Monday, November 24, 2014

Friendship with Jesus

You don't hear the question very often as an adult.  Adults are experienced and wary and "dignified," and we don't always say exactly what we mean, partly because we fear rejection.  But children are more forthright.  And a common question, from one child to another, after first meeting, is, "You want to be friends?" And the answer is usually "Uh-huh! Yes!"


little boys talking

As we grow older, our friendships can be formed quickly or gradually, because every individual is different, and every pair of individuals is different.  But that simple childhood question is so honest, so innocent, that it's almost haunting.  And it makes me wonder: I know Someone else Who was forthright and honest and innocent when He walked the earth - - - although He was also deeper and more quick-witted than anyone who ever lived.  What would you say if the Lord Jesus Christ asked you, "Do you want to be friends?"  Or, a slightly different question: "Are you My friend?"

It's a deep, deep question.  The Lord Jesus Christ has plenty of "acquaintances;" the churches are full of them.  Men and women who know about Him, and have an intellectual belief in Him, but have never actually pursued a level of intimate fellowship with Him: in other words, about 90% of the church members in the Western world.  (In China, or in Muslim countries, such shallow acquaintance is virtually unknown: it costs something to be a follower of Christ there).  And He certainly has many, many enemies.  In fact, unless and until you've received Jesus Christ by an act of the will, at a specific point in time (John 1:12, John 3:3-7), you're one of those enemies.  That's not my judgment; it's God's: For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:10, written to those who have received Him). You may claim, like the philosophers, to admire Him as a Teacher; or claim, like the Muslims, that He was a great Prophet; but, until you have become personally acquainted with Him, just as you're acquainted with your neighbors and co-workers, you're not His friend; He considers you an enemy.

Who, then, are His friends?  As we've already indicated, it begins with meeting Him, by receiving Him, and being born again.  But that's just the beginning.  That's the simple part.  Anybody can be saved; but there are some very specific characteristics of being His friend.

The first step is believing Him.  Not just "believing in Him," but believing in what He says - - - which is found in His word, the Bible.  A professing Christian may scoff at parts of the Bible; but a friend of Jesus won't: he or she will believe it implicitly, even the parts that aren't easily understood. God spoke to Moses directly, but He didn't call Moses His friend:  And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend (Exodus 33:11).  But Abraham was truly God's friend.  (This doesn't mean that Abraham was a "better man" than Moses; that has nothing to do with it.  Both men were sinners, like you and me.) Speaking to Israel: But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend (Isaiah 41:8). What was so special about Abraham? God tells us very clearly, in the New Testament: in fact, it's so important that God says it three times.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).  And, Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6).  And, the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23).  Was Abraham God's friend because he offered up Isaac, or because he was the father of nations?  No, although those things are inestimably important.  According to James, he was God's friend because he believed God.  Do you?  When God speaks to you in His word, not just about "theological" things, but on a very personal level, with warnings and promises and guidance, do you believe Him, or doubt Him?



girl reading Bible

Closely related to believing Jesus is obeying Him.  (I don't like this part any better than you do!)  But there's no getting around it: if we believe His words, we'll believe that He's serious when He tells us to do something (or not do something).  Obedience is not the "key" to the Christian life, but it's one of the hallmarks of the Christian life.  It's a matter of doing what Jesus wants us to do, instead of what we want to do.  And we don't need a Biblical example of this, like Abraham, because Jesus told us this directly: Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:14).  The inevitable, inescapable corollary? If we don't do what He commands, we're not His friends.  Yes, we're still saved; yes, we can still have fellowship with Him; but if we choose our desires over His commands, then friendship is off the table.  At times, He'll tell us all the same thing, like commanding us to study the word or spread the Gospel; at other times, He'll have specific, tailor-made commands for each of us: "Don't marry that man."  "Don't take that job."  "Go to this town, not that one."  And when God says these things to us, they're not "requests;" they're commands.  And if we do them, He counts us among His friends.

Does that sound unreasonable?  "I can't be Jesus' friend if I do things my own way?"  Well, it might sound unreasonable ... but I only quoted one verse.  Because, before issuing any commands to us, Jesus already counted us His friends, when He went to the cross, to be tortured to death for our sins.  That's the context I didn't mention: the passage reads, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:13-14).  He doesn't have to prove His love or loyalty or friendship to us; He's already done it.  Now it's our turn.

And there's another element in this discussion: if Jesus is to be our Friend, then certain other people cannot and will not be our friends.  We have to make a choice.  We can't be friends with "the world:" i.e., the world system, which is totally alienated from God, and the people who are comfortable in that system.  Speaking to  to people who thought that they could have it both ways, God said,  Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). If you want to be like the people who surround you at school or in the workplace, or the people you see in movies and on television, you will not be Jesus' friend.  If you place a high priority on "fitting in" and having everyone like you, you'll not be Jesus' friend.  In fact, according to this verse, such worldly affections are actually enmity (hostility, opposition) against God.  Does that mean that a friend of Jesus can't have unsaved friends?  Well, without playing semantic games: we can surely have friendly acquaintances, and a degree of good relations, with non-Christians.  God doesn't expect us to be hermits, or to be hostile to everyone outside our own little circle.  I have many dear acquaintances who are unsaved.  They like me (although they don't understand me), and I like them.  But when a crisis comes, they usually don't come to me for comfort or help, and I don't go to them.  (There are always exceptions in extreme circumstances.) As everyone knows, it's when you're in trouble that you find out who your friends are - - - and who they're not.  A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). Jesus calls us His brethren - - - and He wants to be our Friend.


This isn't spiritual snobbery or elitism.  Any parent of a teenager (or even a younger child) will advise him or her to choose their friends carefully.  Nobody, Christian or non-Christian, wants their children "running with the wrong crowd."  And Jesus demands our complete loyalty, if we're to be His friends.

 bad girls and good girl

There are other factors, of course.  But these are some of the most important.  One of the most subtle, yet obvious verses in the Bible says:  A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly (Proverbs 18:24).  If you want someone to be your friend, you don't shun that person, or seek to avoid him: you look for opportunities to spend time together, and enjoy one another's company.  You enjoy being together. That might be part of the definition of friendship, although not the only part. Boy or girl, woman or man, a person likes being with a friend: it isn't a burden or a duty.  It's fun - - - or, many times, much more meaningful than "fun:" it's a time of sharing burdens and concerns and talking things out.  Friends laugh together, cry together, and, very often, get bored together!  But the key word is "together."



black and white friends

Does that describe the time you spend with Jesus Christ?  Do you seek out opportunities to fellowship with Him?  Do you cry with Him and laugh with him and maybe (I say it reverently) get bored together, like when you're reading a "dull" part of Scripture?  It's all part of friendship.  And if Jesus is to be your Friend, you must "show yourself friendly:" by not shunning Him, by not "putting Him off," by not sticking Him in your hip pocket until Sunday morning.  

He doesn't need your friendship, or mine; but we need His.  And He wants it. He wants it very much. After all ... hasn't Jesus already spent enough time alone, shunned and hated by the world He came to save?


Jesus sitting alone

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Philistine Atrocity

The war on Israel by the Philistines (known in the press as "Palestinians") continues, and the world either praises the murderers, or ignores them.  This time, the targets are not schoolchildren or housewives (and certainly not soldiers, who have a nasty habit of fighting back), but rabbis. From United with Israel:

Palestinians kill four rabbis in Jerusalem synagogue attack

Four Israelis – Rabbis who were praying – were brutally murdered and eight wounded Tuesday morning in Jerusalem in the worst terror attack Israel has experienced in recent years.

The wave of Arab terror against Israel’s citizens continued Wednesday morning as terrorists murdered four Rabbis praying in Jerusalem synagogue. Hamas praised the attack.

Two Muslim terrorists entered the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in western Jerusalem and assaulted the worshipers with knifes and axes while shooting at them. Four died in the attack.

Both terrorists were killed at the scene by Israeli policemen. An Israeli officer was critically injured in a gun fight; another was moderately wounded.

 


Security forces are reportedly searching for a third terrorist.


The terrorists also fired at the first  EMTs and paramedics to arrive at the scene.

Both terrorists are residents of east Jerusalem. IDF Radio reports that they are Israeli citizens with Israeli ID cards.

Combined Knife and Handgun Attack


Aryeh Shavit, one of the first emergency medical responders to arrive at the scene, said that “two terrorists entered a synagogue and slaughtered the worshipers as they were praying, donning their prayer shawls and phylacteries. We provide initial medical treatment to the wounded with various digress of injuries; unfortunately, several of them were severely wounded. A quick response by Israel’s police neutralized the terrorists. It was a combined knife and handgun attack.”

One of the worshipers present during the attack described how two terrorists entered the synagogue while shooting and shouting Allah Akbar. “They continued to try and harm anyone who was in their way or who tried to escape.”

Another eyewitness commented that the scene of the terror attack with bloodied bodies of Jews wearing tallitot and tefillin (prayer shawls and phylacteries) was reminiscent of scenes from the Holocaust.

Hamas Lauds Attack


Hamas embraced the attack, claiming it was in response to the alleged “murder” by Israelis of Hasan Ramouni, an Arab bus driver who committed suicide this week. It was also in retaliation for “Israel’s continued crimes on the Temple Mount,” Hamas added, calling for the continuation of terror attack against Israeli citizens.

There are reports of Palestinian celebrations in Gaza after the attack.

 
Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel





And what was the reaction of "the leader of the free world," Barack Hussein Obama? According to Breitbart News

"In a statement delivered to the White House press pool, President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that 'too many Palestinians have died,' as well as Israelis, in the struggle between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas and its affiliates, including the internationally active Muslim Brotherhood. 'At this difficult time,' the President told reporters, 'I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence.'

Same old false equivalency.  Same old lip service to the Jews, an important voting bloc in the Democratic Party.  And the same old heartfelt allegiance to the Philistines and Mohammedans, whose cause he favors, and has always favored.  President Haman is nothing if not predictable.

In the aftermath of this monstrous tragedy, Christians will take a different tack, remembering God's words:  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee (Psalm 122:6). 



ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Israeli government reaction, coverage of funerals, Philistine celebrations: Daily Mail (UK)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Pathology of Temptation

Have you ever wondered how sin begins, in your life or mine?  We can be engaged in the most innocent or necessary of pursuits, and suddenly (it seems), we're involved in some sort of sin.  How does that happen?  Unless we've planned it out in advance, with premeditation, it seems that sin sort of slips up on us, and catches us unawares. The Bible refers to sin which doth so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1).  The question is, "When does a sin become a sin?"

It's a very old question ... probably as old as mankind itself, because with one notable Exception, all men and women are sinful creatures by nature.  It's primarily a matter of concern for Christians, who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12: because, let's face it, "everyday" sin is not a big issue in the minds of most unbelievers, if they acknowledge the reality of sin at all.  We live in a world in which psychologists and philosophers have been telling us, for at least a century or two, that there's no such thing as "sin" at all; that everything is relative.  But people who think clearly, and independently, usually know better.  You might not like the word "sin" (who does?), preferring "mistake" or "shortcoming," but there's a difference .... and most people understand that, even if they don't like to think about it.


Fortunately, the question "When does a sin become a sin" has an answer.  After all, Christian thinkers have been studying this sort of thing for a long, long time.  In Christian theology, the study of sin is called "hamartiology," from the Greek ἁμαρτία, meaning "sin."  The subject of temptation is called peccability. Those are words that you're not likely to hear in everyday conversation, but the study of these things, as human phenomena, can be very helpful on a practical level.

We've discussed formal theology very little in this blog, for two reasons: In the first place, "theology" is frequently a substitute for the study of God's word itself, which is the source of all truth.  In the second place, theologians, from Augustine to Bonhoeffer, are human beings, with human limitations, and they very often get it wrong.  However, they've occasionally made some positive contributions, and the study of sin is one of them.

And, as we said, it's quite practical.  This little snippet of theology has been very helpful to me, in my own life, and it might be helpful to you, as well.  The classic theologians broke down what we've called "the pathology of temptation" into four stages .... and anybody who's aware of them can observe them, and recognize them, very easily.

The first stage in temptation is called presentation.  This is when you're confronted with an object or a circumstance that could become sinful.  It could be a bottle of whiskey, an "off-limits" member of the opposite sex, a sudden financial windfall that you could hide on your taxes, or a thousand other things.  You see it: you're presented with it.  But merely being presented with it doesn't involve sin.  If it did, we'd all be sinning 24/7.


The second stage is called illumination.  This is when you understand what you're seeing, and the possibilities at hand .... and the moral aspects involved.  A woman in an office sees a co-worker smiling at her in a certain way (that's the presentation), and she thinks, "Hmmm ... you know, he's really interesting.  Not like my husband, at all!  And from the look on his face, I'll bet we could get together, and nobody would be the wiser."  Or the man in the store sees the open cash drawer, and thinks, "I'll bet they wouldn't miss a few twenties or so .... and I probably wouldn't get caught...."  Or you're looking for something on Google, and suddenly you're at one of "those" websites.  It's right there in front of you, and nobody would know if you spent some time there. That's illumination: realizing the possibilities involved in the object or situation.  But even this isn't sinful; it's just the way our minds work.

The third stage is called debate.  This is where it gets tricky, and more than tricky: this is when you actually consider getting involved with the object or situation that's potentially sinful.  You're no longer saying that you could "drown your sorrows" with the booze, or steal the money, or check out the pornography; at this stage, you're actually trying to decide whether or not to do it.  "Is it worth the risk?  It wouldn't really hurt anybody, would it?  And surely God understands, doesn't He?  After all, it's not like I'm killing anybody ... and if I don't get caught ... But no, it's wrong.  I shouldn't do it.  I know better.  And yet....."  That's debate: you're trying to decide whether or not to do the thing.


The fourth and final stage is decision. That's when you give in to the temptation, and say, "Damn the consequences, I'm going to do it!  It's my life, and I have a right to do what I want!"  And you do it, whatever "it" is.  The Holy Spirit tells you "No," and/or your conscience tells you "No," but you do it anyway.

But decision is not where "sin becomes sin."  That happened during the third stage, debate, when you were actually trying to decide whether or not to do it.  Up until that time, you hadn't sinned; you'd merely been tempted.  And temptation, obviously, isn't sin: even Jesus was tempted, by Satan in the desert.  But He didn't debate about it, or say, "Maybe Satan's got a point!"  Debate is where sin enters in.

I say it very carefully, and very reverently: God isn't so much interested in what we do .... as what we want to do. That's why Jesus said, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28). That's why John, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15). Regardless of whether we ever reach the point of decision, and commit the actual act, the sin begins with the debate: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). And the Lord - - - not your pastor, your Pope, or your mother - - - is the One Who decides what sin is.

But it doesn't have to get as far as the actual act, or even debate.  If a man or woman has been born again, according to John 3:3-7, he or she has been given exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4). Chief among these, in this matter of sin and temptation, is 1 Corinthians 10:13: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 

Never mind the theological terms; just remember the four stages in the pathology of temptation.  Presentation, simply seeing an object of temptation, isn't a sin.  Neither is illumination, when you realize what's available.  Sin begins with debate: when you start figuring the odds, wondering whether you can or should do it.  That's what leads to the actual decision, and the act of sin.

But even if we blow it, even if we ignore the warnings and walk headlong into sin, forgiveness is available.  Because we're not alone. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  Although He never sinned, our God was once a Man, walking in the world, and He knew temptation.  He understands.  And, although we will always have to reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), we can acquire forgiveness as soon as we sincerely ask for it: 1 John 1:9.

But how much better to avoid it in the first place!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

LUSH Cosmetics: the stylish way to support terror

Now comes the word that the LUSH Cosmetics company, headquartered in Great Britain, is actively and aggressively supporting some of Israel's most bitter enemies.  Specifically, LUSH is graciously contributing a percentage of its profits to the Palestinian terrorists' propaganda operations.

LUSH isn't sending money directly to Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, of course.  That wouldn't be in keeping with the company's image of stylish, sexy sophistication: after all, when a lady goes to buy her bath salts and perfume, she doesn't want to get the blood of Jewish children on her hands. It would be déclassé. So, like "limousine liberals" everywhere, LUSH is merely funding the terrorists' propagandists: in this case, a gaggle of wannabe musicians and full-time malcontents called "OneWorld," who have produced a single record, "Freedom for Palestine." This silly, ill-conceived song is, one imagines, supposed to be in the tradition of "Give Peace a Chance" or "We Are the World." (Comparisons to other songs are difficult: "Freedom for Palestine" makes "Give Peace a Chance" sound like Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps.  The song has been endorsed, with proper liberal self-righteousness, by such notable moral titans as Coldplay, Julie Christie, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and the insufferable gasbag Desmond Tutu.)  This time, instead of ending the Vietnam War or supposedly feeding the children of Africa, the objective is to destroy Israel.

 
A cosmetics firm might seem to be an unlikely ally for the murderers of Jewish women and children, but, when one is engaged in the costly business of genocide, one will accept help from any quarter.  So, rather than rely on sales of its record (which is not exactly a chart-topper), "OneWorld" solicits blood money from trendy, "socially conscious" companies like LUSH.  Jesse Jackson or Yasir Arafat would be able to explain such shakedowns better than I can.

According to the manager of LUSH Cosmetics in Brent Cross, London, LUSH supports the PLO since “Israel is the stronger party” (in LUSH's perception), and therefore the actions of the Palestinian terrorists are justified.  No doubt the LUSH spokesman, and the "OneWorld" musicians, would applaud the murder of the Fogel family, described in a previous post. Of course, the mother, Ruth Fogel, who was murdered in her bed at age 35, won't have any use for LUSH products, and her infant daughter Hadas, having been beheaded by the Palestinians, will never need them.  But such is the struggle for "liberation of Palestine:" you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, right?


LUSH Cosmetics isn't the only group supporting "OneWorld," of course.  Among its other associates is an organization called "Friends of al-Aqsa," the so-called "Martyr's Brigade."  Indeed, one expects that Palestinian terrorists of every stripe cheer "OneWorld," even as they snicker at the gullibility and perfidy of capitalist infidels like LUSH.

Interestingly, LUSH brags of its support for "OneWorld" on its British website, but doesn't mention it on its American site.  Such hypocrisy reveals a knowledge that Jew hatred and anti-Israel sentiments are not as likely to be "selling points" in the United States.  LUSH is no mom-and-pop operation: they maintain over 600 stores in 43 countries.

Fortunately, the pro-terrorist activities of this wretched company are not going unnoticed.  In this video, demonstrators at the LUSH outlet in Beverly Hills, California, protest the company's actions.  The sound is intermittent in the video, but you get the idea: these are not reactionaries or hayseeds, but troubled residents of one of the most fashion-conscious, upscale communities on earth:

video

It's a long way from Beverly Hills to the bloodied nursery of little Hadas Fogel, but these people are standing up against the terrorists' propaganda.  If you care to join them, you might send an e-mail to the main office of LUSH, protesting the company's moral and financial support for those who would destroy Israel and kill every Jew on earth if it were in their power.  The address is customercare@lush.co.uk.  And, by all means, don't buy their products.  Finer and more fashionable cosmetics are not hard to find.