Sickness that leads to death

Just as a family can experience a full range of emotions, a church family can also experience many emotions. At times, it might be all joyful Hallelujahs and Praise to the Lord.  At other times, it might be a lot of frustration and pain.

The topic of this blog post:  Hypocrisy.   Christians have been hurt by hypocrisy (amongst  other types of sins).  I didn’t realize how detrimental and serious hypocrisy was.  Later, when I was on the receiving end, I realized what hypocrisy can do to others and to ourselves.

hypocrisy mask

Hypocrisy is a deceptive and sinister type of sin.  It can be hidden and camouflaged… hidden behind religious talk, good deeds, spiritual acts of kindness (Luke 12:1).  Sometimes unaware, we Christians fall for it and even turn a blind eye to it.

Who might be victims and perpetrators of hypocrisy?  Ordinary people, including Christian leaders: priests/pastors, pastors spouses, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, council/board members.  Religious leaders in Jesus’ days fell for it too, including Barnabas (Galatians 2:13).

It includes people inside the Church and also outside the Church. It happens within greater society and also in sub-cultures.

It is practiced everywhere… by almost everyone at some point in their life.  By politicians…by Moms and Dads…aunts and uncles, by business people, by your friendly local cashier at the grocery checkout,  and yes, maybe even by your local cafe barista.

In others words: by anyone you can think of.  “Even by myself?” you might say?

Sad. When we are bound by hypocrisy, it’s hard to recognize our own hypocrisy.  We are numbed by our own self-deception and our deception upon others.

It seems hopeless especially when hypocrites never get called on it.

There is a powerful technique that successful hypocrites use. Fear and intimidation.

Thus, hypocrisy gets further perpetuated. We hide behind a veil of moralism but still feel guilty.

I have seen it in others. I have wanted to expose it.  I have struggled with it myself.

It’s all an act.  We fear that someone might “spill the beans.”  There’s fear… fear that there will never be genuine forgiveness if we confess our faults, weakness and mistakes.

And apologize?  “Why should I apologize when I can just cover it up with a few falsehoods?  It’s safer, cleaner and simpler to just cover it up.  Nobody needs to know.”

We would rather continue hiding behind our lies.  One lie covers up another lie — one stacked upon another.  We are so blinded by our own hypocrisy of lies our consciences can become seared that we no longer feel guilty (1 Tim. 4:2).

Peter puts it in the same category as malice, deceit, envy and slander (1 Peter 2:1).  So yes, it’s a very serious matter.

Sad when we’ve been so cold for so long that it no longer matters. Then we rationalize it.  “If it doesn’t matter to me, why should it matter to the next person?  They might not even be aware of my hypocrisy anyway.  So who cares?”

Paul said, “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9 HCSB).  When we heap our hypocrisy upon others, it shows we don’t love them.

It’s like when you accidentally shake hands with someone but have mistakenly or innocently forgotten about your flu or cold?  You feel guilty about spreading your germs because you didn’t confess.  Later, they get sick.  Your guilt intensifies.  By then it’s too late.

I didn’t recognize my own hypocrisy.  I saw hypocrisy in everyone else except for the hypocrisy within myself.

God knows there are many more hypocrites in Christendom.  Probably a lot more than I had thought.  It’s one of the symptoms of our sickness… and it’s in the Church.  Yes, even in my own church, and it might very well be in your local congregation or parish too.

We buy into a false belief. “If I act like a saint, God will approve of me.  God might even close a blind eye to my false pretenses, self-deception and deception of others.”  Why? “Since God is love, and I love Jesus, everyone ought to love me too.”  We vainly take God’s love for granted and refuse to truly love the other.

It’s an utter perversion of the heart.  Master-minded by our false pretenses schemed in darkness.  It strikes a chord at the level of evil matched only by Lucifer. Sounds evil enough, doesn’t it?

We subconsciously justify it when we put ourselves on a higher plane above others.  “I can do it because I’m better than the other person.  I’m smarter, more beautiful, more deserving, or more righteous than that person.”

See how sinister hypocrisy can be?  You don’t buy it?

hypocrisy meter

Another false belief here…

“Since everyone easily associates my spiritual maturity with how well I can act and perform, all I need to do is use some smarts.  Mix some “innocence of a dove” with a little “deception of a serpent.”  Sprinkle it with just enough sugar….

…Abide by generally accepted norms of morality and goodness. All the while, staying within what’s biblical and Christ-like…

…Make others think I’m spiritually “with it.”  Do a few magical Christ-like deeds…

…Mix it in with a little Christian-ese lingo.  Regurgitate a few of Christ’s words from Scripture.  And voila!  Good to go.”

I know this is pretty harsh on our ego.  Jesus also had some not-so-pretty words for the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:27-28):

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (HCSB)

Ouch!!  That must have hurt.

What’s worse? Those who are sick, and have the viral infection of hypocrisy don’t realize they’ve been infected. They’re stuck with this condition. It will lead to death — a slow spiritual death.

x2cq

This has haunted and demoralized many Christians young and old.  It has deadened many Christians.  Deadened many churches. Tied down pastors and deacons. Tied down church boards, councils, presbyteries and vestries.  It has tied us down.

We have lost the essence of real spiritual freedom.  We think we are free when in reality we are walking around in chains like zombies.  Zombies are like the walking-dead.  They don’t realize what’s really happened to themselves.  They unconsciously seek to inflict their infectious disease upon others who are virus-free.

There is sort of a parallel in the words in Revelation 3:1-3,

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (NIV)

zombie kill splatterIn zombie movies, zombies will eventually die (either by fire, gunfire, or via plasma splatter-matter style).   The only hope for zombies is to receive the cure.  As human beings without a spiritual cure, we also will die a spiritual death.

 

The innocent people on the receiving end of our hypocrisy saw it.  They ran.  Exited the doors of the houses of worship and never looked back.

If that’s you: good on you. You can’t be blamed for running away. You ran before the virus could infect you. I hope you got away safely.

homer running

Then, there are some who did not run. They stayed to remain faithful to Christ’s Church.   Sadly, they got the infection. They contracted the virus.  They morphed into another form.

They saw themselves as good… and as hypocrites by others.

They have continued to spread this disease to others. Some unknowingly became victims of the disease. They became sick.  Some died.

We are all victims of the evil one.

Our joy has been sapped out of our spiritual lives. Now we walk with a spiritual limp (like that green pale zombie).

To live a more abundant Christian life, we need a remedy. Those of us within the Church need healing.

And those outside the Church also need recovery.

We need an injection of this serum.  Yes there is a serum…a remedy…a solution. Good news is: It’s free.

The courier is God the Holy Spirit.  The prescription has been written in the Holy Scriptures.

It’s the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ Jesus — not in our human abilities.

——-
A Danish philosopher/theologian, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), entitled his book, Sickness Unto Death. I like the title so I borrowed a bit from it.  Hence the title of this post.  Kierkegaard wrote on “despair” in the midst of a society that grew cold and slid down a path from true faith into mere Christendom. His nation had lost its spiritual moorings. The Church in North America might be in a similar state of spiritual decay today.

Our prayer: “Please God, send us this serum to rid us of this spiritual sickness. Bring us freedom in Jesus Christ. Teach us to walk by faith and not by sight.”

Pray for U.S. federal government workers on furlough

So many thousands of U.S. federal government workers on furlough due to the shutdown.  They are going without pay, and many are having problems paying bills.  At this point, it’s easy to pin the blame on either side. There are both Republican and Democratic supporters on furlough and nobody likes it.  It’s sad seeing people arguing over politics and blaming this and that party, the President and Representives.

Lord God, be with the families who are struggling with payments, bills and groceries. Give them a way out to overcome their financial challenges.

Trump, Pence, Shapiro speak at March for Life

Yesterday was the 45th March for Life in Washington DC.  Amazing to see so many people who love life walking together in peace to declare and support that God-given life from the womb is precious and ought to be protected.  Very encouraging to pro-life Americans (and non-Americans) today.

Estimates of numbers who marched range from many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Very possible given the crowd size.  The pro-life movement is gaining ground.

President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were forthright in their support of life.

Conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro, opened the gathering in speaking first.

“America was founded on the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty,” Shapiro said. But while once America’s children were her most prized group,” then something happened. We decided to erase them […] we lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie.” 

“We pretended these were not human lives at all, but disposable balls of meat,” he continued, after detailing multiple scientific truths of fetal development denied by the abortion lobby. “We told ourselves we were virtuous for our lie. We reversed good and evil.”

Shapiro then cited Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comment this week that pro-lifers are “not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society.”  “Maybe they’re right. Maybe we today here are not in line with the rest of society,” Shapiro said. “To which I say, good. So were the abolitionists. So were the civil rights marchers. So were the martyrs in Rome and the Jews in Egypt. Righteousness doesn’t have to be popular; it just has to be righteous.”  (Read further at LifeSite here.)

[added: Interesting how young pro-lifers are not necessarily religious. Pro-life just makes common sense. Life is not just based on morality, but is also science-based too. ]

The ethics and morality of a border wall

great wall of china
The Great Wall of China.  Built to keep China safe from marauding invaders from the north.

Before doing a bit research on migration into the U.S.A., I had no idea about the numbers of unlawful entries into the U.S.A every year.  I am astounded by some of what I learned.

If someone were to tell you that annually there is somewhere between 250,000 to 360,000 unlawful migrants who cross the Mexican border into the United States EVERY year, what might most people think?  Would it be considered a national emergency?  There are already 12 million unlawful residents in the United States today so you can do your calculations for estimated annual illegal entry [added: “including an estimated 42%, or 5 million, who overstay their visas. This “42%” people are using is from a old Pew Research report.” ].

This figure would be much higher if it weren’t for almost 400,000 who were apprehended in 2018.  These are facts and I’m not making these up (Click: stats from stats U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE).  In previous years (1995-2000), the numbers used to hover around 1.4 – 1.6 million annually who were apprehended (Click: FactCheck.org).

Over six decades ago, my parents immigrated legally to Canada (a nation that I love and live in today).  My grandfather and great-grandfather (Sam) had lived and worked in Canada (e.g., the building of the nationwide railway) but decided to return to their homeland of China.

spiderman wallAs a child of an immigrant, I appreciate immigration and defend legal immigration.  Without immigrants, our two countries of Canada and the U.S.A., or any other western nation would not be what they are today–enriched by their diversity of culture and ethnicities.

However, I hope you can allow me to speak honestly.  Any country in the world ought to take migration or immigration seriously; otherwise, why even have borders?

Illegal entry into any country in the world can, and ought to have some consequences.  Someone I know very well have daily dealings with migrants who are apprehended by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Let me share with you a story.  I remember many years ago when I was still a university student in Virginia. During the summer months, our family intended to bring an aunt over to cross the U.S.-Canada border.  We would go across to do some cross-border shopping about 2-3 times per year.  Some go as often as twice per month as a family outing.  It was an ordinary thing for people to do on a weekend, and it still is.  I don’t know why but either I had forgotten, or just out of plain ignorance, failed to pick up a day-visa at the border for my aunt because she was a Chinese citizen visiting us in Canada for a month.

The result.  My poor aunt was apprehended and my father’s vehicle was almost impounded by U.S. Customs.  I was also the driver.  I learned my lesson: Be careful and honest and direct with customs agents.  The penalty could be serious and it could have been more serious for me because I might not have been able to return to finish my last semester of studies.

Now back to my question and this is where it gets dicey:  If illegal migration is an ethical issue, then why is building a wall, in order to prevent illegal migration, not an ethical issue?  And I know the left might feel a little bit squeemish thinking about an honest answer but just leave our political leanings aside for a moment.

First, allow me to put this so-called wall in another context.  Let’s think of other countries that have, or have had, a wall or fence:

unlawful border crossing
The U.S.-Mexico border wall experienced an average of 400,000 migrants who were apprehended in 2018.

-East and West Berlin;
-India and Pakistan;
-North Korea and South Korea;
-India and Bangladesh;
-European Union;
-Gaza Strip and Israel;
-Egypt and Gaza Strip;
-Israel and West Bank;
-Hadrian Wall in northern England; and
-ancient China and Mongolia (Great Wall of China).

I’ve never been to the Great Wall of China but I am amazed at the immensity of its height and width. It was a massive labor-intensive undertaking in order to keep out the marauding Mongol tribes, and to keep the Chinese nation safe. I’d say that was an ethical and moral thing.  It prevented war and potential violence, theft, rape, and other forms of violence from Mongolia and Manchuria.

I am not necessarily left or right on the political spectrum on the wall issue.  Let’s  analyze the ethics of having a barrier of some sort at national borders.

I will affirm my belief that a barrier between any two countries could be considered an ethical and moral matter.

Let’s also set aside what I would consider non-sense from the left that those who accuse Trump as being racist because he is proposing building a wall.  Are other nations like Germany, Israel, Korea, India and Pakistan racist because they’ve built walls to protect their people?

If migrants pour into any country without legal documents or fail to apply for a visa, it ought to become an ethical issue.  You might be reading this from South Korea, Germany, the U.S. or India. Walls have been a normalized if your people have felt threatened by illegal border crossings.

I remember years ago when I was able to cross the U.S.-Canadian border with just a driver’s licence or health card. After 9-11, it all changed. Today, I need to show a passport.

If an outsider attempts to intrude into a high-security office building, ought this be considered an ethical issue? Of course it is. If someone breaks in, is killed or robbed, it also becomes a moral issue.  An ethical and moral thing to do would be to increase the building’s security to protect sensitive information, or important people or property.

The bible speaks of an example of Jerusalem’s wall being re-built due to decay through decades and centuries of neglect. Ezra 4:12-13 states:

“The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.  Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.”

If ancient Jerusalem failed to protect its own people from invaders who would rob, kill, torture and forcibly exile its people, might that be considered an ethical and moral issue?

Does a nation have a duty to protect its own people and provide them physical and even economic security?  You better believe it!  If our nation failed to provide us with national security, we would be up in arms.

Today, the U.S. might be in a similar situation. Drugs, gangs and violence are not the only issues.  Immigration is very much tied to the economy.  How about protecting the economy and jobs of American citizens? Does a nation not have a right to economic self-determination?  Every other country on earth seems to have the right to secure their own and borders.  Why not the U.S.A.?

With many nations around the world watching from the comforts of their own television sets, it’s rather easy to accuse Trump of being racist, but if unlawful entry into your own country was happening and it affected YOUR job and YOUR family’s security, you would do something about it, wouldn’t you?

Welcome: new name LibertyCulture.com

img_0965 2
Hello.  I want to offer an official introduction to my readers after the new look and name change to LibertyCulture.com and re-introduce who I am.  Some of you might wonder if this is a brand new blog. It’s been around as the NewEpistles blog.  Since I haven’t been blogging as avidly as I used to (especially the past 5-7 years due to work and life’s circumstances), I thought I’d re-introduce myself again to all my current and potentially new readers.

These days, I do not post often but will try to do so when I have some time.  I usually draw inspiration from reading.  When I do get to read theological and devotional books (and the bible of course), I ask questions and reflect upon biblical passages and ideas from my personal theological perspective (and we all have our different theologies).

Expressing these thoughts in writing are the result of my blog posts.  I originally started blogging on bible translations, but these days, I usually blog about issues of faith and biblical passages, and try to see how they intersect with aspects of our daily lives and society.

When society and life’s issues are at odds with Christian and biblical values, it can challenge our spirituality and theology.  Sometimes, we question and we doubt ourselves.  Do I doubt sometimes?  Yes I do.  We can either become antagonistic toward culture and society and run closer to religion; or we can become antagonistic toward religion and shift toward secular/popular culture or even agnosticism/atheism.

We all wonder at times whether what we’re doing is right or the cool or uncool thing. Sometimes, we might feel, “To heck with rest of the world. I’ll do what I feel is right.” Sometimes, we try to fit in and do it the way everyone else is doing it, even with our Christian friends. Then we lose a sense of who we are. Maybe that’s happened to you before.

Our lives are not static but can be in flux, changing. But we are still getting to know who we are and figuring out what fits me. The Father, Christ, the Spirit, and the Church might be telling us one thing. Also, the world might be telling us other things. Sometimes, life is confusing and society around us is not helping.

Because of pressures around us, we don’t feel safe to give ourselves room to ask and ponder if what we practice makes sense to ourselves, to the Church and to the world around us. But if we allow ourselves to struggle and reflect on faith, theology/doctrine, and spiritual issues, one might grow in faith, find freedom and liberty in our spirituality, and interact with our culture in more positive and life-giving ways.

I was sitting with friends in this small local cafe, deep in the hills of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, enjoying my cappuccino while blogging (March 2018).

My life’s journey took me from working in the financial field in Toronto into ordained pastoral ministry in churches in both rural Saskatchewan and suburban Toronto, and now, into chaplaincy. I thank God for his Calling and speaking to me clearly on this area of my life.

Today, I am grateful for this opportunity to minister as a chaplain.  For now, this work has now brought me to a wonderful and smaller city called Victoria, BC, located on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.  My family and I very much like living here.

What gives me reason to wake up each day is being able to live in God’s grace, peace and power every day, and learning to be a better husband, father and a good citizen (sometimes through mistakes) and continuing in God’s call to ministry in this life.

Anyway, thank you for visiting and reading the various posts on this blog and “liking” them if you enjoy them.  Blessings.

Later,
Kevin A. Sam
Liberty Culture.com

From Seminary President to NFL Head Coach

frank-reich4-300x200This fall, former Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte campus president Frank Reich began his first season as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Here’s a challenging question for you.
Could this be considered leaving ministry and back-tracking on one’s vocational calling? Or is coaching full-time still considered vocational ministry?
Click here to read full article.

Big catch, big grace

jesus fish peterIn Jesus calling of his first disciples, I am continually surprised by Simon Peter’s initial statement to Jesus (Luke 5:8-9):

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken.”

Depart from me“: Peter tells Jesus to go away because he is a sinful person. Why would he tell Jesus to depart from him?  If you’ve treated someone with nothing but bad behaviour, but they in turn treat you with kindness—how would you feel? You might feel a sense of guilt or shame. Why?  You know you don’t deserve the kindness they’ve shown you.

I remember someone I had not seen for years had come to me to apologize for something they had done many years ago. I had already forgotten about it long ago.  He blessed me more than the blessings I had to offer him.  I did not deserve it.  That’s grace.

Peter knew he had just encountered the holy One of God. The power and grace of God was evident in the huge amount of fish God had just provided.  They fished all evening but had caught nothing, but now, their net was so full of fish it began to tear.  It must have blown his mind. That’s grace.

Peter was overwhelmingly convinced in that encounter with Jesus that God’s grace was sufficient.  Jesus wanted Peter to understand that there is nothing in heaven and earth that could stop the power and love of God from flowing down.  Grace had just poured out to Peter–despite his sinfulness.  This miraculous catch of fish was evidence that Jesus was the Son of God.   He had enough proof.  He left his nets, boat, and followed Jesus.

For I am a sinful man“: Peter was giving Jesus a preliminary warning. “I don’t deserve to be in the presence of your holiness. You are holy; I am not. I would be bad for you and your image.  I’ve stolen, perhaps broken numerous laws, and should not count myself worthy of being in your presence.”

What might a person say to Jesus today? “Jesus, I’ve cheated on my tax return. Claimed more expenses than what’s legal. Or maybe, I’ve broken environmental laws by spilling toxic waste into the water system causing sickness to many. Or maybe, I’ve robbed a bank or defrauded other people our their hard-earned savings or pension. Jesus, I’m not like you. You are good. I’m rotten.  You might not know how bad I am but I do bad things to people. I feel guilty and ashamed. I don’t deserve to be given such a huge gift.”

Or we might also tell Jesus, “No you must have given the blessing to the wrong person. Bless that other guy over there. He does good things for the community. She gives to homeless and volunteers her time to good causes like the marginalized and the sick. But me? If you really knew who I am, and the horrible and illegal things I’ve done, you wouldn’t want to be around me. So Jesus, save your time and just head on over there to the other fishermen who is more deserving of this big gift of fish.  They deserve it.”

But Jesus affirms.  Jesus turns to Peter and says: “No Peter, I’ve got the right person. You are the person I am giving this gift to. And maybe Jesus didn’t even give an explanation about grace. Kept it simple. It’s for you Peter. I really meant to give this to you.

His reaction.  A big surprise. Perhaps he was overwhelmed with emotional and wept in private. He decided that Jesus’ acceptance of him was proof of God’s love for a sinner like him.

jesus calls disciples

Today, God’s mercy is still the same. He accepts you the way you are. His love for you never changed. He is still the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow.

This story of the great catch is about Jesus calling you. Telling you through his miracle of the fish that his acceptance and love for you is great. It is just a small sampling of God’s abundant grace. He says to you. You are mine. You are my son.  You are my daughter.   My love and acceptance for you is bigger than you thought. I have not made a mistake. You are the one I meant to give this to.

If you pray to the Lord: “Jesus, I accept your grace. Your grace is enough for me.”   An appropriate reaction might be to drop your proverbial nets, leave your boats, and follow Jesus today. He is holding his arms to you today and saying, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and catchers of people.”

Happy New Year and a few predictions for 2019

Happy New Year 2019 Images, Wishes, Quotes & Wallpapers ...Happy New Year. A few predictions for 2019. Here goes mine including a few weird ones. I’m interesting in knowing what some of your predictions are.

1. MUSIC: several Christian contemporary songs will hit the mainstream pop charts.

2. RELIGION: the Baptist church and other Evangelicals denominations will get enlightened, ban together and elect their first Bishop… and then change their minds after waking up, realizing it was all just a nightmare.

3. TECHNOLOGY: Electric cars and hybrids will make bigger strides in popularity. SUVs will continue gaining in popularity too. Yes, a hybrid may just be in my future too.

4. TRAVEL: People will be going to outer space for vacations. I will think about going myself one day… but I’d rather wait and see if people return safely to earth before I give it a try.

5. POLITICS: Trump will not be impeached. He will come out ahead but a little gun-shy. He will get to say, “I told you the economy will improve on my watch!”

6. Democrats will elect a moderate to run against Trump. On the left, those like Warren and Pelosi are seen by Democrats as too progressive.

7. Trump’s wall will be built but slowly. The funds will not come from Congress but international trade…but wasn’t that what Trump intended in the first place anyway?

8. GLOBE: The Arctic ice cap will continue melting and the Northwest Arctic passageway will be a bone of contention as far as Canada’s sovereignty is concerned. Countries will begin challenging Canada’s sovereign waters in the Arctic.

9. It will snow in the weirdest place, e.g., Florida, Mexico.

What are some of your predictions?

Become a Better Human

Holiday seasons can be a lonely time for some people, but the loneliness I’m talking about is long-term and reside in each of us.   Even at birth, we were separated from God due to original sin, giving birth to our inner loneliness.  We are afraid of it and run from our feelings of insufficiency.  We tend to avoid situations that make us feel incapable because we fear being left by ourselves, separated from others who are around us.  Deep inside, we want to overcome this but are not sure how to.

I’ve been doing a little reading by Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche Communities.  He saw loneliness everyday in psychiatric hospitals where it was in many of their eyes.  He said in his book Becoming Human: “I believe that loneliness is something essential to human nature; it can only be covered over, it can never actually go away.  Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart.

Loneliness isn’t so bad if we can harness it for positive change in others and in ourselves.  It can act as a reason that compels us to seek to overcome this inner void of loneliness.  Example: mystics, prophets, poets, artists, do not always fit the normal mold of society.  They’ve found a way to use their gifts to express meaning through creative work in seeking to deepen their spirituality and hearing from God, or expressing creativity through their inner inspiration. We can do the same but using our unique gifts to better the well-being of others around us.  We then have purpose in being together within community.

First, we need to change but change can be hard.  We don’t like change because we prefer to control everything.  The comfort in being able to predict everything comes with a cost.  If we refuse to change, we will stagnate as human beings

Vanier said, “In human beings, there is a constant tension between order and disorder, connectedness and loneliness, evolution and revolution, security and insecurity…. When we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened, we are less than fully human.”  I don’t know about you, but as for me, I wish to become a better human being.

Prayer: God, help me be a better human being.  Show me the sacredness in each human being.  Help me to grow in a sense of belongingness with my fellow neighbours, and empower me to make the right choices by seeking truth and meaning together with others.  Amen.

Ref. Jean Vanier, Becoming Human. House of Anansi Press, 2008. (pp. 7-8, 12-13).

Extraneous teachings to the gospel?

There is a temptation to add to the gospel supplementary reasons why Christ Jesus came to earth, namely teachings on prosperity and social justice.

Does the gospel necessarily include prosperity or an inherent calling to improve the world through working to heal the environment or eliminate poverty.  It might be a spirituality but I do not believe it is part of the gospel.

Within the traditional Christmas passage is Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1:76-77,

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins…”

In a nutshell, vv. 76-77 state the purpose in the ministry of John the Baptist. What stands out here is: “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.”  The gospel is exactly this.  Salvation through the forgiveness of sins.  Theology would be much simpler if we stick with this essential gospel teaching.

My fellow believers in both prosperity-based charismatic churches and mainline churches propagate an extrinsic side to the gospel, adding to it, non-core issues, and then calling it the gospel.  One author called the gospel as having a “hole in the gospel,” which implies that something is missing in the gospel, namely, an extrinsic activism in the world.

These dear brothers and sisters in the environmental and anti-poverty movements will sometimes conveniently ignore forgiveness of sins to the detriment of the gospel, preferring social activism or prosperity over teaching forgiveness of sins.  To critique this doesn’t mean that I’m against environmental protection.  I believe in a cleaner environment.  It doesn’t make me a non-charismatic if I do not buy into prosperity-teaching.  I believe in the charisms of the Holy Spirit.

I challenge my fellow believers to prove to me that the bible promises prosperity or an ideal environment or perfect physical health.  Yes, in the redeemed new heaven and earth, I would agree; but in the current world, this is where I beg to differ.

Did Jesus come to authorize us to create an ideal global-earthly environment or promise us financial prosperity in this lifetime?  Is this what the Scriptures teach?  I have my doubts.  Did Jesus truly come to preach and teach a gospel that includes prosperity or the social gospel? I’m not so sure.

If we were to ask some of our believers in some war-torn and impoverished countries if they believe Jesus came to bring such things, I wonder what they would say?

Jesus teachings can be interpreted to include some of these social issues but they were not clear and direct teachings of Jesus. I’ve heard some distortion of teachings to included with biblical references and all; however, I haven’t been convinced by their interpretations.  It all comes down to interpretation or misinterpretation doesn’t it?

There is also a real spiritual injury to adding extra-biblical teachings to the gospel. When people experience suffering or lack financial prosperity or good health in their personal lives or in society, they blame God.  This opens oneself up to doubt and can result in a walking away from the Church’s holy faith and/or toward a works-based religion.  We see this in some of our Word of Faith charismatic churches and mainline/United/Methodist churches.

Am I against the betterment of society in this world.  No.  I’m all for a cleaner environment, benevolence, and bettering one’s life in this world now.

I am just purporting a clear division between earthly works and the gospel.  Keep the gospel the gospel, and keep our earthly works as earthly works.  Never the twain shall meet, otherwise, we confuse works as gospel.  Such a confusion can create a false religion.