Author Archives: Steve Berven

When God Calls…Do You Let It Go To Voicemail?

Are you screening your calls?

answering-machines1---message-screen_s600x600As I fast approach my 47th year in this world, I find myself taking a hard look back over my life, and evaluating a lot of the decisions I’ve made, sifting and sorting through the many milestones and events and turns-left-instead-of-right that have led me to my current station in life.  Several of those junctions, several key “forks in the road” really begin stand out to me.  Invariably, they are the points where I had to make a decision whether to follow where God was leading…or to pursue my own path chasing after my own desires.  Sadly, more often than I care to admit I’ve made the wrong choice.

It makes me wonder why we struggle so hard against what we see as the “demands” of Christ’s Kingdom? I think sometimes we tend to think only about all the things we’ll have to give up, of all the sacrifices we’ll have to make.  Maybe we picture a life of monastic austerity, kind of like a kid trapped inside on a summer day while he watches through the window as the other kids get to go out and play.  A life spent serving God is seen as something all those “saintly” people do, but really, isn’t that a bit much to ask of the average joe?

BUT.  If we truly believe that we are created by God, if we truly believe that He has gifted and equipped and will call each of us to serve Him in a way uniquely suited to who and what we are, why do we still hesitate to answer this call?

For far too many of us, it’s not enough to just be what God has created us to be.   We want and demand that we become more, or maybe something just more to our liking, something that fits a little better into what and who we think we ought to be; you know, something more! We treat a life lived in service to God as “Plan B.”  Maybe something to get around to once we’ve finished doing all the other stuff WE want to do.  In other words, we put ourselves first.  We put our desires and our goals ahead of what God has laid out for us.

This is THE VERY SAME SIN that doomed mankind from the start. The first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden was not the sin of disobedience. The disobedience was a RESULT of an earlier sin; the first sin of Man was the sin of pride.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,  she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Gen. 3:3-6

Seduced by the smooth and persuasive words of the Serpent, Adam and Eve felt the first stirrings of the desire to be MORE. They were created in God’s own image. They were quite possibly either immortal, or incredibly long-lived. They knew no shame, hurt, fear or want. They were given a position of unique and important responsibility in caring for God’s creation. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t enough. God’s given call on their lives, his intended purpose, no longer sufficed. They wanted more. They wanted to be “as God.” They wanted to “know,” to have their eyes opened, to take on an aspect other than that for which they were created. And this desire led them into death. It led them into separation from God. It shattered a bond, a faith, a unique trust between them and their Creator. In effect, they chose the words of the Serpent over the words of God. They said, in their hearts, “Father, what you have given us is not enough. We see what you are apparently denying us, and now we want MORE!

Be careful what you ask for. Especially when you ask in ignorance, without faith, in disobedience.

In how many ways do we see this same sin, this same legacy born out day after day in our own lives? God calls and equips us for a certain work, and in our pride we decide that it’s not “good enough.” We see all the things we think God could provide us, and isn’t, and we decide that God can’t possibly be calling me to teach third graders. I’m meant to be a church planter! How come I’m stuck cleaning up after the youth group, when I should be leading the worship team up on stage?! God must be punishing me for something; otherwise I’d have a much more (glamorous, visible, better-paying, more influential, etc) position.

Even the early Disciples struggle with this same pride, this same desire to be something MORE.  In Mark Chapt. 9:33-35, we here them jostling for position amongst one another:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”  But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The mission, the purpose for which God has called each of us as Believers, and equipped us (if even for just a season) is too often considered “beneath” us. Not important enough. Not worth “our” time. And so we refuse to fulfill that calling, that role. We disobey. We let ourselves be seduced by the allure of all those bright, shiny things seemingly held just beyond our reach, instead of focusing on the anointing God has already placed on our lives. We become discontented, impatient and selfish, not content to merely serve in humility.  We become so focused on our position, on our status, even among other Christians, that we lose site of what “servanthood” really means.

And too often, what happens next? Well, from hard-won personal experience, let me tell you.

We decide that if that’s all God has for us, if that’s all the more famous we’re going to get, well then, no thanks. We turn away. We stop serving the Kingdom altogether. It’s too hard, too embarrassing, too boring, too this, too that.  We find 101 reasons why this really just isn’t working out for us.  Maybe we storm off in a huff, or maybe we just step away from the plow. Maybe we storm up the stairs and slam our bedroom door, or just quietly unplug the phone and turn out the lights.  Whatever it looks like, we turn away from the words of God and trust in our own wisdom as to what is best. And so the Serpent wins. Again.

The Enemy wants nothing more than to keep us so distracted by shiny things, things that are a “delight to the eyes,” so focused on our “felt needs” and our earthly desires and the praise of man that when the phone rings and we realize that it’s God calling, we’ll just let it go to voicemail.

Whether through fear, or pride, inattention, laziness, or just plain unbelief, we can sometimes let ourselves miss a calling that promises so much more for our life than anything we can scrounge up ourselves.  So the next time you think you might be hearing God’s call on your life, hearing Him call you out of where you are to where He wants you to be…

PICK UP THE PHONE!

Hooray for the Lost Archives!

Turns out, I DID have a backup of the old site, and managed through the wonders of modern science to successfully upload them into this new site.  Suhweeeet.

Also trying out a new theme.  Liking it.  And, doing my best to post something regularly, even if it’s just something as simple as this little update.

One step at a time.

Back In Action – A New Beginning

Sounds kind of like a cheesy Chuck Norris action film title, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

My last web hosting gig crashed and burned…literally.  They had a catastrophic server meltdown, China Syndrome-like, and since I hadn’t backed up my site, it all went away in a steamy puff of charred ones and zeros.  So, this is now The New Gig at The New Digs.  Now with even less archives!

Take a sec and read my “About Page.”  Reader’s Digest Version:  I will be writing about a lot of social, political, spiritual issues, whereas my last site was mostly devotional. That will certainly be here as well, but my plan and goal is to deal with whatever rolls through my brain, looking at a whole spectrum of different things through a Biblical lense, and analyzing them in the context of a Christian worldview.

I don’t and never will claim to be a Prophet or an Apostle. I am at best a Disciple, and not much of one at that.  But, after 41 or so years as a Christian, coupled with a pretty decent exposure to the Scriptures over the years and way too many hours poking around conservative blogs and commentary, it’s my hope that my own “Ah HAH!” moments might help others gain some insights into both their spiritual walk and the social challenges increasingly facing those of the Christian faith in today’s mixed up world.  It’s good to have goals.

And please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  I hope for what I post here to be more of a discussion than just me porch-preaching!  And now, on with the show!

~ Steve

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit”

November, 2011.  That’s the last time I posted to this “blog.”  Six months of quiet inactivity.  Six months of silence.  Six months of sitting on my spiritual gifts, and finding reasons to do just about anything else but be with God in His word.

Six months of letting the Enemy win.  Of getting beat up, and beating myself up, and just generally slipping further and further away from were I should be. 

It stops today.  Today, I take up my cross, anew.  I will stumble, I will succeed and I will fail. I will do it imperfectly.  But, by the grace of God, I WILL DO IT. 

Looking at the book of John, Chapter 15, we see a pretty clear and unequivocal declaration that it is not enough to just “get saved.”  Claiming to be a Christian is not enough. Professing the name of Christ is not enough.  Sitting in a church once a week is not enough.

It’s about your HEART.  It’s about following after God, hungering after His word, and wanting what HE wants more than what WE want.  About transforming what He wants INTO what we want.  It’s about fighting that fight every day.  Not waiting for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week.

Or six months.

Jesus warns us that those “vines” which do not abide in Him, those which bear no fruit, will be cast away, destroyed in the fire, while those that DO bear fruit will be pruned and shaped to produce even more.  And this fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, is how we will be known as followers of Christ.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  John 15:8

And so, I find myself asking, how much fruit am I bearing? Am I a lush, growing tree, bearing fruit, bringing shade and comfort and sustenance, or am I a dry, withered scrub bush with brittle branches and thorny brambles?

Am I trying to do things in my own strength and failing, or, abiding in Him, seeking after His will, and then shaping my efforts accordingly?  Honestly? Lately, it’s been a lot more of the former, rather than the latter.  So today, that changes.

There’s an old, favorite Sunday School song, which declares, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”  Well, with God’s help, guidance, and equipping, I hope to let my light shine a whole lot brighter than it has been of late. 

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing God’s work is just showing up at the job site.

Well, I’m done taking sick days.

~ Steve

There Is No “Sorta” With Sin

During a recent perusal of various Christian blogs on my reading list, I stumbled across this article from Britain on how to deal with the rise of cohabitating couples, many of whom are in long-term partnerships which include shared assets and property, as well as children.

How should the church approach cohabiting couples? Two perspectives

It speaks of the struggles a partner may face, especially the female, if the cohabitees split up.

How should a Christian organisation, devoted to supporting marriage and family life, approach cohabitation? There is a juxtaposition between advocating strongly, and singularly for marriage, and supporting the millions of children in this country whose parents cohabit, and who could be left vulnerable to financial insecurity and homelessness should the relationship break down.

Though the articles purports to be from a Christian/Church perspective, there is no mention of the Biblical prohibition against adultery.  No mention of sin, or of the inevitable consequences of willful sin.  No, it’s all about how to best address the problems of this demographic by both providing for their needs, while gently suggesting that those in married relationships are more stable and secure.  About how we need a more “enlightened” policy with regards to our cohabitating brethren.

We often see questions like this: How should we approach this or that demographic within our church?  How do we “deal” with cohabiting couples, teen promiscuity or alternative lifestyles? More and more as homosexuality becomes mainstream, churches are faced with the same question of how to approach the issue of homosexuality? How do we treat or respond to homosexuals and homosexuality if we want to be seen as a more approachable, enlightened church?

Answer:  We treat them the same as everybody else.

There are no special categories of sinners.  With apologies to my Catholic brethren, there aren’t categories of sin. It’s not venial or mortal:  ALL sins are mortal.  It’s an all or nothing relationship. Sin is binary. 0 or 1. On or off. Yes or no. It is, or it isn’t. There is no “sorta” with sin.

So, when viewed in that context, homosexual sin is no different, no better, no worse, no more or less under condemnation than heterosexual sin.  Sin is sin.  We don’t get to ignore the ones that make us uncomfortable.

If I’m a man, chilling at the beach, ogling women in bikinis, I’m in exactly the same category as if I’m man, chilling at the beach, ogling guys in their speedos:  Sinner.

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman{or man} with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her{him} in his heart.” Matt 5:28

If a church is conflicted about how to address the problem of cohabiting couples, teen sex, or homosexuality, then it definitely has a problem; but perhaps a far bigger problem than how to tune their outreach ministries to appeal to these seeker-groups.

It’s actually pretty cut and dried.  Reeeeeal basic.  If you are going to preach the Word, then be true to the Word.   The Bible is full of examples, both metaphorical and actual, of people being forced to choose between what they want, and what the Word of God says is permissible; the two being almost universally at odds.

If you have couples living together, sleeping together, outside of marriage,  then they are in sexual sin.  Sounds archaic and overly simplistic in today’s more enlightened, liberated society, but that’s the simple truth.   If we are more worried about keeping people happy (as society defines it), than about teaching them to be obedient to the word of God, than we risk loving them to death.  We are, in the long run, not doing them any favors.  Too often today it comes down to being true to the word of God OR preaching a squishy gospel that soft coats the hard edges of truth in order to be more palatable, more “relevant,” more inclusive.

When faced with the problem of how to deal with sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, the conversation should go something like this:  If you people want to call yourselves Christians, then you need to live according to Christian principles.  What that means is that you move out, find your own places, and stop having pre-marital sex {{insert shocked gasps, I know}}.

If you are teens experimenting with sex: stop.  Plain and simple.  You don’t just cut back — you cut it out.  If you are cruising YouTube for the sexy videos or Webshots for the drunken Spring Break candids…STOP.  Alcoholics cannot afford to just cut back on their drinking, they need to stop, because there is no middle ground.  You are either drinking, or you’re not.  You are either sleeping with your girlfriend, or you’re not.  You are either engaging in homosexual acts…or you’re not.

Binary. Either/or.   Yes or no.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.

There’s no easy answer for the “issue” of homosexuality.  So much of our culture these days is so affirming, and tolerant, and supportive, and all be-true-to-who-you-are.  “Baby, I was born this way!” sings Lady Gaga.

Except that, the practice of homosexuality is quite simply forbidden by the Bible.   So where does that leave you? The same place as everybody else:  with a decision to make.

Do you be true to yourself, or true to God?  If God doesn’t allow promiscuity or adultery between heterosexual couples, do you think that homosexuals get a “bye” because they’re special?  A highly vocal chunk of society would have you think that, but it’s simply not true.

The Body of Christ should respond in love to those struggling with sin of any kind, but a love based on the truth of the Scriptures.  Granted, we risk being branded “intolerant” or “haters” if we do, but the truth is that there is no one more intolerant of sin than God.  God HATES sin.  But he loves us enough that he sent Christ to die in our place, that we might have a way out of the sin and death towards which our earthly wants and desires will inevitably lead us.

~ Steve Berven

A Fierce and Dangerous Faith

Some think Faith foolish,
To boldly tread where there is no bridge or path.
They consider it the height of prudence,
To require each step laid out in advance.

Others find Faith too awful,
A fearful and trembling place of danger.
Without first knowing the script, the plot, the final scene,
They step not upon the stage.

Some find Faith as a soothing balm,
A warm cup of tea that comforts a dark night.
It abides in the quiet moments of trust,
Strength for the simple task of facing each day.

Then there is the Faith with wild, unkempt hair,
Locusts and honey, facing giants with a stone.
It calls us to step across a river, into a land unknown,
And instead of fear, we know only fierce anticipation!

This is the Faith which moves mountains,
Which calls to the fiery tempest in our souls,
It is the burning bush, the pillar of fire,
The restless call upon our hearts to follow God’s call.

Today I want to trade my timid Faith,
For one more unsettled and unbound,
I want to feel the rush of God’s wind through my hair,
Feel the heat of His furnace upon my face.

For in those wild, incautious moments,
When I abandon rational hope and empirical surety,
To step instead along the path God has set before me,
That is where Life truly begins!

Lord, today give me the strength,
To step out of the boat, and meet you amongst the waves.
Let the wild winds blow, and tempest waters broil,
And I will cry out, not in fear, but in exultation.

Lord, in Faith, take me to the unsafe places,
The rugged, ragged edges of life where others fear to tread.
Renew in me a heart eager for adventure,
With the dusty sandals and calloused hands that say…

TODAY, I SERVED THE LORD!

Why “Biblical Sense?”

When thinking about what domain name to get, what moniker I wanted to hang on this thing, I went through a lot of different choices. Some obscure, some humorous, some too plain, or too complicated, and of lot of them just plain already taken. So why “Biblical Sense?”

There’s so much in this world that doesn’t seem to make sense to me these days. So much of our once proud culture has been worn down, broken down, co-opted, wishy-washied, corrupted or re-branded. All in the name of “progress.” Change. Diversity. Tolerance. Whatever the catch phrase of the week happens to be.

And swirling through the big middle of it all is the steady decline of our collective moral fiber, a tarnishing of our souls seen nowhere more clearly than in the arena of our sexuality. Sex pervades the newstands, the book racks, the movie theaters, and our television shows. It’s everywhere, and it’s glamorized and glorified. Sex has become dating. It’s just assumed by so many of today’s young people that sex is an inevitable part of dating, and the sooner the better.

This isn’t the way God intended it.

I think one of the biggest reasons behind why this is happening is that the “post-modern” church, its body, its preachers/teachers/leaders, are all about trying to conform the Bible to the culture, instead of the other way around. The Bible becomes an after-thought, a selection of favored quotes, quips and anecdotes to fill in the gaps in their self-help sermons.

Biblical literacy is plummeting, and there are entire church denominations and “emergent” movements looking to re-interpret God’s Holy Word in light of this cultural cataclysm, trying too hard be “relevant” to a world gone crazy. Problem is, if you are following the crowd, you’re not leading it. If you are chasing after the culture, you have to go where IT leads YOU, and it should be the other way around. The Church should be a source of strength and solidity, a refuge in this storm of moral confusion. Should be, but too often isn’t.

As Believers, we are called to hold everything up to the lens of the Scriptures. The Bible is our rock, our unchanging references, immutable and eternal; the very words of God from the mouths of His servants. We need to know what it says. Why it says what it says. We need to know and understand and evaluate everything in a Biblical sense.

This term has, over time, taken on a sexual connotation.

“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” Gen 4:1 (ESV).

It’s now become almost a tongue-in-cheek expression, a careful euphemism for sex. “Oh man, I want to know her, in the biblical sense.”

What has gotten squeezed, filtered and scrubbed out of our concept of sexual relationships over time is the idea that to join together with a man or woman in the act of sexual union is absolutely the most intimate way to “know” another person. It should be a time of joining, of union, almost a sacrament between two people whom God has brought together in His name, an anointed and precious act meant to be shared with one person and one person only: the person you’ve sworn before God in the form of marriage vows to spend the rest of your life with.

These days it’s become just another way to pass the time. A toy we play with when we’re bored. Kids in school have oral sex in the classroom and send “sext” message to each other on their cell phones. Way too much, way too early.

We’ve got to try and make sense of all this. Biblical sense. We know all about sex, but almost nothing about intimacy. God’s Word calls us to be intimate with Him. That’s why I want to take back this term. People should know God, in a Biblical sense. Not in the watered-down, candy-coated, fly-by-night way so many are getting Him these days in seeker-friendly churches who want to love people to death. Too loving to preach the truth, too caring to force hard decisions, to inclusive to use terms like good and bad, sin and sanctification.

God cries out for us to know Him, to read, and to KNOW His Word. To evaluate everything in our lives through the lens of scripture. To turn away from the false intimacy of sexual sin and idolatry, and embrace Him, to know him more intimately than we know anything else or anyone else in our lives.

That why the name. It’s what I hope to do with my posts here: help people come to better know and understand God (and themselves), in a Biblical sense.

~Steve Berven

Just One Little Thing

Wow, March 9th, 2010 was the last time I posted anything here.  One might suspect I wasn’t taking this web ministry seriously.  And I haven’t been.  I’ve let far too many things get in the way.  There’s always something, one little this or that which gets in the way.   I’m always too busy doing other things, letting other things come between me and God.   Turns out, I’m not the first one to have this problem.I ‘m sure we’ve all heard and read the story:

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.  “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’

And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.  And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:18)

This story is almost universally used as a warning and admonition against greed, excessive wealth, and coveting possessions rather than seeking after God.  And sure, there may be a piece of that here; but I think such a narrow interpretation actually misses the broader point Jesus was trying to make.  Jesus wasn’t so much warning against the dangers of money or wealth specifically, but rather, he had narrowed in on the one thing that was coming between this man and his relationship with God.  While in this case it happened to be money, it could be anything, really.  This rich, young man came to Jesus with what seemed to be a genuine desire to serve…but also a strongly-developed sense of his own piety. In his mind, in the finest Pharisaical tradition, he had faithfully kept all of the Commandments; and perhaps he had…all except for one:

“Thou shall have no other Gods before me.”

I think that Jesus saw both the man’s genuine faith (given the gentle way in which He spoke to him), as well as the man’s rather self-sufficient pride.   Jesus could tell that, despite his profession of conscientious obedience to the Law, this young man still wanted to be able to keep a hold of This One Thing…in this case, his money.   The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God who wants to be first in our life.  He wants it all, everything about us: our hopes, our dreams, our desires.  He wants to be first in all of this, and yet, so many of us try to work out a deal.  We bargain with God, trying to hold back just This One Thing that we don’t want to give up.   It might be our daily office gossip, or a root of bitterness at an ex, an addiction to alcohol, pornography, crude jokes or anything else outside the nature of God that we try to hold onto. We hold back on that one “little secret” that we figure maybe God will let us have.  After all, we’ve been so faithful in so many other areas, right?  We tithe, we go to church, we don’t cheat on our wives or steal or lie.  We “DO” all the right things, so we figure we can probably hold on to this one, little indulgence, and God won’t really mind.  Right?

Wrong.

The message in this passage is not just about money, but about WHATEVER it is we are letting come between us and true faithfulness to God’s calling in our life.   Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

Jesus looked into this man’s heart, his soul, and saw what his “One Thing” was: his wealth.   So Jesus zeroed in on that, and basically told him to put his money where his mouth is; be faithful not just with your words, but with your wealth.  Again, for some of us it might be the magazines we shouldn’t be reading, the TV shows we shouldn’t be watching, the websites we shouldn’t be visiting.  It doesn’t even have to be anything overtly “sinful,” but simply anything that we covet or obsess over, anything that takes the place of a fuller relationship with God in our heart. It could be the football games on Sunday that won’t “let” us go to Church.  The favorite TV drama that only comes on the same night as the small group Bible study we’ve been meaning to attend, but…

This passage emphasizes what we should already know:  that Jesus can see into the deepest, most hidden corners of our heart.  We aren’t hiding anything from Him; we aren’t fooling God. There’s no drawer, closet, cupboard or box we can hide our “This One Thing” in that God won’t find it.  Maybe you think you’re hiding it from everyone else…but HE KNOWS.  He’s always known.

Moreover, I think it’s important to note where Jesus says, “hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God.” Trust.  Trusting in something else besides God as the source for our strength, for our security, for our guidance and our hope can also be that “one thing.”  Do we listen to the words of Oprah or Dr. Phil more than those of Jesus?  Do we rely more on Stephen Covey or Rick Warren to find our purpose than we do on God? Do we want to do it our way, throwing in a prayer every now and then to keep God updated on how it’s going, maybe ask for a little help in what we’re doing, not even questioning if that’s what God really wants for our life, for fear that the answer might turn out to be “no?”

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking of all those “one little things” that might be coming between me and my Lord.  Considering that there shouldn’t be anything on that list at all, it’s rather disturbing.  And humbling.

I also find it interesting that upon hearing Jesus’ response, when the man turned and walked away in sadness, Jesus didn’t chase him down, back-pedal on his answer, or try to find a little more “seeker friendly” message.  Jesus simply preached the Truth.  What the man chose to do with that information was up to him.  The man chose to reject the message; and Jesus let him walk away.  Jesus didn’t water down his message, didn’t soft-coat it or dance around the hard facts.  Communicating the Truth was more important to Jesus than meeting this man’s “felt needs.”

In this interaction, Jesus acknowledged to his disciples that many will hear the Truth, will fully understand the implications of His message…and still choose to hold onto the world instead.  Choosing to rationalize and justify, to hem, and haw, choosing to hold onto what they want instead of reaching out for what God has in store for them.  Compare and contrast the response of the rich man here, with another famous rich man.   A certain Zaccheus who, upon hearing the word of the Lord, couldn’t wait to get right with both God AND those he had wronged, doing so with a joyous heart.

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  (Luke 19:8 ESV)

In response, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9 NASB) I think this shows that it’s not the condition of your wallet or your bank account, but the condition of your heart that matters.

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)

So when we think we are being righteous, and faithful, all the while stubbornly holding on to just This One Thing,  we need to remember:

It only takes one.

Your papers…er…RFID, please.

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RFID - Wave of the Future?

I predicted this a while ago.  Wish I could find the link.  First it would be for pets, and then for prisoners and Alzheimer’s patients, then the military and high-risk Executives and VIPs.  And all too soon, it would be Joe Average, all under the umbrella of safety, or security, or efficiency, or convenience.  And here it all is.

You can discount the Christian end-times prophecies as a bunch of mystic hooey and conspiracy theories, but they very clearly foretell a day when no one will be able to buy or sell without a unique (digital?) identifier.

It’s called boiling the frog slowly.  Incremental implementation until their use is so ubiquitous, so commonplace, that to try and oppose or resist makes you a fringe crackpot.  Perhaps even a subversive or an “extremist.”  An anti-government kook.  Terms already being used to try and disparage and delegitimize groups like the Tea Party activists.

It’s all very convenient. What amazing, space-age technology!  Your car will only unlock or start if it “senses” your unique digital signature.  Your ATM will only dispense money to your unique digital signal.  Your office can sense your arrival, and use preset light and heat settings based on your pre-programmed preferences.  Who wouldn’t want that?!

RFID_hand_2

Just Prior to Implant

Until one day, it’s decided that biometric passports aren’t enough.  That perhaps the threat of domestic terrorism is so great that we “need” to be able to track citizens in real time.  Britain is already awash in CCTV monitors, and is leading the way in chipping everything from pets to garbage cans to people.  With an RFID implant they can track where you got on the train, when, and with who.  What you bought at the store, how much gas you used last week, and where you stop for coffee on the way to work.

RFID Injector

RFID Injector - by ID-OLOGY

These chips might be able to make us more secure, more safe, more efficient.  However, that security will come with a heavy price in lost personal freedoms.  And if, one day, it comes about that not getting chipped gets you fined or arrested?  If you can’t buy food or gas without one?  Somehow, “I told you so” just won’t seem like enough.

You scoff.  “Wingnut,” you snort.

How about:  A National Health Care database. VeriChip implants which tie your unique biological “signature” into that database. You are required by law to have insurance.  Fined if you don’t.  Imprisoned if you don’t pay your fines.  All of this is on the table TODAY in the some form in the Health Care bills being debated in Congress. All for our own good, don’t you know?

“and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.”  (Rev 13:17, NASB)

What does it mean by the “number” of his name? See bolded items below. Eerily similar language to something written nearly 2,000 years ago.  Is it really such a stretch?

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US family gets health implants

US doctors have implanted chips into the arms of a Florida family containing their medical histories in a controversial new programme that doctors hope may one day become standard practice.

Chips to fight kidnapping

An US company is considering producing electronic implants that could be used to keep tabs on kidnap victims via satellite. riginally Applied Digital Solutions had intended to market its VeriChip to patients who wanted to keep their medical records under their skin.  But recently the firm has caved in to pressure to include tracking devices.

But some may see tracker chips as a positive development. After 11 September, many western governments have become paranoid about security and want to keep a closer eye on citizens with schemes such as national ID cards.  “You can’t get a better ID card than one you can put under your skin,” points out Mr Pearson. The technology necessary to locate a person geographically is not particularly sophisticated. It has been around for years in the chips that are implanted beneath the skin of pets.

Crackdown on dangerous dogs to make microchips compulsory for all

“Under the scheme a microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin of the dog between its shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique code number, the dog’s name, age, breed and health as well as the owner’s name, address and phone number. When the chip is “read” by a handheld scanner the code number is revealed and the details can be checked on a national database.

ID Card for Workers at Center of Immigration Plan

“Under the potentially controversial plan still taking shape in the Senate, all legal U.S. workers, including citizens and immigrants, would be issued an ID card with embedded information, such as fingerprints, to tie the card to the worker.”

N. H. Reps Approve ‘Tracking Device’ Bill

“The bill in question is an amendment to the state’s Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A). If passed, it would require that all consumer goods or identification documents (such as driver’s licenses, credit cards or library cards) with an embedded “tracking device” to be labeled with a “universally accepted symbol” to denote the inclusion of the device.”

Tracking Prisoners in Jail With Biometrics: An Experiment in a Navy Brig

“Biometrics has been used previously to track the movement of staff, visitors, and prisoners in and out of correctional facilities. It has also been used to account for staff members in the event of a riot or other prison disturbance. This project represents the first use of biometrics to track prisoner movements within a prison or jail. It was designed to employ computer-based methods of tracking inmates to improve the efficiency of corrections specialists[1] and brig officials and to demonstrate how advanced technology can make corrections facilities safer.”

VeriChip Sells First Baby Protection System, in Talks with Military

“The company announced Aug. 24 that it has made the first sale of its infant protection, wander prevention and staff duress system to the Brampton Civic Hospital in Brampton, Ontario. Separately, the company confirmed a day earlier that it is in talks with the military to test its implantable chips in two branches of the military.

But VeriChip also has a separate patient identification system, VeriMed, which is used beneath the skin. Once the chip is implanted in the fatty part of a persons arm (or in the hand(!!!), as chip volunteers have done), it displays a 16-digit identifier when tapped by an RFID reader. The number accesses health information in a database that requires a username and password for admittance.”

RFID Chip Implants Planned for Alzheimer’s Patients

“Alzheimer’s Community Care Facility, in West Palm Beach Florida, intends to begin implanting radio frequency identification chips, RFID, in Alzheimer patients, despite the outcry of violation of privacy.

She believes the RFID chip, manufactured by VeriChip Corp, provides a valuable service that allows medical facilities to quickly and easily access medical information the patient often is not able to provide on their own.”

RFID Chip in Humans

“Every RFID tag is given an unique number, similar to an user identification number.”

Chip implant gets cash under your skin

Applied Digital Solutions of Palm Beach, Fla., is hoping that Americans can be persuaded to implant RFID chips under their skin to identify themselves when going to a cash machine or in place of using a credit card.

RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which some manufacturers have managed to shrink to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting a unique ID code, typically a 64-bit identifier yielding about 18 thousand trillion possible values.

Barcelona clubbers get chipped

BBC Science producer Simon Morton goes clubbing in Barcelona with a microchip implanted in his arm to pay for drinks.

Implanting microchips that emit a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) into animals has been common practice in many countries around the world, with some looking to make it a legal requirement for domestic pet owners.

China First With Citizen RFID Implants

A press release issued by the Chinese government today announced the countrywide implementation of a new high-tech tracking initiative designed to “increase security and prosperity for all citizens of the People’s Republic of China.”

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There seems to be a definite trend towards giving every person a unique, digital identifier.  Now, what happens if you have to have a certain, SPECIFIC identifier to use ANY services or facilities?  What if you have to agree to have an RFID with someone elses ID, say perhaps, one that associates you with a certain charismatic leader?  Not so easy to discount now, is it?

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

It’s that time of the year again. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Two-for-one, and an extra 15% off if you buy before Saturday. The more you buy, the more you save.

I honestly wonder why we haven’t yet seen an advertisement for a Christmas sale with swarthy-looking bearded gentlemen, a big smile on his face, holding up his arms as if he was on a cross, but in each hand he has shopping bags with a store’s name on them, with the caption underneath, “When Jesus shops here, JESUS SAVES!!

Come on. You gotta admit, it’d be catchy!

I propose that perhaps one of the reasons that Christmas has become so completely secularized with the all Santa Clauses and reindeer and trees and gluttonous commercialism we see today, is that it was never really a Christian holiday to begin with. It is not a day of the Lord; at least, not OUR Lord.

The use of the evergreen tree as a central element likely harkens back to the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice. The “Christmas” tree became a part of the modern observance after the Catholic church designated December 25th as the date of Christ’s birth in order to better co-opt the pagan converts into their new religion.

The presence of mistletoe, stockings by the chimney, and the tradition of Santa Claus or “St. Nicholas” are also elements co-opted from early pagan, druid or secular/cultural traditions having absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Christ. The laurel wreath we hang, the ornaments and candles on the tree are likely a holdover from the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, part of the worship of their Sun god.

Even the act of placing our gifts beneath the tree, while the manager scene sits of to the side, is a strange custom if you think about it. Whereas the Magi of the Biblical account came an placed their gifts at the feet of Christ, we place out gifts at the feet of a…tree. Again, mirroring the pagan act of worshipping the creation, rather than the creator.

If you actually look to the Biblical timeline, the birth of Christ is much more likely to have occurred somewhere in the September/October timeframe. Not December.  So, there’s very little reason or historic justification for holding “Christ’s Mass” on December 25th.

So, SHOULD Christians celebrate Christmas?

Sure!  Yeah! Go for it!  I have a lot of warm and fond memories of Christmas growing up, and plan to build more of the same in years to come.  Christmas is a great time in so many ways, and I plan to make it a part of my December, as always.  However.

I propose that Christians celebrating modern Christmas is much like Christian parents taking their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. If you can successfully turn a blind eye to what is really at the roots of All Hallows Eve, and just treat it as a fun, cultural event with no religious or “spiritual” meaning, then that’s your decision. We took our kids out this year, not because we were trying to appease the lost and angry spirits, but because it’s just a fun time for them and for us.

But they didn’t dress up as demons, devils, ghosts or vampires, either.

I, for one, have decided that I am not going to get the least bit bent out of shape if some cashier or bagger wishes me a “Happy Holiday,” because that’s all it really is any more. A holiday. An excuse for a party. It’s two extra days off of work if I’m lucky, and overtime pay if I’m not. It’s a chance to give and get some nifty presents, and have another big feast just as I’ve shaken off the last vestiges of the food hangover from Thanksgiving.  To make nice with family and friends I haven’t seen, and for a couple of days at least, pretend that there’s still hope for this crazy, mixed up world.

I’m also going to consider our religious forefathers’ attempts to overlay a thin veneer of Christianity onto what was clearly a pagan ritual a complete failure, and move on.

So yes, I’d say, go ahead and have a Merry Christmas; I certainly plan to!  Just as long as you realize that it’s really become more of a cultural event than anything of Christian significance. 

And don’t go getting in someone’s face because they wish you a “Happy Holiday,” or threaten to boycott a store because they won’t print “Merry Christmas” on their flyers and banners promising you 25% off all the STUFF you are going to go BUY BUY BUY, mostly out of obligation, to fulfill all the expectations our culture has placed on you. 

Should we really be all that upset that Christ’s name ISN’T being put on that stuff?

We should be picketing outside demanding that it’s NOT, not demanding that it IS. I don’t want these stores cheapening the name of my Savior in the interests of making a quick buck!! Talk about WWJD!?! Christians should have a major problem with having the words “Christ” and “One Day Sale” in the same sentence — not getting their feathers all in a fluff because the Lord’s name ISN’T being taken in vain as a marketing ploy.

I would love to see more Christians do the homework to get into and really understand the Messianic roots of so many of the Jewish feasts and festivals, to find a time and way to celebrate the true birth of Christ in a way which honors God, and denies the “form of this world.” So much of what “Christmas” has become cannot be pleasing to God, even when we toss in a manger scene and a few religious Christmas carols.

We need to return to our Biblical foundations, and honor the birth of our Savior in a way that is honoring to HIM, not profitable for Wal-Mart and Pottery Barn.

Jesus was born in the most humble of circumstances, given gifts by people he had no way of knowing, gifts the significance of which he (at the time) couldn’t have known. These gifts were given because they had a prophetic significance, given to honor him, to proclaim him as the Messiah, and ultimately foretelling his death…not because he was the only left on the Magis’ shopping list. “Frankincense? Myrrh? AND they’re on sale? Woot! Shopping DONE!”

I think we should do everything we can to GET the name of Christ out of modern Christmas, and maybe claim another day as our own. Get it on the calendar as “Birth Of Christ (Observed).” Let them have their X-Mas. Let’s write it off as a lost cause, and get back to worshipping God, not mammon.

UPDATE:

Here’s a very detailed article going into the various dates and histories behind the birth and death of Christ.  Good reading!

How December 25 Became Christmas