Tag Archive: John 3


Star Wars: In Light of God’s Word

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters.” Matthew 6:21-24a

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, maker of the Star Wars movies. Over the last four decades Star Wars has consistently won the hearts and minds of viewers of all ages and is arguably one of the most lucrative and widespread cinematic enterprises ever to hit the silver screen. And with Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm back in 2012, provided the Lord tarries, Lucas’ legacy and message are all but guaranteed to thrive for years to come.  According to an online article from USA Today, “Disney expects to more aggressively expand the Star Wars film schedule, Iger [Disney CEO] said in a statement. Following the release of Episode VII in 2015, “our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years,” Iger said. Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX, Iger said, would follow “probably on a cadence of every other year and then go from there.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/30/disney-star-wars-lucasfilm/1669739/

Over the years, many studies have examined the marketing and message of the Star Wars industry in hopes of gleaning some of its “industrial magic”. It truly is one of the first movies ever to build such an enduring and successful toy/product line reaching almost four decades and spanning around the globe. Anyone alive in the late 70’s-mid 80’s should be able to testify to the Star Wars fan frenzy every December. There were literally empty toy shelves across the country and frantic parents braving the rain, sleet, and snow to make sure their children had the latest and greatest Star Wars action figures and accessories.

Very few movies have ever cemented themselves so thoroughly into the psyche of the masses.  Its enduring popularity alone should cause even the moderate Christian to pause and inquire a bit further. Interestingly, there are not that many resources thoroughly examining the spiritual/biblical implications of Star Wars.  With that in mind, along with the long anticipated Episode 7 on the virtual horizon, I hope this brief article serves to help readers understand some of the core concerns with the Star Wars message.

A Brief Testimony

As a child I was mesmerized by the Star Wars movie series (IV, V, and VI).  I had watched them so often I could recite almost every line from all three movies.  My parents did not raise me in the New Age (New Spirituality) or any religion for that matter.  My temple was mostly the theater and my doctrines formed from the movie mysticism I fed upon.  I can say without equivocation that Star Wars was one of the greatest influences on the false understanding I grew to embrace pertaining both to God and to myself.

There may be readers thinking that compared to the horror and gore riddled throughout today’s TV, video game, and movie entertainment, Star Wars is really nothing more than a benign sci-fi alternative featuring fanciful creatures, heroes, and villains from galaxies far, far away. But nothing could be further from the truth. Arguably Star Wars doesn’t contain much graphic gore. Neither is there much in the way of swearing, sex, and intense violence, but there is most definitely a message; one that is diabolical and deceitfully destructive through and through. It is a message that resonates with people from around the world and was intentionally designed to cement one simple idea into the hearts and minds of everyone watching, “May the force be with you.

The rest of this article will focus on several main points that readers should then be able to use to share with others. Hopefully these tools will add light to a message that has very much been injected and embraced even by many Christian families.

Point 1: The Family Structure

For a variety of reasons moms, not dads, tend to be the spiritual leaders in their households. And since that’s the case, moms are usually the ones guiding the spiritual landscape of their families. But who’s typically more interested in sci-fi, guys or girls? Typically guys are.

Over the years, I’ve spoken with many parents and fellow teachers and when talking with moms and female teachers, I almost always hear the same two basic responses, “I’m not even interested in things like Star Wars” and “I’m just happy my husband is doing something with our son”.  Can you see the problem here?  If moms are typically the spiritual leaders and they are not interested in the very thing their husbands and sons are bonding over, then how does that family really know if the messages they’re feeding on are spiritually “safe”?  The simple answer is they don’t.  

Point 2: George Lucas’ Message

It’s easy to forget that this world is full of messages and most of them don’t even originate from the pulpit.  Some messages might be hard to “swallow”, especially when shared with a Christian crowd. That old phrase “a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down” can definitely be applied to today’s media/entertainment industry.  Granted, some films are mostly made for entertainment value with little real content behind them; however there are others that have seemed to find a perfect mix of “sugar” and “medicine”. In other words, there are some movies that do a very good job of feeding the audience their message in such an entertaining and amusing way that the medicine (message) is widely and readily received.

disney-bought-george-lucas-ideas-for-the-new-star-wars-trilogy-and-then-scrapped-themGeorge Lucas is a master storyteller. He understands the nature of the viewer quite well. Some might argue that the message behind Star Wars is really not that intentional and that Lucas simply wanted to tell a story that would translate well on the big screen.  The following article shows a little insight into what Lucas had to say regarding the Star Wars message and his own understanding of what he was actually teaching the audience:

“Lucas, even after Empire, said as much in his story conference talk with scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan and director Richard Marquand before they started shooting Jedi:

      Kasdan: The Force was available to anyone who could hook into it?
      Lucas: Yes, everybody can do it.
      Kasdan: Not just the Jedi?
      Lucas: It’s just the Jedi who take the time to do it.
      Marquand: They use it as a technique.
      Lucas: Like Yoga. If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing. Also like karate.” http://www.starwars.com/news/so-what-the-heck-are-midi-chlorians

Despite any arguments to the contrary, Lucas most definitely understood what he was doing when he wrote the Star Wars saga. He understood how to to introduce a spiritual message that would appeal to the masses in a very personal way. Unfortunately, it worked.

Point 3: The Main Message

When audiences, both young and old alike, exit the movie theater, there is one simple message they will undoubtedly take with them, “May the force be with you.”  This sounds harmless enough, right?  Wrong! One day I was in another teacher’s classroom after school and her fourth grade son came in. She asked him to help pick up all the music stands and arrange the chairs. After she walked away, he looked at me with his hand stretched out, a smile on his face and remarked, “I wish I could use the Force right now.”  Understandably, he was somewhat just saying he didn’t want to work that hard in rearranging his mom’s classroom, but even though he might not have grasped the implications, he clearly understood the appeal.  After all, wouldn’t it be nice if we could tap into some sort of energy to manipulate both minds and matter to our will?  Oh, the flesh would love it!  We wouldn’t even need to summon a genie out of a lamp to do our bidding. We could actually become the genies and do whatever we wanted.  Isn’t that an appealing message, especially to children!  The apostle Paul, however, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds us, When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The message of Star Wars, albeit simple, has been effectively taught with mass appeal and long lasting devotion. 

Point 4: The Main Character

As with all good stories, audiences have favorite Star Wars characters. Some are cute and others are brave. Some are perfect villains and others great victors. But there is arguably one character that rises above the rest; one character without whom the Star Wars story would not be a story at all. That character is the Force.

Star Wars SignThe new movie coming out December 18th, 2015 is number seven in the saga and entitled Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In one of the movie trailers, the voice of Luke Skywalker states, “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”

There are many clues woven throughout the saga as to how the Force actually works, but without getting too in depth, the Force is simply an impersonal energy/power that is neither good nor evil. This amoral Force is nothing new. George Lucas simply borrowed concepts from Hinduism, witchcraft, etc. and repackaged them to appeal to the masses.  Sorcerers, yogis, and shamans have long understood the reality of some power that can be “tapped” into and used to both benefit self and others.

Again, despite those who might think otherwise, the Star Wars Force, although a false replacement for the true God, is neither good nor bad. It is neither right nor wrong. Nor does it really care one way or the other about anything.  The western mind thinks in terms of morality, i.e. good vs. evil, however the Force is actually better understood in line with the yin and yang found in many eastern philosophies and religious practices, i.e. Taoism. The white side (yang) is not necessarily good. It simply is what it is. The black side (yin) is not evil. It is not understood to be anything other than the other side of the yin. Both are actually necessary and neither can be strictly measured morally.

As chapter 8 of the Huainanzi (an ancient Chinese text that consists of a collection of essays) claims:

“Yinyang embodies the harmony of heaven and earth, manifests the forms of myriad things, contains qi to transform the things and completes various kinds of things; yinyang extends and penetrates to the deepest level; begins in emptiness then becomes full and moves in boundless lands.” http://www.iep.utm.edu/yinyang/

This same article also explains, “Yin and yang are the qi [life force]of the universe. These qi flow within the natural as well as the human worlds. Thus qi, a force arising from the interplay between yin and yang, becomes a context in which yinyang is seated and functions.”  In other words, both sides (light and dark) are necessary for the force to properly function and eventually harmonize.  Witchcraft is understood in much the same way. White magik, although supposedly benevolent, is not defined in a morally “good” sense. Nor is black magik inherently evil. However since witchcraft has become so popularized in the west over the last few decades, there has been much westernized confusion mingled into its actual teachings.

One online article states, “Star Wars producer George Lucas said, “The Force is neutral, and it can be used for good or evil… The Force has two sides. It is not a malevolent or benevolent thing. It has a bad side to it involving hate and fear, and it has a good side, involving love, charity, fairness and hope. If you use it well, you can see the future and the past. You can sort of read minds and you can levitate and use that whole netherworld of psychic energy.” [TIME magazine – May 19, 1980]  His description of “the Force” seems to be right out of the occult and witchcraft. Constance Cumbey first alerted Christians to the New Age Movement’s occult association in her book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow. She refers to Eva Dowling’s comment in a New Age “bible” that “…one may enter fully into the spirit of the ‘God of Force’”, which, in the New Age Movement, is a central spiritual being.  “Force” is a technical term used in witchcraft, which is what the films feature. Black (“bad”) and white (“good”) witchcraft are contrasting uses of the force of nature, which is defined as neutral but can be employed either way.” http://wordandtheworld.homestead.com/StarWars.html

Another online article says, “Christian author Pastor David J. Meyer, once a practicing witch, explains the true meaning of “May the Force be with you.” He wrote: “When real witches have sabats and esbats and meet as a coven, they greet each other by saying “Blessed be”, and when they part, they say “The Force be with you.” Both sides of this “Force” are Satan. It is not a good side of the force that overcomes the bad side of the force, but rather it’s the blood of Jesus Christ that destroys both sides of the satanic Force.”  http://www.vigilantchristian.org/starwars.html

The Star Wars Force is nothing less than the mystical and ancient power that has tied all religions together throughout the centuries.  It is not the same as the personal God of the Bible, but instead the Force provides the potential for people to have their own power as they discover how to tap into this universal power, essentially causing them to ‘evolve’ into their own gods.  This power has no will of its own, nor does it have a mind. Ultimately, who gets to make their own decisions, choosing their own fates and fortunes? We do. The Star Wars Force is really just a repackaged version of the original lie which Satan has been spreading since he first spoke with Eve in the Garden- “You shall be like gods…” (Genesis 3:5). 

The Force is not simply some creative, made-up character to help propel the Star Wars saga. In truth, it is the oldest and most popular of Satan’s lies, the one used to plague and propel billions of people into a horrible, Christ-less eternity.

Interestingly, the Force is actually found in the Bible. In Daniel, the Lord wrote pertaining to the Antichrist, “But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things” (Daniel 11:38). [Emphasis mine]  This is the only time this Hebrew word is translated “forces”.  It is perhaps more than a little interesting that the only time God’s Word uses the idea of a false “god of forces” is to describe the Antichrist himself.

Point 5: A Jesus Replacement (An Anitchrist)

There are all sorts of occult ideas riddled throughout much of today’s media/entertainment; however there is a consistent theme routinely employed to pull in audiences. The story usually starts with a child or young adult who is either an orphan or in an environment he/she wants to escape from. The young person soon finds a mentor, or the mentor finds the child. And what is the mentor’s message?  “You’re special. You’re different. You have so much hidden potential within you. You just don’t know it yet. You have the potential to lead people to victory.” It then becomes the mentor’s duty to help the young, naïve child discover how to exercise his/her untapped mystical skills through a variety of eastern practices, i.e. mindless meditation, visualization, etc.  Soon the mentor takes a backseat, letting the student become the leader in some sort of rescue mission to save humanity.

Luke with LightsaberThis kind of message is often confused within Christian communities who are too often looking for ways to build bridges to a lost and deceived world. Over the years there have been a variety of so-called Christian books, Bible studies, and outreaches based on movies such as The Matrix, Star Wars, etc.  When The Matrix was still really popular, I had a seventh grade student who insisted that Neo (the main character in The Matrix; similar to Luke Skywalker) was a type of Jesus.  Plenty of people have made the same incorrect connection with Luke Skywalker.  After all, Luke rises in power to rescue the universe.  But there is one big problem with this conclusion.  In every occult based movie, whether Dune, The Matrix, or Star Wars, the main character rises in power to rescue civilization, but not for the purpose of knowing the personal and loving God who created the universe.  They always rise up with a message of self-discovery leading to self-deliverance which is passed on to others so they too can become their own empowered self-deliverers (gods).

This isn’t the message of the true Jesus Christ, rather the message of the “God of forces”, the Antichrist. This is the message of Satan, and it’s been the same lie since the Garden of Eden!

After peeling away the personalities and general likability of Luke Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda, other Jedi knights and masters, viewers are left with the clear conclusion that these characters are nothing other than wizards, sorcerers, and priests practicing mysticism in hopes of ascending until they reach their final goal: godhood.  Interestingly, there has been a steady interest and acceptance over the last couple decades in actually developing and practicing a Jedi Knight religion, especially in the UK. It’s being called Jediism and is recognized as an official religion. In the 2010 UK census, almost 200,000 people identified as holding to the teachings of the Jedi Knight. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9737886/Jedi-religion-most-popular-alternative-faith.html. Clearly, many people around the world understand the mystical doctrines which have so very plainly and intentionally been intertwined into the Star Wars storyline.

Sorcery’s rebellious foundations and seductive and dangerously deceptive doctrines all come from devils and are completely opposed to the true Gospel. Because of this, the Lord has understandably given very harsh consequences for those practicing such things.  Carefully consider a few familiar Scriptures:

  • “A man also or woman that has a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death…” Leviticus 20:27.
  • “There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Deuteronomy 18:11.
  • “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:23. [Emphasis mine]
  • “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21-23. [Emphasis mine]
  • “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8. [Emphasis mine]

Point 6: Altering the Very Character of God

“It’s just a movie” is often the excuse heard when people are confronted with content concerns.  Perhaps we too have essentially said the very same thing, maybe not aloud, but by our actions. While it is clear that movies are a modern form of entertainment, there is nothing that says entertainment is intrinsically harmless. Those who have become addicted to and corrupted by pornography can testify that movies can be much more than just movies. Again movies often contain messages and messages (words) have meaning. Once those messages are embraced, even a little bit, they have at least the very real potential of altering our view of the truth.

Jesus said, “If you stay in My Word, My disciples you will be, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Ultimately, the goal of God’s Word is to know God.  Jesus taught that the Word of God is the seed which needs to be planted in soft hearts. But the world has seeds as well. The Bible doesn’t have the market cornered on the meaning of life.  There are many false ideas of life and its purpose, all of which emanate from the deepest of all concepts… the character of God Himself.  The highest goal for any human is to truly know God, to understand and know the One who created this universe, the One who rescued humanity by dying for all their sins so we could freely and fully return to Him through His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is our door, our only door, yet Satan is subtle and knows that in order to keep people from coming he must provide other doors. And to keep Christians for growing closer to our Savior, at least some of those doors must look pretty close to the original.

Specific to Star Wars, since the main character (the Force) is really a pseudo-type of god, the danger with this movie’s message in particular is the potential it has in manipulating viewers’ understanding of the true God revealed in the Bible.  There are many ways of corrupting our understanding of the Lord; however one of the main methods is two-fold: deprivation and supplementation.

If a person is deprived of the truth found in God’s Word he will most likely be much more susceptible to receiving a supplemental replacement.  This won’t necessarily mean a believer replaces his ultimate understanding of the true God for a lie. It does mean that a lie can be introduced as a supplement (in addition to), over time leading to a synthesized (mixed) god.  Some of the believer’s understanding will be biblical and some will not.  This of course is true at some level for all of us since we all deal with the flesh and the world every day; however we should all be seeking to increase our understanding of the true God, not running out to be fed a bunch of amusing lies.

There are several so-called Christian books and articles seeking to make comparisons between the Force and the Lord God of the Bible. The issue here is that although there may be a few similarities between the two, there are also differences and it’s always the differences that make the difference. As within all areas of life, one does not learn to exercise discernment by simply focusing on similarities. We must always examine the differences if we are to actually build our understanding properly.  A doctor never simply looks at what’s right with her patient. She must examine what is wrong if she is to correctly diagnose and treat the person. The same is true for the mechanic, the teacher, the parent, etc.

A few vital differences between the Force and the true God of the Bible:

The Force The True God of the Bible
Impersonal Personal

(John 17, 1 John 5:20)

Part of Creation Outside of Creation

(Genesis 1, John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16)

Not a Savior The one true Savior

(Isaiah 45:21-22, John 3:16-17)

Point 7: The Faith of Feelings

Trusting in our feelings is one of the biggest lies ever sold to humanity. Sadly, we live in a generation that is not only encouraged to embrace their feelings, but celebrate them regardless of how depraved. The moral line that at least used to be outwardly recognized has now been erased and replaced by a much more deceptive and subjective standard – feelings.  There seems to be no part of today’s society that does not tell us to “let our hearts be our guide” and Star Wars is no different. Consider a couple excerpts from the following articles:

“Unraveling Absolutes by focusing on subjective feelings:  “God is perfect and absolutely perfect. Obi-Wan teaches Anakin the concept that absolutes belong on the evil side when he says “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” As Christians we understand that Jesus was without sin and God is absolutely good. By teaching Anakin absolutes belong on the evil side, Obi-Wan is teaching a Luciferian concept that the God of Moses, absolutely good, is evil.” http://www.vigilantchristian.org/starwars.html

Referring to Obi-Wan’s teacher, the author of Naming a Jedi writes, “He became Qui-Gon Jinn, a powerful Force-adept who relied on his subconscious urges (‘the will of the Force’) to a degree that discomfited those around him, a quality destined to bring both great suffering and, in the end, the salvation of the galaxy. Young Obi-Wan would learn from him a commitment to trusting his instincts, something he would pass on to Luke decades later (‘trust your feelings!’). … “In Star Wars, there is more ambiguity — ‘use the Force’ and ‘use your instincts’ are synonymous, and yet one implies faith in the supernatural and one implies faith in the self. I explain this as two different ways to characterize the intuitive impulses that well from within us….”  Originally from Naming a Jedi. Quoted in- http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/star-wars.htm.

While Luke is unsuccessfully learning to use his lightsaber during training, Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs him to cover his eyes and let his mind go blank and simply trust his feelings.  Basically to become an expert in the Force, Luke and all Jedis must cease from thinking and instead put all their trust in their feelings.  There isn’t one single Scripture that even eludes to mankind ever putting trust in their hearts.  There are plenty of verses, however that give very clear reminders of just how deceptive and destructive the human heart truly is. Here are just a few examples:

  • “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Psalm 53:3
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
  • “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool…” Proverbs 28:26a

To See or Not to See (Should you see the movie?) 

Some will say yes. Some will say yes, but then want to point out the errors to their children. Some will say no. No matter what direction people are led, may we choose to be led by the Lord and His Word, not man’s opinions and certainly not our own personal feelings. Job’s reminder to make a heartfelt  covenant with his eyes most definitely applies to every area of our lives, including the entertainment we choose to watch. (Job 31:1)

A few things to consider… Some will choose to see the movie and simply dismiss it as entertainment. Hopefully this article has helped to address enough issues to make it clear that Star Wars is far from simple amusement. For those who might choose to watch the movie with their families and then point out the errors, you may want to evaluate the most beneficial way to teach about the dangerous errors of doctrine and practice. For example, do we take our children to strip clubs or bars to explain the issues of drunkenness and lust? There may be wisdom at times in engaging head on with particular errors, however involving our children, especially our young children in these engagements, is questionable at best.  We also might need to be honest with ourselves, making sure we really want to examine and expose error and not simply find a reason to enjoy a little “entertainment”.

Now what?  What to do from here? 

Although this article is specific to Star Wars, I hope it encourages readers to remember that all media contains messages, many of which are not made for the purpose of glorifying the Lord. Keep praying and studying God’s Word and continue keeping your ear to the ground. There are always new avenues for the enemy to transport his lies; however the lies are typically not that different. Repackaged? Yes. New and improved? Not really.  The basic story in Star Wars is found in many books, movies, and video games.  Don’t be afraid to engage your children. Ask them questions. If they have a favorite show, book, or video game, children typically won’t hesitate to tell you everything about it. Be patient and let the Lord work in their hearts and minds as you continue reading the Word and praying with them.

The goal isn’t so much to get believers to stop doing certain things as it is to get them to keep growing in their love for Jesus. As we draw closer to Jesus, we will always begin to see just how destructive this world really is. As the song goes, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  Teach your children to understand and know the Lord by studying His Word and personally praying to Him regularly. (1 John 5:20-21) In doing so they will begin to understand they’re not giving anything up by letting go of this world.  After all, it’s difficult to cling to Jesus when both hands are full of the world. But when we see the glory and splendor of our King, how can we do anything less than hold tightly to Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Ultimately, no matter what the influence, it should always boil down to one simple thing… love Jesus more, and love the world less.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

A few helpful resource article links: (While the information in the articles below is helpful, we are not necessarily endorsing everything from these ministries. As always, we are all responsible for searching the Scriptures, as well as examining the avenues of Satan’s lies for ourselves.)

 

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No Jesus, No Thanks!

Heart and Cross Image

An atheistic evolutionist would have us believe there is nothing more than matter, yet if matter is all there is, then how would an immaterial concept such as “THANKS” ever originate? “Thanks” has no color, no shape, no texture, and no taste. A rock, for example, is matter in a solid form, yet it cares nothing about being thankful. In fact, we could say a rock cannot even care, let alone be thankful. The same could be said for all solids, liquids, and gases. Thankfulness is a concept that goes way beyond the material. So if it didn’t come from matter, then where did thanks originate from?

Nonphysical concepts such as thankfulness cannot be derived from matter, but instead must come from something immaterial. And to say that thankfulness came from some sort of impersonal “higher power” energy or force would be foolish. Mindless energy and impersonal forces would be unable to produce such a personal concept as thanks.

Thanks is not simply a figment of our imagination found in the dictionary and it is not the mindless product of some impersonal force. It could only originate from One who is both personal and loving. In truth, thanksgiving must stem from a loving heart, one that is not self-seeking. The Bible describes this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up…” 1 Corinthians 13:4. This love comes from the personal God who is love (1 John 4:8,16), the God who demonstrated His love in sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Savior of the world. (John 3:16-17)

Jesus is not only the Savior, He is the Creator and coming King. (Colossians 1:11-20) He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He truly is the Son of God and God the Son. Without Jesus there would be no universe and no earth. There would be no salvation. There would be no love and without love there would be no thanks! Truly it can be said, “No Jesus, No Thanks!” During this season, let us not only be thankful, but be sure to give thanks to only One who truly deserves it all, the Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

“Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him, talk you of all His wondrous works. Glory in His holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face continually.” 1 Chronicles 16:8-11

God's Word FirstIn many parts of the world, people are taught to carefully create and diligently decide what jobs and training to attain in order to build a powerful and successful resume. After all, earthly speaking, our resume is often the key to opening certain doors in the business world otherwise unattainable. If I want to move in a certain direction in this life, often I must first attain, labor, and strive for the credentials and proper experience. Then I must carefully and creatively record each accomplishment to build my portfolio and resume, all in hopes of moving forward in my desired direction. But what should be the Christian’s most desired and sought after destination?

While there is definite merit in getting a good education, degree, and experience in the job world, I would argue there is a much better resume we should seek to be building, one that does not point to our intelligence, wealth, and experience, but one that instead displays our weakness and utter dependence upon the True and Living God.

Instead of dropping names in hopes of making us look competent and qualified, we should repeatedly record the fact that we are quite dependent on the Lord for everything we say, do, and think.  Our spiritual resume should minimize us and maximize the Lord Jesus Christ.  Arguably, John the Baptist may have summed it up the best when he said, “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

One such example of a godly resume is found in Philippians 2. Here Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes about Epaphroditus. Most of us, myself included, might say, “Epaphro who?”  Philippians 2:25 says, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” Although he is only mentioned twice by name in Scripture, here in Philippians 2 and also in Philippians 4:18, he definitely serves as an awesome testimony of what occurs in one heart yielded to the Lord.

What a wonderful, godly resume Epaphoditus has! This is not to point to him, but rather to the Lord, who wants to work mightily in and through all of His adopted sons and daughters.  So what were the notable and biblical attributes applied to this believer’s spiritual resume?

BROTHER: First, he is called a brother. We all, as believers, are born again by the power of God, adopted into the kingdom of God.  We are not above one another, but simply brothers and sisters in the Lord, seeking to obey our Heavenly Father from the heart. Epaphoditus was called a brother.

COMPANION in LABOR: He was also called a companion in labor.  What a blessed title!  He was good company to Paul, encouraging and serving with him in this labor of love called Christianity. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 says, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father…” May we always be good company to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, encouraging and reminding one another that our labor is never in vain and always in love!

FELLOW SOLDIER: Paul also referred to him as a fellow soldier.  We truly are in a battle and it’s a blessed thing to serve alongside fellow soldiers. This world is not our home. We are simply passing through. It’s been correctly said that we’re not on campaign to reform this world, but rather on a rescue mission, calling out as many as will come. The “mighty” Paul did not call Epaphorditus a private serving under “General” Paul, but rather a fellow soldier, comrades who desired to faithfully follow the commands of the Lord.

We are all equal at the foot of the cross; sinners saved by His grace. The work our Heavenly Commander calls us to on this planet is often difficult, dare I say impossible, without the Lord Himself doing the work in and though us! Praise God, although in a very real battle, we do not fight for victory, but from victory. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 remind us, “But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 

MESSENGER: Epaphroditus is also called a messenger. A messenger is usually not the one writing the message, but the one making sure the correct message gets to the right people at the right time. In both World Wars 1 and 2, carrier pigeons were successfully utilized to transport messages back and forth through very dangerous territory. Arguably, the pigeon played a crucial role in both World Wars.

A messenger has everyone other than himself in mind.  He must first make the author of the message his top priority. He then must desire those the message is intended for above his own comfort and importance.  Often the messenger receives the direct consequences of the message, yet he loves the message and the author more than his very own life. This constitutes a good and faithful messenger.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 we are reminded of the message we bring to those around us. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

MINISTER: Lastly, he’s described as one who ministered to Paul, his fellow soldier and brother in the Lord. Ministering simply means to serve, preferring the needs of others above our own desires, pleasures, and needs. In 1 Corinthians 16, it says, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, [be brave], be strong. Let all your things be done with charity [selfless, Christ-centered love]. I beseech you, brethren, (you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) that you submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helps with us, and labors.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-16   We are all called to be addicted to the ministry of the saints, seeking to be filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus, who loved not His life even unto death. (Hebrews 12:1-4)

May the Lord truly help us to earnestly and diligently add to our eternal resumes daily, first and foremost seeking those things which are above. After all, our home is in Heaven where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.  What could be better than making the Mighty and Everlasting God our greatest pursuit and prize?!

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

The Gracious Gift

Castle in FallOnce there was a kingdom with a very great king.  Every year the people of the kingdom had a special celebration filled with a wonderful time of giving to the king.  On this special day everyone from the kingdom would come to the castle and present the king with amazing presents hoping he would choose their’s as the best gift for that year. Whoever the king chose as the best giver would have the privilege of sitting with him for the remainder of the celebration. Some people enjoyed being close to the king because they believed the king made them look great. Others, although a minority, loved being by the king just to be with him. They loved talking with him and seeing how he handled the kingdom. They simply loved the king.

This was a very special year for one little boy.  His parents had finally agreed to allow him to participate in the giving celebration.  Gregory was only seven, but it felt like he’d been waiting for an eternity.  He couldn’t contain his excitement.  He desperately desired to win the event for one simple reason. He just wanted to get to know his king. Gregory really wanted to win! He was so excited he could barely sleep that first night. He got up early to take a walk around his neighborhood.  “I’ve got to come up with a great gift,” he thought to himself.  But he had one little problem.  Even after saving his allowances for two straight years, he only had $30 to buy something. As he strolled around the familiar neighborhood circuit, he began to notice many of his neighbors had already begun working on their presents.  He saw a large giraffe in one backyard while another neighbor had purchased a beautiful fruit tree filled with ripe pomegranates. Another family had been working on building the king a marvelous flying machine. One man was hand crafting a beautiful marble sculpture in his front yard. Walking through the neighborhood, Gregory began to grow more and more discouraged.

When he arrived back home, he was almost ready to give up.  “What can I get the king for such a little amount of money,” he mumbled under his breath. Waving his hands up in surrender, he retreated to his room.  He was so sad, he even missed supper that night.  The next morning he stayed in his room, not wanting to see any more gifts he would soon be competing against. Almost a week went by with nothing but discouragement and frustration to guide his way. Then Gregory finally became so disquieted in his heart he simply started crying out to the king. He knew the king was great, but he really didn’t know if even the king would hear his faraway pleas. Then it happened.  He decided he would give it one last shot.  After all, the party was only a day away. He began pacing in his room as he tried to arrive at a winning idea.  “I have to be with the king,” he said with determination in his heart.”I just have to!” All morning he walked back and forth and back and forth almost like a soldier during marching practice.  All of a sudden, as if sent by the king himself, an idea flew into his mind.  At first he wasn’t sure, but then a big smile slowly appeared across his face.  He knew, he just knew this would be the winning idea!

Gregory sprinted over to the spare bedroom where all the boxes and wrapping paper were stored.  His parents were happy to see he was finally back on track. He spent all afternoon looking for just the right box and just the right paper.  That night he slept soundly, knowing with confidence that he would soon be sitting by his king. As the sun peered through his curtains, enlightening his room, he hopped out of bed as if a rabbit. His parents and he gathered their gifts and began the long trek to the castle.  By the time they arrived, the line was all the way out the castle doors and down the main street.  Gregory waited patiently, remaining confident even Fall Trail 1after seeing the many spectacular presents awaiting the king. He saw peacocks and plow horses, rubies and  diamonds, glistening golden vases and large lions in cages. He overheard people talking about the kinds of gifts that had won in years gone by. One year, a tremendous tiger as white as the snow had won. Another year the winner had brought a beautiful fruit tree as tall as a four story house. This tree could actually produce three different kinds of fruit.  Gregory remembered the year the tree had won. That was when he was four.

Finally, the sun was setting and Gregory had made it into castle’s throne room.  It was a large room lined with marble from floor to ceiling.  It echoed with voices as the people huddled around to see the remaining gifts.  Oohs and aahs filled the room.  Gregory had been so focused on seeing the king, he hadn’t realized until that very moment that he was actually the last person in line.  This made him a little nervous knowing if the king wasn’t pleased, there would be no one behind him to make him happy again.

There were only three people ahead of him and he could hear everyone in the huge room talking about the day’s events.  Some were even arguing over their own gifts, believing, of course, that they were the best.  His heart began to pound and knees started to shake. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” he thought to himself.  Then only one person stood between him and the king.  Gregory could now see the king’s face.  The king glanced over to the little boy and gave him a smile, as if to assure him it would be okay.  It was almost like the king had been waiting all day just for him.  That was the assurance he needed.  Finally, after waiting for almost seven hours, it was time.

The crowd grew silent, noticing the only one left was a little boy that most didn’t even know.  The people began to whisper to one another.  A few even chuckled.  “Who does this boy think he is?” a few grumbled.  “He’s wasting our time,” they complained.  They couldn’t quite make out what he had in his hand, but they all figured this would be the worst gift ever.  Gregory slowly approached the king.  This was the first time he had ever seen him this close before. The prince walked down to meet him, escorting him to his father. Gregory slowly handed the king his little gift wrapped in paper his family had saved from his birthday party the year before.  A million thoughts flew through his head.  Then the room fell silent and Gregory felt like it was just him and the king.  The king began to open his present, carefully peeling the paper. The people could not wait to see what was inside.

The king then opened the little cardboard box lid.  His fingers reached inside, pulling out a small piece of paper. The people fixed their gaze on the king as he carefully unfolded it.  His eyes seemed to twinkle as he finished reading.  Gregory watched and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Then the king rose to his feet and lifted his arm. “Thank you all!” he began. “I have received many wonderful gifts today, but as you all know, only one can be the winner.”  The people all leaned forward with anticipation.  “This year, the winner is…”  Many in the audience were sure they would be this year’s winner.  The king then reached down and picked up the 7 year old boy still standing at his feet.  “This year the winner is Gregory.”  The people could not believe it. The crowd was buzzing with amazement!

How could this little boy with his little box and little piece of paper be the winner?  It was impossible.  The king continued… “This boy has not only given me the best gift this year, but the best gift ever!”  You could hear people gasp and complain throughout the room. “He will not only be able to be with me for today, but because of his gracious gift, Gregory will be able to visit me any time he wants for his whole life.”  The people could not believe it! Everyone was excited to discover what was on that little piece of paper, but the king chose not to tell them, at least not yet.

The rest of the evening all the people of the kingdom enjoyed great food and a festival filled with games, music, and much more. But Gregory simply enjoyed being with his king.  He couldn’t believe it.  He just loved looking and listening to the king.  They talked all night long. As people walked by the king’s table they kept asking him what the boy had given him.  The king would simply smile, reassuring them to be patient.  The next morning the king sent out invitations to all the people in his kingdom, requesting their presence at noon on the first day of the following week. The invitation explained that the king would finally reveal to all Gregory’s gracious gift. The people could not wait! The following Sunday people from all around the kingdom made their way to the castle. Right at noon the king stood and explained what made Gregory’s gift so special.

“You see,” began the king. “For many years now people have brought me many wonderful gifts, but no one has ever given me a gift quite like this one.”  One person in the crowd just couldn’t wait any longer. “Please king,” he cried. “Tell us what was on the paper.”  The king smiled.  “The paper had seven simple words on it.” The people all listened carefully as the king continued. “The paper said, ‘THANK YOU MY DEAR KING, THANK YOU!'”

The people looked quite confused.  “You see,” explained the king.  “Although many wonderful gifts have been given to me over the years, I’ve never really needed any of them. After all, I already own everything in the kingdom.  What I’ve really wanted all along is you, not your things.  I want your hearts.  I want you to willingly be my people. That’s what my kingdom is all about.  Only after you truly become my people, will you finally get to know me as your personal king.  This boy’s gift is exactly what I’ve been looking for these many years.  Gregory’s gift has revealed his deep, heartfelt thanks. It has revealed his willingness to give me nothing less than his heart.”

People talked about Gregory’s gracious gift for many years to come, reminding one another that it wasn’t the objects, but their hearts that they should willingly and humbly give the king each and every day; hearts overflowing with thanksgiving to their gracious and glorious king.  This is what the king was truly searching for all along.

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” Proverbs 23:26.  

“O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: You delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” Psalm 51:15-17.

Inside or Out?

Boy Reading the holy bible“It’s all inside” is a popular slogan from one American retailer.  Although it might sound good and maybe even help sell a few sweaters, in reality nothing could be further from the truth.  Is everything we need for life really inside?  Yes, our bodies have a variety of organs, most of which are inside, all working together to sustain our physical life.  So technically, we could say that without the stuff inside we couldn’t be physically alive. Yet there is much more necessary than what’s on the inside.

The body can only live several weeks without food and several days without water.  We cannot survive for more than several minutes without oxygen before brain damage will most likely occur.  Our ears are designed to capture external sounds and eyes to draw in light radiating from without, not from within. It’s as if the designer of the human body is carefully and repeatedly reminding us that even though our bodies are self-contained, they are far from self-sustained. We clearly need things from outside of ourselves, and although no one would disagree with this, the same cannot be said for the spiritual side of life.  Sadly, too many have been blinded by the misguided belief that all the answers we need for spiritual life are found within.

Growing up, I can recall numerous times being told that I must simply look within for my answers.  Over the years, so many movies, songs, video games, and teachings have delivered the same erroneous message, “If you want to know reality, begin by looking inside.”  I can’t remember ever stopping to ask one simple question – “How do you know?”  How is it that people know for sure they can accurately search within to discover the mysteries of eternity?  When asked this question, most might answer one of two ways.  The first is based on emotion, “It just feels right.” The second is based on a majority, “Many people I trust believe the same way.” There are numerous problems with both of these reasons. Just because if feels good, doesn’t mean it’s true, and just because many people believe something doesn’t mean it’s reality.

According to the true Word of God, men are not the answer.  There is nothing inside of us that will supply anything illuminating. Just as we cannot emanate physical light from inside, so it is that we are unable to find true spiritual light from within.

Carefully consider a few verses:

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  Jeremiah 17:9
  • “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” Mark 7:15
  • “There is none good but one, that is, God…” Matthew 19:17
  • “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

So if we cannot find the light from within, then where does one go to receive the true light?  

The answer is not found in where to go, but to whom.  To all who have ears to hear, this is what the Word of God says concerning the Lord Jesus Christ: 

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” John 1:1-5, 9,10
  • “This then is the message which we have heard of Him [Jesus], and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5
  • “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, “I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

BUYER BEWARE-

Not all claiming to be light are actually true light.  Jesus said of Satan that his ministers appear as servants of light, yet they lead people into further darkness.  There is light that is actually spiritual darkness.  Consider the following verses:

  • “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
  • “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6::23
  • “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

Within is only darkness.  We cannot look within for answers on eternity anymore than I can look within to be physically fed or to breathe air.  Jesus Christ, the true light from Heaven, entered this dark world to bring the truth.  His light reveals our own sinful, rebellious nature and the true light of God’s judgment and justice.  Praise God, He also brought the light of His love and forgiveness found in the full and free sacrifice for all mankind found in Jesus Christ alone.  (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

May we humble ourselves and approach God’s true light, realizing that our complete and utter dependence is upon Him, not ourselves!

There are many young pastors and congregations that continue to be influenced by the doctrines of Calvinism from many of today’s most popular pulpit teachers. It is crucial that we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! One way of doing this is to understand some of the major lies attempting to be fed to the flock of God.  See below for more in depth resources examining Calvinism in light of God’s Word.

 

Jesus said to them, “If any man wills [desires] do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17

Articles:

Video:

Website Resource Pages on Calvinism:

Three Great Book Resources:

For many it sounds narrow-minded to say that there is only one way to Heaven. After all there are many roads that take a person into the same city, so why wouldn’t there be many roads that lead to the same Heaven? The simple answer is that men have not sinned against a city. We’ve sinned against the One and Only, True and Living God. (Romans 3:23)

This is His creation, so it only stands to reason that we should go His Way. (Interestingly, no one argues when there’s only one door to a restaurant or one way into their garage at home.) One God, One Way- through His Son, Jesus Christ! (John 14:6) Yes, narrow, but also loving. He lovingly provided a single way to help prevent us from getting lost! Jesus is truly the only way that leads to eternal life! (John 3:15-17)

Sadly, all other roads will lead to the same place…the Lake of Fire. (Matthew 7:13-14; Revelation 20:15) It’s our choice. God has already chosen to pave the perfect way by sending His Son to die for our sins, fully paying the price we deserve; raising from the grave- eternally conquering sin and death. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Now it’s up to us whether we will choose to turn to Him or continue on our own self-seeking, pride paving road. May we choose wisely, carefully keeping eternity in mind.

Jesus says, “And him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37b

 

 

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