14 January 2017

An Unexplored Mission Field

Tom Cruise. John Travolta. Kirstie Alley. Greta Van Susteren. We know a lot of celebrity Scientologists, but do we know what it is that Scientology teaches, or what it is that enslaves these and potentially millions of other lesser known individuals? Is this "church" merely a business, or is it an actual religion?

According to Walter Martin, the Church of Scientology "has all the marks of a religion. It has its own set of scripture, it holds a worldview, and it seeks spiritual enlightenment."(Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Ed. Ravi Zacharias. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2003. 351.)

Based on the work Dianetics (which means, "through thought" or "through the soul"), written by founder L. Ron Hubbard, the cult of Scientology is based on a "science of the mind." Its scriptures include Dianetics and Hubbard's other works, which immediately puts it at odds with Christianity and its unique claim to the exclusivity and authority of the Bible as the only Word of God.

"Scientology describes deity in three ways," says Martin, "Supreme Being, God, and gods. Members are free to choose their concept of God" (Martin, 363). Further, it is taught that man himself can attain a "godlike" nature, a doctrine which is no doubt linked to Scientology's root belief that man is basically a good and moral being (Martin, 364; 365).

By contrast, Christianity teaches the existence of one God, existing in three persons. There is indeed only one God, and He is the God of the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:39, 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:32; Ephesians 4:6). Per the revealed Word of God, Christianity teaches that man is in fact inherently evil (Romans 3:10, 23).

For the Scientologist, "salvation is to be free from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth" (Martin, 367). In other words, Scientology embraces reincarnation. From the Scientology website (note: this writer prefers not to offer a link to this website, but it is readily accessible for the interested reader): "Scientologists believe that people are immortal spiritual beings who have lived before and who will live again, and that their future happiness and immortality as spiritual beings depend on how they conduct themselves in the here and now." Like every other false religion, then, Scientologists believe that their eternal destiny depends upon their own good works. This is indeed why this group is so heavily involved in social improvement.

This is of course in stark contrast to the teachings of Christianity, which proclaim that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Man's good works are as filthy rags before a holy God, and they cannot save him (Isaiah 64:6); man must be born again from above (John 3:3), brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 4:17).

There is much more to learn about the teachings of Scientology, but what has been examined here ought to offer enough evidence to help the reader understand that this is a group that is diametrically opposed to the things of God.

Why the topic of Scientology? Well, it has received some renewed press in recent years and while most Christians understand that it is a false and damning religion, it seems as though it is still far too easy to forget to view such individuals—both those who are currently trapped in such cults and those who have left—as our mission field.

13 January 2017

This 'n' That

Friday the 13th. Almost as creepy as Halloween, isn't it? Are you wearing your garlic clove? Oh wait, that's for vampires, isn't it? Never mind.

Here's a fun fact for you: According to Wikipedia, "The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: 'triskaidekaphobia'; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th  is called paraskevidekatriaphobia." Further, in Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered unlucky, and Friday the 17th is unlucky in Italy. The moral of the story is that superstitions such as "unlucky" days are silly and unsubstantiated, especially from a biblical viewpoint.

How superstitious are you? Are you superstitious? I hope you aren't, because as Christians, we know that there's no such thing as "luck," good or bad; rather, there is divine providence. Regardless of how it appears from our fallible, limited perspective, divine providence is always good, because it is the working out of God's perfect will by God Himself. That great doctrine of sovereignty ought to bring us great comfort in all circumstances.

What do we do with Friday the 13th, then? Grab your black cat (if you have one), and give it a snuggle. Run, don't walk, under that ladder. Embrace that broken mirror in all of its funhouse-like attributes. Yes, defy Friday the 13th, because it is just another day on the calendar.

Not only is it another day, but the best part is that it is Friday, which means you get to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 January 2017

This 'n' That

Ah, the first week of January. This is a time when many fall into that post-holiday slump, whether due to their intense love for all things Christmas that is instantly extinguished on December 26, or due to facing the reality that they won't see another break in their work schedule until May. Or perhaps you are one of those people who simply doesn't enjoy the gloomy skies of January. Regardless, it often seems that the sentiment of a "happy new year" is misplaced.

I never did understand the phrase, "happy new year." In reality, the year is really only new for one day, so are we wishing everyone a happy new day, and if so, why don't we do this every day? What is the expiration date for these well wishes? Let's face it, we will all have something lousy  happen to us this year, so does that mean the wish for a happy new year has failed? Am I the only one who thinks this is a ridiculous phrase to use so freely?

At the end of the day (or week or year), we have to acknowledge that happiness is a mere transient emotion, bouncing along the rollercoaster of our circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is something that flows forth from a heart that knows and loves God and desires to serve Him. True joy is found in Jesus Christ alone, and it does not ebb and flow with the sorrows and thrills of life. If we know this joy, let us be thankful to God and eager to share with those who have not yet bowed their knee to Him. What better way to celebrate the new year than to share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are lost?

As you ponder that thought, let me thank you for joining me for the very first 2017 week in review (kind of):

01 January 2017

Sunday Morning Praise

Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

Click here for another beautiful rendition of this hymn.

30 December 2016

This 'n' That

Well, the new year is almost here; 2016 is nearly over. For some, the end cannot come soon enough because this year was characterized by illness, injury, loss, or strife. For others, 2016 brought sweet, joyful memories, positive change, or long-awaited closure. Regardless of where your year falls on this spectrum, 2016 is still ending. You cannot stop it.

The hours, days, months, and years seem to pass by so quickly, don't they? It doesn't seem that long ago that we rejoiced to see summer and now, here we are in the middle of winter, though in many places in the US "winter" seems to be redefining itself. And though God has perfectly designed each day's 24-hour cycle, there never seems to be enough hours in the day or enough days in the week to accomplish all that we think we need to. Then, before we even realize it, before we barely blink, a year has passed, then two, then ten, then a lifetime.
Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
These sobering verses remind us that we have a specific purpose for our time on this earth. We are to serve and glorify the Living God. The world keeps us busy with its distractions, but we are to be about our Father's business. In this we serve and emulate our Lord Jesus Christ. May we purpose to seek Christ and keep our eyes fixed on Him in the coming year and always.

With that, I present you with your final 2016 week in review (kind of):

25 December 2016

From First to Second Advent

The twinkling lights, the joyful music, the seasonal scents. The clich├ęd, but inevitable and very real hustle and bustle of the season. The gatherings, the shopping, the wrapping. The menus, the lists, the crowds. Amid these things, we still find our way to the manger; but, mankind being an easily distracted creature, it is there that we stop. We take a snapshot of this familiar scene—Mary, Joseph, the Christ child, the angels, the shepherds, and a few well-placed animals—and we place it on our mantle as if it tells the totality of the tale, but for all of its miraculous glory, it is not the full story.

Man, though curious by nature, seems content to leave this Christmas story half-finished. Perhaps it is because the next few chapters do not easily harmonize with the gaiety that man has manufactured for the season. Yet, though our Savior first became man as a seemingly helpless infant, and though, if the story had stopped there, we would have reason to praise our great God, in truth and in spite of our undeserving state, there is far more to this story than a star and a stable.

Christmas Day Praise

Come, Let Us Adore Him

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
(Luke 2:1-14)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels From the Realms of Glory

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:15-18)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

24 December 2016

Silent, Holy Night

The Birth of a King

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Silent Night