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Archive for September, 2011

Having served as a pastor for more than 60 years I have heard tons of excuses. Whenever I think I have heard every excuse that can be made, I hear a new one. People have been making excuses ever since Adam blamed Eve for his disobedience, and Eve blamed the serpent. Evangelist Billy Sunday described an excuse “the skin of a reason filled with a lie.”

I recently read the account of a man who lost his job because he never got to work on time. The man sued, arguing that he was handicapped by “chronic lateness syndrome” – and won a large settlement. This tells us a lot not only about the integrity of the man who sued but also about the fact that this and other equally absurd lawsuits are allowed to be tried in our country’s court system.

In our current culture you can offer an excuse for almost every conceivable kind of bad behavior or personal failure. Like Adam and Eve, we find it easier and more convenient to say, “It’s not my fault” than to admit personal responsibility.

Many years ago I served on the Orange County, North Carolina Board of Alcoholic Rehabilitation. Our mission was to help rehabilitate persons who were addicted to alcohol. I was told that professionals in the field were calling alcoholism a “disease.” That is totally absurd! Such a position absolves persons who have chosen to drink alcohol of any personal responsibility for their actions. In other words, they can say, “It’s not my fault!”

Recovery groups can be extremely helpful, and often are, but they often fail to make a distinction between understanding appropriate behavior and excusing bad behavior. In his book, The Vanishing Conscience, author John MacArthur asks the question, “Whatever happened to guilt and responsibility for what we have done?”

He cites the story of a man who was shot and paralyzed while committing a burglary in New York. He later sued the storeowner who shot him, and recovered damages. His attorney convinced the jury that his client was the victim of society, driven to crime by economic disadvantages. This assumes that the storeowner should have known that, and the jury agreed. Later, sitting in his wheelchair, he was arrested again for armed robbery.

People who make bad decisions and get into trouble are often referred to therapists, who sometimes try to boost their self-image, not help them take responsibility for their actions and deal with their guilt constructively. To do that would not be “politically correct.”

Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, in The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, have elevated the making of an excuse to heretofore unheard of high levels. They have, in effect, redefined sin. For example:

If you are lazy, no problem: you are simply “motivationally dispossessed.”

If you are addicted to drugs, no problem: you are merely“chemically inconvenienced.”

If you are promiscuous, no problem: you are just “sexually active.” If you are dishonest, no problem: you are “ethically disoriented,” “morally different,” or “differently honest” (that’s an impossibility, isn’t it?).

If you are a serial killer, no problem: you are “socially misaligned” or one who has “difficult-to-meet needs” (I would say it is a lot more than that!).

If you are a shoplifter, no problem: you are one who engages in “non-traditional shopping.”

If you are sexually perverted, no problem: you are simply“sexually dysfunctional.”

Using these definitions, even the Ten Commandments may one day be re-written to make them more politically correct. For example:

  • “Thou shalt not kill” would become “Do not become socially misaligned.”
  • “Thou shalt not steal” would become “Do not become a non-traditional shopper.”
  • “Thou shalt not commit adultery” would become “Do not become sexually dysfunctional.”

Somehow I don’t think any of these excuses will pass muster with God!

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The Devil You Say!

Does Satan really exist? A Gallop poll some years ago revealed that as many as 70 percent of Americans believe he does, but half of that number see him as the sum of everything evil and not as a personal being. So, which is he – a personal being, or just a term used to define the forces of evil in our world?

The Bible certainly portrays him as a personal being. Jesus during the wilderness temptations knew him to be a personal being. In that case, one may well ask, “Why would God create someone as evil and horrible as Satan?” The point is that God created him – but not as an evil being. He was created as a beautiful angelic being – the most beautiful of all the angels. He was called “the anointed cherub” (Ez. 28:14).

The Bible only lists the names of three angels – the archangel Michael, the angel Gabriel, and Lucifer, who later became the devil. We are not told exactly how the angels ranked in heaven, but we know that Lucifer ranked high among them. Describing him, Ezekiel 28:15 and 17 state, “You were perfect in all your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you … Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground …”

The Bible gives us even more insight into this fascinating but completely wicked fallen angel in the Book of Isaiah: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How you are cut down to the ground … For you have said in hour heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Is. 14:12-14). God then gives His answer to this strutting, egocentric being: “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Is. 14:15).

Since his ejection from heaven, the devil has set up shop in the world and has established a very well-defined set of goals. He knows his time is limited, his opportunities short-lived, and his sentence already settled and sure. Therefore, in these last days he has dramatically stepped up his efforts to oppose mankind. In other words, he has pulled out all the stops, and goes regularly for the jugular.

His objective is to draw as many people as possible away from Christ. After that, his plan is to cause those who have accepted Christ to stumble and fall. And if he cannot cause Christians to fall away from Christ, then he hopes at the very least to immobilize or neutralize them so they will not make a difference in the world.

Christians need to know that the closer they stay to the Lord the safer they are. That does not mean the devil has no power on earth today. What it means is that he no longer has the upper hand, thanks to Calvary. When Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished!” – the battle cry of the cross– these words reverberated throughout heaven and hell. Satan and his demon cohorts had been defeated. Christians today share that victory.

Even so, the Christian life is far from one of ease. It is a life marked by conflict, spiritual warfare, and intense opposition. The Bible not only likens the Christian life to war – it actually calls it a war. Satan is sometimes a dangerous wolf, disguised as a sheep.

Sometimes he roars like a lion, but more often he comes like a serpent, in all his depravity and horror. And sometimes he comes as an angel of light. Make no mistake – those who stay committed to Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief, will meet Satan on the field of battle.   If you haven’t met Satan lately, it could be because you are traveling in the same direction he is! In that case, you should turn around and head in the opposite direction.

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