Open War

After Gandalf awakens Theoden from his magic-induced sleep state, Theoden makes the choice to lead his people to Helm’s Deep. The stronghold of Rohan as described by Tolkein in the Lord of the Rings. He does this rather than face open war, but as Gandalf reasons, war is upon him in any case.

We live our lives as Christians often in the same frame of mind as Theoden King. Either we are blinded by the lies of our own wormtongue or once our eyes are open we choose not to face the battle before us.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, a War of immense magnitude is already upon us. From the moment we hand our lives back to Christ we are involved in an epic battle for that very Life that God Himself went through death to win for us.

If the Glory of God truly is Man fully Alive as St. Irenaeus said, then to be fully alive we must experience a birth into that life. As Christians, this is usually referred to as a “conversion” experience, but then what follows is an almighty battle that lasts from that moment to our going to be with Christ after we leave this World behind.

We live in a state of War. The sooner we realise it, the better equipped we will be to fight and receive the Victory Jesus won for us. He gave us all the weapons we need to undo the works of evil in this world. Weapons for destroying strongholds of the mind, sickness, poverty are all at our command, simply at the name of Jesus. We are able in His Power to literally drive out demonic influence exactly the way He did and release others held in the captivity of the World and it’s systems.

But War involves casualties. Something we are apt to forgetting. It’s uncomfortable, and painful to watch people we’ve grown with in the Faith falter. It’s more uncomfortable to realise “I faltered” as we walk. We tend to be given over to pointing out other’s faults than acknowledging our own. That is a major battle in itself, and one the Enemy wages daily within us.

I fell away from God for several years when I left home. I moved in with the girl I was seeing, and we shared that arrangement for some time. When the relationship ended I moved back to God, drawn back by memories of teachings and cassette tapes of sermons I had heard years before. It was with much struggle I acknowledged my error and accepted His leadership in my heart. It was arrogance on my part that let me fall into a battlefield I would have lost if I had not been able to admit I was failing in my own strength.

Warfare is not a comfortable topic, and it may be a harsh reality for us to live in. We are the embodiment of Christ in the World, but living out that life to the full is a battle we will have to continue to fight on a daily basis, minute by minute for our entire life.

No, I'm not Religious…

I’ve been musing on the thought of religion recently.

It began a couple of weeks ago when a psychiatrist asked my wife and me if we were “religious” people. She was trying to categorise us into her scintific classification I think. Rene’s answer was a simple yes to start with, but then the further questions came: which church are you in now, which church did you grow up in, what’s your background?

Eventually she tried to explain that Christianity is about relationship not religious dogma.

The doctor’s head spun round and exploded. She tried to classify the entirety of Christianity into her defined box, and it defies classification.

That’s not to say there’s no firm rules in Christianity. We are governed by an ordered God who has set out the Law of Faith, which hold all things together. That Law is immutable. We’re not going to get into His presence and be shown the original, then the first amedment, second amendment (the right to prayer arms) and so on. God’s Law is fixed, but it’s not religious. It has power, but where religion binds, God’s Law frees.

So no, I’m not religious.

I despise the term. As soon as I say I’m a Christian to someone they get this look that says “ok, got you pegged now”.

Then they come over for coffee. And I give them my mug for religious people.

My dad and I got these mugs about 20 years ago in a novelty shop in the Gower just outside Swansea. They are inscribed “JESUS SAVES (with the Bethlehem Bank)”

I love watching the reaction when I use them. The confusion and bewilderment is great. It shatters any pre-conceived concept of a “religious” box for me to fit in, and it usually opens the door to talk very freely about the relationship that is Christianity.

Now I do have to be mindful of Paul’s advice to not cause another to stumble by our actions. With that in mind, there are a few people I tend to put the mug WAY out of sight because of where they are. But I also have a mug I was given with the word “Aries” and my birthday on it that I hide away from them as well. It’s not that I place any power over my life by these things, but they may cause others to trip.

I don’t eat halal meat, not because of any religious reason, but because I generally like my steak rare and a little bloody – halal always tastes a bit dry to me, but I use the halal lamb chops to make a stew if they look better than the regular. I’ll buy a kosher chicken if it looks like a nicer bird than the others. Like I said, not religious. Like Jesus said, “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” (Matthew 15:17-18)

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45). Jesus sums it up here. He never said a religious word whilst He lived in Israel. His words were filled with Love and Power, not religion and dogma. He liberated, not imprisoned. He shattered the burdens of the people and replaced their yoke with His.

So I don’t want a religion. I’m not religious.

I follow Jesus.  

Choices

We all have choices to make in this world. I’m not referring to a dinner menu, but real decisions as to where we will draw the line, where we will make our stand.

The World will minimise our decisions. Satan numbs us to the passage of time in our youth. We are given arrogance and a sense of immortality which belies the fragile nature of our existence. We are only guaranteed this heartbeat.

I’ll repeat that. This heartbeat.

Just for a moment, consider what you’ll regret if you die right now. Who have you not told you love them? What truly important work did you not finish? What decisions about your afterlife have been ignored?

What if this world isn’t everything, and like Jesus said there’s another coming? What if He was right and you’re wrong?

Now I’m not an evangelist. Reading these blog posts should make that clear to anyone who hasn’t met me. It’s not my primary calling. But I do get moved on occasion to speak about Christ as if someone hasn’t met Him. For some reason, perhaps the person reading this post right now, today is one of those days.

I love CS Lewis’s books. He has a way in his work of succinctly putting across an argument with grace and clarity. I often come back to Mere Christianity, and his brilliant summing up of Jesus: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

We have only three options about Jesus. That’s it. Either madman, devil or God. But Satan will try to put off our choice of which. He sends smokescreens to blind us to the Truth and to either persuade us of Christ’s insanity, seek to convince us He never existed or sow doubt and fear to illicit mistrust in God.

A lot of the time, fear is enough. We are afraid of death so we don’t think about it, talk about it or consider what’s beyond it. We blunder through life, stumbling from one sign pointing us to Christ to another and disregarding them all. Like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty we miss even the most obvious signs placed right in our path. (Of course we don’t then get to trade places later)

Christianity is not an easy walk. It takes guts to walk against the stream of sewage this World pours at us on a daily basis.

We revel in building up an idol just so we can watch it destroy itself. We hold people accountable for things they say and do, but never point that same finger at us. The rich and famous are easy targets. They even point at one another, missing the point that theirs could be the wrong opinion.

I’m considering closing my twitter account, or at least radically cutting out the number of people I follow because I follow certain people just to watch them fall myself. I laughed at Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown, – and followed it on Twitter. I actually started following one or two people because of their ongoing meltdowns.

It seems that people fascinate us. They fascinate me. What someone says or does comes back to haunt them years later and out of context. Everything is held up for scrutiny, and when we say or do something out of line with the mainstream of public thought we are lambasted and ridiculed.

It takes guts to choose Christ. Every step of a Christian life opposes the World. Every word we speak against the World opens us up to ridicule. I respect the stand of people like Cliff Richard who achieve fame on the World’s terms, accept Christ and then refuse to buckle under the pressure of walking His path in the face of the World.

It’s a choice to follow Christ. The decision is one we all have to make eventually. God will defend the choice we make – even if it sends us to Hell.

He’d rather we choose Him.