Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Out on a Limb" with the devil?

As a pastor, it has been my observation that Satan likes to take people "out on a limb" with the aim of leading them out to a vulnerable position, far from the strength of the main "tree", to the point where all it takes is for that limb to give way and they fall, sometimes from the Faith altogether.

There are a few different "limbs" that come to mind:

One of those precarious limbs is the limb of emotion. A Christian is told that the happiness they felt when they first heard of their Saviour should not only characterize their whole experience of being a Christian, but should intensify as time goes on, picking up more and more euphoric moments of ecstasy along the way to perfect holiness. And so the Christian goes out on that limb. Perhaps further out on the limb they are exposed to "speaking in tongues" or some other manifestation of euphoria. And so they go further out, expecting to wake up every morning feeling that Jesus is their Best Friend Forever because they feel so close to God. Well, you know where this is going... One day they wake up and they don't feel the same. Perhaps (gasp) they have even sinned! Yet, they are so far out on the limb of emotion that they cannot go back to the main tree. It is too late, the limb has broken off and crash goes their faith.

Another precarious limb is the limb of reason. Frequently considered the antithesis of emotion, rationalism poses the same threat as emotion in that it takes one out on another limb that can break off, leaving the Christian in a heap on the ground, perhaps with their faith smashed and broken. How does the devil lead Christians out on a limb with reason? It is by reducing their faith more and more to a matter of reasonable conclusions whose strength is based more on scientific proof and historical documentation than on a living relationship with Christ. Life-times otherwise spent in Scripture and prayer are now spent with listening to and engaging in apologetic arguments and rhetorical logic. Further and further out on this limb the believer goes with this until the day when it dawns on her that maybe having better documentation than the other guy doesn't make the biblical God real - just more "plausible". Yet, she is too intellectual now to go back to a relationship with God based on mere Word and Sacraments and so down she goes.

There are other limbs too, I am sure, that Satan uses to lead people far from the sturdy tree of faith, but the point of it all is this. God has said that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10.17). And experience shows that the strongest believers are those whose relationship with God is connected most closely with the mysterious working of the Means of Grace - God's Word and Sacraments.

OK, saying your prayers, reading the Bible, receiving Absolution for sin and communing at Divine Services may not be as exciting as being "on fire for the Lord", being "in love with Jesus" or winning an argument on an internet debate, but it is what characterizes a saving relationship with God and, in the (eternally) long-term, what is more important?

Monday, May 17, 2010


As a lover of beauty, there are only so many displays of compassion, tenderness, understanding, sympathy, joy and love that I can take before I get a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. Add to such an experience, the sight and sound of astonishingly well-performed song and choreography and you will see why I am melting with delight after another episode of "Glee" online.

Where has such a television show been all my life?? (I'm 53). So far on TV, I have seen my values as a Christian ridiculed, satirized and insulted. I have seen life itself reduced to cynical darkness. Even cartoons now are desperately dark. I have seen "edgy" avant-garde TV that made me feel as hopeless as the anarchists who produced it. I have been assaulted visually by violence and sickened by lurid depictions of perversion (All without nudity, of course, since this is America) I have also been treated to banal attempts at "family values", lame humour made worse by canned laughter. I have also seen so-called religious programming in which "good wins out", but the quality of the writing was contrived that it fell far short of being much more than a stilted embarrassment. All TV watchers have been tortured in this way for years. I don't need to elaborate further, do I?

Yet now there is "Glee". Although I have yet to see a character come out as a Christian (and probably never will), Glee is easily the most inspirational and uplifting show on TV on so many levels.

I have seen conflicts worked through, physical and emotional handicaps (including Downe's Syndrome and quadriplegic suffering overcome, hard-hearts warmed and amazing, poignant and thrilling singing and that was just one episode. Every episode seems better and more edifying than the last.

Some may say Glee is just escapist fantasy, but I have seen that before and Glee is much more. Yes, it has escapist euphoric music and dancing. Yes it has world-class writing and plenty of comedy - but it also has some serious messages that come through as loud and clear as its show-stopping musical numbers.

When was the last time you could count upon a TV show to be life-affirming, inspirational, thought-provoking, entertaining, moving you to tears at the same time and to deliver that package with every episode? When was the last time you watched "Glee"?