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Not Negotiable

Not negotiableWe live in a world of “anything goes” and we hold back nothing if it brings us any amount of personal pleasure and/or we can afford it. “Go for the Gusto!” is our motto. “If It Feels Good, Do It!” we yell as we keep on “rockin’ down the highway” of life. Fifty Shades of Grey sure beats “all or nothing/black and white” thinking with all of its confining and self imposed restraints. Even modern psychology tells us that. And rules? They are meant to be broken, right? 

Right?

The truth is that some things are not negotiable. Death and taxes, for example.

Once again in a blast from the past–the dead speaking to the livingA.W. Tozer (1897-1963) speaks volumes to us as we continue to tolerate absolutely anything but the truth nowadays. The following is taken from Tozer’s book, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” specifically Chapter 38 titled, Some Things Are Not Negotiable.”

Some Things Are Not Negotiable

by A.W. Tozer

WILL ROGERS ONCE OPINED that a sure way to prevent war would be to abolish peace conferences.

Of course Will, as usual, had his tongue in his cheek; he meant only to poke fun at the weak habit of substituting talk for action. Still there is more than a little uncomfortable truth in his remark.

This above all others is the age of much talk. Hardly a day passes that the newspapers do not carry one or another of the headlines “Talks to Begin” or “Talks to Continue” or “Talks to Resume.” The notion back of this endless official chatter is that all differences between men result from their failure to understand each other; if each can discover exactly what the other thinks they will find to their delight that they are really in full agreement after all. Then they have only to smile, shake hands, go home and live happily ever after.

At the bottom of all this is the gluttenous, one-world, all-men-are-brothers philosophy that has taken such hold on the minds of many of our educators and politicians. (The hardheaded realists of the Communist camp know better; maybe that is why they are making such alarming advances throughout the world while the all-men-are-brothers devotees are running around in confusion, trying to keep smiling if it kills them.)

Tolerance, charity, understanding, good will, patience and other such words and ideas are lifted from the Bible, misunderstood and applied indiscriminately to every situation. The kidnapper will not steal your baby if you only try to understand him; the burglar caught sneaking into your house with a gun is not really bad; he is just hungry for fellowship and togetherness; the gang killer taking his victim for a one-way ride can be dissuaded from committing murder if someone will only have faith in his basic goodness and have a talk with him. And this is supposed to be the teaching of Jesus, which it most certainly is not.

The big thing now is to “keep in touch.” Never let the dialogue die and never accept any decision as final; everything can be negotiated. Where there is life there is talk and where there is talk there is hope. “As long as they are talking they are not shooting at each other,” say the advocates of the long palaver, and in so saying they forget Pearl Harbor.

This yen to confer has hit the church also, which is not strange since almost everything the church is doing these days has been suggested to her by the world. I observe with pained amusement how many water boys of the pulpit in their effort to be prophets are standing up straight and tall and speaking out boldly in favor of ideas that have been previously fed into their minds by the psychiatrists, the sociologists, the novelists, the scientists and the secular educators. The ability to appraise correctly the direction public opinion is moving is a gift not to be despised; by means of it we preachers can talk loudly and still stay out of trouble.

A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads “Thou shalt not disagree”; and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins “Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.” It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief. The purpose of these talks is not to confront truth, but to discover how the followers of other religions think and thus benefit from their views as we hope they will from ours.

It is a truism that people agree to disagree only about matters they consider unimportant. No man is tolerant when it concerns his life or the life of his child, and no one will agree to negotiate over any religious matter he considers vital to his eternal welfare. Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences; or Athanasius trying to rise above his differences with Arius in order to achieve union on a higher level; or Luther crawling into the presence of the pope in the name of a broader Christian fellowship.

The desire to be liked even if not respected is a great weakness in any man’s character, and in that of a minister of Jesus Christ it is a weakness wholly inexcusable. The popular image of the man of God as a smiling, congenial, asexual religious mascot whose handshake is always soft and whose head is always bobbing in the perpetual Yes of universal acquiescence is not the image found in the Scriptures of truth.

The blessing of God is promised to the peacemaker, but the religious negotiator had better watch his step. The ability to settle quarrels between members of God’s household is a heavenly gift and one that should be assiduously cultivated. The discerning soul who can reconcile separated friends by prayer and appeal to the Scriptures is worth his weight in diamonds.

That is one thing, but the effort to achieve unity at the expense of truth and righteousness is another. To seek to be friends with those who will not be the friends of Christ is to be a traitor to our Lord. Darkness and light can never be brought together by talk. Some things are not negotiable.

(Article taken from Man: The Dwelling Place of God, Chapter 38)

Tozer’s advice cuts to the quick. I sometimes wonder if Tozer were still alive today how popular he would be in today’s church with his often searing advice. We certainly don’t like anyone making us uncomfortable in the way we live our lives, whether inside the church or outside of it. We might even be tempted to throw rocks in his direction and discredit him as being some sort of old fashioned religious fanatic or just plain crazy at times. We like our “anything goes” philosophy and easy believism that doesn’t require much–if anything–from us, and we abhor anything or anyone who speaks against it. After all, we like to say that grace covers every sin that there is even though our hearts are totally unrepentant and we like things just the way that they are. We really don’t want to give up anything but we do want all the benefits that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

A relationship . . . ah, there’s the rub . . . .

smokescreenWe have so many distractions coming at us from all sides that there is just no time (so we say) to develop an actual relationship with Jesus. But we do want him to be there for us to help us get that new job or new car or (fill in the blank) we’ve been wanting for so long now. And what about the cross? We don’t want to go there personally but we are thankful that Jesus did take our place when he died on the cross. Too often in our modern day thinking (although this type of thinking has always been around) we consider it to be his cross and not one we have to personally bear just because we claim to follow him. However, there is a cost to us if we claim to follow after Jesus Christ (see article on counting the cost at this link).

I ran across an interesting definition this morning that fits in with this discussion. The word I looked up was smoke screen and here is the definition given for it from TheFreeDictionary.com:

~A mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy.
~An action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions.

We have an adversary in this world (see 1 Peter 5:8) who closely watches our every move, taking note of our weaknesses and making sure that those things we crave take up a lot of space in our lives. And he places smoke screens everywhere in our daily walk so that we can’t see the reality of what is really going on all around us at every moment. He uses things like money, materialism, gluttony, sex, greed, self, envy, jealousy, gossip, hate (and the list is endless) to keep us off track and lowering our guard until he has captured and destroyed us with the very excesses we cling to and refuse to give over to God. Our enemy uses our every weakness, and one of our biggest weaknesses is our ego and pride. And the enemy knows us all too well . . . . Here is what 1 Peter 5:8-11 states regarding this battle we face every moment of every day:

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendor through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his forever and ever, amen! (J.B. Phillips translation)

We rarely hear much about spiritual warfare today and we certainly don’t give it much thought on a daily basis, yet we are in a battle with our adversary every single day of our lives. Ephesians 6:10-18 speaks clearly about this battle we are neck deep in:

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Our adversary’s arsenal contains weapons we rarely ever recognize and they are usually wrapped up in distractions, temptations, and our own ego and pride (see 1 John 2:16) and in others, too. People can trip us up just as easily as possessions, money, food, sex, status, etc. Some of the greatest infighting occurs between folks who consider themselves to be Christian. So can knowledge if it leads us away from the truth or incorporates itself (like yeast) within the truth. Our enemy lurks everywhere.

We must see this world for what it is as described in 1 John 2:15-17:

Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Unfortunately, we often see spiritual warfare as something archaic and irrelevant to our lives once we become a Christian when in reality the war has just heated up 100%. And some things in life are absolutely not negotiable, not if we call ourselves Christian. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, and don’t believe anyone who says you can have it both ways. While we may laugh at the image of a devil in a red suit holding a pitchfork, he’s much more stealth than that . . . .

And the truth of the matter is this . . . 

The reality of spiritual warfare . . .

Is no laughing matter . . . .

YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

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Photo #2 credit here

When Silence Is Not Golden

I’ve been weeding through several boxes of books this afternoon that I have stored under the stairway leading out of my apartment as I’ve managed to accumulate, once again in my life, too many books (it’s my only fetish–see definition #2–at least that I am aware of). They are weighing me down in more ways than one and it’s time to lighten the load (also in more ways than one).

While tossing them into three different piles (those to keep, those to get rid of, and those I’m not sure of yet), one book really caught my eye, and when I felt the need for a break, I brought it back upstairs (where it is considerably cooler then the stairwell area) and started reading it. Let’s just say there is not a person in the world who couldn’t relate to the topic which is a universal problem–overcoming betrayal and dealing with revenge.

Intrigued? I found the book on a discount table for only $3.97 last fall (and didn’t read it back then). You’ll recognize the author’s name right away–Dr. Laura Schlessinger (e.g., Dr. Laura). The title of the book caught my eye and the price made it hard to resist. It’s titled, Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)(2011).

There is no better way to describe an initial and sudden betrayal then a shark attack. It’s brutal and it rips apart the life of the betrayed. At this point I want to quote several paragraphs from Dr. Laura’s book on pages 17-20 which describes the cast of characters in all betrayals (the betrayed, the betrayer, and the “others”):

No matter what type of person you are, there are really bad people out there who are ready to disrupt your world and well-being to a magnitude you never imagined. If you don’t know or believe that, you are dangerously naïve. If you believe that all the people out there are bad, you are dangerously paranoid. In between those two extremes is the truth of the sad nature of human beings with which we must all contend: betrayals are commonplace.

Betrayals are a breach of trust to a code or a person, including acts of dishonesty, lying, cheating, or stealing, double-crossing, deception, gossiping, duplicity, unfaithfulness, treason, leading astray, undermining, selling out . . . to name only a few faces of betrayal.

Every single human being on the face of the earth has been betrayed, back-stabbed, undermined, screwed over, or had their reputation attacked at least once in their lives. It’s a horrible experience, leaving you stunned, scared, sad, and very, very angry; and sometimes you become so cynical that it changes fundamental ways you think and react to people for a long, long time . . . .

When you are attacked, the first reaction is shock and disbelief. Next you try to shut down what is happening. When that doesn’t work, you strike back–which usually makes the situation worse. After a while you turn to others for solace, emotional support, and assistance in getting the betrayer to back off.

You probably found that most people were sympathetic at first, and then they didn’t want to hear about it anymore. You also probably found that not too many people would step up to the plate and speak up for you. Why? Because they don’t want a bull’s-eye pasted onto their backs next. People who betray are very powerful because “good people” are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives.

That means that adding insult (no valiant supporters rushing to your side) to injury (the betrayal) becomes your personal reality. Expecting rallying support from people becomes a huge disappointment added on to the original betrayal. In fact, the whole battalion taking a step back when you ask for volunteers to help you fight your battle can be a more devastating experience than the original betrayal. You end up being not only victimized but abandoned to fight your fight alone. It makes you wonder what friends are for. It makes you also doubt the legal and social systems that appear to lean way over backward to protect the perps (perpetrators).”

“People who betray are very powerful because ‘good people’ are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives . . .” Dr. Laura goes on to describe one of her own personal stories of betrayal and how a friend, who was among the betrayers but not one of them when the verbal attack took place, just stood in silence and said nothing in her defense. Nothing at all. And he didn’t even offer any support the next day after it happened, either. He remained silent.

Dr. Laura states these “stand by” folks will try (if they try at all) to defend their inaction by minimizing the betrayal. But she adds a big “however” to the equation when she states:

You [the betrayed] are usually wise enough–especially after a night of sleeping on it–to know the difference between a glitch in communication and a frank betrayal of your trust, faith, privacy, truth, status, reputation, relationship, and so forth (p. 23). 

She goes on to state on the same page regarding folks who betray others that it is the “everyday” people (and not just sociopaths) that should worry us the most as they are capable of hurting us in the most extraordinary ways. She states the following:

It is the everyday people, in service to their own egos, social status, financial opportunities, envy, and petty meanness, you have to worry about the most, as they are likely to pop up from the most unlikely places: school, church, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, work . . . anywhere you interact with people.

Do these people know that they are “bad” or have done something “bad”? I talk to people every day who have performed the most egregious acts of hurt and betrayal, yet deny that their behaviors weren’t righteous. Righteous! They try to give examples of what was done to them (usually innocuous) and convince me that their actions were necessary or justified. These “everyday” folks often just don’t think about the humanity of their victims at all, and in fact would deny that their targets even are victims” (pp. 23-24).

Einstein quote - those how watch and do nothingThere is not a person on the planet who hasn’t hurt someone by actions or attitudes and who felt justified in doing so or denied that it was done with any intent to hurt or inflict harm on that person. We are all guilty of that, folks. And while sociopaths absolutely don’t care what anyone else thinks and they like inflicting pain on others, “everyday” folks will justify their actions of betrayal or deny them to the nth degree. And when “everyday” people keep silence in the midst of the betrayal being done to others to protect themselves or keep out of the line of fire, it is just as Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (quote source here). Silence is not golden.

While I haven’t read the rest of the book yet (and just in case you’re wondering), Dr. Laura never, ever encourages revenge. She does deal with the topic in a couple of chapters. Also, from a Biblical perspective, the apostle Paul states in Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My long term unemployment started from an act of betrayal that just keeps on giving after four plus years and sometimes my anger and frustration comes out (well, I spit and cuss in the confines of my apartment). But the truth is, all the spitting and cussing hasn’t changed my situation one bit. And yes, I pray daily about it (the entire situation). But this past week I ran across a portion of Scripture that really gave me pause for thought, and if you find yourself in a situation right now that seems insurmountable (like I do), maybe it will give you some encouragement, too. It’s found in I Peter 4:12-19:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

This long term trial with unemployment has been one of the hardest and is the longest trial I have ever had to endure, and after four plus years with no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard to understand why the Lord hasn’t allowed me to find employment yet or at least to be able to move on with my life. It’s in times like these that I have to remember that we don’t get to see or understand what is going on in the “big picture” of our circumstances except what we go through personally on a daily basis. And the big picture really is much bigger than just “us,” and it always is.

So as Peter advises in 1 Peter 5:6-11:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

And that is very good news . . . .

YouTube video: “He’s Got It All In Control” sung by Shirley Caesar and Joe Ligon:

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Photo #2 credit here

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