THE Amazing Spider-Man

I watched The Amazing Spider-Man tonight on DVD. There were two over-arching thoughts the entire time I watched. The first thought: Spider Man would never survive in a town like Roswell, NM. We only have two buildings over five stories and he wouldn’t be able to get around to save anyone.

He would have to use a bicycle or a skateboard or even a mule. But his webs would be completely useless until he arrived on the scene of the crime, only to find that the crime had already been committed and the criminals had dashed off in a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with original rims and added ground lighting. Not only that, he would have to learn Spanish. In all these cases, he would have to change his name to the Amazing Mule Man, or something like that. He wouldn’t be all that impressive.

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Quotable Quote

From G.K. Chesterton… that seems to capture the mindset of the age. Hattip: Danny.

“But the new rebel is a septic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2012-05-17). Orthodoxy (Kindle Locations 532-536). . Kindle Edition.

Top 5 Abused Bible Verses

In working on my sermon this week, I’ve come across one of the most abused verses in Scripture. It’s not as abused today as it was some 70 years ago, but it is still one of the most abused passages of Scripture. The passage is John 8:31-32  “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Only in it’s abuse, those using it only quote verse 32, without the first part of the conditional clause.

A conditional clause means that there is a condition to knowing the truth. Knowing the truth means that we are His disciples. Being His disciples mean that we follow Him and His word. Yet countless people use the old King James Version, Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free, in a manner to indicate that the truth is just floating about for anyone to find it. It is not, for truth to be know, we must know it in the light of Christ.

I’m reminded of my childhood growing up in the cult of Christian Science and see that portion of the passage on the inside cover to Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Please note: she has no keys to Scripture. Her book is filled with senseless drivel. She doesn’t know Christ, God or the truth). The passage is used in such a way that it suggests that objective truth is just floating about and all we need to do is look for it. It’s not. The only true way to know real Truth is to know Christ and be known by Him (Matthew 7:21ff). Truth is not disconnected from Christ.

We also see this passage on the building of countless universities across the land. There too, it’s put forth as if truth is out there for anyone looking for it apart from Christ. I know the arch-rival of my own university, texas university, has the scripture emblazoned on one of the buildings. However I don’t think that school, or any other state-run school that has the passage emblazoned on campus is advocating their students become disciples and followers of Christ.

The point is that when Christ uttered those words, He was in a heated debate with the Jews about His identity and their need to be freed from sin. He wasn’t throwing up the idea that truth was to be known apart from Him. Knowing the truth means we must be “in Christ,” and by being “in Christ” we will know truth about who He is and who we are. We are sinners in need of a Savior, and the Truth is that He is that Savior. Being in Him means we are freed from one of our greatest foes: sin. We cannot be truly free unless sin is dealt with, and only through Christ is that sin dealt with. Otherwise we will die in our sins, as Jesus warned the Jews (John 8:21).

This is why this verse makes my Top 5 list of the most abused passages in history. People have abused it in an attempt to make themselves seem erudite in the pursuit of truth. Yet, truth pursued apart from Christ does us no good at all.

4. Number 4 on the list is Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. The reason this one makes the list is that far too many people use it as a quick fix to someone else’s problems. Your cousin just died in a car wreck? Romans 8:28. You have cancer? Romans 8:28. You just lost your home to foreclosure? Romans 8:28. Your cat had puppies? Romans 8:28.

It is abused because of the way that it is used in Christian circles. People use it in an attempt to belittle the struggles of others and this is unconscionable. It is thoughtless, and mean. Paul writes that we are to weep with those who weep in Romans 12:15, not throw Romans 8:28 in their faces.

To abuse this passage is to ignore the fact that Christians have been called to suffer just as Christ suffered. I know, suffering is one of those things that polite Christians do not talk about. But it is a reality of the Christian life. To deny it, is to deny the calling every Christian has in life. So when someone suffers, don’t throw up a quick passage so you can sooth your conscience and be on your way. Sit down with them, and be with them and weep with them.

3. Number 3 on the list is Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This verse is abused because it is ripped out of context. The context is that Paul is saying he has learned to be content whether he has plenty or he is abased, both to abound and suffer need. He does not say that he can conquer the world because he has Philippians 4:13.

This verse should not be the foundation of every motivational speaker to come down the pike. That is not what Paul is saying. In fact, he would probably be aghast at the idea that so many are using this passage in such a manner, given that Jesus Christ conquers the world and our worlds, we do not. We are mere servants, not tiny gods out to conquer all that is before us.

2. Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This passage is abused among the haters of Christianity. It’s not used to teach us to guard against being hypocritical, as Jesus intended it to be used, but used to silence anyone who would espouse any godly standard above that of being a dog. Jesus isn’t giving a blanket statement for not judging, but given a lesson on how to judge rightly.

I like what Paul Washer is reported to have said concerning this verse: “People always tell me, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ I reply, ‘Twist not Scripture, lest ye be like Satan.'”

1. John 3:16 For God so loved the world… You know my hatred of the abuse of this passage. Far too many use it to justify their ungodly behavior and lack of holiness because of God’s love. In other words, “For God so love the world, I can live and believe as I please, and Jesus is there to take care of everything for me.”

This passage is also the foundation of so much bad theology that I think we should stop quoting it, and quote all of John 3 to bring it back into light. Anything less than this is to abuse the fulness of what Christ was saying in John 3.

There you have it, my Top-5 abused passages of Scripture. What are yours?

Post Number 2,000!

cropped-banner-006.jpgAnother milestone. This is post number 2,000, although you cannot see all 2,000 posts. About 30 of them are marked private, things I’ve written for my own personal use. But other than that, you have access to all 1,970 posts. Some are must reads, others are just humorous. Some are mildly interesting and some I just posted to post something that particular day. Nonetheless, I hope you have enjoyed reading them, learned from many of them, been edified by others and challenged by more.

Blessings,

Timothy J. Hammons

Waiting on the Narcissist

Dr. Keith Ablow has written a truly troubling article for Foxnews this week entitled We Are Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists. He documents how a study was conducted of freshmen at universities across the nation showing that a majority of freshmen believed that they were gifted and driven to succeed even though their grades and test scores indicated otherwise. The narcissistic tendencies among young adults has been increasing for the past 30 years.

Ablow says that this is not surprising at all, given the culture that we live in truly caters to the exaltation of the self. Ablow writes:

I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”

We truly do live in a world in which each one of us is the center of our own stories. We have our followings on Facebook, blogs, twitter, chat rooms, and even the games we play on the internet. There is a real temptation to find meaning in all these things, but the reality is that in the end, none of these things matter at all.

For instance, video games really do give someone a false sense of self worth in playing them. I remember playing Age of Kings while in seminary. It’s a game in which the player builds a kindgom using little men and warriors and takes over other kingdoms and warriors as he grows in stature and power in the game. One can obtain great levels of “power” in the game itself and really create a name for one’s self. The problem is, the moment that you shut off the computer, is the moment that reality comes crashing down on the player. He or she is no longer the great warrior or conqueror, just someone who spent hours playing a game. The false realities do come to an end.

Ablow points this out as well:

False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting.  That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while.  They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.

Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.  I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.

We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape.  Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.

I agree with him. We do need a plan ready for the countless people who come crashing down with the realities that their false worlds truly are nothing but from the land of make believe. We need something that will give them true significance and true meaning. These things cannot be found on the psychiatrists couch or the pharmacists bottle.

These things can only be found in the One and His Kingdom that doesn’t pass away. Unlike Age of Kings, the Kingdom of Christ is eternal and so are those who belong to His Kingdom. To embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ means becoming significant based on the significance of another, namely Christ. We don’t find significance in ourselves, ever.

This is because we are fallen humans to begin with. We lost our true significance in the fall of Adam and all the false pretenses of life will never return that significance. This is why Christ is so important. He restores what was lost by Adam so many years ago and gives that significance to those who trust in Him for deliverance from these false realities.

But we must start with the premise that sin is real. Sin is not something we conjure up in our minds when we feel bad, but a true offense against a holy and just God. The very things that our false realities have been trying to cover up, must be exposed and dealt with. This is why Christ is so important to lasting realities. He dealt with the believer’s sin on the cross in a real and lasting way. The sin and debt He pays for are truly dealt with so that we can be reconciled to the Father. This is why Paul calls the gospel a ministry of reconciliation.

Once we are reconciled, then we truly can live a life of meaning and contentment because our meaning is found in Him, and not ourselves. There is no on or off switch to the real meaning and lives we have been given in Christ. While our lives may lack glamor or popularity, they have real meaning because the simple things we do throughout the day are things we do for Him.

Yes, we may be ignored in the false world of Facebook or Twitter. But our heavenly Father knows the struggles we will have and He gives us His Spirit to deal with them. This is far more meaningful than the number of friends I have in the social sphere. In Christ, we have One eternal friend who will never defriend us.

Thoughts on Suicide

My thoughts have returned to suicide recently as we had to face the realities of this ugly sin with the death of Harriet Deison this past Saturday. Harriet was the wife of Pete Deison, an associate pastor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. Our prayers have gone up for Pete and his entire family. When I was an intern in PCPC I always looked up to Pete and his ministry there. I barely remember Harriet but from what I gather, she was an awesome woman for the LORD for many years before she took her life on Saturday.

I know a lot of people have the belief that if you take your own life, that this is one of the unforgivable sins found in Scripture. While suicide is a sin, it is not unforgivable. I had to wrestle with this some years ago when my step-mother, Liz Hammons, took her own life in a field outside of Brenham, TX in the very same manner. My father asked me to give part of the eulogy for Liz, since I was the only pastor in the family. Upon my arrival at his home, I set out to see Liz through the eyes of her friends. Given that she was a step-mom, I can’t say that she and I had the best of relationships, although I loved her and do miss her to this day. She was part of our family for some 32 years and she had a lasting impact on my life as well as those around her.

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