Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Hunger Games - The Last Word

I've been thinking on GALATIANS:

I've been camped out in Galatians this week as we discussed "The Hunger Games." I read it through in one sitting, marked out verses to memorize and meditate on, listened to a couple of sermons on Galatians, and got inspired wanting to preach my next series on GALATIANS and Christian Freedom -- (Anyone want to come to my youtube church of the open pulpit?)

Anyway, that got me thinking about "holiness" and God's standards of conduct for me personally, and all of us in general. So I did some pulling up of Scriptural phrases that came to mind and realized how often God calls us to a higher standard than the world around us. God calls us to be holy because he is holy. That is not a legalistic holiness that comes from rules and regulations but a holiness of heart that says, "Lord, I want to be like you!" It makes you go, "hmm..." So, today I just want us all to reflect of God's mirror for holiness, his Son, Jesus Christ. First I will give my favorite verses from Galatians, then just some random verses on holiness, not to condemn us, but to call us to be like Jesus. The first and last words of any discussion should be God's Word. Here are some of my favorite verses from Galatians:

Galatians on Liberty & Freedom

Galatians 1:3-4

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 4:8-9

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

Galatians 5:1

1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:16-17

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Galatians 5:19-21

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22-24

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6:12, 14

12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Ephesians on Holiness

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 5:3-12

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in thekingdomofChristand of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

Peter on Holiness

1 Peter 4:3-5

3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 2:16

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

2 Peter 2:19-22

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." Hebrews 7:26 Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

James on Holiness

James 1:21

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the (overflow of) evil that is so prevalent (depravity and desire to injure) and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 4:4

4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?

The Corinthian Letters on Holiness

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit thekingdomofGod? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit thekingdomofGod. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12 "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 8:13

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

1 Corinthians 10:22-31

22. Do all to the glory of God. 23 ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up. 24 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others... 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between thetempleofGodand idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

2 Corinthians 7:1

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Miscellaneous Holiness Passages

1 Timothy 4:1-2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

Hebrews 12:14

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Jude 1:21-25

Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Revelation 18:4

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Hunger Games"- Part 3 -- My Next-to-the-Last Word

My purpose here has not been to endorse the books or the movie, nor is it to censure others from reading them or seeing the movie, but to share this young person's testimony of how the books, principally the third book, adversely affected her spirit and conscience.

It is not my purpose to review the books or the movie but, based on secular and Christian reviews of others, suggest some caution and restraint and ask some serious questions that need healthy debate.

I realize that many believers read a wide range of books and view many types of movies about which they feel defensive and offended when anyone suggests that this kind of entertainment might be spiritually unhealthy, unwise, or just dangerous to the soul. I suppose it is only natural to defend our habits and customs. After all, is it not a question of personal freedom and our liberty in Christ?

Yet, I am concerned when well-meaning Christian leaders not only indulge in such entertainments but by their words and recommendations encourage others to do so as well. Are we not concerned about the weaker brothers who might not be as judicious or discerning as we are and might be sucked into the world's blood lust? Are we approving that which is evil, or at least questionable, with the hope that some good may come of it?

In our personal lives my wife and I have set boundaries for ourselves regarding what we allow ourselves to read or view. We have on occasion walked out of movies that we felt were on the dark side, sensuous side, or where profanity was particularly vulgar or repetitive. Sometimes books and movies are not what they are alleged to be. Reviewers sometimes hide the truth from us. At other times we have thrown away expensive books we have purchased thinking them to be harmless but finding them uncomfortable to read in the presence of our Savior.

That doesn't make us better or more holy than others. We have Christian friends who are appalled to see our movies and books that offend their sensitivities and convictions. We don't try to force our convictions or our boundaries on others, nor do we try to convince more strict believers to loosen up their standards. We all stand and fall before the Lord for the things we allow to enter our lives. We will all give an account to God for the things done in this life.

I urge every believer to make specific personal boundaries regarding what they will or will not allow their eyes to see, their ears to hear, and their minds to think on. Boundaries should also be set by the parents for their children. I urge every believer, male or female, to make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1) that they should not feast on what will not be allowed in heaven. I believe those convictions and boundaries ought to have their roots in specific Scriptures that define holiness. (Have we forgotten about the "holiness" principle? "Without holiness no man will see the Lord." - Hebrews 12:14) Then let the Holy Spirit who dwells in you lead your conscience by the "still small voice" of his whisper. (Isaiah 30:21)

I find it particularly ironic when well-meaning friends tell me I should read these books and/or see this movie before making a judgment about it. To me that is like saying you should not judge a brothel until you have been inside to see whether it is evil or not, or that I should not judge drugs or alcohol until I have indulged in it personally. Or maybe I shouldn't censure pornography until I have investigated the magazine or visited their web site to judge it first hand.

Think about it! If I know from reliable and multiple sources that a thing is questionable at best and dangerous at its worst, why should I subject my soul to its evil in order to cast my vote?

Friend, I choose to steer clear of these things personally, not for some legalistic rule, but for the care of my soul. What I see, hear, and read does affect my soul. I have enough wickedness within me. I don't need to feed it from without. I know there is a beautiful side to evil or else it would never be tempting. When someone says it's evil, dark, sensuous, wicked, or horrific, why should I go anyway just to prove a point?

And if I go just to prove whether it is good or evil for me, then I might be inadvertently be encouraging another believer (or unbeliever for that matter) to also go and test their soul with the temptation to view evil and fill their mind with its images. I choose to steer clear of it so I am not influenced by its evil images that I can never erase from my mind. I practice abstinence for my own safety if not for the safety of others. That is not legalism - that is practicing "safe sense."

Now for the book and movie at hand, "The Hunger Games." Should I go to the movie or read the books? I have read many reviews on the books and the movie. (Beware that you do not assume that because the movie is not as gross as the book it is somehow innocuous. Many have told me that now that they saw the movie they want to buy the books.) All of the reviews, secular and Christian, warn that this movie is "graphic, raw, intense, violent, disturbing, visceral, and with scenes of children killing children."

When Stephen King (remember him, the king of horror?) says it is "violent and jarring" and he couldn't put it down," that in itself ought to warn me away from it.

When Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight Series (Vampire books and movies) says, "I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it..." That ought to be a clue to the true nature of the book's allure.

When Time Magazine says, "The Hunger Games and Catching Fire expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from." I take notice and shield my children and grandchildren from it.

When the New York Times reports the movie contains scenes of "…brutal child-on-child violence and death….in a rapidly cut massacre that pits boy against girl and finds youngsters killing and falling and dying in a frantic, fragmented blur…" I for one do not want to flood my mind and soul with those images.

When all reviews of the movie (and the books even more so) report it to be questionable material that walks a fine line between light and darkness, it is dubiously beneficial for those who delve into it, and it is by all definitions "disturbing." I for one chose not to subject my soul to it, let alone my family and friends.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am really not upset with Hollywood. I expect Hollywood to produce this kind of entertainment. It's what she has always done. She serves her master. Whoever heard of Hollywood holiness?

What concerns me most is the church's response to this kind of entertainment. There seems to be a wholesale abandonment of holiness in a blind rush to see this movie and then read the books. Is the church of Jesus Christ saying, "I want this kind of stuff!" or "I love this kind of entertainment!"?

What are we saying by our entertainment choices? Are we in love with the world and the things of this world (1 John 2:15) or are we in love with Christ and his righteousness and true holiness?

What ever happened to "holiness"?
Whatever happened to "friendship with the world"?
Whatever happened to "separation"?
Whatever happened to Christian "liberty"?
Whatever happened to the "weaker brother"?
Whatever happened to the "Scriptures as the rule for faith and practice"?

ho has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth? (Gal 3:1)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For my final comments on this issue don't miss tomorrow's entry
which will be Scripture itself speaking… See you later.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Hunger Games"- Part 2

OK, let me continue. At the expense of upsetting friends and families let me continue on "The Hunger Games" musings. Please remember this is not a review of the movie or the books but a commentary highlighting one young person's experience of the books and the impact they had on her heart and life.

My response to my friend

Wow! That says a lot to me. You've read the books. You have seen and felt the sinister nature of evil as it gradually sucks you in to the beauty and romance of an evil thing.

It's like the frog being heated in the kettle that doesn't perceive the gradual rise in temperature until its too late, you didn't perceive the preponderance of evil until the last book.

How true that is to the nature of evil. Evil is beautiful or we would never be attracted to it. It entices us, that's how it gets its hooks into us. Who would have thought that believers seeing children killing children would applaud or even stay in the theater?

Call me old fashioned, or call me a prude, but give me Jesus. I agree with the Apostle Paul when considering what I can and can't allow myself to do. "All things are lawful for me, but I won't be brought under the power of any." (1Cor. 6:12) Sure, as a Christian I can go to see any movie. I can, but I shouldn't. I need to always remember that I must give an account of myself to God for things done in the flesh, both words and actions.

I don't think these books or the movie The Hunger Games is on God's reading list or favorite things to do in our spare time. I can't imagine my Savior who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven." would sit through an enactment wanton children killing children.

I don't think that movie will be showing in heaven any time soon.

Thanks for the heads up. I read several reviews, secular and Christian: the Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, USA Today and several others. Interestingly only one questioned the sinister nature of children killing other children, and it wasn't a Christian review!

Her Second Response

And it's so true that evil is beautiful...before I really found Christ, I'd read and seen so many evil things, but they were so attractive to me...glittering, even, and I know that that is the danger in paranormal things being thrown at us in this culture.

I understand that a lot of people (most people, even) are not as bothered by those things as I am now, as they have the mindset that the paranormal things in this world aren't really all that dangerous, and that vampires and werewolves don't actually exist, and so the book they're reading or the movie they're watching is merely fantasy.

Well, maybe vampires and werewolves aren't real, but demonic influences certainly are, and it would seem that that's been a forgotten thing.

But honestly? I've come to expect believers being lenient on the subject of paranormal entertainment. That's not how it should be, but it seems to be that that's just how it is anymore. But with this book, for me, there is no gray between the black and "Is this really wrong?" which is why I've been so frustrated...

A few weeks ago, I had gotten into a bit of a (healthy) debate online over Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games with someone, and I went back and listened to the sermon you gave on God in the home, the sermon that started it all for me with changing what I viewed as entertainment, titled "His Presence in Your Home", I believe.

I discussed it with a friend, and she then listened to it as well (again), and we both agreed with the thought, "How is it that we were some of the only ones who felt convicted by this?"

What was said about demonic influences being in our homes was *so* straightforward to the point where you can't just run away from it, without confronting it...but that's what so many people did, and do now when you discuss the same thing with them, including The Hunger Games.

So many people (or in this case with this particular book, *every person*) I have encountered who have read the book choose to look at the glittering, glamorous side and ignore the inexcusable, horrific side.

Pastor, I saw what you posted earlier, and I fully expect a lot of excuses to be flying your way...because the books *are* incredibly well written, and that's just part of what pulls you in.

This might sound a bit drastic...and I can't think of any other way to put it, other than to say that it's almost as if the series puts a spell on you. I get an eerie feeling thinking of it that way now, but...Once you're in, you're in. It's as if there's a supernatural pull with these books...

By the grace of God, I crawled my way back out, but so far, I seem to be one of the only ones.

* * * * * *

Hopefully we have only couple more commentaries on this, then let us put this to rest. Coming soon… Oh, I'll look for a link to the sermon she mentioned and notes from the same.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Suzanne Collins’s trilogy “The Hunger Games”

I love a good movie, even better, a book you can’t put down. I tend to like adventure movies and war movies – man-movies. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and I tolerated The Lord of the Rings for Tolkien’s allegory of spiritual truths.

But I draw the line at books and movies that glorify evil for the sake appealing to our baser instincts. There is a beautiful side of evil that entices and allures us as if by some mystical spell. Movies and books that exalt sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and witchcraft are off my pursuit list. They are clearly Satan’s territory and I believe Christians should not walk into the enemy’s territory deliberately. It is hard enough to be pure from the evil within let alone feeding our fallen natures with such stuff.

But not all movies and books have such clear-cut lines of demarcation. The recent blockbuster movie Hunger Games, based on the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins is such an example. I understand the books are well written and cleverly crafted to suck you in to the story and produce an addiction so strong you can’t wait to get into the next book. It has the same strong allure as the Harry Potter Series, but without the witchcraft factor.

However well written we must remember that these books are written by a children’s writer and are listed as children’s books. They are well written and that is commendable. But what lies stealthfully hidden beneath the fa├žade of an adventure tale is the hidden message of murder and gratuitous violence. The scenes of carnage in the book are even more visceral than in the movie, which itself is quite realistic and visual, and leaves the scenes embedded in ones memory and psyche for some time.

I have not read the books, nor have I seen the movie. I might have except for heartbroken cry from an older teen who is a recent believer who did read the books, all three, and felt unclean and violated afterward. She wrote to me asking me as her pastor why believers and even pastors have gone wild over Hunger Games. The following is her description of her experience with the books.

I have her permission to share this with you.

Pastor Dick...I've been wondering about your thoughts on something.

I'm sure that, being on Facebook, you've heard mention of The Hunger Games, a new movie coming out tonight actually, based on a popular book series.

I *have* read these books. I'd read the first and second before I sifted through my books a few years ago, and at the time that I went through my books (to clear out and burn the trash of vampires stuff), my copy of the first was lent out to a friend, and so I didn't include it in the pile that day, and since that one wasn't included, I didn't include the second either.
After that point, the third book came out, and I proceeded to read it...I wish I hadn't. The moment I finished it, I had to take it out of my room; I didn't want to be anywhere near it. It was so disturbing on so, so many levels, and just thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach.
I'll admit, I was enamored by the first 2 in the series...and the way they're written sucks you in and leaves each book on a cliffhanger so that you can't read just the first, you have to read all 3...and getting to the end of book 3 is like a slap in the face, and you're just hit with "What on earth have I been reading?" Or at least, that's how it was with me. Book 3 opened my eyes to how entertained I'd been about *children* murdering each other as sport, and I was disgusted, ashamed even, to realize how very "into it" I had gotten.

Immediately, my views on the books changed, and I began discouraging everyone I could *not* to read them: there are images in my mind from these books that I wish were not there, and that I don't wish upon anyone else.

Pastor Dick, I'm finding myself so, so discouraged at seeing how this series is spreading like wildfire through the church. And so far, I'm the only person I know who's read the books, and feels the way I do. I do know 2 people who read book 3 and felt the way I did, but with all of the movie hype, they just don't care anymore, and that frustrates me so greatly!

A lot of people say that the series has a good political message...but in my opinion, that is not justification for many of the scenes in these books, and for the "love" of them, and the excitement over them. My soul is grieved each time I see someone else hop in line to read The Hunger Games...and even more when I see the excitement to see them come to life on the movie screen.

I feel like for whatever reason, God has given me some level of discernment when it comes to books and movies...but this is the first time I've found myself standing alone, especially in the church, in my thoughts on a book. It's just very discouraging to me...and I suppose I was just wondering what you think of all of the hype.
What you think of the series, even if you haven't read them, if you think I'm being dramatic or crazy in my fervent discouraging of the books... I'm seeing raves about the series from people I'd have *never* expected to support them, and it makes me wonder if I'm just being silly...but something tells me I'm not. I can just feel that my spirit is *so* unsettled by all of this. I just can't believe that I'm the only one who sees these books this way...

It gives you some pause and some food for thought. We will continue with this theme for a few more posts... Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oaks of Righteousness

It's spring and I've been thinking about planting, which led me to think about things in Scripture related to planting. Usually my brain clicks off several Scriptures from memory related to planting, but you might want to do a word search of the word "plant" or "planting" and see what you find.

Here are a few of my own:

Psalm 92:12-15
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." -

Psalm 1:3
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Isaiah 61:2-3
…to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

* * * * * * *

Jesus came to do Isaiah 61:1-3 in our lives. He said so in his introductory sermon in Luke 4:18-19. Here is what he came to exchange in us:

Crown of Beauty - instead of ashes
Oil of Gladness - instead of mourning
Garment of Praise - instead of spirit of despair

The result of exchanging our gloomy attitudes for the mind of Christ is that we will called …

Oaks of Righteousness,
the planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Yesterday I took my first spring bike ride by a nearby lake. I noted the trees were not yet in full bud so you could really see the structure of each. I couldn't help but notice some pretty ugly gnarly old trees. I took a picture of one because it reminded me of some old people who become misshapen by life's storms and just stand around displaying their hurts for all to see. Then I read about the Angel Oak tree in South Carolina. Now that's what I want to look like in old age. Read about it…

"The Angel Oak has come symbolize Charleston. It is a Southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island near Charleston. The Angel Oak is estimated to be in excess of 1500 years old, stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet (1,600 m2). From tip to tip Its longest branch distance is 187 ft.

The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be one of the oldest living things in the country. The land where the Angel Oak Tree stands was part of Abraham Waight's 1717 land grant. The City of Charleston now owns the property. The Angel Oak Park is free and the tree should be added to any visit to Charleston, Kiawah or Seabrook Islands."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Danger of Sitting in Ashes

Isaiah 61:3 -- “to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”

Ashes are things of the past that didn’t work out. They are our ruined dreams. They are the things we once cherished that got burned up.

Ashes turn to lye when it gets wet. Lye is a powerful alkali that can be created using rain water and wood ashes. Lye created from wood ash is potassium hydroxide. Lye is very dangerous and extreme caution should be used when making or handling lye. Lye should never come in contact with aluminum as it will react with the metal. Lye can cause chemical burns if it comes in contact with your skin, and blindness if it gets in your eyes. In fact, when you get lye on your skin, it will begin reacting with the fatty acids on your skin and begin making soap. If you get lye on your skin you’d better get it off in a hurry. Use vinegar to neutralize the solution.

How often we are prone to sit in the ashes of our own misery and soak up self pity. Our tears turn our ashes into toxic lye that is corrosive to the beautiful crown God has bestowed to us in Christ. It is time to exchange those ashes for a crown of beauty. A flood of thanksgiving is the best way to wash away and neutralize the “lyes of Satan.” (pun intended). “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) The truth of God’s word always sets us free. So let’s all soak in bountiful verbal thanksgiving for 10 minutes every day and we will find the ashes turning acid to medicine. “A merry heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)