Don’t be a Wackaroo

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Have you ever been so angry you threw something against a wall or smashed it on the floor?

Sadly, I have and most of you probably have as well.

It’s a human problem that dates back to the days of Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous and angry with Abel that he killed him, probably with a rock or club to the head.

Some of you may be saying there is a big difference between smashing something against a wall and killing someone.

You would be right; there is a big difference…in consequence.

To read more go to Missio Dei Fellowship

The Suicides of Celebrities in Scripture

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I found this handy list of suicides in the Bible on Bible.org.

1. [Abimelech] called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died (Judges 9:54).

2. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed with all his might; and the house fell…upon all the people that were therein (Judges 16:30).

3. Saul took a sword and fell on it (1 Sam. 31:4).

4. When [Saul’s] armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died (1 Sam 31:5).

5. When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he…got him home to his house, to his city, and put his house in order, and hanged himself, and died (2 Sam. 17:23).

6. It came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died (1 Kings 16:18).

7. [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5).

J. L. Meredith, Meredith’s Big Book of Bible Lists, (Inspirational Press, NY; 1980), pp. 143-144

Judas' suicide from this German language website: http://www.hansgruener.de/index.htm

Judas’ suicide from this German language website: http://www.hansgruener.de/index.htm

My point here will be to say something about the back story circumstances that led to the suicides of the person in question.

1. This particular Abimelech sought to be king. To do so he murdered 69 of 70 half-brothers. He became warlord (king) of the City of Shechem\Israel and he ruled for about three years before a revolt broke out in Shechem. Abimelech and his army sought to put the revolt down and in the process a woman dropped a large brick on his head. Abimelech thought it fatal and so asked his armor bearer to run him through so that people would not say he died at the hands of a woman. Judges 9:55-56 indicate that God repaid Abimelech for his reckless ambition when he killed his brothers and God repaid Shechem for their evil deeds as well.

2. The story of Samson is one of the best known in all of Scripture. Samson was born to be a Nazarite (and a Judge). As long as he didn’t cut his hair he would have victory over the Philistines. Samson had a problem and that problem was the idol of pleasure in his own heart. Today Samson would be a poster child for pornography. Eventually his choices will lead him to become a blind slave of the Philistines. Samson repents and asks God for permission to die with the Philistines and God grants him the request

3. Saul was the first legitimate King of Israel. Saul was vain and today we’d say mentally unbalanced because he was given to serious fits of rage. Saul’s jealousy of David consumed him. In an epic battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa Saul is mortally wounded. Rather than linger or be captured alive by his enemies Saul orders his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword.

4. Saul’s armor-bearer, perhaps desperate himself and consumed with grief then kills himself.

5. The key to understanding Ahithophel’s suicide is found here: 17:14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite sounds better than the advice of Ahithophel.” Now the Lord had decided 11  to frustrate the sound advice of Ahithophel, so that the Lord could bring disaster on Absalom. (Net Bible)

Absalom, David’s son, is in revolt against David. Husai and Ahithopel give counsel to Absalom. Absalom chooses the advice of Husai over the better counsel of Ahithophel. Ahithophel cannot handle the rejection and hangs himself probably concluding he was out of favor with Absalom. The verse clearly credits God with Absalom’s choice as well as the reason-disaster on Absalom.

6. Zimri is noted as having the shortest reign of any of Israel’s kings (northern kingdom). He ruled for just seven days. Zimri had become king after killing Elah who was king and anyone related to Elah. The General of the Army-Omri, out ranked Zimri and wanting to be king himself marched on Tirzah where Zimri was. Zimri had miscalculated and when he saw the situation hopeless he took his own life.

7. Judas Iscariot is the only suicide recorded in the New Testament. Judas regrets his betrayal of Jesus and in despair throws the blood money into the temple and hangs himself. Judas’ repentance was superficial for he never believed that Jesus was God and rather saw him as someone who could lead the zealots against Rome. His despair stemmed from the fact that Jesus was innocent of the accusations leveled against Jesus and perhaps Judas sought to atone for his sin by taking his own life. Matt. 27:3-5

Observations

All of these men mentioned in Scripture who committed suicide were celebrities of sorts. Most were kings or wanna be kings, one was a Judge, one a counselor of some repute and one was a disciple of Jesus and for a time enjoyed the popularity of that association as did the armor bearer of Saul (a high honor).

Samson appears to be the only one who was repentant and his suicide has a different tone to it as God allows him to die in one final act against the worshipers of the false god, Dagon. It is here that perhaps we get a clue as to the suicides of all the others.

With perhaps the exception of Saul’s armor-bearers all were highly ambitious and quite willing to sin to get what they wanted-power! It’s difficult to know what the armor-bearer wanted but we do know what he didn’t want-to live without his king. His sense of loyalty was to Saul and in being the armor-bearer of the king he found his sole source of identity.

Again, with the possible exception of Samson all experienced despair in their final moments. All  had lost hope, all were by modern standards clinically depressed when they took their own lives. All perceived obstacles in their paths that told them their goals were now beyond their reach. They would not get whatever it was they wanted most. All had problems within the inner man, the part of every human being the Bible calls the heart.

Samson at the end turned to God and repented finally realizing that his hope did not rest in the pleasures of Philistine women but in the true God. In Samson’s final days he threw off the slavery to his personal idols and God mercifully allowed him to die and take the followers of Dagon with him.

Some application

I too was saddened by the death of Robin Williams. I thought him to be a comic genius and thought the movie Good Morning Vietnam to be his best piece of work. The media has gone between calling him heroic or calling him a coward for taking his own life. All seem to agree that the depression that drove the suicide is a disease more than a personal choice.

As someone who has struggled with lower-grade depression I can tell you that it can feel like a disease because it consumes your thoughts and you feel like you cannot control them. On the other hand, I  believe that suicide is indeed a choice but one a person feels they must make because they believe they have no other choice.

Depression has more to do what a person feels than what he or she believes and that in my opinion is key to understanding depression from a spiritual point-of-view.

Whatever Robin William’s motives were for killing himself one thing is sure-Williams had lost hope. There were too many obstacles in his mind that he believed crushed his hope.

I have no idea what Mr. Williams believed about God, about Jesus or about the Bible.

I do know that the Bible gives hope to the depressed or what the Bible calls “sorrow without hope.”

The Bible asks in many ways, what do we live for? Do we live for celebrity status and what that means-affirmation, power, control, pleasure or what have you?

The Bible asks what do we ultimately love because  the answer to that question determines what we ultimately worship.

The Bible asks what are our goals? What if those goals are frustrated or unobtainable? Does our happiness depend on us realizing our goals?

The Bible asks what do we fear? Understanding what we fear losing tells us something about what we treasure the most.

The Bible asks what do we crave, what do feel we have to have in order to be happy? Will we sin to get what we want?

The Bible asks who are our heroes and who are our role models? It asks where do we find refuge and comfort, pleasure or security? It asks what is success to us  and how do we define it?

The answers to these questions probe the heart. To the Christian the questions speak to a divided loyalty; like Samson, who loved his pleasures more than he loved his God. To the non-believer these questions make little sense but to the believer they ought to help us determine our loyalty. Are we loyal to the idols that betray us or are we loyal to the God who saves through Jesus Christ?

Depression is suffering. There is no doubt about that and depression that leads to suicide is tragic. How can it be otherwise when a creature created in God’s image decides that life is hopeless.

I write this to my Christian brother’s and sisters. Who do you ultimately live for? Examine your heart and turn to the only one that cam give true hope-Jesus!

For a thorough treatment of depression I recommend the following resources:

Edward T Welch: Depression Looking Up From Stubborn Darkness

Charles D. Hodges, M.D.: Good Mood, Bad Mood-Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

 David Martyn-Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression-It’s Causes and It’s Cure

John Piper: Desiring God-Reflections of a Christian Hedonist (This book can help answer the question of who we live for.)

A Viral Seared Conscience

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My wife and I had been married about a year when Roe V Wade became a right to have an abortion.

While we both had been raised Catholic we resisted many of the church’s teachings and frankly ignored others notably the Catholic Church’s stand on birth control.

At the time (1974) it was the Catholic Church, nearly single-handed which took a strong stand against R v W and abortion on demand. Like many other teachings my wife and I would have been inclined along with much of generation to dismiss that teaching as well.

That did not happen and looking back I know why.

The Lord had given us a conscience, something every person is born with. That conscience functioned and worked at that time to convince us that while we would not personally consider an abortion (it seemed to us flat our wrong) we’d never impose that belief on another for in our minds that would be wrong as well.

The point is our conscience informed us that abortion was wrong and had my wife had one anyway we would have experienced guilt because we ignored our conscience.

Guilt is what people experience when they believe they have done something wrong, either violating their religious beliefs or violating their own personal standards of right and wrong.

Sigmund Freud was one of the first to turn the concept of guilt on its ear. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary explains Freud (and the consequences of Freud) this way:

Our post-Christian society has been working hard for well over a century to bury guilt in the cultural backyard and deny that guilt can be morally significant. In the wake of Sigmund Freud and the therapeutic revolution, the modern secular worldview demands that guilt be understood as the lingering residue of the Christian conscience, an experience merely forced upon us by a society that imposes oppressive moral judgments. It is to be overcome and denied, never heard. Albertmohler.com  

Mohler’s explanation is key. If guilt is nothing more than the lingering residue of the Christian conscience and an experience forced on us that imposes oppressive moral judgments then we should be quite comfortable in shedding our guilt as well as all standards of right and wrong. I mean really, who is to say, what is right and wrong anyway?

The impact of Freudian psychology and its derivatives on our culture is huge. Frankly, in my opinion it’s more a belief system (even a religion of sorts) than it is the science it markets itself to be.

Consider the case of Emily Letts a 25-year-old abortion counselor who filmed her own abortion. The video has gone viral. Her stated reason for filming her own abortion was to banish guilt from her own conscience and be an encouragement to others to  do the same. Click here to get the full story from Al Mohler.

It’s not difficult to banish guilt and justify your behavior. You simply buy into a belief system that gives you what you want. You push out of your mind all that “lingering residue of a Christian conscience” and go on your merry way. As the viral video illustrates you can even be celebrated as a heroine.

The apostle Paul would have had a few choice words  for Freud and Letts just as he had in his letter to the Romans:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them [16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16 ESV)

Paul is addressing Jews in the context of this passage. He seeks to show the commonality of sin that exists with both Jew and Gentile. The Jews thought themselves “law keepers” and Paul is saying not so and at the same time saying the work of the law is written on the hearts of Gentiles.

Paul goes on to say that  the consciences of the Gentiles bears witness and  that they have conflicting thoughts that accuse them or excuse them. Emily Letts’ conscience has excused her and  she’s happy about it because she no longer feels accused by it.

Paul will indicate elsewhere (1 Cor. 8:7, 10; 10:291 Tim. 4:2Titus 1:15.) that the conscience is distorted by sin another concept that Freud would seek too eliminate.

My reaction to the Letts story is two-fold.

First, there is sadness and grief that her video has gone viral and she is some kind of heroine for publicly killing her baby. It is a reflection of a callous and heartless culture that celebrates murder and calls it good.

And I’m also sad for Emily Letts personally. In a very real way she is a slave  to her own desires and held in bondage to them.  In fact she works  hard for the idol of self she serves. On another level she is a victim. She is the victim of the progressive educational belief  system that smells of Freudian psychology and its derivatives. Her slavery to her idol lines up well with what she’s been taught and now she seeks to destroy her only link with  the God of the Bible by willfully suppressing her conscience and bragging about it. That is a tragedy that has eternal consequences.

Second, I  am thankful that my wife and I responded to our consciences and held to the belief that abortion was somehow “just wrong” although we would have been fuzzy on why.

God was gracious to us and showed us why in 1979 when my wife got pregnant. We were thrilled with the news and then dismayed when she had a miscarriage at home about 6 weeks into the pregnancy.

One question we had not considered prior to her miscarriage was the question of life. Was a fetus at any stage of  development life? Ultrasound did not exist back then so we really did not consider that our little fetus had life (and a soul) until we saw it floating in the toilet. Horrible, is it not, your baby floating in a toilet like some kind of waste.

But behind it all was God of that I am convinced.

It was a shock that neither of us will ever forget because we knew then and there we had lost  a baby and not a lump of tissue to be discarded like waste material.

The incident which is seared into our minds convinced us to be unambiguous about being pro-life. Abortion is wrong because it destroys a life.

Emily Letts thus far has been successful in suppressing her conscience. We can only pray that God does not allow her to totally harden her heart and sear her conscience beyond the point of no return.

 

The Limits of Hero Worship_Ryan Braun

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One of the old Milwaukee Braves owned a home not too far from my parents house in the early 1960’s. Whenever his  name was mentioned my mother would say something like, “he drinks too much.” The man and some of the other Braves had a reputation for drinking heavily and that was one of my mom’s pet peeves. Mom had a brother who was alcoholic and that partially explains her disdain for heavy drinkers.

In her own way mom taught me limits  to hero-worship. Admire the Milwaukee Braves as a baseball team and their performance on the field but don’t admire them to the point of thinking that heavy drinking is a good thing.

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956)

Milwaukee Braves logo (1953–1956) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, the Braves  left Milwaukee at the end of the 1965 season and frankly it took me a while to warm up to the Milwaukee Brewers but by the late 70’s they were my team to follow.

By the 80’s there were a few scandals emerging from the Brewers. Everyone seemed to know who did drugs and I don’t mean the performance enhancing variety, Eventually some of the more notable Brewers came forward and admitted their drug problems and sought treatment.

Milwaukee Brewers

Again, there was an evident limit to admiring our home-town heroes.

The commonality between the heavy drinking Braves and the drug-addicted Brewers is that each vice did nothing for their careers. In fact, if anything, their addictions harmed their careers. They simply were seeking pleasure and drugs and alcohol were the means to obtain it.

Today Major League Baseball has a huge credibility problem as well-known players are busted time and time again for using performance enhancing drugs.  The Milwaukee Brewer’s star player, Ryan Braun, lied about it for over a year and finally came clean after he became boxed in by irrefutable evidence.

It remains to be seen if Braun can rehabilitate his career. He might at some level if he hits a lot of home runs without the drugs and becomes an anti-drug crusader. People tend to be forgiving of home town heroes, not-so-much if they are on the visiting team!

Why do gifted athletes like Braun do it? Why risk their careers for better stats?

I suppose it’s the fame. It’s an insatiable demand to be the home town hero no matter what it takes. Fame becomes a god that the player seeks to control, but the god actually controls him.

My mom’s counsel was more practical than spiritual. It doesn’t mean it  was useless counsel, it just meant don’t admire baseball players too much and don’t follow them in their vices.

The take away for the biblical Christian is certainly in tune with mom’s advice but it’s also more. Christians can be slaves to their gods just as any athlete can be slaves to theirs. Put whatever label on it you want. Fame, power, control, pleasure, comfort, self-esteem, etc., they all add up to false gods that can control our lives.

If Jesus is not on the throne of our lives then some other god will be.

I, like many other Milwaukee fans admired Braun and believed him for a long time. Yet, his fall is not surprising, because I know as a pastor, biblical counselor and fellow human being we all have feet of clay.

My prayer for Braun is not that he recover and hit a lot of home runs and become an anti-drug crusader. Braun’s greatest need is that Jesus finds him. (For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV)

Jesus is the only hero worth following to the fullest.

Not Respecting Women?-Filner

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I recently read that 67% of San Diego’s residents want Mayor Filner out of office (Does this mean 33% have no problem with the Mayor’s behavior?).

The Mayor has thus far refused to step-down over sexual harassment charges from multiple sources and has instead opted for two weeks of intensive therapy. Filner has not denied the allegations and has confessed to “not respecting women.”

Personally, I wonder what kind of therapy he needs in order to respect women. I mean seriously, how do you fix that? Are we to expect the Mayor to emerge from two weeks of therapy cured? “Yes” says the newly cured Mayor, “I used to disrespect women, now I don’t, can’t we move on?”

Filner’s problem is not uncommon. Most men (and women for that matter) struggle with lust at one time or the other and to greater or lesser extent. Filner’s additional problem is that he seems to have a total lack of self-control, any sense of good judgment and any kind of discretion. Those are issues of arrogance, not lust.

At best the behavioral therapy Filner receives will teach him a smidgen of self-control and perhaps a little sneaky discretion. He’s counting on psychobabble to help him keep his lusts out of sight. Perhaps he will succeed and stay in office. Clinton did and he didn’t have therapy.

Jesus sums up the problem underneath THE problem nicely:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
(Matthew 5:27-30 ESV)

We sin from the inside out, not the outside in. What is in the heart (lusting) drives the behavior (adultery, sexting, sexual harassment, etc). Filner’s therapy will not deal with the heart. Filner does not need therapy. He needs the Gospel. If he had the gospel and understood the gospel it would not require 67% of San Diego’s residents calling for him to resign.