Aloha Friday Message – March 7, 2014 – First Friday of Lent

1410AFC070714 – First Friday of Lent

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Isaiah 5:20-21 – Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

Aloha kakahiaka, ʻŌmea. Good morning, Beloved. Today we begin a Lenten Series with passages from The Book of the Prophet Isaiah. This won’t be an exhaustive chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, line-by-line, precept-by-precept examination of this amazing collection of poetry, prose, and prophecy. I’ll write about the topics given to me, and that will be that. I recall when I was just a youngster, one of our pastors referred to Isaiah as a mini-Bible with 66 chapters that were in many ways like the 66 books of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. The prophecies in this book are challenging. They are sometimes difficult to understand – especially the poetic imagery, and most especially out of historical context, sometimes surprisingly tender, and sometimes harshly descriptive of Israel’s sinfulness and Gods Righteous Anger. I’m not quite certain how this will all play out over the next seven weeks; I only know that as the weeks go by, new passages will be recommended, new topics will be developed, and new connections with the past will come to light.

SatanicDeceitI expect that some who read this series will wonder, “What got into him?!?” Well, if today’s reference-passage is any indicator, my guess would be The Word. Once again, I find myself in a “period of discernment,” and that always pulls me deeper into Scripture because I know it is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Perhaps some, even most, of you have some idea already where today’s writings will lead us. I have a vague idea, but I think it’s time to square up the keyboard and get on with it. If, at some point, you think I’ve gone too far, be assured it’s probably not far enough.

When I first saw this passage, it resonated with an old memory about George Orwell’s excellent story in Animal Farm, in particular, in the section toward the end where the leaders of the Animal rebellion – a pig aptly named Napoleon – is seated at table with humans who were formerly the enemy of all Animals. He has formulated a new maxim: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” All through the book, the readers see wrong things are reinterpreted, truth is subverted, and that which is intrinsically wrong is transformed to that which is extrinsically right. Orwell’s tale makes us realize that in the past (and perhaps even now) grassroots masses who willingly entrust their futures to charismatic leaders can be deceived and enslaved by those whom they trust. There are also a few on the periphery between leaders and followers who act as double-agents, gaining contemptuous but profitable recognition from both factions.

While Orwell’s book depicts the event leading to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ascent of Stalin, it also teaches a strong lesson about things that are happening now, and readily and rightly parallels with what is quoted from Isaiah today.

Do you remember the story about the two centurions walking through Rome and noting all the garbage littering the Via Apia? The first one complained, “All this garbage is terrible! Caesar should to something about getting rid of it!” His companion responded, “Well, all we need to do is change its name.” The first guy said, “How could changing its name make all of this go away?” The second centurion smiled, and said, “Easy. We just call it Tribute. Then Caesar will want it all for himself.” Sometimes just changing the name of something is “all it takes” to make it better. Once we condone that name change, we have made all things more equal. Equality among all earthlings is always a noble goal. Calling things equal that are actually hugely dissimilar is certainly not noble; it is deceitful. And there is the “hook” in this message.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~~ Edwin Burke Perhaps, though, there is one further necessity that helps ensure the triumph of evil – something a bit more proactive than complacency: Deceit dressed up in truth: The wolf in sheep’s clothing. Jesus specifically warns us about this kind of deception in Matthew 7:15: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. I’d like to look at that term “false prophet” today because it will be something we hear again in the next few weeks. What is a “false prophet?”
The sensible place to begin is to know what “prophet” means. One common notion is that a prophet is someone who predicts the future, a “seer” someone who is clairvoyant, can divine the future through supernatural powers. In this connotation, a person is often already considered a false prophet, a hoaxer, and one whose pronouncements are self-promoting. This is not the biblical meaning of prophet. There are words in the Bible that are translated as “seer,” and the persons associated with that word (usually the Hebrew חֹזֶה (cho-zeh) {kho-zeh’} or רָאָה (ra’ah ) {raw-aw’}) are recognized as persons through whom God sends messages. We see this in 1 Samuel 9:9 (In former times in Israel, anyone who went to consult God used to say, “Come, let us go to the seer.” For he who is now called prophet was formerly called seer.) The Old Testament word for prophet is נָבִיא (nabiy’ ) {nah-bee’}. There are some disagreements among scholars about the origin of that word, but one that is well-accepted is that this noun comes from the verb noba` meaning to “bubble up,” “boil over”,” as in “to pour forth an abundance of words,” such as those who speak within divine inspiration. It is by and through the power and inspiration of God that a prophet speaks, and a prophet can’t help but speak when and what God commands any more than a boiling pot can stop bubbling. And that is the key. Those who have Divine Inspiration are True Prophets. The converse is that those whose “inspiration” is self-generated are the False Prophets. How then can we tell the difference? If we look at the verses following Jesus description of wolves in sheep’s clothing, the answer is clear.

The answer is, “by their fruits you will know them.” And here’s where we run into trouble because these days there’s a lot of fake fruit on the table. The fake fruit comes to us through the tireless work of the Prince of Lies, the devil, and he uses a few seeds of Truth and a ton of manure to raise a crop of bad advice. He wants us to change the names of things because it suits his purposes and not God’s. Anything that does not suit God’s purpose is, well, wrong; but Satan tries to convince us it is right to make these changes because “it is right to do this; you will be like God when you do.” Does that sound familiar, something you might have read recently in Genesis? And so we take something we know is wrong, call it by something we know is right, and PRESTO! What was wrong is now right. Marriage is no longer sacred, family is no longer a community of love, amorphous “spirituality” is true religion, and God is me because I am God. Beloved, there are seeds of truth in what the world is telling us about these things, but to believe them, one must overlook the ton of manure that comes along with them. So some of you are going to take umbrage at what follows.

A socioeconomic consensual partnership between two or more persons of the same gender is not a marriage. A marriage is only one man sacramentally united to one woman. You can name it a marriage, but it is not. A family is a mother and a father and their children either by natural conception or adoption. Faith is more than just a personal spirituality. It must be based on something outside of us that is greater than us, truer than us, and eternal. Does that make all non-Christian faiths invalid? Personally, I don’t think so, but only because I believe that God knows everyone who seeks him with a sincere heart; the ability to do that comes to every living soul because of the Power of the Son of God. Does it make a difference at the Resurrection? God knows, but right now he’s not telling. But I do know this: You can’t grow watermelons on a persimmon tree. You will know them by their fruit. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil turned out to be Death. The devil lied about that; don’t you think he’d be willing to lie about anything and everything else?

He’s made corrupt capitalism, hedonism, immorality, addiction, terrorism, and situational ethics look like virtues. We know people who sincerely believe it’s OK to blatantly and elaborately lie if it is for a good reason. Many of them are in politics. We know people who are wise in their own esteemed opinion and claim to be an agnostic or atheist. They try to intellectualize and rationalize their place “in the Universe” but their arguments cannot begin to approach the perspective of infinite wisdom and knowledge, infinite power and glory. God’s way was to transcend his omnipotence by laying it aside to become one of us. That would be a little like one of us laying aside our nature to become an amino acid chain. Even that comparison is inadequate, but it is not a lie. There is only one way out of this pile of lies: Repent.

One of the most frequently quoted verses on the topic of repentance is 2 Chronicles 7:14If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Repentance of a nation begins with repentance by individuals. We are dealing with evil spirits who are counterfeiting righteousness and passing it off as “the Real Deal.” “What’s true for you may not be true for me and what’s true for me may not be true for you.” Baloney! I have quoted Frank E. Peretti in previous messages, and I’m going to put that quote here as the ending to this piece and the beginning of the next:

There is no way for you to know whether what I am telling you is true, unless you know what the truth is. And there’s no way for you to know what the truth is unless there is a truth that you can know! You’ve got to have a truth that is true, whether you believe it or not, boom! It’s true whether you like it or not, boom! It’s true whether you even know about it or not, boom! It’s just true! Objective, external truth that stands in and of itself. The bible talks all about that; from cover to cover it talks about the truth. And the Lord says, “I am the Lord thy God, I declare what is true, I declare what is right.”

Beloved, what I am telling you is True. I have met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and what he declared is what is right; always has been and always will be.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

chick

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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