pastor Neil is in the right, then God will let us know; if he is not, then God will let us know. Do you really want to find yourself fighting against God?”

“No, Victoria. I am fighting for God and that is why I am going to get the deacons to get rid of this man once and for all. Not only that, we are going to have church this morning, even if I have to call in the State Police.”

“George, you really should…”

But I had already shut her out; I pushed passed her and headed out the door. Revved up the ignition and peeled out of my driveway, headed for the direction of Daniel Kitting’s house.

I am going to stop that man once and for all; he has played god with our church long enough. It is time to show him who is really on God’s side.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Sittin' and Thinkin'

A guy at my church, walked up to me tonight and said, “I was reading your stuff today (ie facebook activity); do all you do is sit around and think? What you need is a job.”

I am not offended by this at all; I wholeheartedly agree with the young man’s assessment: instead of sitting around, I should be working.
However, if he assumes that will lower the amount of thinking I do; he is so incorrect.

He is right; I could think while working and I would prefer to think and work at the same time. In fact, I think better when I have a regular schedule and I have to manage my time. I become focused, alert, and aware of what is important. I do my best thinking and find most of my inspiration out while living; thus, inspiration is somewhat lessened of late.

I need to be in a job; a job where I have to form relationships with strangers, a job where I am constantly being told what to do and how to do it, and one where I am being challenged to go above and beyond myself. Now, any job could provide this and if you are saying your prayers tonight, kindly point out to God that any job will suffice and will likely force me to depend on him and make me more like Christ.
Yet, what if I keep throwing out these applications left and right; I apply for every service industry/fast food/whatever under the sun (really hard manual labor is out because I would just get fired for being a wimp within a week; no need to add “I got fired” to my already horrible resume) and God just does not let me have a job? I mean what am I supposed to do then, create my own job? (Well, technically when God does allow me start a church that is what I will be doing) There is only so much I can do.

Trust me, I want to move on in life; get a car and head to seminary. I want to begin paying my own bills, but right now that is just not possible.

If you really want me to have a job (don’t think it will cramp my thinking, writing, reading…it won’t); then you need to join me in praying that God would open something up, but then again thousands of people are praying the same prayer right now, but they are trying to save their homes from being foreclosed on or to keep their kids from going hungry.

I would rather God give them the jobs first.

Grace and Peace

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Thinking at Starbucks

I am not surprised that I have not done any thinking or reading today.

It is quite common for me to decide to do something and end up doing something that was completely opposite. For the happy (or unhappy) reader who keeps up with my blog, I have been writing prolifically since this weekend ended. Today is no exception; I have written a new installment of my blog story, “Executive Order 16661,” and I have written Truett at Baylor and filled out an application at Blockbuster.
Ok, next time I will just have to leave the laptop at home.
There is a lot to think about and pray over too; lots of directional needs that I have at the moment. There are so many things I just need to sit and think about and well, I don’t.

I guess I lead such an unproductive life at the moment that any time I get a chance to be productive and creative, I grab at it. Still, that does not help me to think and to ponder.

So, I guess the next time I come in, it will be without my electronic distractions.

I will say that I have seen some interesting characters come and go throughout the day. Earlier, a deaf lady and her child were here using the internet; I could tell that she was death because of the sign she was using (or maybe her daughter was death). An hour or two later two older individuals sat and talked about one’s wood chipping business using the other’s biomass converter; it was an amazingly boring conversation. Now, there is a younger crowd; teenagers on my right and a guy using his laptop a ways in front of me. The baristas have been here all day; I hope their shift ends soon.

It is a dreary day and after last night, I needed to get away…even if I did not think as much as I had hoped.

I am getting tired, so I guess that is my cue to go home.

Have a good evening everyone.

Grace and Peace

Executive Order 16661: 7:21 am

It was the day humankind would change forever.
We had received our orders earlier that morning:
You are given full clearance to round up and detain all individuals who attend the targeted houses of worship. Any resistance will be met with force. All pastors are to be executed in front of their congregations as an incentive toward full cooperation.

It was about time those bible thumpers were dealt with. Ever since I went to my first philosophy lecture at college, I knew the only way to effectively deal with religious freaks was to force them to recant or exterminate them. I was big fan of Harris, Dawkins, and my favorite, Nietzsche, all who were serious advocates of the complete public eradication of religion. Their books inspired and enhanced my beliefs and gave voice to all my deep frustrations. I had plenty of them too, mostly involving my religious nutcase parents, my snake-handling church, and the many judgmental glances and comments I received for loving to think, and speak my mind. Such a crime to be able to think; if I think I might not need faith. I might not need them. College was a refuge where I could run to and indulge in my desire to learn. I enrolled in every “thinking course” I could. During those courses, I felt like I was being liberated from years of superstition much like Medieval Europe was delivered by the Renaissance. Still, with all of my great learning I was still constantly bombarded by people and events that just intensified my hatred of religion and its adherents. I was starting to believe that all of my desires would never be quenched or used to make a difference, until I was approached my last semester of college.

I was sitting out around one of the many common areas, when I was approached by an middle-aged, nicely dressed, but inconspicuous man who sat down, smiled, and asked,

“You are Roger Armond, no?”

I looked up, slightly surprised, “Yes, I am…and you are?”

“Oh, my apologies! My name is Gregory, Gregory Bell, but you can call me Greg.”

“Ok, how do you know me, Greg?” I pretended to be annoyed, but I was really curious and wanted the man to keep talking.

The man smiled and gave a small laugh, “Oh, Roger, I have been keeping tabs on you for quite some time. Ever since you published your paper on religious tolerance, I have been extremely interested.”
My curiosity was now raging out of control; who was this guy and how many of my papers had he read?

Why was he keeping tabs on me?

“What is it that you want to discuss with me?”

“Opportunity, Roger, simply opportunity,” he gave another smile, “The world is changing Roger; I was wondering if you wanted to be a part of it?” The question lingered in the air as I stared at Gregory Bell.

“What are you talking about?” I leaned closer to hear the answer that my heart was burning for…

“A world without religion Roger, a world where science and reason are the only faiths men look to for meaning.” Gregory Bell was smiling now and seemed to anticipate my response.

“Wow, that sounds great, but there are billions of problems with that.”

Gregory Bell laughed a different, almost heinous laugh.

“You don’t eat an elephant whole, Roger; you have to eat it one bite at a time. Things have been in motion for quite some time; we have been very patient. You will be surprised to know that we have infiltrated the government and that it won’t be long before we are in the highest reaches of power. I am here…” he paused, and my breath caught, “I am here, Roger, to offer you a job, no, more than a job, a calling.”

“Mr. Armond; we’re almost to the site; eta, about 10 minutes.”

I acknowledged the Lieutenant’s report and continued to ponder the moment that was about to occur. We were one of many teams being dispatched to the churches; the first bite of the elephant of religion was about to be relished. This particular group was the most dangerous type; evangelical Christians who claim they were tolerant and seeking to be of benefit to society. How many religions had claimed to be tolerant and beneficial and would later end up controlling the masses with their irrational, unsupportable dogma. No, there was no “tolerant” religion; especially of the monotheistic type; especially evangelical Christianity. The only religions that were worse were radical Muslims and Mormons.

“Are you sure this is the right decision, sir? I mean, are these people really terrorists?”

“Roger, this is too much.” Christina looked at me with a look of despair, as if there were no hope for me…I hated when she did that.

“Christina, this would be a huge opportunity for me! You just don’t understand the once in a lifetime opportunity that was just offered to me! We would be able to start our lives right!”

Christina was my fiancée of six months and a psychology major; her desire was to work in experimental psychology especially dealing with possibilities in telekinetic manipulation. She was a genius and she was beautiful; I loved both of those qualities.

She was also a Christian, or at least that is what she claimed; I despised that about her.

I had successfully managed to get her to go out with me, despite my anti-religious rhetoric. Her parents did not like me and I honestly did not care; I entertained hopes that I would finally dislodge her from her religious trappings. I did manage to keep her away from any dangerous churches and to get her to attend a Unitarian Chapel down the street from the college. While not overly fond of religion, I knew the Unitarians believed in everything and therefore, believed in nothing at all. If it meant pacifying Christina’s religious leanings; I would attend the meaningless service where the topics were often world peace and kumbiya. I figured with enough time she, like me, would see the stupidity and polarization that was emanated by religion.

I was sure she would choose me.

“Roger, these people actually want to do what you have been ranting about for the last three and half years; they want to eradicate religious people! In case you don’t realize it; that means me!”

“Christina, I don’t think you are as religious as you claim. I mean, hasn’t the Unitarian church’s absurdity helped you to realize just how stupid religion is? I mean, your own parents will tell you the Bible says we should not be married, but you chose to marry me anyway. Stop living a lie Christina, you don’t really believe in God at all.”

Christina gave me a really nasty look.

“You know what, Roger, I have really started to miss going to church. I went to my church back home when I visited my parents last weekend and it was great. There is so much about being in a community with believers that I long for and miss. The Unitarians don’t believe in anything and stand for nothing; I am tired of going to that place.”

My heart sank and I became angry…too angry. My fist pounded the counter.

“Christina, you are not going to one of those churches; my god, why did you go back to that place? Don’t you know that part of their mind control is centered around nostalgia! You are a cognitive specialists, you above all should be aware emotional manipulation! The ‘community,’ you experienced was their way of capturing you with relational bonds and baggage… ”

“Wait, did you just tell me that I am not going back to church? Just who do you think you are?”

Christina’s anger was now matching mine.

“Yes, you will not go back to that church! No wife of mine is going to be involved with a bunch intolerant, fundamentalists snake handlers! You are too smart and…”

“FIRST OF ALL,” Christina was at full volume now, “I am NOT your wife. Second, my church is not intolerant, fundamentalists, and we don’t handle snakes. You are always talking about how ignorant religion is, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe YOU are the ignorant one?”

“Oh, I am sure, soldier. These people are worst than terrorists; they seek to control and terrorize people’s minds and thus deceive them into believing in some god or gods that not only do not exist, but who hamper our existence. You aren’t having second thoughts are you?”

The soldier turned white, much to my pleasure.

“No sir, I know how to follow orders without my conscience. I was just posing a question.”

“Some questions are too dangerous to inquire, remember that.”

The soldier turned white again and nodded. I was satisfied that I had cowed him. If you hesitate even a second to follow your orders, I may have to deal with you rather harshly; that would be…unfortunate.
It was not long before we reached the staging grounds where we would wait for the opportune moment to ambush the assembling believers. Dr. Bell thought it would be best to give the believers a false sense security before crashing their hopes; Dr. Bell was a true Nazi. What a better way to tear apart the illusion of define safety, than by letting the believers think that it was all a hoax and that nothing was amiss. Where will your god be then, hmmm?

“Lieutenant, what time is it?”

“It is eight o’clock sir.” This news did not make me happy.

“Eight o’clock? I thought you said we were ten minutes out?”

“Well, we were sir, but we ran into an accident on the interstate that hampered our progress.”

It was annoying, but I could not fault him for the traffic conditions; I just nodded and headed off to get coffee from the Starbucks we had parked at. I loved a good pumpkin spice latte; coffee was a thinking man’s drink and my heart would ascend to the heights when I partook of it. I walked into the Starbucks; ordered my coffee and went to sit at one of the tables.

Someone had left a newspaper and I picked it up and began to read the day’s headlines. Something about a volcano eruption in Ecuador; thousands of lives lost. There was some sort of new spat between Israel and Hamas on the West Bank; the result, a loss of three Israelis and about a hundred Palestinians. A new malaria epidemic was spreading through the Congo and the death toll was reaching the thousands.

If there is a god, then it is doing a crap-chute job.

I took smug satisfaction knowing that I was about to shatter the faith of so many believers; I was going to show them just how much their god cares about them. Will he stop me from killing their pastor; will he keep me from detaining the faithful? Will he come down from heaven and deliver them out of my hands? Shall the Almighty actually come to the rescue of his faithful for once? Shall the cries of thousands of believers be heard in the throne room of heaven, and if they are, will god even care?

No he won’t.

I took great pleasure at the power that I held in my hands; no the lives I held in my hands.
No, even better, the destinies I hold in my hands.

The latte was just the right temperature and I smiled contentedly. I watched the early morning traffic move lazily down the street; every once in awhile a car would go through the drive-thru and I would stare at the driver as they passed by. They had no idea that they were staring at greatness; that I was about to change the world.

They were ignorant of the glory that was about to be revealed to them.
The massive truck I arrived in was parked around back; we wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. I made sure that the soldiers remained in the truck until it was time for us to move across the street. We would stay and wait until the majority of the congregation arrived before we embarked on our mission. It would catch everyone completely by surprise and it would give us an extra element of fear and trepidation.

Just wait until I execute their minister.

I looked out of the window and saw a young man sitting with his engine idling staring at the church. Not too long after that a man and woman arrived; the man went into the Starbucks and the woman seems to have known the young man in the other car. They seemed to have a heated conversation. I glanced at her license plate

That is a government plate; must be the FBI,

How did I know that? It was just the intuition I was born with. I had been told that someone had leaked the details of the mission to several of churches’ pastors. Well, isn’t that nice; someone had the heart to warn them. Too bad that means they will be arrested and charged with treason as soon as we find them. I smiled with satisfaction at the thought; it would only be a matter of time before we discovered the identity of the mole, no, the rat.

How unfortunate for the FBI to step in the way of this operation; they must think that it is some sort of terrorist threat.

I did not care if they were government agents; if we had to “remove” them as obstacles, I would have no qualms.

This is a war and in war there is collateral damage.

I continued to savor the pumpkin spice latte; watching as the woman (likely an agent) seemed to rave at the guy in the car, waving her arms wildly. Why was he here, staring at the church? My curiosity was somewhat alerted by the young man being out of place, but I shrugged it off. I wondered what kind of relationship they had; the intensity of her passion seemed to indicate that they had been intimate, maybe by mistake. I just love watching people’s relational drama unfold in public. Her partner, a handsome young man, was ordering coffee, completely oblivious to the situation unfolding in the parking lot. I wondered whether they had been intimate and then smiled as I thought of the “Jerry Springer-like” fiasco that could soon consume the Starbucks.

That is when my phone vibrated.

I looked down at the time; now about 8:13; I smiled realizing that the moment was fast arriving. Service time is at 9:30; I just cannot wait. The message was from Dr. Bell and it read as follows:

Dear friends, today is the day we fire the opening volley in our war against religion. We are so fortunate and lucky to be living in an hour such as this. I trust you will act valiantly, but with discretion and good judgment. Remember all that we have worked for; remember that you hold our future in your hands. – Dr.B

I closed the phone and smiled. Indeed the future is in my hands.

I took one more sip of the pumpkin spice before heading back out.


Session 4: The Body (Purity DNOW)

For your viewing I have decided to post the two sessions I taught over this weekend. These were powerful words from the Lord and I hope he used them to impact some lives.
Grace and Peace

This is a really difficult session to teach about; to be honest I don’t take care of my body. I eat the wrong foods; I drink too many sodas. I don’t sleep on a steady sleep schedule and I do not exercise regularly. I have bad habits and behaviors that I should not be entertaining. If God were to ask me to give an account concerning the stewardship of my body, right now, I would not have anything to say. I have had good intentions and I make a lot of goals, but when it comes to looking after my body, I epically fail.

How can we take our bodies so lightly, when God has so many amazing things to say about them?

1Co 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
1Co 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

1Co 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (ESV)

1Co 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (ESV)

2Co 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (ESV)

Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (ESV)

Col 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (ESV)

1Th 4:4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, (ESV)

1Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Just from these verses we can gather that 1) our bodies are conduits of worship, 2) our bodies are living symbols of the unity of Christ and his Church, 3) our body will one day be transformed into a body like Christ’s resurrected body, and 4) Christ took our sin and punishment in his body and he also bears the marks of our resurrection in his new body.

Our Bodies as Temples

There are two extremes present in our day; one represents the traditional viewpoint that the church building is the temple of God and the other extreme that represents an individualistic viewpoint that we are all mini-temples of God and thus we can worship without the need of other individuals.
Both of these views are incorrect; we collectively are God’s temple. Our bodies are all parts of the Temple of God where the Holy Spirit resides. Look how the Apostle Peter describes it:

1Pe 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are together the house of God. God has never, other than symbolically, lived in a house made by human hands; God dwells in the hearts, minds, and souls of his people.

There are serious implications for this:

1. Every time that we sin as an individual, we are contributing to the corporate sickness of the Body of Christ.

That sin you “got away with,” hurt other members of the Body of Christ spiritually. We are only as strong as our weakest link; in our case, the strong ones are the weak ones…weak ones who need the power of God.

2. All of the things that I allow into my life, I should be willing to share with all other members of the body.

Whether it is a destructive sexual habit, inappropriate humor, or questionable music that you have an issue, everything you would allow your body to be a part of should be suitable for all of the body of Christ to partake.

3. If our worship suffers as an individual, then it will cause everyone else’s worship to suffer.

God designed the Body to respond to the faithfulness and worship of all of its members; when we live in defiance of God and our worship is empty, it suppresses the worship of the entire congregation.
You may think this is extreme and you would be right, it is. We are not going to perfect this over night, but the point is that we should always be willing to evaluate our lives in light of following Christ and leading others to follow him.

Paul’s words in Romans 12:1 ring true:

Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Defiling our Temple-Bodies

In II Kings there is a story about a king of Judah named Josiah, listen to the biblical account,

2Ki 22:3 In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying,
2Ki 22:4 "Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people.
2Ki 22:5 And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house
2Ki 22:6 (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house.
2Ki 22:7 But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly."
2Ki 22:8 And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
2Ki 22:9 And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, "Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD."
2Ki 22:10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king.
2Ki 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.
2Ki 22:12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying,
2Ki 22:13 "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." (ESV)

Josiah’s father, Manasseh, had been one of the wickedest kings to sit in Jerusalem. He had let the Temple fall into disrepair and had even allowed pagan idols and altars to be constructed on the Temple grounds! When Josiah was 18, he went about to repair the Temple, and while looking for some financial records, the high priest Hilkiah stumbled upon a forgotten copy of the Law of Moses. For years, this book had not been read or held to in all of Israel and when Hilkiah read it to Josiah he, “tore his clothes” in grief and recognition of the great sinfulness he had inherited. After consulting the Lord, this is what he did:

2Ki 23:1 Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him.
2Ki 23:2 And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD.
2Ki 23:3 And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.
2Ki 23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel.
2Ki 23:5 And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens.
2Ki 23:6 And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.
2Ki 23:7 And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah.
2Ki 23:8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city.
2Ki 23:9 However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brothers.
2Ki 23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.
2Ki 23:11 And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
2Ki 23:12 And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
2Ki 23:13 And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
2Ki 23:14 And he broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the bones of men.

Josiah was zealous about cleaning out the Temple. He did not just say he was sorry and let the idolatry continue; he went in and started chopping and burning. Anything that dishonored the Lord was thrown out and destroyed. It was clear that Josiah was taking the Law of Moses seriously. But this was not all that Josiah did check out a few verses down:
2Ki 23:21 And the king commanded all the people, "Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant."
2Ki 23:22 For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.
2Ki 23:23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.
2Ki 23:24 Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
2Ki 23:25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

Josiah was not content with just throwing out the idolatry; he restored the correct and proper worship of God in his Temple. Josiah had a negative reaction to the idolatry but had a positive pro-action to restoring God as the only one who was worshiped.

So, what does this mean for us?

1) In order to know what is defiling our temple-bodies we need to take time look inside.

A daily quiet time is necessary to be able to allow God to speak to you and for you to speak to God, but this goes beyond that. This kind of search requires more than just 15 min and it takes a lot of gut-wrenching, soul-searching that literally makes you broken and sometimes bleeding before God. It is never a pretty thing to look at the dark corners or even dark rooms of our lives; but we have to do it.

2) When we are confronted with our idolatry; we should be broken about it.

When Josiah heard the words of the Law of Moses he tore his clothes, an ancient ritual of deep grief and mourning. When we see the idolatry that defiles our temple-bodies, it should make us mourn with something more than regret…remorse and contrition; a willingness to not just confess but to repent and change.

3) Knowledge leads to repentance; repentance leads to action.

We can’t just acknowledge and feel bad about the idols in our lives; we have to take action against them! Anything that does not exalt and honor Christ as the Lord needs to be tossed out and burned (not necessarily literally…but it may come to that). We cannot expect to ever have pure temple-bodies if we continuously harbor and protect the idols that are defiling us. They have to go or God has no place in our lives.

4) Once we throw the idols out, we must restore God to his rightful place of worship.

It is not enough for us to just throw the idols out; we must also begin to worship God. We must rebuild the altar of honoring God in our lives. We must be proactive in our worship of God. Jesus warned about this in Luke 11:24-26:

Luk 11:24 "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'
Luk 11:25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.
Luk 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first."
If we don’t take the time to rebuild our relationship with God; then worse things than we threw out will enter into our lives and we will once again be enslaved to idolatry. We cannot just hate sin; we have to love God!

The Ultimate Body Example

Joh 2:18 So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?"
Joh 2:19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
Joh 2:20 The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"
Joh 2:21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Joh 2:22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus is our example; if there is anyone who shows how to live pure in our current bodies it is he. Jesus’ human body was a Temple of the Holy Spirit just like any of our bodies. So, he lived the perfect sinless life, so that he could set the standard for all of those who would believe in him. Jesus Christ offered his body, his perfect temple, as an offering to God.

Isa 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isa 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

A large part of being a temple-body is to endure suffering; we must suffer as Jesus suffered or at least be willing to suffer if we want our bodies to be purely dedicated to God. Paul talked about keeping his temple-body in shape for suffering:

1Co 9:26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
1Co 9:27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul was scared to death of preaching to others about the purity in the body and yet neglecting his own purity and end up being disqualified. Any athlete knows that in order to stay in shape you have to be willing to discipline yourself rigorously and that requires pain and suffering. We too, must embrace pain and suffering in order to discipline ourselves for purity. This means denying our bodies things that they crave that seek to usurp God out of our lives.

Did Paul’s talk match his actions?

2Co 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
2Co 11:24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
2Co 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
2Co 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;
2Co 11:27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
2Co 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2Co 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
2Co 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul’s resume of suffering is quite impressive; he did not just talk up some faith, he walked in faith. How could someone endure all of that suffering? Paul knew that if was to rejected and even slain, just as Christ as was, he would also be raised, just as Christ is. Paul knew that this life was not the end and that in order to be ready for eternal life he would have to follow Jesus; through rejection, to the cross, and last but not least out of the grave. We suffer now and we live to fullest later; suffering is the only road to glory.

I close with the words of Jesus from Luke 9:23:

Luk 9:23 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Here is the takeaway:

- Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; so you need to honor God in everything you do in and with your body.

- You are interconnected with other members of the Body of Christ and choices you make impact their lives just as much as yours.

- In order to cleanse our temple bodies we have to spend time finding the defilement, mourn over the defilement, throw all of the idols out of our temples, and then restore the worship of God to our temples.

- Jesus is the ultimate example of how we should honor God in our bodies; he surrendered himself for pain and suffering so that God would be glorified. If we wish to follow him we must be willing to do the same

- Paul and other Christians sense have been able to rejected and slain in the body, because they know that, like Jesus, they will be raised into a new, eternal body which will endure forever.

Some questions:

- Do you treat your body like a temple of the Holy Spirit? What idols are you allowing in your lives that are defiling your temple?

- Do you need to repent of worshiping things other than Christ with your body? If so, what is preventing you from doing so?

- Do you embrace suffering as a regular part of being a follower of Christ? If not, how can you make suffering a bigger part of your daily walk?

- Do you believe that it is better to suffer now and be happy later? Or is your life spent grabbing all of what you can from this life?