Who Has a Target on Their Back

Last week this writer was involved in an accident where suddenly a semi-truck hit the rear end of his car on a highway sending the car spinning out of control.  No other vehicle was hit. A couple days after the accident this writer had a conversation was had with a friend and the thought was expressed that it felt like there was a target on my back.  Now granted the thought was a little dramatic but rooted in having been involved in a prior scary accident about five years earlier. There are also things that have happened in life while engaged in helping others grow and receive freedom.  The thought came to my mind that there is a concerted effort to do me harm.  Now before the reader begins to think this writer is developing paranoia or grandiosity or becoming too concerned with own scope in the grand scheme understand that there is a wider picture here. Sure, this writer may be targeted from harm by spiritual forces. It is a certain possibility. However, it is not isolated to this writer and it is not even isolated to believers in Jesus as Messiah and who surrender to Him as Lord.  The fact is everyone has a target on their backs.  Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Granted, the verse there is directed at believers. But it is just not believers that “the enemy” is seeking to destroy. It is all of humanity.  “The enemy” wants many harmed. In John 10:10 it states “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” which indicates that all of us have a target on our backs.  And in other words, there is really nothing “special” about any of us and what we go through. It is part and parcel of living life and we are all targets for destruction.

Now that being said, yes, there are times when things happen in our lives where things go beyond coincidence.  And certainly engaging in the work of loving others and helping others overcome the pain, destruction, chains, and traps of the battle of life brings on difficulties the evidence an attack. But the attack has nothing to do with that person but more about who we serve, that we are servants of the most high God.  Now, given that the enemy seeks to destroy all God has given us directions.  We are to take every thought captive. He are to put on the “full amour of God.”  We are to be sober minded and alert. We are to be involved in tearing down strongholds by spiritual means.  We are to cast down imaginations. We are to stand firm and endure.   Our job is not to “defeat” an enemy but to bring people into God’s kingdom and save them from destruction.  Bad stuff happens. Periods of time where we catch the attention of the enemy do occur and has an impact, in other words stuff does happen. In all that we are to engage and endure and rescue others.  So, yes I have a target on my back, so do you, and so does everyone else.  Be about the business of loving and caring for others and point them to God’s kingdom.

Musings on Repentance 1: Glen Beck’s Call for Awakening versus Biblical Repentance

Glen Beck has made the news because of a speech he gave on the Washington Mall on 8/28/2010 which was an Anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech.  The speech was part of a rally hosted by Glen Beck that when by the title of Restoring Honor.  The speech made the news because Glen called for the nation to return to God.  The speech garnered varied reactions ranging from unqualified support, skepticism, or criticism. Many Christians were alarmed that such a call came from a person known to be a member of a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) congregation.  Some have spoken with Glen Beck and have come away convinced he understands and embraces the idea of atonement.  Well, given all the reactions this writer decided to listen to the speech and having done so have found it to be quite disturbing.  Yes, Glen Beck calls for an Awakening and a turning to God by acts of faith, hope, and Charity. He spent time pointing at the need for firm reliance on divine providence as written in founding father documents. However, his call for Awakening does not match the Biblical view of awakening or repentance. Let’s examine a bit closer what he stands for as indicated in his speech. You may want to take the time to view the speech for your self before you read the further commentary in this article. The speech can be found at: http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/45013/.

In listening the speech there were four concepts espoused by Glen Beck that do not correspond to Biblical principles or Biblical repentance.  Glen Beck did use some words that have an element of truth, but the truth he spoke simply served as a means of accepting the other content of his message as true.  There are four key message elements of his speech that are in direct contrast to Biblical repentance and awakening. 

The first element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that Glen Beck emphasized the importance of self-determination. He opened the speech with a comment “One man can change the world.” “It is you.”  He made frequent references to Moses and his staff.  He encouraged people over and over to “pick up the stick.” Meaning get involved in the efforts to alter the course of the nation. He used the metaphor even of Egypt and slavery to make his point. However, the slavery he refers to is not being involved in political action and having restrains to self-determination.  True, he does reference seeking God and acting in faith, hope, and charity. Yet, it is all for the building up of self.  He even alluded to his being a broken man and having made changes. Yet, he points to political actions to “set people free.” 

The second element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that while he hearkens to engaging in prayer and engaging in firm reliance on divine providence, he emphasizes the importance of “America.”  He clearly espouses the concept of America as a “special nation.”  He referred to the documents from the founding fathers of the country as being “American Scripture.”  He indicated that if “America” does not change the course it is on, then there will be no one to step in when the “world” is in trouble. In essence, he elevates “America” to a savior of the world status.  This is elevating the country of the United States to an unhealthy level and looking for human element to saving the world.  The perspective of the Christian faith is that nothing will be made right until Jesus returns and everything will continue to get worse.

Another disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech was the frequent references to “looking within.” He made comments such as we need to “strengthen our spirits” and we need to explore “inner space.”  The need for such “inner exploration” is not part and parcel to the Christian concept of awakening and repentance but rather calls to finding what you are sure of and finding some form of spiritual guidance for inner strengthening.  And while it was not directly said, it suggests pointing to some inner element of “the divine.” For Glen Beck made constant references of to humility. He even declared God as King, yet he frequently focused on self effort.  Even his push for “faith, hope, and charity” really seem inclined to being found in looking within in and choices made.  Yes,  Glen Beck did proclaim that we need to look to God and look to love, yet the direction he pointed folks to look was within.

The last disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech  is that  what he pointed to is everyone needs to know what they believe. He indicated that belief is important, he stated truth was important but only as elements of self.  In terms of truth, a person needs to be truthful and have no lies in your life.  He proclaimed  “truth shall set you free” but the determiner of truth is self and what you believe. He emphasized that what was important were the “universal principles” of the varied faiths, not absolute truth.  His embracing nebulous universal truths was highlighted even by his action as he called for a “Black Robe Brigade” of people of varied “faiths” that were standing for advocating political answers with a human moral base centered on universal principles.  This is not by any shape turning to submission to a Holy God and Jesus who is “THE WAY,” rather it is being actively involved and engaged in solutions of this world to change moral behavior and political focus. It is quite different that biblical awakening and repentance.

At the core, Biblical repentance is not turning to self or elevating self with the aim of some political world changing purpose. Biblical repentance is turning away from self-effort and following God’s ways. Yes, that involves loving God and others. Yes, it involves turning to Jesus as King.  But it is something that is not about elevation of self or society but simply doing what is right before God and turning away from that which is self.  The Bible is filled with evidence of what repentance looks like.  The story of the Prodigal son is one example.  It is a coming to an end of self and turning to God.  True repentance will result in a turning to Jesus.  The attitude seen in Biblical repentance is shown in James 4:6-9 (ESV) “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”   There really is stark contrast.  Look at Zacchaeus for a Biblical example of repentance. He was crooked, greedy man. He met Jesus and he changed his life to the point of even returning more than he stole.  He was called and he followed. Biblical repentance involves two actions, a turning from self and turning to God.  It is leaving the old way for a new.

Glen Beck offers ways to arrange the world and life to best accommodate desires. It is holding on own life in a way, it is far different from the self-surrender of scripture.  There is a verse passage in Ephesians that really sums up the difference between what Glen Beck is promoting and the Biblical view.

Ephesians 5:6-17 (ESV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  

 This passage  exposes those  appear  to proclaim a turning to God yet really are elevating self.  The passage also commands to have nothing to do with those who are deceptive.   For there is always really two ways, the way of God and the way of the world.  There is Godly sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation as those who lose their life will gain it. Then there is the way of the world, the works of flesh, the elevation of self that has no life and leads to death and destruction.  One is real, one is but illusion.  Glen Beck’s call is to that of illusion leading to death. There is no life there.

News Commentary: St. Elmo’s Friedrich house doomed to destruction

In Today’s Pioneer Press there is an article about a house that seems doomed to destruction and the dreams of one Linda Hardy. The home is a historic farm home from Lake Elmo.  Linda and her husband David saved the home from destruction in 2006 with a promise of restoring the home.  Then David became sick and died and Linda is left with the home and the dream.  However, she is not able to deliver on the promise.  Restoring the home is beyond both her ability and means.  She would need someone else to intervene and the cost is beyond what she can pay.  She is holding on to the dream and stated, “”If they want to fine me or something, OK. But if I miss a deadline, I am going to lose my house and belongings?” and “I am 62. My husband is dead. I can’t get a job. There will be no comeback for me.”  The fact is her husband died, and what may once have been feasible is not. In order to keep her dream alive she needs the intervention of someone else to do the work and even at a reverse mortgage will have a debt far too large for a 62 year-old woman with limited income to maintain.  In this story, there are lessons for each of us.

Lesson One:  Dealing with the Past. 

            This lesson is about the farmhouse itself. A building holds memories to the town of Lake Elmo. There area has some emotional attachment to the building. Yet, it is just a building that has far outlived its usefulness.  It is admirable that the Hardy family wanted to take on the challenge of restoring the old house.  Turning something old and damage into something new is a challenge that takes a lot of commitment, time, and resources.  Perhaps if David had not gotten sick and lived they would have been able to accomplish it but now the house becomes a burden. It is now about something to which one person is holding. It is one really large burden that has become an object one person is holding onto in her grief.  If the community as a whole truly valued the building as an historic landmark, it would not depend on the limits of one family to restore. The community could work to bring it to restoration. Instead, it is a rather large piece of the past that needs to be let go of. Often in our own lives, we can old onto remnants of the past.  We can even take on the burdens of others, seeking to display some good.  Sometimes though the past is something that needs to be let go of and let be a memory to look back on.  Trying to hold on to something that is best let go will just bring a burden that is unbearable.

Lesson two: Own dreams often pursued at expense of others.

            Too often in this world we focus on self.  We identify a want, a need, a dream and it is our sole focus.  We fail to take into account others.  We hold on to what we value most.  This is seen in this story as well on multiple levels.  We have an individual holding onto a dream and not considering those around her. Her expectation is they should understand and points to her attempts to preserve something that is a reported landmark. The neighbors and Lake Elmo community on the other hand are exhibiting their self-focus as well. Complaints about how one persons dream and project interfere with their own lives, dreams, and desires. We have a widow; holding on to a dream and project beyond her own ability and no one has offered to help. Sure there are contractors who are willing to get paid, if allowed, all ultimately at the exploitation of this widow. Yet, no one has offered to set in to aid the widow. She will lose the dream, lose the house, and lose the little she did hold onto and will be destitute and alone. Not one soul has come to her aide.  ABC Extreme Makeover is not coming to help.  Neighbors are caught in their own world and dreams that the struggle of a widow and her dreams are simply a nuisance. Fact is no one in the community really cares and Linda Hardy is left holding onto something that for her is just simply beyond. Apparently, some people have thought it would helpful to provide items like a shower and just dump it their, basically getting rid of their own baggage and turning it over to someone already over-burdened.

Lesson Three: The cost of being saved from destruction is beyond own abilities.

            This story really points to me that saving anything from destruction comes at a great price. Here a home is in need of restoration and salvage.  However, it is beyond the scope and ability of one person to do it.  Linda Hardy can put in all she has and more and still she will fall short.  There is a need for someone to step in and do what is beyond her help.  Now perhaps it can be saved at a dept that Linda Hardy cannot repay.  It is rather a hopeless situation. The picture though is one that rings true for each of us.  Each of us ultimately are like the farmhouse.  We are in great disrepair due to our own sinfulness.  The best work we put into restoring self will fall short.  Any attempt to restore self by works is akin to Linda painting the house “as far as she can reach.”  Trouble is our reach will always come up short.  For each of us there is needed intervention for the cost of restoration and transformation is beyond our own limits. 

We need the help of others, but ultimately the damage done by self is so great that even those we know trying to help can only touch the surface.  For true change and true restoration their needs to be an ABC Extreme Makeover type event, only one far more lasting.  Extreme Makeover comes in, guts a home, and rebuilds a bigger and better home. Yet, the families are left to deal with cost, have greater expense, and can still lose their home.  The Extreme Makeover needed is far more intensive and far more reaching.
We all need a Savior, a redeemer. Someone that can change us wholly and take on all the debt associated with change.  There is an answer for each person, and the answer is Jesus. He paid the price and He alone can restore us and save us from destruction.  He alone can pay the debt we cannot pay.  He has paid the price, all each person needs to do is accept the price and remain in the submitted relationship.  The choice is up to each person but too many will try to take on the impossible task and depend on own efforts with like the house, ultimate destruction being the final destination.

Addict lost in addiction and the pathway to death. (1-12-10 Update on Jeff Dubay)

Well the tragic story of Jeff Dubay continues to unfold.  The Star Tribune provided a new update as to his progress and it is not encouraging. Apparently he had been released from the workhouse to do sentence to serve work, and ended up at inpatient residential treatment at the Prodigal House treatment center.   According to the article, the facility gave Jeff  a view ‘second chances’ but he failed to engage and take part in the treatment program. The article reports that he  was just going through the motions and making no real effort to change.

The story really highlights the difficulty at reaching a point of recognition and motivation to change.  The addictions and desire for them are stronger than a  will to live.  Jeff was unable to reach the point of having a will to change.  He is a slave to his addictions.  Of course, it is easy to look down on Jeff Dubay or other addicts.   Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab shows other people in similar states with varying levels of treatment engagement.  All equally lost.   Yet, Jeff Dubay and the varied celebrities are no different from the condition of us all.  It is easy to look down on these folks and the paths of death and destruction they are walking.   However, anyone walking  a path of self is on a path of destruction. Some are not as obvious but it is all to real.  The level of denial that exists is   the same as it is with these lost souls. 

There is only really one path that is not a path of destruction, and that is the pathway of Jesus.  It is surrender of self to Him which results in reaching a state of true peace and wholeness.  Now, such surrender does not involve instant change.  There is a process of cleansing and changing.  No one has to have things right to surrender.  It does involve surrender of self.  It is not something that is of lip service and words easily said.  Rather, it is a complete turning of the will.  As Bob Dylan once penned, We all gotta serve somebody.  The choice is who, masters that lead to destruction or one that brings life, wholeness, and true peace?  Jeff Dubay and various other celebrity drug addicts have sad stories.  They once had achieved something but are destroying themselves for the false peace of one for of temporary stimulation or another.  Their pathway to death is obvious. Their prison is readily apparent.  Yet, take a look at your own life, ask  for open eyes to see where the path you are treading leads.  There are only two  options.  Pathways leading to death and destruction, and the pathway of life.   

 As for Jeff Dubay, the man needs prayer that he  can   have his eyes opened to what he is doing to himself and the cost.  Pray that His eyes and ears become opened to spiritual truth and he sees  his need for a Savior and the true peace found in Jesus.  Yet, whether he does or not, his ability to change only comes at a point of brokenness and recognition of need for change.  It is the same for each of us.  Until we reach that point, the steps on the pathway of death but continue.  The pathway to death is always easy to take, it takes recognition and work to move off that path.

Musings on the Life and Death of Michael Jackson

A picture from Thriller:  One man and his demons.

A picture from Thriller: One man and his demons.

Yesterday was a sad day for most Americans.  It was the day that pop icon Michael Jackson’s life came to an abrupt end.  As he was preparing for a comeback tour that hope to revive his fallen career and bring in money to attend to heavy debt load, his heart gave out.  Rumors abound about the potential of abuse of medication.  The end of this man’s life is tragic. 

In actuality the end of Michael Jackson’s life is actually no less tragic then the entire some of his life.  Yes, the man reached the acme of entertainment success. No one was more known around the global the Michael Jackson.  His music and dance touched billions.  Yet, the man was lost and haunted by inner demons.    There are lyrics in the song “Thriller” they really appear to be prophetic:

Night creatures calling, the dead start to walk in their masquerade
There’s no escaping the jaws of the alien this time
(They’re open wide)
This is the end of your life

They’re out to get you, there’s demons closing in on every side
They will possess you unless you change that number on your dial

This man impacted generations of baby boomers, generation x’ers and those younger who grew up  with Michael Jackson.  His lyrics often spoke of the cries for love and intimacy.  There are themes of having to defend self from attacks of others.  There are themes of betrayal.  His words and music fit the ethos of the culture and was latched on world over.   He was a man on stage all his life. He was always in the limelight. 

Rumors suggest that he was manipulated and abused as a child.  He was shaped to be an entertainer, and he performed that role majestically. His fall from grace was tragic.  He seems to have been a boy who never grew up. He was alleged to engage in multiple improprieties with assorted children, but the sense really seemed that Michael just never really understood fully how to relate to others.  He really probably never go the chance. Rather he was locked in his mind with his pain and self-distortions.  Clearly he was never happy with himself as  his continual altering of his body demonstrated.  He was clearly a man lost, broken, and desperate.   If his life ended through the abuse or poorly managed use of medication it is tragic and yet appropriate. For in this culture, we turn to whatever medication we can find to get through the pains of life.  Michael Jackson follows a long line of tragic deaths of celebrity who potentially have their lives cut short by turning to pain pills.  Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole Smith are just some of the many.   The thing is that fame and fortune do nothing to sooth the inner wounds.  They all did well in reaching the pinnacle of fame yet found it fleeting and empty, with their wounds ever festering. 

Michael Jackson was ever aware of his inner torment. He even wrote of his need for forgiveness and redemtion.  The lyrics to 2Bad really gives a taste of the inner struggle.

Last night, an angel came to me
I was cryin’ alone
My heart was bleeding
Last night, an angel came to me
I was cryin’ alone
My mind was dying
God have mercy
Stop them destroying me
An angel came to me
To save my life
Listen to his voice
Please hear his soul
This angel came to me
To save me
Last night, an angel came to me
I was doing wrong (x2)
Last night, an angel came to me
I was sleepin’ wrong (x2)
God have mercy
Stop them destroying me
An angel came to me
To forgive me
Listen to his prayers
Please feel his love
This angel came to me
God saved me
An angel came to me
To fulfill his prophecy
He listened to my prayers
Please feel my love
This angel came to me
I recognized him

Yet, those lyrics show that he really missed what would bring true healing and repentance.  An angel is not the answer.  It is easy for folks to think of angels as a redemptive source that can help us lead our lives better, to better build our kingdoms. Yet, no angel can save.  Redemption by an angel or a relationship is shallow and do not heal inner wounds.

The truth is their is only one true source of redemption and healing.  The healing is not one that helps us build and thrive in our kingdoms, rather it is surrendering to another.  It is turning the wounds, the pain, the burdens over to Jesus with no expectation of relief.  It is recognition that we cannot run our own life, that we are selfish and need redemption.  Michael Jackson’s lyrics suggest a recognition of the need for redemption and forgiveness but he sadly never found it.  Never has there been any report that the man turned to Jesus. Not through all the pain, the disgrace, the struggles did Jesus get mentioned once.  Rather he turned to whatever else he could find, and as is always the case, he did not get redemption.  He died a tragic death and the greater tradgedy is that he died without knowing the true source of healing and redemption. 

We can try and gain the world, like Michael Jackson did, but it comes at a great fall. The world is fickle. It builds folks up only to tear them down.  Michael Jackson was going to try and recapture the world, restore him self to his former glory.  Perhaps his performances would have thrilled the world once again, but ultimately Michael could not recapture what was lost and it killed him. 

I ask the reader to consider your life, your pains, your hopes, and your inner demons. There is only one answer for redemption. There is only one hope.  It is not angels. It is not relationships. It is not fame.  It is not money. It is not sex.  It is not anything in this world.  It is Jesus.  There is no other answer. The answer is not about relief of pain, but about turning from self and submitting to Jesus.  It is about Jesus having paid the price for all that is evil and dark and selfish.  Make a choice today, while it is not too late.  You do not have to let the demons and aliens destroy you, as they did Michael.  Rather, true life and peace is found in surrender to Jesus!

 

Gods love and peace is only found at the cross. Surrender to Jesus dispels all darkness and demons!

God's love and peace is only found at the cross. Surrender to Jesus dispels all darkness and demons!

Stories of death compared to the true path of life

We live in tough times. Economic forces ebb and flow. People are losing jobs left and right. Awareness that while the economy has suffered significant setbacks, more difficulty can come soon. Basically where we are at is that the kingdoms people have built around themselves are being shaken. When things are shaken and darkness and corruption brought to light and the weak foundations that personal kingdoms are built on, some people get to a state of complete hopelessness. We may reach a point of complete personal hopelessness that people seriously consider desperate actions such as suicide. In the past month there have been three stories of people choosing the darkness of suicide at the collapse of their personal kingdoms.

Once such story is Adolph Merckle, a German billionaire who ultimately committed suicide after the economic hardships placed stress on his finances couple with a failed attempt to take over Volkswagen. He had dreams, goals and ambitions but yet they came to failure as took an unwise course of expanding his kingdom and met total failure. His personal kingdom collapsed and all that he put his faith in crumble, he chose to end his life in the face of that collapse. He couldn’t bear to lose the fortune or live with the stigma of dealing with a great fall.

Another story is that of Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuche, who invested heavily with Bernie Madoff. Not only did he invest in Bernie Madoff’s scheme, but he also used his connections with European aristocracy to get others to invest heavily as well. When Bernie Madoff admitted to having no money and his Ponzi scheme collapsed it caused a collapse of Monsignor’s kingdom of finances and reputation. Monsignor Villehuche built his personal kingdom on lies, and spread those lies to others. He ultimately reached the point where he couldn’t cope with being deceived and deceiving and took his own life.

The third story is far more tragic. It is the story of Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, also known as the Santa Killer. He is a man who defined his own kingdom by his family and the woman he married. He was unable to handle the divorce as the women he loved rejected him and his personal kingdom collapsed. He became angry and killed several people and is reported even to have intended to kill his own mother, and ultimately lost his life in the process.

These three stories are tragic and point to how easy our own personal kingdoms can come to a sudden end. If we place our hope on what we accomplish, our reputation, or our relationships they all are fragile, and easily destroyed. And there are spiritual forces out there working to bring each of us to a point of hopeless despair that only leads to death and destruction. They expanded or held on to what they thought was theirs and the forces of evil used it to draw them into death of self or others. As the bible states in Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)   12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Suicide or murders are only one form of destruction that can occur. Ultimately all forms of building our own kingdoms will result in destruction. Unfortunately, many are headed toward destruction and pay no mind; they are wrapped up in their personal goals and agendas seeking after the things that are desirous, many believing lies and extolling them. We each can be no different than these three men.

There is another path; it is a path of moving beyond self. It is a path of loving others and giving. It is a path that is only found in Jesus. Others will be touting self-sacrifice and sharing and giving to others, being tolerant of their choices that lead to destruction, but it is all empty outside of Jesus. The reason being is there is no righteousness, no goodness, no real reaching out to others outside of surrender to Jesus as Messiah. We are all selfish and the only way to get past the selfishness is through turning our own kingdoms over to Jesus and submitting to Him. There are two choices, the path of destruction, which is very attractive, or the path of life, which does not offer immediate gratification of self or an easy path, but is the only way to true hope and peace.