Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gettin' all Pompey up in here!

“5 And Yahweh saw that the evil of humankind was great upon the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was always only evil.” (Gen 6)

58 “Call with the throat; you must not keep back!

    lift up your voice like a trumpet,

and declare to my people their rebellion,

    and to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me day by day,

    and they desire the knowledge of my ways

like a nation that practiced righteousness,

    and had not forsaken the judgment of its God;

they ask me for righteous judgments,

    they desire the closeness of God.
‘Why do we fast, and you do not see it?

    We humiliate our soul, and you do not notice it?’

Look! You find delight on the day of your fast,

    and you oppress all your workers!
Look! You fast to quarrel and strife,

    and to strike with a wicked fist.

You shall not fast as you do today,

    to make your voice heard on the height.
Is the fast I choose like this,

    a day for humankind to humiliate himself?

To bow his head like a reed,

    and make his bed on sackcloth and ashes;

you call this a fast

    and a day of pleasure to Yahweh?
Is this not the fast I choose: to release the bonds of injustice,

    to untie the ropes of the yoke,

and to let the oppressed go free,

    and tear every yoke to pieces?
Is it not to break your bread for the hungry?

    You must bring home the poor, the homeless.

When you see the naked, you must cover him,

    and you must not hide yourself from your relatives.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing shall grow quickly.

And your salvation shall go before you;

    the glory of Yahweh will be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and Yahweh himself will answer.

    You shall cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am!’

If you remove from among you the yoke,

    the finger-pointing and evil speech,
10 if you offer your soul to the hungry,

    and you satisfy the appetite of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness,

    and your darkness will be like noon.
11 And Yahweh will lead you continually, and satisfy your soul in a barren land,

    and he will strengthen your bones,

and you shall be like a well-watered garden,

    and like a spring of water whose water does not fail.
12 And they shall rebuild ancient ruins from you;

    you shall erect the foundations of many generations,

and you shall be called the bricklayer of the breach,

    the restorer of paths to live in.
13 If you hold your foot back from the Sabbath,

    from doing your affairs on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a pleasure,

    the holy day of Yahweh honorable,

if you honor him more than doing your ways,

    than finding your affairs and speaking a word,
14 then you shall take your pleasure in Yahweh,

    and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth,

    and I will feed you the heritage of Jacob your ancestor,
for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.” (Is 58)

17 Therefore the Lord did not rejoice over its young men,

    and he did not have compassion on its orphans and widows,

for everyone was godless and an evildoer,

    and every mouth was speaking folly.” (Is 9)

And we all have become like the unclean,

    and all our deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth,

And we all wither like a leaf,

    and our iniquities take us away like the wind.
And there is no one who calls on your name,

    who pulls himself up to keep hold of you,

for you have hidden your face from us,

    and melted us into the hand of our iniquity.” (Is 64)

The original temple was about separation.  God was among His people, yes.  But in order that they might not be destroyed, He hid His glory behind a series of curtains and fences and orders of purification.  The people in the camp knew God was present.  They knew where He was.  But they didn’t see Him. 

Religion is like that.  Temples are like that.  Mystery, pomp, division, laws and rules designed to maintain the order.  Maintain the system.  Keep the god happy. 

Hearts are like that.  We keep the curtains drawn upon the Holy of Holies within us thinking we are keeping God in his box.  We are serving Him.  We are doing good.  We have God in our hearts.

But do we?  I’ve heard that when Pompey sacked Jerusalem he marched right up to the temple, tore back the curtain and said the Latin equivalent of, “Pfft.”  Ezekiel could have told him what he’d find, he’d seen God leave more than four hundred years earlier.  I encourage you today, to be Pompey in your own heart.  Go deep.  Tear back the curtains of your deeds.  Of your good works.  Of your justifications.  Of your excuses.  Tear back the curtain and see, once and for all, who’s on the throne in your Holy of Holies.  Who it is that you struggle for.  Who it is that you sacrifice for.  Who it is that all of your work, all of your time, all of your money, all of your resources, relationships and worry, fear, anxiety, anger, passion, ambition is bent on pleasing.

I’ll wait.  Oh and don’t worry about disturbing God in His privacy back there.  He tore the veil when Jesus died, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be passing Him waiting on a park bench on the way up the steps.

“For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What lies are beneath?

11 “Take care for yourself so that you not forget Yahweh your God by not keeping his commandments and his regulations and his statutes that I am commanding you today, 12 lest when you have eaten and you are satisfied and you have built good houses and you live in them, 13 and your herds and your flocks have multiplied, and you have accumulated silver and gold, and all that you have has multiplied, 14 then your heart becomes proud…” (Deut 8)

What is the idol of America?

17 And you may think in your heart, ‘My strength and the might of my hand acquired this wealth for me.’”   

Independence.  Freedom.  Self-rule.  Self-reliance.  Individuality.  Self-esteem.  America doesn’t bless God, God blesses America!  We are taught from a young age whom we should worship; who deserves our praise and respect; whom we should admire; who, as someone on farcebook quoted Buddha today, “deserves your love and affection.” 

The self-made person.  You.  Who is America’s idol?  You.  The self.  We are the masters of our own destiny.  No one has a right to put laws on my body.  No one can tell me what to do.  I am free! 

I am.  My will be done.  Sound familiar?  If not, then you probably didn’t read my, “What lies beneath” post.

But what if you’re not a confident person?  What if your timid and frightened much of the time and in awe of such people but could never be one.  What if you don’t ever feel free?  What if all that American Pride talk makes you angry because you are a slave to the system?  A slave to some codependent relationship?  A victim of circumstances beyond your control?  What if your just happy going along with the flow and not being noticed?  The nail that sticks up is the nail that gets hammered.    You’d be perfectly happy and content to put in your forty and be left alone to tend your garden, raise your kids, build your train set, play your video games, watch tevee.  You’re a nice person.  You don’t impose your will on anyone.  You don’t demand the world bow to yours.  Chances are, you are the one doing all the bowing, eh?  What then justshane?  You’re not the one doing the “Lookit Me” lambada in the center of the gym floor, you’re doing the wallflower waltz over here in the corner, minding your own business, not hurting anybody.

Well, as they say in Jersey, “Lemme axe you a question.”  Just how bent do you get when something or someone cuts in on your waltz?  When someone disrupts your “me time.”  You see, structuring your life to avoid or manage the things you’re afraid of, conflict, pain, suffering, risk, is just trying to be king of a smaller country, one that doesn’t feel too big for you.  You’ve set your sights lower but you still answer to no one but yourself within that fief.  You are still trying only to please you.  Even if you are a people pleaser!  The people pleaser is submitting to things they may fear or loathe only to avoid something they fear and loathe even more: loneliness, conflict, lack of identity and to gain something they want more.  When people need us; like us; love us, we are validated.  Our existence has purpose.  We give to get something we want: approval, affection, inclusion, security.  I deserve this because I’ve done that.  So if someone denies me my “me time”, when someone denies me affection, when I get hurt instead of love, I am not getting something I’m OWED!  I have been wronged. This might explain the popularity of karmaic thinking.  The appeal is, everyone gets what they deserve.  They tell me you can identify your personal idols by asking yourself questions like, “What makes me angry?”  “What do I fear?”  “What do I spend money on?”  I say, these don’t identify idols; they identify your forms of worship of the true idol…


I’m going to stop here today because I’m wondering, do you believe this?  Am I off base?  Am I stretching a point further than it can bear?  I’d really like to know where y’all are at on this point before I go on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What lies beneath

22 But Judah did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and they annoyed him more than their fathers did with their sins that they had committed. 23 They also built for themselves high places and stone pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree. (1Kgs 14)

Do Americans have idols?  I know we have the teevee show.  The irony of that is thicker than Dr. Moriarty winking at Sherlock.  But do we have idols?  I know the vast majority of us claim to believe in God and a large number still count themselves as Christians.

But what do we worship?  Really?

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasoning, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God with the likeness of an image of mortal human beings and birds and quadrupeds and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to immorality, that their bodies would be dishonored among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God with a lie, and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed for eternity. Amen.” (Rom 1)

Some have made the connection between addiction and idol worship.  If the worship of idols is the worship of demons (Deut 32, Rev 9) and the goal of demons is our utter destruction (Job, Luke 22, 1Pet 5) then how easy it is to see among the possessed?  Those who have been absorbed by what they once controlled.  Those who are mastered by a created thing, alcohol, drugs, sex, fame, greed, a hopeless relationship until it obliterates every last vestige of their humanity.  Like a train wreck in slow motion we can watch in horror as they come undone, piece by obvious piece.  But did these people really worship alcohol?  Did they really worship money?  Or was that only the means by which they worshiped?  Was that only the ceremony in the temple of their god?

In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the devils muse how in days of old, they went around in more or less their true forms.  They could reveal their existence to man, maybe lie about their intentions but more or less play in plain sight.  But now, Screwtape chuckles, the greatest trick Satan ever played was convincing man he doesn’t exist.  The industrial revolution and the age of enlightenment killed not only God but Satan too.  There is no evil, only diseases to be cured.  Hitler and Stalin and Mao and serial killers are just sick.  There’s something wrong with them, a chemical imbalance perhaps.  Poor upbringing.  A traumatic childhood.  Maybe they were bullied.  There is no sin, only undesirable behaviors and emotional conditions to be treated.  The gang rape in India is only a sign of societal deficiencies.  The men involved were poorly educated in the value of womanhood and the sanctity of human life.

But if humans are so good by nature, why do we need so much education in basic human principles of decency and respect?  Why does all of our post apocalyptic fiction show men reverting to animals?  Why are we less disposed to do what is right when no one is watching?  Why does a crowd become a mob?  Why do ordinary people in mobs commit violence and theft?  Why do the strong prey upon the weak?  Why do women and children need protecting at all?

Demons may hide.  Sin may lurk invisible for long periods.  But idols, idols want a position of prominence.  Idols want to be worshiped.  Our idols are hidden in the best place to hide.  Plain sight.

What was the first sin?  Who was the first sinner?

12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of dawn!

    You are cut down to the ground, conqueror of nations!
13 And you yourself said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;

    I will raise up my throne above the stars of God;

and I will sit on the mountain of assembly

    on the summit of Zaphon;
14 I will ascend to the high places of the clouds,

    I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Is 14)

Lucifer was the first one to close his fist and shake it at God.  To declare himself Satan, the Adversary.  The first one among creation to quit worshiping his Creator, to stop saying “Thy Will be done,” and first dare to utter, “My will be done!”  He declared himself “God” and as such he wanted to be worshiped.  Worshipers being in short supply and he not having the knack of creating, he became a thief and stole God’s worshipers, God’s children.  Just as God made us in His image Satan corrupted us to fit his own.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that on the day you both eat from it, then your eyes will be opened and you both shall be like gods, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, then she took from its fruit and she ate.” (Gen 3)  When She saw.  When it delighted Her eyes.  It would make Her wise.  She decided.  She took.  She ate.  She gave it to her husband to make him like Her.

A Christian who has taken the next step, who has seen that not only is addiction an idol and idols demonic, will soon see they are addicted to sin itself.  They may not have the all consuming fire of alcoholism or greed destroying their lives but they see the little fires scattered here and there, a sharp tongue, impatience, people pleasing, religion.  If they make a point of trying to stamp these out, they will soon make it a career.  For these are not separate fires.  They are fumaroles.

Beneath the surface lies a magma pit waiting to erupt….

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Step by Step

Step One: Be a sheep
“I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10)
Jesus tells us he provides the good life.  He does this in the context of his being a shepherd.  The shepherd gives good life to the sheep.  Not wolves, not goats, sheep.  So be a sheep. 

Step Two: Follow the right shepherd
For this one the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he sends out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
Are you a sheep?  Good.  But it’s not enough.  Do you belong to the Good Shepherd?  Good.  But it’s not enough.  To belong to him, you must be with him.  To be with him, you must follow him.  Where he goes, you goes.  Where he sits, you sits.  You share His life with him and He shares His life with you!

And what is that life?

23 Yahweh is my shepherd;”
It is life with God.  Jesus is I AM.  The Father and the Son are one.  If you follow Jesus, you are one with Him and therefore you are One with God.  That sounds pretty abundant.  But wait!  There’s more!

“I will not lack for anything.”
The abundant life is bountiful.  This is the God who can bring water from rocks, angel food cake from dew and cause it to rain Cornish hens, enough for a tribe in the millions.  He can break five pita pockets and two herring and feed five thousand men, their wives, their children and their servants.  I think it’s safe to say He can handle your needs.

“2 In grassy pastures he makes me lie down;
by quiet waters he leads me.”
The abundant life has peace.  There will be places where God feeds you, waters you and there will be times of rest.  “It is in vain for you who rise early and sit late, eating the bread of anxious toil, when thus he provides sleep for his beloved.” (Ps 127)  Look at the world!  How can you have peace?  You are with the Good Shepherd!  He’s providing for you.  You will not lack.  “25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12)

“3 He restores my life, my soul.”
Life can take it out of you.  Jesus puts it back in… not Gatorade.  When God wanted to take Elijah on a little trip he provided two meals for him of bread and water and those two little snacks gave Elijah enough energy for the trip…of Forty Days!  Take that Garorade!  And before you say, “yeah, but that’s Elijah, the greatest prophet of Israel.  I’m just me.”  This was the greatest prophet of Israel, yes, wanting to die!  He had given up.  He no longer trusted nor thought he could go on.  He knew God like James Taylor, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…” and yet despaired.  And God restored his life and soul.  I think God can handle your doubts.

”He leads me in paths of righteousness
for the sake of his name.”
God has a certain style.  He provides: food, money, wisdom, power, knowledge first because…

“4 Even when I walk in a dark valley,”
He knows there are dark valley’s coming.  This is tremendously important to remember!  The abundant life isn’t one without pain, strife or suffering.  But…

“ I fear no evil”

“because you are with me.”
The other part of God’s style is repeating himself.  Because we have Spiritual Alzheimer’s.  We forget, constantly.  So he says things like, “I am the Good shepherd.  I lead the sheep.  The sheep follow me.  We are together, these sheep and me.  When it’s good, we are together, me and the sheep.  The sheep and i.  When it' bad, i'm there, with the sheep.  We’re together.  No one separates us.  I never go off and leave them.  Cuz we’re together.  Me and my sheep.  My sheep and me…

We’re together.”
Again, we can have peace because we know we’re with the Shepherd.  And we know that where He leads is a path of righteousness.  It is good, no matter how dark it gets.  No matter how scary.  It is good for us to be here…
With the Shepherd.
Us and him.

The dark valley phrase is often translated as the “Valley of the Shadow of Death.”  That alone should give us peace.  You know the difference between the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the Valley of Death?  In one, you die.  In the other, you know you could have and didn’t.  In one the arrow hits you, smacking wetly into the hair you meant to pluck between your eyeballs.  In the other it whizzes by your ear, close enough to hear but strangely, without doing damage.  It is appointed for us once to die and then to live for eternity.  We are with the Shepherd.  We share His life.  He laid down his life and then, took it up again!  So will we.

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
We are with the Shepherd… but we have Spiritual Alzheimer’s.  We wander off.  We forget who we’re following.  We forget His promises.  We do stupid stuff.  Why?  Cuz we’re sheep.  And in this we take peace: He is the Good Shepherd!  He’s there to discipline us, to teach us, to guide us, to lure us back, to drag us back, to carry us back.  To patch us up, to correct us. 

“5 You prepare before me a table
in the presence of my oppressors.”
The rod isn’t just for the sheep.  The rod is used to thwack the holy poop out of wolves, bears and lions, oh my!  We will have oppressors.  But!  We can have peace because…say it with me,
“We are with the Good Shepherd!”
Jesus is God!  He has ascended to heaven and sits in the throne room on the right hand of God Almighty.  There is no oppressor there.  We will have our day.  We will be justified and honored and feted and toasted and party it up in sight of those who once mocked us, spit on us, ignored us, betrayed us, beat us, cheated us, hurt us, raped us, killed us!  Why?
Because we are with the Shepherd.  What they do to his sheep, they’ve done to Him.  What they’ve done to Him, they’ll do to his sheep.  “I have said these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction, but have courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16)  Jesus conquered the world, it’s His.  And what God has given Him, He gives to the sheep.

”You anoint my head with oil;”
Oil, the symbol of the Spirit.  The consecration of priests.  The coronation of kings.  Whatever it says on your resumé, you are also and more so priests and kings in God’s kingdom.  Pretty stinking abundant!

”my cup is overflowing.”
It is too much!!  He gives us more than we can handle!

“6 Surely goodness and loyal love will pursue me
all the days of my life,”
Why?  Because we’re with God and God is, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love to the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he does not leave utterly unpunished, punishing the guilt of fathers on sons and on sons of sons on third and fourth generations.” (Ex 34)

and I will stay in the house of Yahweh
for a very long time.” (Ps 23)
Or forever, whichever comes last.  And really, if there’s this much joy and hope and peace in a few lines about God on paper, how much more will there be in the presence of the real thing?  And that’s where the Shepherd is leading.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and will go out and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only so that he can steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10)

I don’t know about you but that phrase, “life…abundantly”, bugs me.  It is the wicket in which I get stuck.  I’m forty years old and I still don’t think I know what it means, probably because I’m forty years old and I still don’t know what life means.  But wickets aren’t for sticking, they’re for clearing and living isn’t passive, inert; even the idle rock is growing moss.  Living is active, moving, changing, foraging, hunting, eating, pooping and eating some more.  So maybe the first conclusion we can draw is: abundant life is one of action?

We see it in the Scripture.  There is entering, saving, coming in and going out and finding.  These aren’t idle sheep.  They’re busy.  They’re doing big, important sheep-stuff.  They’re living.  On a cosmic scale they are just sheep, none of this is earth shattering.  No one in a thousand years from now will be putting bits in history books about the sheep that changed the world but to their own lives, this stuff matters.  A sheep that lies down and refuses to go out dies.  That’s pretty important to the sheep.  So maybe my hang up is one of looking for more significance?

There is a question of time in the scripture too.  Does the sheep fold refer to our earthly lives?  Does Jesus, the gate, guard the passage to Paradise Pastures?  Ancient sheep folds might not belong to one man, one flock.  Flocks of many owners might all gather their sheep together for the night.  When the new day dawned, the shepherds would come and call their own.  The sheep would follow only the voice they recognize.  The voice they trust.  So does this mean we’re all in a fold for the night.  Is life just us sheep of Jesus in with the goats of the other guy until morning?  Doesn’t sound like there’s much to do there.  Is the life abundant something we get later then? 

This scripture however sounds like Jesus is guarding the sheep from something on the outside.  A thief who wants to steal sheep.  No one can snatch sheep out of Jesus’ hand.  37 Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never throw out, 38 because I have come down from heaven not that I should do my will, but the will of the one who sent me. 39 Now this is the will of the one who sent me: that everyone whom he has given me, I would not lose any of them, but raise them up on the last day.” (John 6)  So whose sheep is the thief stealing?  Apparently, his own.  The sheep that would choose to follow him anyway… or at least, buy his lies.  And each flock gets the same fate as the shepherd they choose.  Christ’s flock suffers a while and then rises to sit on the same throne as Jesus, “The one who conquers, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also have conquered and have sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev 3)  While those that follow the enemy will enjoy the same fate as he… “Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matt 25)

Now a life upon a throne certainly sounds like an abundant life by any definition.  So is this it?  Do we muddle and muck about here for fifty to a hundred years and then and only then do we get the life abundant?  Should we pray for a short life so we can get on with the real life?  Tempting, escapist, but tempting.

In the end, what does your heart tell you?  When you read the Scriptures (you do read the Scriptures, don’t you?)  what do you see?  If Jesus is our model, if he led a perfect life then what do you see in his example?  Perhaps Paul says it best to Titus, Remind them to be subject to the rulers and to the authorities, to obey, to be prepared for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all courtesy to all people. For we also were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, enslaved to various desires and pleasures, spending our lives in wickedness and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the kindness and love for mankind of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by deeds of righteousness that we have done, but because of his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3)

When we believed, Jesus saved us from a life that leads to death, no matter how abundant it may feel (Luke 12: 15-21) and opened up to us a life that leads to more life no matter how poor, stricken or desperate it may feel!  The life abundant isn’t one measured in circumstances.  It is a life above and beyond our circumstances!  Abundant life can be lived in the perfumed halls of power and wealth and it can be lived just the same in the dankest gutter of the darkest slum.  No matter what happens now, we have Jesus!  He is the Way and the Truth and the LIFE.  He becomes a source of regeneration and renewal that never fails, never runs out, never loses strength.  The sheep must eat.  The sheep must drink.  The sheep must rest or they will die.

The good shepherd knows.

23 Yahweh is my shepherd;

I will not lack for anything.
In grassy pastures he makes me lie down;

by quiet waters he leads me.
He restores my life.

He leads me in correct paths

for the sake of his name.
Even when I walk in a dark valley, I fear no evil

because you are with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare before me a table

in the presence of my oppressors.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and loyal love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I will stay in the house of Yahweh

for a very long time.” (Ps 23)

And that sounds like a pretty abundant life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ridiculously long post that should have probably been two. You have been warned.

“9 For Yahweh’s portion was his people,

    Jacob the share of his inheritance.
…he encircled him, he cared for him,

    he protected him like the apple of his eye.
…12 so Yahweh alone guided him,

    and there was no foreign god accompanying him.
13 And he set him on the high places of the land,

    and he fed him the crops of the field,

and he nursed him with honey from crags,

    and with oil from flinty rock,
14 With curds from the herd,

    and with milk from the flock,

with the fat of young rams,

    and rams, the offspring of Bashan,

and with goats along with the finest kernels of wheat,

    and from the blood of grapes you drank fermented wine.
15 And Jeshurun grew fat, and he kicked;

    you grew fat, you bloated, and you became obstinate;

and he abandoned God, his maker,

    and he scoffed at the rock of his salvation.
16 They made him jealous with strange gods;

    with detestable things they provoked him.
17 They sacrificed to the demons, not God,

    to gods whom they had not known,

new gods who came from recent times;

    their ancestors had not known them.
18 The rock who bore you, you neglected,

    and you forgot God, the one giving you birth.” (Deut 32)

“10 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all went through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with the majority of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we should not be desirers of evil things, just as those also desired them, 7 and not become idolaters, as some of them did, just as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play,” 8 nor commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed sexual immorality, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day, 9 nor put Christ to the test, as some of them tested him, and were destroyed by snakes, 10 nor grumble, just as some of them grumbled, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to those people as an example, but are written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore, the one who thinks that he stands must watch out lest he fall. 13 Temptation has not come upon you except what is common to humanity…
…14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I am speaking as to sensible people; you judge what I am saying…
…That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but that the things which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to become sharers with demons. 21 You are not able to drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You are not able to share the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Cor 10)

“4 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 by the hypocrisy of liars, who are seared in their own conscience, 3 who forbid marrying and insist on abstaining from foods that God created for sharing in with thankfulness by those who believe and who know the truth, 4 because everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thankfulness, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1Tim 4)

My wife and I had a bit of a tiff last night.  She was reading an essay/confession of a mother distraught over what to do with her violent, unstable son.  A child she feared was capable of doing terrible, horrific things the likes of which our world sees far too much of.  My wife was pitying the woman and I do too but my nature is analytical.  If you tell me “what” I’ll want to know “why?”  This led to accusations of self-righteousness, being holier-than-thou and hypocrisy.  Things I get accused of a lot and I would be a pompous fool to deny for as Paul says, “For in that which you pass judgment on someone else, you condemn yourself, for you who are passing judgment are doing the same things.” (Rom 2)  Jesus wasn’t specific about whose eye the plank was in, he just said, “you.”
“Who me?”
“Are you a you?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Then yes, you.”
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 
Who will say “I have made my heart clean;

    I am pure from my sin”?” (Prv 20)
Nature abhors a vacuum.  20 For from the creation of the world, his invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created…” (Rom 1)  Therefore, God abhors a vacuum.  Think about it.  Everything bad is not a thing at all.  It is the absence of something good.  Cold, absence of heat.  Dark, absence of light.  Apathy, absence of love.  Loneliness, absence of friends.  Emptiness, absence of filling.  Hunger, absence of food.  Food.  Let’s stop there.  Both the Deuteronomy passage and the Corinthians one makes mention of food.  Someone once said, if you are reading the Bible and not getting hungry, you’re not paying attention.  God has modeled love for us in food.  God loves us, he demonstrates this by feeding us, filling us.  The world was empty, God filled it.  His first command was, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  God abhors a vacuum.  One of the first things he says of man is, “it’s not good for the man to be alone.”  Our hearts are void and empty with the Spirit hovering over them.  He stands at the door and knocks.  But since Adam, we have been rejecting Him and choosing to fill ourselves with pride, lust and sin.  A lie is the absence of truth and Satan, who is real, fed us with lies and we ate them up.  You see, if you don’t let God fill you, you will be filled.  43 “Now whenever an unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it travels through waterless places searching for rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came out.’ And when it arrives it finds the house unoccupied and swept and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there. And the last state of that person becomes worse than the first. So it will be for this evil generation also!”  (Matt 12)  I don’t know about you but I’m picturing Animal House.
You ask me, “Are demons real?”  I tell you, “Look around!  Open your eyes!”  The Scriptures are clear.  When we reject God’s food, God’s love, God’s lordship over us, we accept something else and if God is Love, God is Truth, God is Life then what we accept is apathy, indifference, lies, falsehood and death.  If we reject Jesus is the Way, then we accept being lost.  If reject Jesus as the Light and source of all Wisdom, then we accept living in darkness and the futility of our own thinking.

Why is there evil?  Why is the world in the mess it’s in?  Evil is the absence of good.  God is good and so evil is the absence of God.  The more we reject God, the more we look for scientific, humanistic, us-centered solutions to our problems the more we will fill ourselves with what is not God, filling our bellies with the fruit of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good behavior his works, with the humility of wisdom.  (The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111)) 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, obedient, full of mercy and good fruits, nonjudgmental, without hypocrisy, 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace among, by, for those who make peace.” (Jam 3)

Do you want to expel the demons from among us?  Do you want a world free of Satan and sin and the effects of his rule? Jesus told us how, “his disciples asked him privately, “Why were we not able to expel it?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9) 

The world is starving and only Jesus has the food it needs.    There are much more than five thousand hungry mouths and souls out there. I was going to put a picture in but i don't want to influence what they look like to you because the fact is, they are everyone!  Need is all around us!  It takes many forms.  They are lonely, overwhelmed by insignificance, lost, in desperate need, in deep, dark despair, slaves to their lusts and their wraths, there is poverty, injustice, hunger.  Jesus looks at them and says, “You give them something to eat.”  But just as the disciples didn’t have to come up with enough food on their own, neither do we.  We are not the source!  Pray!  Fall on God’s mercy and repent!  Repent of trying to be your own source!  Of searching for other foods, other wells.  Pray and fast from those sources.  Seek heavenly food!  The Kingdom is near to you!  It is His joy to fill us!  I’m not saying we don’t have work to do.  We have gardens to tend.  We have flocks to shepherd but what we must do first is reattach to the Vine, the Source, fill ourselves with the Bread of Life, give thanks for what He gives us, whether little or much and then we will bear the fruit the world needs to eat, some two times, some ten, some hundredfold. God blesses us so we can be a blessing.  So we can be the Jesus they see!  Sharing our food, which is Jesus, with them just as He has shared himself with us.  Sharing the Truth with them just as it was given to us!  Pointing them to the Way and the Life.  To the lover of their souls who wants them back.  To their Father!  What is a problem?  What is a dilemma?  What is wrong with the world?  It is the absence of an answer.

And the answer is always Jesus.
55 “Ho! Everyone thirsty, come to the waters!

    And whoever has no money, come, buy and eat,

and come, buy without money,

    wine and milk without price!
Why do you weigh out money for what is not food,

    and your labor for what cannot satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

    and let your soul take pleasure in rich food.” (Is 55)