Monday, May 26, 2008

Dangerous Fruits

Yesterday, Ben gave a convicting message on 1 Kings 13 about two prophets. A prophet had a message that Jereboam didn't like. Jeroboam reached out to grab the prophet and as he did that, his arm became paralyzed. The king begged for his arm to be restored, and the prophet prayed for him it was healed. The king extended a friendly invitation for a meal, which the prophet refused in obedience to God's orders. He went home a different way than he came.

When he came across an old prophet in Bethel who invited him to have a meal with him, he refused at first. Then the old prophet said that he had another message from God saying it was okay, which was a lie. And the visiting prophet believed him and went home with him to enjoy his hospitality. During the meal, the word of God came upon the old prophet who told the visitor that he had disobeyed God and would die a violent death quickly and not be buried with his ancestors.

They finished eating and the prophet went on his way and got killed by a lion. The lion stood gaurd over the corpse with the donkey standing on the other side and the word got back to the old prophet about a lion standing by a dead body. The old prophet figured it out and went and got the dead prophet's body and buried it in his own tomb prepared for his own funeral one day. The old prophet told his sons that the dead man's prophecy would come true and to bury him next to the dead prophet that visited him. Meanwhile, the sex and religion shrines that the prophet had shared God's word against continued to be built with Jeroboam's support.

Ben's message was pretty simple--the younger prophet was punished for believing a message that contradicted the one he heard from God himself. Although he was decieved, like Eve in the garden, he was still responsible. No excuses. Ben gently and quietly challenged us about how we are living according to the truth we know from the Scriptures, and if we are compromising in any way by believing lies that contradict God's written word.

In the past, I felt comfortable buying and reading any book I bought from a Christian publisher. After I graduated from college, I bought a book about healing from sexual abuse. It was about the most expensive book I ever bought up to that point, but I felt that it would be helpful as I worked out some issues in my life. As I read it, I realized that as helpful as some of the chapters were, the authors had a different world view than mine and were promoting sin as a way to deal with some of the problems, even though the book was bought at a Christian bookstore and was recommended to me by several believers.

I was living with an older woman from my church who was mentoring me in how to live and grow as a Christian single in Seattle. She asked me about the book, and I told her it was good with revealing and describing hurts that I didn't know how to address, but that I was taking it back to the bookstore and getting a refund. She asked why and I told her that the book was subtle in its persuasive support of a lie and that even though it was helpful, I was in too vulnerable a position to let this book influence me so much. She applauded my discernment. I told her it wasn't the first time that it happened to me. I had bought a book in college about forgiveness, and took it back even though the author was a pastor because I didn't like the chapter he wrote about forgiving God. It ran smack against a verse I memorized in Numbers 23:19 about how God does not lie nor does He need to repent. But I lost the receipt, and couldn't get my money--my very hard earned $4.95 by babysitting, monitoring salad bar in a dining hall, laboring in a tree nursery and washing dishes at a mexican restaurant--back. So, from then on, I always kept receipts.

When I buy books by secular authors, I expect a different view point from mine and that's okay. I can weed out the chaff from the grain. I'm not looking to these books for spiritual truth. But when I buy books by people who are in positions of spiritual authority or are saying they are teaching God's truth, it is an entirely different thing. Especially if what they are preaching or saying contradicts what I know Scripture says.

An old friend critiqued a book that has been popular among men in addressing Christian masculinity. Indeed, even I had read it and thought it was okay at first even though it seemed to "re-interpret" old Christian ways of handling issues, like teaching sons how to deal with bullies. The old honorable way of walking away when provoked was replaced with showing the bully not to mess with you. So much for loving one's enemies. My friend's critique dissected the popular book aggressively marketed by a Christian publisher with surgical precision.

Since then, several books that have had big name endorsements and widely read by Christians have been shown to be false. That has not been surprising. What is surprising is how many Christians, who should know better, are defending these books. I guess what is happening is that a lot of people are letting authors press their emotional buttons instead of using their heads. This is a dangerous place to be. There are no excuses. Not for Eve, not for prophets, not for us.

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