Tag Archive: Life


Are cookies, coffee and calories sinful? Is it wrong to put a spoiler on your minivan? Are drums from the devil? Will you become an alcoholic and go to hell if you allow a drop of alcohol to pass your lips?  Is it wrong to watch secular movies? Will you become demon-possessed if you dare to look at paintings by the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh?

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Is it always wrong to generalize?

I’ve used the British spelling of “gray” ( g-r-e-y) in my title: I hope you can indulge me. If you can’t, you really do need to read this post.

A Christian comedian who was very popular a few decades back, Mike Warnke, once described legalistic Christians as being “so narrow that they can see through a key-hole with both eyes”. Not only do some people want to avoid enjoying their lives, but they don’t think anyone else should enjoy theirs either. I don’t think…I hope I’ve never been that extreme in my zeal for God. Such legalism is usually-but not always-a sign of self-righteousness and a holier-than-thou attitude. This attracts no-one to the faith or to us.

THE ULTIMATE REDUCTIONIST/ MINIMALIST

When I first became a Christian I was so intent on parting myself from my former way of life and all that I perceived to be “of the devil”, that I purged myself of almost everything I possessed, everyone I knew, and all I had previously enjoyed.

I cut myself off from all my former influences and pleasures. Friends thought I’d been brainwashed by some American cult (cults from anywhere else in the world were perfectly acceptable). In fact they were so “concerned” about me that they avoided me like the plague. Perhaps this was a sign that I was actually on the right track, because:

“What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Having been a bass player by profession, I sold my bass and my amp. I detached myself dramatically from my musical and theatrical contacts. I disposed of all my books, memorabilia and photographs, and my entire record collection-all the music I had loved, enjoyed and been influenced by for years.

For a time I was terrified that if I so much as puffed on one cigarette ever again or had a single sip of beer I would be cast immediately into the lake of fire. God would reject me, the rapture would pass me by, and I would be “left behind” to suffer all the evils of the Tribulation and subsequent judgment.

All that remained of my possessions and my former life was a bed and a Bible…and I was considering getting rid of the bed.

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SWINGING BACK AGAIN

About two years later I underwent my first and my deepest bout of backsliding. Disappointment with God’s performance-the one I expected from him-made my heart sink a million miles. I didn’t reject the Lord in my life: I just put him to the back of my mind so he wouldn’t become a hindrance. The cause of this pendulum-swing turnaround was my own loneliness. I was so hurt that God would not give me a lover, a family and some Christian friends as he seemed to do for everyone else, that I intentionally allowed myself to slide at least part way towards that perdition, in a quest for company and for a girl.

Now I’m going to disappoint some of you by fast-forwarding to the present without sharing the intervening juicy details (for details, send a check or money order for $5000 to the address below…)

IN THE MIDDLE

Now, many years later, I find myself enjoying things which some Christians would consider unacceptable, un-godly, too worldly, and maybe even damnable. In fact, I regularly thank the Lord for what he allows me to enjoy and blesses me with.

No, I’m not one of those people who gets high every day and has a string of live-in lovers. Such things are among the “black and the white” things of life as far as I’m concerned: the things we can know are wrong in the eyes of God. As Paul said after listing some of the real sins of life:

“…those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Instead of those damnable lifestyles, I’m speaking here of things which are not forbidden or perhaps not mentioned in the Bible, but which some self-appointed judges among Christians decide are sinful, shameful and damnable.

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COOKIE-CUTTER CHRISTIANS

“Cookie-cutter Christians” is another of Warnke’s terms, which describes the product of some in the Christian world who, if they had their way, would have us all be identical to them or their favorite preacher in every detail. Even the discussion of grey areas is out of bounds in their eyes. If we were really Christians, they think, we would all be just like them: bored, boring and dispassionate.

FREE TO BE GREY (NOT GAY)

God has called us to freedom within his clear laws, not to a regimented tyranny (2 Corinthians 3:17). Yes, I agree that it’s sinful and damaging to indulge in certain things perhaps not mentioned directly in scripture, such as cannabis and over-graphic movies. And yes, he wants us to spend our lives in worship of him and loving and caring for our fellow man and those around us, rather than in serving ourselves. But it’s a big beautiful world which our God made: he didn’t make it to be ignored. He didn’t design our incredibly complex, inventive, creative human nature just so that we can cower in a corner and be bored out of our brains until we die.

It’s not God’s desire for us all to be the same (and how boring life would be if we were). Why does our DNA contain so much potential for variation, if we’re supposed to be cookie-cutter humans? This variety in our genotypes and our phenotype and our personalities, is there for a reason.

CAUTION

Grey areas do require some thought and prayerful Biblical consideration: are they really grey areas or are we just trying to excuse our disobedience? What kind of guidance does the Bible give for our consideration of grey areas?

 

“Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul advised care for others as our ultimate guide in those grey areas:

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak… “…so this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8: 9, 11).

We must consider others in the out-working of our freedom. We don’t all have to conform to the life of the ultimate Christian reductionist in order to avoid creating stumbling blocks, but rather those things not forbidden in scripture which we may allow ourselves and which others are not able to enjoy or accept, should not be flaunted in front of others whose faith may be damaged.

In recent months I’ve made myself a promise: I refuse to snore and to fade and to fizzle out until I’m dead. I intend to make fireworks and go out with a bang. God gave us life. Life is beautiful-let’s not waste it. Let’s live it to the full!

FAUX: THE NEW REAL

In my higgorance and naivety I’ve fallen for the fancy synonym for “fake” too many times, and in this case, once is too many times…

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All kinds of things are advertised as being “faux” these days, the word being paraded as though “faux” were something chic, valuable and amazingly desirable. And of course many things are fake without giving any such warning as the four-letter “f” word in my title.

We have fake leather, fake wood, fake flowers, fake glass and fake metal. Fake organs, fake fruit, chocolate, leather, tans, news, scientists, hair, teeth, nails, boobs, men, women, trees, pottery, religion, healing, prophets, apostles, Republicans, beggars, music, promises, names, I.D., money…and the list goes on for as long as you can list anything pertaining to human beings.

The first five readers who’ve read this far will receive a Ferrari…

…but not a real one.

Who won the cup final in 1957? All correct answers will receive a…well…they won’t receive anything (except perhaps a big smile).

Welcome to all you fine people out there who are brave enough to consider the causes of suffering rather than trying to ignore them. Part six of my up-dated series on suffering (first published in 2011) concerns the subject of testing…

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Like it or not, we’re all tested at different times in our lives-perhaps throughout our lives-believers and non-believers. Our faith, our character and our motives are tested by the circumstances we face in life, by temptation to sin and to do wrong, and (this one is difficult for many believers to accept) by God himself. Our enemy the devil also tests us, inasmuch as God allows him to.

Original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible translated ‘test’, ‘trial’ and ‘tempt’ can be used interchangeably: they have related meanings. They’re often only selected by the motive of the source.

Mankind has been tested from the beginning of creation. I’ve already discussed in part four how Adam and Eve failed the simplest test they could have had- that of resisting the temptation to eat the one forbidden fruit compared to the many that they were allowed to enjoy freely. Remember that God intentionally placed that tree of forbidden fruit in the garden where they lived. He could have left it out, if he wanted: see part two of the series.

Later in scripture we see the struggles of the Israelites, as they wandered in the desert after failing to enter the promised land by faith. Over and over we’re told that they were being tested:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert, to humble you and to test you, in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

When God provided Manna, he said, “In this way I will test them and see if they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4).

Once they were finally in the promised land, God used other nations “…to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it…” (Judges 2: 22).

David was aware of testing. He said “I know, my God, that you test the heart…” (1 Chronicles 29:17) and he even invited the Lord to test him:

Test me. O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2).

Testing was not just an Old Testament phenomenon. James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:2, 3,12).

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Even Jesus Christ himself was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

It’s during the hard times that God, and others, and perhaps we ourselves, see what’s really inside us, and the true condition of our hearts. I’m not trying to say that every hardship we face is sent by God, or that he’s going around like some malevolent, hateful ogre. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we can hope to discern the reason for our problems, and then we need to have the correct, godly attitude towards our situation, as Job did.

Sometimes God doesn’t have to do anything to test us: our real character is shown in the way we respond to everyday trials which come to us by the laws of nature and the nature of man. Whether our trials are expressly sent from God or not, He allows them to happen, and all trials can reveal our true character!

Some people make the mistake of blaming the devil for all their problems. Everything pleasant is from God, and everything unpleasant is from Satan, they think. Even when they sin they blame the devil. This is the “devil made me do it” mentality, and it’s not scriptural. The devil can’t make true believers do anything, and very often our problems are our own fault. That’s not to say that our enemy doesn’t ever test us: he does. Sometimes he’s the one to put that proverbial spanner/wrench in the works of our life. Satan tested Job with severe suffering. However, it’s important to remember that he had to get God’s permission to do it (Job 1: 6-12).

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Job was severely tested when Satan decided he should be, and though Job was a righteous man God allowed Satan to inflict all kinds of horrors on him. Satan had claimed that Job only had faith because things were going well for him (Job 1: 9-11).

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Jesus didn’t say that he refused Satan’s request, but that he was defending Peter’s faith.

We’re all being “shaken” and sifted like wheat. The good grain is kept, the weeds disposed of. In the future all of humanity is going to face a time of severe trial, known commonly as ‘the time of Tribulation’. Jesus said that this “trial is going to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10), We can see in other scripture passages that this ‘hour of trial’ is not sent by Satan (although he certainly plays a leading role) but by God himself, because He has said:

“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26).

Perhaps I should re-name this series “How to be Hugely Successful and Have a Fun-Filled Life”, or “How to Impress All Your New Boyfriends”: I think my view count would soar. Apologies to those who’ve responded to the “How to Be Hugely Successful” tag. But then, avoiding trouble can lead to success, can it not?

It seems we all want our problems to go away, but we don’t want to know where they come from or how to stop them…

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sandI wrote last time that in order for God to give mankind free will as he did, he also had to give us the ongoing opportunity to make wrong choices. How we choose to act or speak in any situation leads to consequences-good or bad, and if we want to identify the cause of a huge amount of suffering in our world, all we have to do is look at our neighbors, or look in the mirror. Yes, human nature is a major cause of suffering.

 

Many times over I’ve heard people blame God for bad situations in their lives which were actually caused by other people. I must confess I’ve done it myself until I came to my senses. We’d like to think that a loving God would intervene and immediately deal with “those” people who cause us problems. But as I explained last time, God is in no mind to “drive” bodies and minds, neither is he inclined to come to our rescue when we’ve ignored and trashed him continuously. Like it or not “those” people have free-will, just as we do, and unfortunately humans sometimes hurt each other with that free will.

12769843-two-skeletons-who-are-fighting-as-they-decayHere I’ll introduce a very unfashionable and politically incorrect word into the mix: ‘sin’. ‘Sin’ is a Biblical word for any actions, thoughts or attitudes which are in opposition to God’s perfect ways and his prescription for our mutual happiness. All wrongdoing is “sin”, and the Bible says we’ve all sinned. It’s in our nature-whether we like it or not-to do things which are going to bring harm to ourselves or to others, directly or indirectly.

WE HARM OURSELVES

We humans invite or accept trouble into our own lives in a multitude of ways. For example, if we eat unhealthy food and fail to be active for years, we can suffer chronic health problems. We get too-easily involved in bad relationships with people who soon mistreat us and bring out the worst in us. We overwork and cause problems in our families, or we live in laziness leading to poverty and wasted time. We fail to forgive ourselves and others. We fall for deceptive and false philosophies. We fail to think truthfully about ourselves and develop a multitude of mental hang-ups which spill out into the world we inhabit.

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WE HURT EACH OTHER

When people fail in such ways as I’ve described above others can also be adversely affected. War is the result of the crooked will of man falling into greed or anger or some warped ideology, and then acting against his brother. It’s not an accident, it’s not a disease, and it’s not caused by God: it’s violence inflicted by man upon man. We’re all aware of war, murders, riots, robberies, embezzlement, oppression, rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking and terrorism. Most of us aren’t in the habit of perpetrating such things on others, but according to the Bible, we who aren’t guilty of murder or robbery shouldn’t feel smug or self-righteous, because we can all at times be guilty of things which may be destructive in varying degrees. In fact, the Bible states that:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 23 NIV).

In relation to God’s perfection, and from his point of view, we’re all “those” people. If we had to tip the imaginary scales of judgment which measure good-deeds against bad-deeds in order to gain a perfect God’s acceptance, we’d all be in some serious trouble…

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Hatred, snobbery, judgmental attitudes, infidelity, arrogance, manipulation, sarcasm, indifference, selfishness, deceit, vengeance, greed, envy: they all cause pain and suffering, and they all come from fallen human nature: our human nature. We even cause suffering by failing to do things. For example, we can fail to love or to show appreciation or mercy.

Cheerful stuff, eh? Well actually there is some good news. The Bible is a “how to” manual: it tells us how to avoid a lot of pain and trouble caused by human nature, how to be good to our fellow man, and how to please God. It also tells us that Jesus Christ came to provide forgiveness for us, and to deliver us from our sinful nature. Please see my  post “What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?”:

https://nickyfisher.com/2013/08/13/what-is-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-2/

 

 

Who are you? What are you made of? Have you been in touch with yourself lately? I don’t want to contribute to the “me” mentality raging all around us and in us, but staying in touch seems like an important thing to do…

I’ve been realizing how relevant staying in touch with my roots is to living a meaningful life. For many years I failed to pay attention to the benefits or even the concepts of roots and beginnings. The results of my attitude can be seen in the multitude of broken relationships and hurt people strewn along the path of my life; the missed opportunities, the blunders, and the consequential festering pool of regrets swilling around in my brain.

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As they say though (whoever “they” are) better late than never. I’ve been in touch with a few good friends I once had and lost, and attempted to right a few wrongs. Except for one, they all give the honorable reply that there were no wrongs: it was all good. I’ve given time to thinking about people who were important to me when I didn’t realize it, and places, and events I never appreciated or reflected upon until now. And I’ve been taking another look at some of the things I enjoyed about the culture I once lived in, in another country and another time. Yes, there is some of my old, “B.C.” life which needs to and will remain buried in that baptism I experienced as a new believer, but others are of great worth.

For example, I’ve always had a very progressive taste in music. I could never tolerate sameness or cliches: I wanted to hear something new and experimental. But in the last couple of years I’ve been listening to some of the music I enjoyed in my teens, and hey- some of it was pretty amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever get into an “older guy” habit of saying that nothing new is worth listening to-that’s just silly. And after all, even nostalgia isn’t what it use to be (joke). Similarly in the world of art I’ve been rediscovering some tremendous works and styles I once found stimulating.

The value I’ve discovered lately in those things and others is that they’re what I’m made of. They all contributed to my character, my view of life and the world, and my part in it. They’re inextricably related to some of the events of my past-my childhood, my teens, my life. They remind me of friends, family, loves, dreams, laughs, styles and a thousand other things which make up my personality and my experience on this earth.

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The Bible speaks of the importance of being in touch with our roots, particularly as they relate to family, traditions, commitments, values, society, and most importantly our faith. A failure to stay in touch with those things will lead to catastrophe just as surely as pulling out the foundation of a house will collapse the whole building:

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 KJV).

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But I’m speaking here more about an understanding of ourselves. We can’t have a clear view of our future and our direction in life without being aware of the people and the things which made us. Knowledge of our self, and of what makes for a good and meaningful world, produces what was once called “wisdom”. Wisdom guides us into a better life-one without regrets.

In short, I’m saying that by being in touch with all points of my past, including the ugly, painful ones, I am in fact staying in touch with…me. Not in any narcissistic, obsessive, selfish way-I hope, but in a way which will lead to a better life, a fuller appreciation of life, a better testimony, and fewer regrets.

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