By Caleb Parke
WHY SOME DRAG THEIR FEET TO PARADISE
by Greg Morse Staff writer, desiringGod.org
“Never be ashamed of letting men see you want to go to heaven,” J.C. Ryle once said to those tempted to creep from bush to bush along the narrow path. He did not address those who were facing persecution — whose slight showing of the uniform would get them and their loved ones shot at. He addressed young men who were tempted to sneak quietly from this world into heaven for fear of the scorn shouted from those on the broad path. He addressed the Nicodemuses among us, and in us, who would seek to visit the Lord under cover of night.
This tiptoe Christianity does all to not disturb a sleeping world. It may appear valorous at times, but only on topics that it is fashionable to be valorous about. With causes out of cultural fashion, it dresses in civilian clothes. Very different from our forefathers who “turned the world upside down,” these tiptoe Christians do not desire to make it clear that they are seeking a homeland — no need to cause a fuss. The modern words employed are “tolerant” and “inclusive.” The old word was cowardice. We have need for Ryle’s admonition.
Joy Set Before Him?
While we are all tempted to hide our true aim in life, at different times and in different ways, we now are tempted to hide our desire to go to heaven by denying we even consider heaven at all. We seek to be servants of men without any regard to heavenly compensation, and call it virtue. We read texts like Matthew 6:1 with a dyslexic trouble with the sequence of words, “Practice your righteousness before men, and expect no heavenly rewards from your Father.” Trailing in the wake of Immanuel Kant, we try to make self-denial, stripped of self-interest, an end in itself. Heaven, the supreme place self ought to be interested in, is rarely glanced at.
“Tiptoe Christianity does all to not disturb a sleeping world.”
So, some venture on as ships sailing to nowhere, soldiers fighting for nothing, runners pursuing no trophy, farmers plowing but expecting no crop. The old self-denial of lesser pleasures for supreme ones has been replaced with just the denial of pleasure for its own sake. The sweat, blood, and toil is its own reward. We think ourselves the more virtuous for enduring the company of so-and-so with a smile, without ever considering how “love . . . for all the saints” could be “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4–5).
A film I saw some years ago serves as a good illustration. The premise showed a man who spent the entire story in search of seven people he could drastically help by donating body parts to them — when he eventually committed suicide on their behalf. The heart went to one. The liver to another. The lungs and bone marrow to still others, and so on. Perhaps partially motivated by guilt from a car crash, one motivation remained clear: self-sacrifice for the good of others without reference to self. He entered death for them — without any joy set before him to defile the benevolence. This man, unlike our Savior who had two eyes beyond the cross to the reward (Hebrews 12:2), serves as a modern ideal.
Far Too Easily Pleased
In his paramount sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis addressed the same ideology in his day:
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
The righteous seek heaven unashamedly. They do so before their religious neighbors who might consider the idea mercenary. And the holy man seeks eternal life with a passion not to be derailed by cheap thrills of his unreligious neighbor. He does not have the half-hearted, whimsical pursuit of happiness that contents itself with appeasing appetites no higher than a gerbil’s. He is a man, not a pet. He will not be distracted from heaven by the mere scratch of his lust’s belly. His desires have broad shoulders. And his master offers to place a weight of glory upon them — “Well done, good and faithful servant” — and he is fueled by Christ’s promises.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
“It is the great error of mankind to pretend to be more holy than God.”
What has a child of God to fool around with drink? “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). Why ambitiously build mud pies in Babel’s image when we have this promise: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21)? Why be detoured by Delilah’s wiles when the New Jerusalem awaits?
He Offers Us Heaven
Jesus does not give as the world does. To incentivize our fealty, he does not merely offer greater earthly joy; he offers us his own joy. We do not just need an alien righteousness; we were made for alien joy — a joy that when received will make our joy full (John 15:11). The righteous will not deny their conscious belief in God’s unblushing rewards, nor can they:
Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Like Daniel, Christians conduct their pursuit of heaven with the curtains drawn, accepting the king’s wrath, because we know that a lion’s den is “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). We will endure the cost of suffering because we are “sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). Our Lord finds our desires for happiness not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with a passing world, when heaven is offered to us.
Not Ashamed to Seek Him
It is the great error of mankind to pretend to be more holy than God. Living life from sheer duty, gritting one’s teeth on the way to glory, is not Christian. We lose our lives, not as martyrs for the mere benefit of others. We lose our lives to gain them.
We can lambaste “the prosperity gospel” so much that we forget that our gospel very much has to do with prosperity. God’s Book woos us with talk of fullness of joy, eternal life, crowns, thrones, crystal rivers, unfading inheritance, white robes, laughter, mountains, songs, angels, feasting, fellowship, eternal light, the undoing of all wrong, the ensuring of all right, and, of course, of God himself resplendent in all his glory. We do not close our eyes to this in the name of duty. Rather, we listen to the music playing through the cracked door, and take hold of it with holy aggression, letting all know that we wish — more than anything — to be with our King forever.
You may be thinking I’m not seeing God providing for me, but I want to show you how to experience God’s provisions for your life.
by Pastor Ray Patrick
Jehovah Jireh means “God will provide.” Hallelujah! When the children of Israel were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, God provided them with manna to eat. That was good. It sustained them for a while, but it wasn’t a permanent solution. Eventually, the manna stopped coming. The people had to move forward, and then God allowed them to have quail. They were so excited. That fed them for a while, but it was also temporary.
God gave the Israelites temporary provision on the way to the Promised Land where they would have permanent provision. The fact that God had something much greater in store for their future is what kept them moving forward. God could have sustained them with manna or quail, but God is a God of increase, a God of better and best. He works in seasons, and He always has something better in store for us.
Today, don’t get stuck in a rut and think that your current situation is going to last forever. Instead, stay open and be willing to change and adjust, and make corrections, or try something new as God provides for you. If the “manna” stops coming, like it did for the children of Israel, don’t get upset or disheartened. Remember, God is Jehovah Jireh, He will provide. Just keep moving forward and trusting. Be on the lookout for the new provision God has in store for you!
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:19, NKJV)
Pray With Me
Yahweh, You alone are the just and faithful God! Father, thank You for always providing for me. Thank You for leading and guiding me. God, I trust that You have better and greater things in store for my future. I will choose to keep my eyes on You, in Jesus’ Name! Amen.
10-07-2019 Lorie Johnson
Tens of thousands of people live on the streets of our most beloved cities. It’s unsanitary and unsafe. One psychiatrist who closely examined Skid Row, the notorious section of Los Angeles that has widely become known the worst and most profound depiction of America’s homeless crisis, says many people who wound up there as well as in nearby hospitals and jails are mentally ill and simply had nowhere else to go.
Dr. Rosenberg told CBN News today’s homeless crisis can possibly be traced back to the last bill signed by President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, the Community Mental Health Act closed America’s insane asylums. While this law meant to end the often barbaric treatment of the mentally ill, to include Kennedy’s own sister Rosemary, who suffered a lobotomy at the age of 23, leaving her unable to speak the rest of her life, the move also led to unintended consequences.
“Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I think that’s a great example, the deinstitutionalization,” he said, adding, “The result was, he created Community Mental Health Centers, but those Community Mental Health Centers were not prepared for the sickest people from the asylums. What’s more, President Reagan in the 1980s canceled the funding, the federal funding, for those. President Reagan said, ‘Let’s give this problem back to the state and have the state asylums take care of it.’ Well, the states, they didn’t want it back.”
In short, after the asylums closed, most people who suffer from a serious mental illness, the kind of issue that formerly led to institutionalization in asylums, were never given a viable alternative.
Dr. Rosenberg says while people with serious mental illness were mistreated in the asylums since they closed, people with SMIs today are too often under-treated or not treated at all and end up living on the streets or made “mental illness a crime.”
“We’ve put them in jails and in cages and the streets, Skid Row and all kinds of dreadful places,” he said, “And we’ve relegated them to backward and delegated their care to jails. That’s just a sin if you ask me, and that’s something we really have to correct.”
The Sickest of the Sick
An estimated one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness, such as depression. While these conditions are troubling and warrant attention, health experts say one in 25 Americans have what’s known as Serious Mental Illnesses, or SMI, that renders them utterly dysfunctional. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal depression or severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dr. Rosenberg says an estimated 11 million Americans have a Serious Mental Illness and too many of them end up either homeless or behind bars, often passing through overcrowded hospitals.
“Los Angeles is the epicenter of this crisis. The largest mental institution in this country is the L.A. County Jail,” he said, “The largest collection of people outside is Skid Row. Skid Row is kind of like a day hospital, if you will, for people with Serious Mental Illness.”
Add to this equation, an estimated eight out of ten people living on the streets struggle with addiction. For the mentally ill, that’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.
“We know there are factors that can bring mental illness out of the woodwork, open a window if you will, on serious mental illness that would otherwise be closed,” he said, “What are those factors? Poverty, trauma, going to jail, unfortunately, most of the mentally ill end in jail nowadays, and above all else, substance abuse,” adding, “they self-medicate with drugs to feel better. They use drugs to get away from themselves. They fall into a terrible lifestyle.”
‘They Don’t Know What They’re Doing’
Dr. Rosenberg says there’s a saying within the mental health profession: “Jail is the bed that never says no.”
That means people with mental illnesses that society doesn’t know what to do with, take them to the nearest and easiest place.
“People with mental illness get picked up for petty crimes. They commit minor infractions. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’ll shoplift. They’ll steal but easily get caught. They’ll do some drugs either through self-medication or homelessness and they end up in jail.”
Dr. Rosenberg says police officers on the beat told him dealing with untreated mentally ill people occupies a good deal of their time.
“The sheriffs and the police aren’t trained to be social workers. They didn’t go into law enforcement to take care of people with mental illness,” he said.
For the mentally ill, a short stint in jail for a minor crime can easily escalate to serving hard time.
“They don’t show up for their court appearance. They don’t show up for their probation hearings. Before you know it, they have one, two, three strikes against them and they end up in prison.”
Although this perfect storm may seem hopeless, Dr. Rosenberg offers concrete solutions, starting with community treatment centers.
“These are terrible diseases, but people can get better,” he said, “They may not be curable, but they are very treatable.”
He also advocates expanding the number of mental health courts. “We can mandate treatment for people who are too sick to know that they need it.”
Dr. Rosenberg says the public should demand better drugs to treat mental illness, ones that are more effective and carry fewer side effects than the ones associated with today’s medications such as weight gain, lethargy, sexual problems. Half of the patients with SMIs stop taking their medication during the course of their treatment.
“The medicines we’re using today for serious mental illness today are 70 years old,” he said, “I think that’s absolutely terrible. God forbid you have breast cancer, God forbid you have colon cancer. You’re going to get a treatment that’s two or three years old. Not one that’s 70 years old.”
What You Can Do
An estimated one in five American families has someone suffering from a Serious Mental Illness. Just as certain lifestyle factors described above can intensify mental illness, others can mitigate the symptoms.
“What makes serious mental illness better?” Dr. Rosenberg explained, “Certainly decreasing stress makes mental illness better. First of all, a healthy lifestyle like good eating, going to bed at the right time, staying away from drugs,” he continued, “Also, having good spiritual practices, being engaged with your community, having good relationships, optimism, having people around you who support you. These things will help a serious mental illness. They may not cure it, but they’ll help significantly.”
Doctors say psychotic illness typically comes on between ages 17 and 21 and the longer the brain goes untreated the worse it becomes. So early intervention is key. Red flags include being disconnected from reality, exhibiting extremely abnormal behavior and hearing voices, particularly from animals or objects.
“There are leaders in your community, in your church in your synagogue who can help you think this through. The clergy are very proficient in understanding how to deal with this and how to send you to the proper health care providers, people who will be consistent with your own spiritual practices.”
Dr. Rosenberg also recommends contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness through its website or by calling (800) 950-6264.
As past president of an area NAMI affiliate I would also recommend the following organizations in addition to NAMI.
While president and after being a local NAMI president I worked with and highly recommend the Advocates Jail Diversion Program
One of the objections modern Western people have to Christianity and the Bible, is that its teachings seem to be regressive. In the past 100 years we’ve made a lot of progress in freeing people from oppressive views on women, racism and sexuality, but Christianity and the Bible are often seen to be in the way of our march towards progress, especially if you read Stephen Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now.
The problem with this view is that it has to re-write history in order to sustain it. The Enlightenment and the scientific revolution came on the heels of the Protestant Reformation, one of the most significant revolutions of thought in European history. No qualified historian chalks that up to coincidence, but atheists like Stephen Pinker have to, in order to force a false dichotomy between Christianity and the progress of humanitarian values.
Far from standing in the way of the emancipation of women, Biblical Christianity was one of the major forces behind it. While some have claimed that the patriarchal narratives in Genesis are oppressive and condone polygamy, biblical scholar Robert Alter points out that the force of the narratives is actually to undermine oppressive views like polygamy: all of the characters in the narrative are having a terrible time precisely because they have more than one wife. (Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary, xlvi)
Some have also claimed that Paul was a misogynist, but this doesn’t fit the evidence. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins an argument by stating the common view of the time: “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:4a). But then, Paul uses that view to suggest something radical and unheard of in that time and culture: “In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4b). In all extant historical records, this was radically unique. (Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 281)
On the issue of racism, biblical Christianity has been the single most powerful force for racial equality. The idea that all people are created equal was first introduced into human history on page one of the Bible (Genesis 1:27). The Bible’s vision for heaven is a picture of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). And the gospel itself, that we’re saved by the sheer grace of God, uniquely levels the playing field between racial groups more than any other worldview. As secular philosopher Luc Ferry points out:
By resting its case upon a definition of the human person and an unprecedented idea of love, Christianity was to have an incalculable effect upon the history of ideas. To give one example, it is quite clear that, in this Christian re-evaluation of the human person, of the individual as such, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself. It is essential therefore that we have a more or less accurate idea of the chain of reasoning which led Christianity to break so radically with the Stoic past. (Luc Ferry, Learning to Live: A User’s Manual, 60)
The strongest argument for the view that the Bible is regressive, is on the issue of human sexuality. However, this requires that ‘progressive’ be defined as maximising all expressions of sexuality, while ‘regressive’ is defined as encouraging sexual restraint. On these definitions, Christianity and the Bible are certainly not ‘progressive’, but this ‘progressive’ view on sexuality is harmful for men, for women, and for children.
For men, a polyamorous (sexually progressive) culture leads to a small percentage of men having lots of sexual partners, and ironically, becoming depressed; and a large percentage of men staying single and becoming lonely. Unfortunately, this loneliness often leads to resentment and then to violence. By contrast, ‘enforced monogamy’, meaning socially encouraged monogamy, leads to more couples, more families, and more civilised men.
A polyamorous culture is also bad for women, because it encourages sex without love, commitment, romance or relationship. While men tend to be more interested in sex without any strings attached than women, women tend to be more interested in romance and relationships than men, and this is precisely what is eroded by a polyamorous culture.
Most obviously, polyamorous cultures harm children, because the sexual promiscuity that they encourage increases the numbers of children who are raised without both of their biological parents. Having both biological parents isn’t everything (having loving parents is more important), but by all agreed upon metrics, children who are raised by both of their biological parents have a better chance of good life outcomes.
The Bible encourages husbands to lay down their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28), to see all races and ethnicities as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and to promote a view of sex that doesn’t lead to loneliness – viewing sex as self-donation, not merely for one’s gratification. For some, this is regressive, and its secular opposite is progressive. But by what standard do we measure what’s progressive and what’s regressive?
While a number of people in the West find what the Bible says about sexuality repulsive, they’re often attracted to what it says about grace and forgiveness. However, when you take the Bible to the Middle East, people there are attracted to what the Bible says about sexuality (if anything it’s not strong enough), but they’re repulsed by what it says about grace and forgiveness. If the Bible really was the word of God, then you would expect it to challenge all cultures (including ours), challenging different cultures at different points.
Moreover, if you have a Bible from which you can pick and choose which parts are progressive and which parts are regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of a real relationship with God. In The Stepford Wives the men of Stepford put computer chips in the wives’ heads so that they only ever agree with them, at which point they no longer have a wife with whom they have a relationship, but a robot that they can programme however they like.
Similarly, if you have a Bible from which you can decide that certain parts regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of relationship with God. You merely have a Stepford god (or a Mr. Potato Head god) who only ever affirms you and/or your culture. As Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
UPDATE: Look at the Book is now live.
God has given us powerful means of knowing him and understanding his will for our life and this world. He’s given us a Book — pages and pages of truth, love, wisdom, and grace — pages of him.
Some of the most precious pieces of this Bible are the promises God makes to those who love and believe in him. These promises — awesome, undeserved, and unfailing — are one way God equips us to overcome the sinful desires we face every day. They’re weapons for the battle for faith, love, and purity. 2 Peter 1:3–4 explains what that war feels like for the follower of Jesus.
In this new Look at the Book video, John Piper models a method for studying verses like 2 Peter 1:3–4. He explains that with any passage in the Bible, we should be breaking down the paragraph into lines and studying how those lines relate to one another, paying special attention to the easily overlooked connecting words between lines.
More from John Piper about Look at the Book:
One of the pervasive reasons for why Christianity is rejected by modern western people is that it’s thought to be irrational, or at least not as rational as atheism. Indeed, faith is general is often thought to be an irrational leap in the dark, while atheism is understood to be both empirical (following the evidence) and rational (logically coherent).
Certainly, blind faith (faith without evidence) is an irrational leap in the dark, but Christian faith has always been evidence based, at least, according to its authoritative Scriptures (the Bible). Jesus himself said: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)
Moreover, the New Testament letter of 1 John begins with the words: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1) Unlike the claims of other religions, the events of the New Testament were not done in a corner (Acts 26:26) but publicly, leaving a trail of historical evidence in their wake.
On the question of rational coherence, Christian theism delivers in spades, wielding a rich philosophical tradition, which laid the very the foundation of Western thought. While some faiths could certainly be thought of as irrational, Christian theology is anything but; and its influence on modern Western culture (which prizes rational coherence) testifies to its rationality.
When atheists describe faith as irrational, they usually mean something like, not scientific or empirical. But for the claim of ‘not scientific’ to stick, one has to confuse the regularity of nature (methodological naturalism) with the claims of materialism (philosophical naturalism). All that one needs for science is the assumption of the regularity of nature (that experiments can be replicated), which historically, came out of Christian theology (that God is the God of order, not disorder).
For the claim that Christianity is ‘not empirical’ or ‘without evidence’, one has to change the definition of evidence to be evidence that supports philosophical naturalism. Otherwise, the scientific evidence for the origin of the universe, the scientific evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe, and the scientific fact that life came from non-life, the sociological evidence for the ubiquitous pursuit of objective morality, and the historical evidence for the person and work of Jesus; are all well explained by theism, but need to be explained away by atheism.
For example, on the scientific evidence for the origin of the universe, the strongest atheist explanation appears to be Lawrence Krauss’ book, A Universe from Nothing, which includes a chapter entitled Nothing Is Something (chapter 9). Philosophically, you simply can’t pull everything out of nothing for no reason whatsoever. For this reason William Lane Craig describes Krauss’ argument as “Worse than magic, [because] when the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat, at least you’ve got the magician.”
As another example, on the scientific evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe, atheists typically argue for a specific kind of multi-verse in which the universal constants span all possible ranges, in order to avoid the conclusion that the universal constants are fine-tuned for life. But as the philosopher Richard Swinburne notes, “To postulate a trillion trillion other universes, rather than one God in order to explain the orderliness of our universe, seems the height of irrationality.” (Richard Swinburne, Is There a God?, 68)
This isn’t to say that all atheists are irrational. Far from it (especially is one is a moral relativist). But it is to say that Christian theism is rational (regardless of how irrational some Christians might be), and that anyone who thinks that Christianity is inherently irrational, hasn’t understood Christianity. Indeed, Christianity’s second greatest commandment includes the imperative to love the Lord your God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Anyone who thinks Christians turn off their mind when they think about God, has misunderstood Christianity (and misunderstood what it is to think).
There’s no doubt that people, especially in the west, are becoming more scientific, and less superstitious. But this doesn’t equate to people becoming more atheistic, or less religious. In fact, when people lose their religion, but maintain a recognition of the ‘spiritual’, they’re often more likely to believe in ‘spiritual’ guides, palm readers, horoscopes and other superstitions. Between 2005 and 2007, Baylor University conducted three separate studies, involving a total sample size of over 4,000 people, on various correlations with religious belief, including belief in the occult and paranormal. One of their conclusions is as follows:
“The findings are clear and strong. Traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in the occult and paranormal. In contrast, education has hardly any effect. Those who identify themselves with various forms of traditional Christianity are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans. For example, of those who regard themselves as Evangelicals, 14 percent scored high, compared with 30 percent of those who reject this label… Clearly, then, those who lump all sorts of religious and paranormal beliefs into one package labelled “superstitions” are as wrong as those who see no difference between Christian and New Age bookstores. Whatever one may wish to say about the non-empirical character of such beliefs, they are not all cut from the same cloth. Rather, it seems that the choice is either to believe in the Bible or in Bigfoot. Moreover, for those concerned about shielding young people from the prevalent occult and paranormal beliefs in our society, the more certain “solution” seems not to be to send them to college, but to a conservative Sunday school.” (Rodney Stark, What Americans Really Believe, 130-131)