What is the worst thing about sin?

Okay, I know sin is wrong–I mean that’s the definition. Sin is wrong! No argument from me there. But what is the worst thing about sin? I was listening to a pastor on the radio. He was ranting about how sin will destroy your life. And he is 100% right–sin will destroy your life. I teach that! In seventh grade, we are going over the rules of reality and number 5 is “Sin will destroy you!”

But I’m thinking, is sin destroying my life really the worst thing about it? NO. What about other things we know about sin? Sin hurts other people. Sin causes all the world’s problems. Sin is evil. Sin is controlling. ALL TRUE. But not one of those is the worst thing about sin!

God hates sin (rule of reality number 3), and the worst thing about it is the fact that it hurts or offends God. Sin put Christ on the cross–where He took the wrath of God for every person whoever existed, which is the most fearsome event in all of time. So the worst thing about sin, is not that it hurts me or my friends or my family or society or any of that. By far, by an infinite amount, the worst thing about sin, is it hurts God.

So, sin will hurt you–stay away. Sin will hurt others–stay away. Sin offends God–STAY AWAY!!!!!!!!!

Greed’s subtle seduction

I live in the grand state of New Mexico in the city of Albuquerque–It has glorious mountains on one side and on the other three sides is surrounded by casinos. I don’t gamble; the lottery is a tax on people that a bad at math. As they said, in Ocean’s Eleven “The house always wins! You can never change the odds.”

I hate gambling–for many reasons–but first and foremost it targets the naive. What idiot actually thinks he’s gonna win the lotto? What really gets my goat (not that I have a goat) is that arcade games are turning into gambling trainer games–remember those ticket games, like ski-ball or make the shot–you play the game and the better you were the more tickets you made. Not anymore, anymore those ticket games resemble slot machines–play for the big payout! GRRR. Okay, down boy!  

Let me be abundantly clear–You shouldn’t gamble!  Ever! It’s not worth it! It’s robbery you do to yourself–with greed as the accomplice.

But you know, greed is a very subtle seducer.

This last summer, I started collecting coke points–the silly little codes on coke bottles gives you points you can turn in online for stuff–like 30 points is a coupon for a free 20 oz. coke. And you know they have all kinds of sweepstakes you can enter too. For a mere 3 or 6 points you can enter a contest to win a $2,000 visa gift card or a cool new TV or a super vaction or some other awesome prize!

I love contests; I could win! It’s neat to daydream about winning the (you fill in the blank here), and honestly I don’t think anything is wrong with that!  BUT what’s it cost? Hmm. I know coke points aren’t money; but–woah–wait a minutes, what is money? It’s a means of exchange–I give someone something and they give me something back. Then coke points ARE money–sure they won’t buy groceries, but they’ll get me a 12 pack of coke. So, as ridiculous as it may seem, I was being a bad steward with Coke Points. I’ve thrown away enough coke points to get a 12 pack of coke!

I’ve collected a lot of coke points–but the only thing I was able to do was get a hundred bucks off my school’s hotel bill at the teachers convention. Yeah, that’s cool, but I’ve entered dozens of contests. I have won actually–nothing! BUT wait, they have NEW contests with cool NEW prizes! It’s awesome, it’s cool; it’s Vegas with coke points. Hmmm.

Okay, is coke point contests gambling? yeah–ish. I add that “ish” for you people. Me–the answer is yes–I’ve been convinced by reason and the Holy Ghost that rewards programs–like coke points–are something that God wants me to be a good steward with. That may sound stupid–but hey, God didn’t ask you to do it. Christian freedom is just that FREEDOM–If you want to enter coke point contests go for it! After you talk to God about it, of course.   

I didn’t give this testimony to hate on contests. I still enter contests–but only those that cost NOTHING–like that Papa Murphy’s gift card give away! I could win a pizza or whole lot of pizza! Wouldn’t that be neat! I’m just warning you that greed is very seductive–it lurks-like a piranha, in the beautiful blue waters of the lake of life. Watch out for it.

Maybe contests aren’t how it will attack you. I don’t think that was or even is the primary way it’s coming after me. Maybe you’ll be duped into greed through work–or that constant pressure to keep up with the Joneses. My brother pointed out that greed can hit a person in how much or how awesome the gifts are they give to others at the holidays! Wow–greed attacking a person through generosity! Ouch!

I realy just want to warn you to be on your guard! Greed is out there and it can get you! Be careful.  AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

There is no victory on “Easy”

 

Last Sunday, I came back to Junior church. They were playing octopus tag like a video game. James, the game director, would walk or run, try or really not based on the levels –easy, medium, hard, or (my fav) impossible. The kids would tell him what level was next, but as one little kid boasted about winning the game-James replied, “You can’t win on easy mode!”

I liked that. You can’t really win unless the victory takes work. We have a microwave mentality. Everything now-but that isn’t victory–we didn’t get our country by 55 men signing a sheet of paper–the founding fathers had to fight the revolutionary war. Hitler regime was beaten-not by the propaganda machine of the USA but by the joint effort of the entire allied war effort. Things worth doing, worth winning, take effort in real life–sure in games you can use cheat codes and become invincible but that really isn’t beating the game and it certainly doesn’t work in real life.

And since the essence of the truly real life is the Christian life, you can’t really win in easy mode against the forces that war against us spiritually.  It takes effort–real sustained effort to win in the battle against your flesh. It takes constant care, preperation, and above all devotion–to live the Christian life. This was proven by people like Bill Borden, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, David Livingston, Moody, and the many others that successfully joined Paul in saying, “I’ve kept the faith, I’ve finished my course.” Or in modern terms–“I won.”

But the truly awesome thing is that according to the promises of John 1, all of us that believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior have the power from God to win in the task of being a child of God. We can win–it’s not a cake walk. It’s not on easy mode, but we can have victory–but it takes work.

Virga Christianity

I love the Southwest. Here God has created some of the greatest sky-scapes on earth. One of the more interesting things that shows up in the American Southwestern sky is the phenomenon of virga—visible rain coming down from the clouds but which evaporates before it hits the ground. It is quite odd to watch rain fall from clouds only to stop a few hundred feet above the ground. Although pretty and almost identical to rain—virga is completely useless to the parched sun-drenched desert below.
Recently in a trip from Albuquerque to Arizona-winding through the mountains of the border between Arizona and New Mexico—I was under one of the largest and driest rain storms I’ve ever witnessed. For hours the virga was falling in waves. Meanwhile the parched desert highlands continued unaided by the massive amounts of falling moisture.
I imagine the rain all ready up in the clouds was all excited about its several mile plunge to help the dry land below. “Cannon Ball!” it yells, falling all that distance, then it hits the desert’s hard hot air. “I’m not going to put up with this,” it screams, and hightails it back up to the cool clouds.
Christianity is inundated with the virga crowd. In fact, a great deal of our modern Christianity is only virga. They cheer with enthusiasm, put fish stickers on their cars, and let it be well known that they attend church. They sing loudly and with great emotion. If challenged, they would be insulted beyond measure that their Christianity is in anyway less that anyone else’s. They just have a different style and are quick to point out that no one should ever judge them. (Which is decidedly unbiblical but that is not the point of this discussion. We’ll deal with that later.) The real difference is when it comes to doing.
Virga Christians are not less enthusiastic—usually they are more so—they are not less sincere either, even though sincerity is not the glowing virtue some make it out to be. The problem is that when it comes to the hard day-in day-out living of the Christian life, they quit. It’s all well and good to sing in church and maybe even give a few dollars, but if they were told they needed to actually live a vibrantly moral life or tithe, they fizzle up under the pressure and back up into the clouds they go.
C. S. Lewis in Screwtape’s letters talks this change between doing and dreaming. He states that there is disappointment that marks the beginning of every human endeavor and is the transition from dreaming aspiration into laborious doing. That is the dry air that evaporates away the spiritual usefulness of most of the church. They can’t handle the hardship that comes from a lack of ease and fulfilled expectation.
A person quits when he realizes that working with the children’s ministry is not talking to the dozens of well-mannered attentive angels that come to the church at the ages of 4-10, but is actually the dealing with misbehaving, squirming, petty, real children that need spiritual, social, mental, and sometimes even hygienically based guidance. His imaginary view is crushed under the pressure of reality, and the person’s spirituality is dry and dusty under the never-ending storm clouds of his apathetic virga.
If a person never does the things that are right, then it does them and those around them no good that they know about them. Jesus warned against this in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that a foolish person hears what He has to say and doesn’t do it. No amount of singing praise songs will save one from destruction if they ignore the actual doing commanded in the Bible.
Some people are in churches that actually avoid dealing with the issue of Spiritual doing—mainly because these churches were built by offering a pseudo-spirituality that requires nothing or less from the people. Without the spiritual exercise of doing the spiritual life dries into a harsh forbidding desert and through the spiritual drought the mental, physical, and moral life of the person starts to die.
This allows the rather depressing statistics of the world and the church having the same or nearly the same rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, drug use and other sins. Since Christians by and large aren’t overcoming the resistance built into doing, they lack a really Christian life, with its convictions, holiness, righteousness, and, most importantly, victory.
God didn’t intend that His people slog through life as the victims of poor circumstance. The Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors, but living virga lifestyle destroys that possibility. Doing, not dreaming( no matter how enthusiastic the dreams), is what will make a real difference in the lives of the Christian. It is a lack of faith to call oneself a Christian and not live and do the precepts of the Bible.
On my trip through the virga rainstorm, I ran into a small patch of real rain. It was a mere drizzle, but it was rain. That rain overcame the resistance of the dry air and made it all the way to the ground—and it made a difference in the dry landscape. All the virga didn’t, but those few drops did. Christian, you can overcome the dryness that accompanies doing and you’ll make a difference doing so.
Mat 7:24-25 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not:
for it was founded upon a rock

Warning: Man of Prayer in Training

I always hated people saying you shouldn’t pray for patience. “If you pray for patience,” they would say, “you’ll get trials.” So their brilliant solution was to not pray for patience. If you NEED patience, PRAY for patience; I did and I noticed tests came, but so did the patience to pass those tests. If you want an easy comfortable life, then get out of Christian service-God promised trials.

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Rom 8:18    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us

So God’s word says that there will be trials in this life, so you can have trials with patience or without it. Which do you think is better? (HINT: Pray for patience.)

I have personally been praying for something else recently. I have been asking God to make me a man of prayer. Since, I have done that I have been made aware of problems in a wide variety of areas, from personal to global. Just like knuckle headed Christians said “you shouldn’t pray for patience,” I was tempted to say that I shouldn’t pray to be a man of prayer. I want to say on a mental level it is not an easy transition to go from being a twerp in prayer to a man of prayer. Pray for me. (LOL lots of prayer going on here; it’s like the universal solution.) But the problems I am now aware of are not new, I am just bringing those problems to God in prayer, and I am doing lots of little bits of spiritual growing up, along the way. So I highly, but not lightly, recommend praying to be a man or lady of prayer.

So from one trainee to another, keep it up, because God will answer that prayer!

A world that wants to live in Runescape

I have been noticing that most of the world doesn’t like the law of sowing and reaping. The world hates that what they do has consequences. What is abortion but a way of running from consequences? Why is AIDS such a horrific disease? Why are humanists so mad at even the idea of God? I have been reading about Atheism and one of their major arguments is that evil exists in this world and God shouldn’t allow it. But I can’t help but think about the game RUNESCAPE; Runescape is a mmo-rpg. Basically you walk around a huge world with thousands of people and you do stuff. When you start the game, you end up the city of Lumbridge. Once, there you can basically do anything! You can adventure however you want. One of the biggest quests you can play for free is to kill an evil dragon that has destroyed an island.

If the dragon kills you, it is no big deal. When you die, you’ll come right back. Sure you might loose a little loot and you’ll have to walk from Lumbridge back to the dragon’s cave. But someday, you will beat it. Someday, you will win. You know that if the dragon kills you that you will get it in the end.

But when you do kill the dragon, it comes right back. When you stop the black knight, he comes right back. When you save the man turned into a chicken, he gets right into trouble again. NOTHING ever turns out bad or good forever because every decision you make doesn’t matter. You can threaten to kill a man one second and the next he will politely give you directions. The thing is that every decision you make is fake. It doesn’t have any real consequences.

Runescape is fun for a while, but it gets boring really quickly because really nothing matters. What if God had allowed the atheists to have their way; no consequences for actions–no tragedy follows choices no matter how foolish, sinful, or selfish. Hitler kills Jews, but they come right back. Fathers are drunks and abandon their kids, but there families have no ill effects. People fornicate whenever, where ever with whoever or whatever–no pregnancy or STDS. Wouldn’t it be great?

But what about good choices? The single mother that works two jobs to send her son to Christian school or college–Her sacrifice doesn’t matter. He turns out the same if she works or not. The Father that loves his family, the soldier that fights bravely, the shrewd investor, the inventive entrepreneur, the honest politician–none of their choices for right matters one bit. Everything ends up the same no matter what–Life on earth becomes like Runescape.

This would apply across the whole spectrum of human relationships. Imagine if dating resulted the same way if a man was a gentlemen or a sexist pig; a woman a lady of virtue or a harlot. It didn’t matter if you loved, hated, cared, or cried. Nothing matters-That is the wonderland that Atheist want so badly to believe is the reality. But to me that is like wishing you could go to the fair to watch others ride the rides and eat the funnel cakes. No, it’s worse than that. It’s like wishing away all that makes human life worth living. The only thing you could ever satisfy is bass instincts–you would be an uncontrolled and useless animal. All the wonder of life, the real love, care, etc. would be gone. There would be no consequences in life because their would be no life. All that makes us worth while would be gone, replace with nothing but useless, empty, tepid entertainment that would merely distract for a few moments before we again revel in our empty, pointless existence.

I thank God that He is so much smarter than us and so much kinder too. He could have had automaton that would not mess up, but He knew that giving mankind choices, REAL choices, was so much better. Yes, we have tragedy, but we have triumph. We have suffering but we have love. What we do, each of us, every moment does matter–It really matters. So Dawkins and his crowd can complain, but I am glad God choose to make our reality real and our will real too. I don’t blame God when wicked people choose evil and sin. I rejoice that I can effect reality just as much by choosing righteousness and love.

Expanding

It seems that God is in the expanding business. For instance, the universe is constantly expanding. Why would the entire plain of reality God chose for our home be constantly getting bigger. It’s not like were using it all. Nevertheless, God’s universe is expanding. But that is really nothing compared to the reality of growth people experience.

Sure I could make the almost obligatory joke about expanding waist-lines, but that is not the point. I am refering to God’s unique way of forcing each of us out of our particular comfort zone. For personal instance, I am now being trained to take over the church books. I seem to remember some Bible class in college saying that was a bad idea for a pastor, thankfully I am a school teacher. I also seem to remember not wanting to do this, but necessity is a superior force than want. So I am learning to do it. Organization on the level of business bookkeeping and I go way back-as significant enemies. Well, maybe enemies is the wrong word; at least as those people that your polite to at Christmas parties but don’t like.

So, it seems that I must grow in several different directions. I am not particularly looking forward to it, but thankfully, once you’ve grown your ability significantly increases. That’s the cool thing; God wants us better and loves us enough to not let us stay put.

The Land on a Blade

I keep hearing everyone quote Alexander Tyler, a history professor in 1787. He said, “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury…. Every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” Isn’t that great? We are a land that is poised on the edge of blade of democracy and rapidly tilting into the quagmire of dictatorship. That’s certainly an optimistic outlook.
It’s not like that whole idea is even wrong. Our tax code is designed to keep people from achieving wealth. Those who work hard and try to better themselves are rewarded with higher taxes; while the government pays people to be leeches on society’s backside. If our society is to be unbiased and fair to all, then a progressive tax code has to go. But that is not how it works. Our government makes decisions by coercion and bribe. You give me x I give you y. It’s doesn’t matter that x and y are bad for 99.9% of Americans, I want x and you want y and we have power. It’s not like a rant on the Internet is going to do anything about it, but I would love to see a flat tax in our country. I would also love to see special interests groups have enough decency to be interested in those outside of their interest.

I guess basically I would like to see our world take the moral high road. I would love to see responsibilities taken seriously, and moral deficits considered worse than fashion deficits. But there is a major problem with that. I don’t think our society can have the morals of Christianity without the Christianity. Christian has nearly become a meaningless word like nice or cool. It has been reduced to the point where it means that the person talking thinks what they say is good. People that wouldn’t know a Bible verse from a hole in their head are saying some idea is “Christian” or that someone is a good “Christian.” Ick!

Self-sacrifice, putting others before self, and doing what is right despite the cost cannot and will not happen in a society that rejects God and rejects Biblical Christianity. Yeah, Tyler might be right. We may be a few years from dictatorship in this country. So what should we do? Simple, same thing God has told us was our job was back when Christianity was under a dictator.  ” Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” It is the power of the gospel working in the hearts of man that will truely change our society. Maybe we should petition the government for that. We could get a special interest group and have rallies.

No. That would be interesting, but that it’s not the method God gave us to reach this world. We have the awesome tool of preaching which means telling people. So let’s change America, tell your neighbor about Jesus and proclaim the truth into a dark world.  Long live that REVOLUTION!

 

Plain Vanilla Yoga

Yesterday, I started school meetings. This school year is off and running. However, a bizarre circumstance happened. I was reading in Ruth today about how Ruth “happed” to Boaz’s field. I guess I am in the same boat because yesterday, I happed to an interesting coffee shop. I was exploring the area around the school. It’s on the other side of town and I was very early for the school meetings. So I found a coffee shop-after I found a Sonic and a Sunflower supermarket. Right next to this coffee shop was a place called Dahn Yoga and Tai-Chi. They had brochures right outside so I grabbed one.
It is interesting to me that so many students at Victory Christian School are heavily interested in Manga, those backwards printed Japanese comic books. So what does a yoga brochure and Japanese comic books have in common–Chakra. Apparently, the idea of the Chakra came from India and is believed throughout the orient. From what I could gather in the little digging I did, Chakra is the 6-8 circles of consciousness that can exist in a person. They claim each of these circles affect a person’s health spiritually, physically, and mentally.

The weirdness continues; this yoga place claims that yoga and the other assorted mystical beliefs can “develop inner peace, develop growth of your true self, control your inner power [called Ki], learn to use your healing powers on yourself and others.” Okay, I admit this stuff is plain creepy, but why would some new age yoga school bother me? Again we go back to those Manga, one of the most popular is one called Naruto. It’s about a boy ninja named Naruto, all of his super-human powers; in fact every ninja’s super-human powers come from controlling this bizarre energy source called Chakra-The 6 to 8 circles of consciousness of eastern mysticism. 

At this point, some of my students would accuse me of saying that Naruto is evil or watching Naruto is sin. I love my kids; they are so funny sometimes. I am not making this into some kind of attack on Manga, but there is a danger here. The students like coffee and Naruto. Suppose they “hap” upon the Yoga place. They already have interest towards this place. Students have told me how cool they think these Chakra ninja’s are. Would they buy into all this mysticism? I hope not. But the brochure has testimonies of people that think this mystical exercise program has cured depression and controlled diabetes. Not that exercise can’t do those things, but they aren’t blaming normal exercise. They blame this chakra-ki eastern mysticism. They blame this institute that says focusing your chakra and ki will help you heal yourself and others.

I know the allure of entertainment and I can see how these simple comic books are full to the brim with eastern Mysticism and spiritism. That can be dangerous; we tend to get more involved in things that we are interested in. It is important to warn these students that they might be trapped by the devices of Satan. After all, Satan wants to destroy them; and getting them involved in the New Age movement and Eastern Mysticism will definitely do that. 
But what is really demonic about this whole Chakra thing is that it has an element of truth to it. It’s description in Naruto and in the research I did both have the endocrine system in mind. Each Chakra or state of consciousness has a corresponding gland. Even in Naruto the Chakra points are closely associated with lymph nodes. Can exercise of the body affect the endocrine system? Of course it can. If a chocolate bar can produce endorphins and a roller-coaster ride can cause an adrenaline spike then a regimen of exercise can affect your emotions. Remember Satan always offers his best apples first. Here I think it’s these stretching exercises called yoga. A person will try it and find out it does affect their mood; they do feel more at peace, etc. etc. But that doesn’t prove the mysticism; although it is presented so that it looks like it does. Then Satan comes along with this whole bizarre philosophy of Chakra and energy healings and Ki power until a person is totally duped by the New Age movement. It’s sublte and deadly.

Anything that comes along needs to be looked at carefully and hard questions need to be asked. Is this right? What does this mean? What is the point? What should I do about it? Is this wrong? To many times we just let new issues come at us and don’t even do enough digging into them. It takes effort but finding the truth is worth the work. 

 

 

Join the Revolution

Today, it seems that Christianity is more like a sport than a lifestyle. For many, Christianity is the getting ready for church on Sunday morning, listening to a sermon, reading a bit from the Bible, and praying before a meal. It’s being at least decent in morality, and being able to point out that one’s behavior is average if not better than average. They don’t live Biblical Christianity. Instead they have substituted a weak and easily abused cultural Christianity.

But like so many things, one bad trend leads to another. The weak cultural Christianity has paved the way for another diluted form of Christianity. For lack of a better term, I will call it the cause Christianity. For those involved here, Christianit is another name for those that support their cause-whether Biblical, a-biblical (not for or against), or un-biblical. Some fundamentalist have done this with their Fundamentalism; but they are not alone. Everyone seems able to define Christian however they please in our world. For crying out loud, sodomites have used this same idea to support outright sinful perversion. Christianity is not a code word for your cause; and God is never on your side-you always have to be on His side. (Joshua 5:13-14) Saying or acting like Christianity is somehow summed up in a political, denominational, social, or even religious cause is wrong.

The best is hard to live, and right is not easy. It’s simple though. Here is the deal-If you want to be a truly Biblical Christian, you have to live the Bible. That is both simple and difficult. Joshua was given the great charge of leading the people of God into battle; and before the conquest started, God gave Joshua the recipe for success. It’s Joshua 1:8. It include three simple steps: first, know God’s word; two, consider/apply God’s word; and three, follow God’s word. It’s not complicated and comes with a promise-You’ll be prosperous and have success.

Joshua, with that simple plan, conquered the enemies of God and acchieved victory. He was so close to God that, one day, Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still-and they did! God listened to a man-unlike anything that has happened before or since. (Joshua 10:14) Joshua made a revolutionary difference in his day and culture.

It could happen again. God hasn’t changed. But Joshua 10:14 happened after Joshua 1:8 and Joshua 5:13-14.  No one would expect that God would use a person to change the flow of human events if that person refused to listen to His word and His plan. God wasn’t on Joshua’s side: Joshua was on God’s side. Joshua read and followed God’s word and plan. That’s really the only way it will work.  

A couple of weeks ago, I thought about changing how I hand out tracks. I thought maybe I should say, “Join the Revolution.” It’s kind of silly, but theologically it’s right on the money. We are in a war-just like Joshua. We are also in enemy territory. (John 17:15) Each Christian should be a member of the real Earth Liberation Front–Helping free mankind from the bondage of sin and destiny of hell. And unlike environmental terrorists, we can actually make the world better for our having been here.

So, wanna join the revolution? It’s simple-know God’s word, consider and apply God’s word, follow God’s word. It will be a battle-the world wasn’t kind to Christ and won’t be to his followers. It might cost you-many have given their lives for true Christianity. But most importantly of all-you’ll be a success to God.

LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION!!

David M. Zahn