Entitled to Nothing, Given Everything

man-prayingOn October 5, 2007 at 2 AM, I was afraid. Sitting in a car in Fridley, MN I prayed.

“Lord, don’t take my son. Please, don’t take my son.”

My wife was 28 weeks pregnant. We were in a strange city on a very stormy night. My wife is in labor and my son is in serious danger. 28 weeks is way too early. I didn’t know the exact risks, but I knew they were serious.

Sitting in the car and soaked with the pouring rain, I looked toward the upper floors of Unity Hospital. My wife was there and I was sure she was scared. What can I do to support her? If I were in some movie I would promise that everything would be just fine. But she and I both know that I have no power to keep that promise.

I got out of the car and ran through the rain. Hurrying back to the floor, we met with the obstetrician who was working that night. he explained that the baby was coming and that he was quite premature.

“Tell me the worst case scenario” I said.

“Well, the blood vessels in his brain are fragile and when he is delivered, if any of them were to burst, he could have serious brain damage.”

Oddly, it was good to know what the worst was.

Unity Hospital was not equipped to deal with a child that premature so they asked for Children’s Hospital to send an ambulance so that the baby could be sent to Children’s right away. Unfortunately, the ambulance was busy on another call. The staff slowed Sam’s labor in the hopes of putting off the delivery until they arrived.

It was over two hours before they arrived and Sam was allowed to labor. shortly thereafter, at 4:57 AM, my son was born. He let out a loud cry which to this day brings tears. He was gently put into what I call the Baby Baker (an incubator on a stretcher) and was whisked away to Children’s hospital.

We named him Chase after me. He was Charles Gruver IV.

I tell this story to ask a question: Does God owe me Chase?

We heard lines like “God wouldn’t let him die” and “just believe that he will be fine.” These were meant to be comforting, but they weren’t. We knew that throughout the Bible God not only allowed terrible things to happen, sometimes he commanded them. God could have stopped Herod from killing every child under two in Bethlehem, but he didn’t.

The fact is, terrible things happen to believers and to their children. God does not spare his children from suffering, even awful suffering. I recently was reading on the Holocaust and there is a picture of a Hungarian Jewish mother walking with her two young sons on their way to the gas chamber. Was God wronging them? He could have saved them from the gas chamber.

As heartwrenching as it is, the answer is that we are God’s and he can do with us as he pleases. That night, I knew that God could take my son and he would not be wrong to do so. Chase was not mine. He was God’s and I was begging for the privilege of caring for him.

Despite the months of fear, this story has a happy ending. Chase is alive and well today. God did grant my request and he spared my son. The happier ending is that Chase and I are believers, we will live with Jesus forever. One day he will not be simply my son, but a brother who will turn one million the same year I turn one million twenty-four.

As frightening as it is to know that God could take Chase at any time, it is also freeing. God is not random chance. If he takes Chase from me, he has a purpose. Far from being meaningless, God’s actions are deeply meaningful. That is full of meaning!

The heartbreak we feel should be felt. The pain in this world is because of sin but it is also in the hands of a Father who loves us. We are allowed to grieve, but we “may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If God had taken Chase, it is in the end for my joy.

So brothers and sisters, do not hang onto your things, children, spouses, jobs, and friends as if God would wrong you if he took it away. That is a recipe for losing your faith when he does take it away. Instead give him everything. Know that it is his to start with and be thankful that he has let you enjoy them.

The strange part is that when I give them up, I am more thankful for them. Tonight is not just any night, it is one of the finite number of evenings I get to spend with my wife in this world. Maybe it is even the last one. How grateful I am for each one!

-Chip

Advertisements

Neutering the Clergy: Foreword by Count Vicegrim

OldBookGenerally, when a fellow Demon of Rank asks me to write in their book, I am reluctant. A demon of my caliber only has time for so many requests while attending my other duties. Many times they are simply looking to add my prestigious reputation to their mediocre work.

So when Lord Blackmist asked me to read his work, I suspected such a request was coming. Much to my surprise, Neutering the Clergy is the most helpful work on taming the pastor problem that I have ever read. Lord Blackmist’s insightful mind and entertaining writing style is really only surpassed by my own.

What I think is most helpful in Neutering the Clergy is his emphasis on the five Anything Buts. Many a demon has been nearsighted in their focus on the sins that they prefer causing in their patients. Lord Blackmist’s focus on the Anything Buts will encourage every demon to simply avoid the Enemy.

It is so easy to forget that the goal is not necessarily to get your patient to sin, but to get them to the brink of Hell and shove them in. The Anything Buts assist us greatly in this endeavor. This is not just a book for the demon of a pastor, it is a book for all tempters everywhere.

If I may steal a little of Lord Blackmist’s thunder, I shall briefly review them.

Anything but the Enemy’s Book

This may seem elementary, but how many demons forget it. With phrases throughout the world that reference back to the Enemy’s book, we need to be vigilant. Phrases like, “Carry your cross” and “God is good” seem harmless enough, but may spark the curiosity of a listener. Even phrases we have entirely co opted like “judge not lest ye be judged” are used for our purposes but carry the real risk of being used by the Enemy’s Spirit.

Even television isn’t wholly safe for us. I was watching an American Football game recently for an academic paper on idolatry when suddenly I see a banner that says, “John 3:16.” Even these insignificant pushes could encourage your patient toward the Enemy. Your vigilance is of utmost importance. Get your patient to go to Anything But the Enemy’s book.

Anything but Faith

Of course I mean faith in the Enemy’s Son. Surely it should be easy to keep your patient away from information about the Enemy which would keep them from ever finding faith. It is not so easy. The vermin have this drive built into them to seek the Enemy. The constant needs their bodies experience that once satisfied, must again be filled. These endless needs point to an endless source. It is one of our most difficult challenges to fill those drives with Anything But faith. The work we have to do to keep them distracted from that gnawing hole in their souls.

Lord Blackmist does a great job of encouraging flexibility. Many a demon is looking to create some crippling addiction that will consume their patient. It is well and good when this works, but most of the time we need to allow them to drift from one distraction to another. This is the difference between success and failure. You will need to learn and practice not only stamping out faith, but stamping our anything that looks like it might resemble faith.

Anything but Grace

If the endless access to faith creating needs were not burdensome enough, the endless supply of his grace filling joys is stunning. The ridiculous supply of needed things like food, clothing, and shelter for those vile creature is enough to drive demon mad. That same supply of fulfillments for their needs is always working against us.

The Grand Canyon, stars, galaxies, trees, rocks, flowers, oceans, life, children, athletes, heroes, hurricanes, peaceful breezes, and a host of other created things all constantly point to a loving creator. The Enemy has really stacked the deck against us. Not only is there that gap in their souls but there is also an endless sea of arrows pointing to the Enemy.

The solution, as Lord Blackmist points out, is self-sufficiency. We need to convince the vermin that there is an endless sea of needs and they are the source to fill them. Of course we know this is patently absurd, but they believe it many times and we need to use that belief. If they want to believe that they are as strong as the Enemy, let them.

Anything but the Enemy’s Son

I remember the day very clearly. I was a younger tempter then, working far from Israel. It was a good time to be a demon. A young page named Wormwood came to me breathlessly with news from the Great Lord. He said that the Enemy had become a human.

I actually nearly stabbed Wormwood through for blasphemy against the spirit world. What vile nonsense? Not even the Enemy would drop to a ploy that base, that foolish. It was only on reading the letter signed by the Great Lord himself that I believed. To this day, I am stunned.

What spirit would ever wish to become that crude meat? The Enemy’s purposes in this are still ambiguous. Surely he has some very subtle ploy he is working out. I have suspected that maybe he pretended to be a person somehow that even fooled us. But I saw him myself. The magnificent and frightening power of the Enemy, wrapped in filthy skin.

While we stand in disbelief, the vermin themselves yawn. It has been effective for centuries to make the Enemy’s son a thing of boredom. While it is delightful to have them speak of him to no effect, it is far better that no one speaks of him. For those of you in the Western World, this is easier. We have made it rude to mention him in most settings. But we need to stamp out any reference to him at all. I don’t simply mean that no one should even use his name in vain. I mean no one uses his name AT ALL!

Victory can be achieved if they want Anything But the Enemy’s son.

Anything but the Enemy’s Glory

Even when we have completely lost, when the vermin turn to the Enemy’s son and believe in him, we still have some hope of neutering them. The Enemy’s Spirit in them will drive them toward slavery to him (albeit, a joyful slavery). We need to sabotage this at every turn. The key place to do this is to represent the Enemy as different than he presents himself.

You see, we don’t really know why he has done so much for the vermin in the world. Obviously, he can’t love them. Every spirit with any sense knows that they are grotesque. But we have been unable to discern his true intent. It is a mystery that the Lowerarchy has struggled with for millenia.

But he does present himself as loving and kind to them which must be part of his deeper plot. In that case, we must present him as Anything But loving, kind, just, and patient. We can make him out to be distant and uncaring. We can present him as harsh and overbearing. Honestly, I don’t care. As long as he is presented and Anything But glorious.

There is an irony in this. We know he really doesn’t love them and thus we are truly exposing the Enemy’s lie to them. I am not often accused of presenting the truth to the vermin, but as long as it works against the Enemy, I can be for it. Even honesty.

Really, we are still lying to them because we don’t know what his motives are. I take comfort in that anyway.

In Summary

While I have focused on the parts that apply to the average vermin, there is a wealth of useful information on how to corrupt even the most resilient of the Enemy’s servants. I even learned a thing or two from reading Neutering the Clergy and that is a high compliment indeed.

-Count Vicegrim

Porn and the Christian Guy, Part 21 Set Free to Set Free

prison-cell1To be in recovery means that many men have served me. What a joy that those men invested in me and worked for my delight in God! Recently, I have realized that with that profound service they have provided comes a responsibility. I am to give the grace that God has given me to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2 Cor 1:3-6

God has provided comfort to me that I am joyfully obligated to bring to others. I find it fascinating that Paul says, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.” I don’t think this simply means righteous suffering, but also suffering for our sins. My affliction which is from my sin can be for the comfort of others.

How liberating is that! Not only is my suffering working out for my joy, but also for the joy of others. I have, in the past, wrongly felt that the only suffering that God could really use was ‘righteous’ suffering from really spiritual people. You know, the Bible Superheroes. This is obviously wrong, but I believed it.

Take, for example, the sin of David with Bathsheba. David suffered terribly for his sin. God killed his son. But then God used that to bring about the birth of Jesus. Talk about redeeming a terrible situation. It doesn’t make the sin less evil. It shows that God is simply that powerful.

What about Paul’s sinful desire to kill the church at Damascus? Talk about evil, his purpose was specifically to stamp out believers in Jesus. Surely God couldn’t redeem that. But Jesus kicks him off his donkey, yells at him, leaves him blind for several days (it took a bit of work to get the message through), and then created the most effective missionary ever. Paul’s sin was used to bring about Paul’s joy and mine.

Now obviously we should not “sin that grace may increase”, that is a special kind of corruption. But I should take comfort in the fact that God can and does use my sins to redeem me. And not just me, he uses my sins to help me be his hand to redeem others.

I am not simply set free to redeem myself. I am not a cul-du-sac of joy. No, I have been set free to help set others free! God doesn’t just let me watch him work. He lets me participate in his work. I am a little boy getting to work with my dad in the garage and “help” him work.

So gentlemen, don’t be content to simply be rescued by Jesus yourself. The deeper joy is being like Jesus and reaching out to others to show them the way. In the context of recovering from porn addiction, don’t be a wall flower. Be active in supporting your brothers who are struggling as well. God has provided special comfort and grace to you. Please don’t keep it to yourself.

-Chip

Whiplash of the Soul

neckpainRecently, I have been experiencing the whiplash of the soul. During the last two weeks I have felt sad and tempted. Like every vice in my heart was given fresh power to overcome me. Within hours I will feel full of desire to be with Jesus. Every moment I speak with him and read of him is water to my parched soul.

I suspect that both realities are the same condition with God providing grace. My dry soul is relieved by his grace only to be dry again within hours, needing more grace. Maybe the very temptation I am experiencing is a new opportunity to drink deeply from my Father.

How can I wake up one morning and feel alive and revived by Jesus and by noon I am fighting hard not to stare at the girl walking by my cubicle at work? Why is the temptation so strong even while the joy in Jesus is so deep?

One factor may be that my sweet moments with the Holy Spirit are making my conscience more sensitive to “the sin that so easily entangles” me. I fear losing those moments and this makes me more afraid of my sin. Additionally, maybe the dryness I feel is me knowing more deeply how desperate I am for God. I don’t need him weekly or even daily, but I need him every hour and every minute.

It’s strange to think of grace being enough to deeply satisfy for this minute, but only for this minute. I need to go back to my Father and ask for more delight in the next minute as well. It is a sweet dependence, but one that takes a constant reminder to go back to him.

I wish I had all the answers on this one. How is it that I feel both very strong and very weak within the same day? I’m not really sure. God knows and he loves me.

That’s enough for this minute anyway.

-Chip

Count Vicegrim’s Letters: Chapter 7 Neutering the Clergy

The Count Vicegrim LettersThe Demon Mudpot’s Annual Review regarding the Temptation of the Patient in His 21st Year

Mudpot,

Engaged! You let your patient become engaged and yet you have not gotten him to fornicate yet. What am I to do with you Mudpot!? This is a male college student in the Western world. ALL OF THEM FORNICATE…except yours. To be clear, almost all of them fornicate. How is it that millions of tempters are able to pull this off and you can’t? I’m not asking you to get him to renounce the Enemy!

You are an idiot.

I suppose I have to write your review now.

The Acceptable

I see you have further encouraged your patient’s ‘tolerance’. In fact, I even heard from another tempter how helpful your patient was by encouraging a friend to sin by saying, “God would want you to be happy.” This is my personal favorite excuse for sin. As if the sin we encourage will make them happy. Mudpot, you aren’t simply working our ends for your patient, but are making him an evangelist for the destruction of others. Good work.

Keep the tolerance coming. An important area to press this into is ‘religious tolerance’. In centuries past, this meant that the various religious groups didn’t declare war and kill each other. We have so changed it now that it means that tolerance means that one can’t even really believe their religious teaching. If one really looks at their religious text and believes it, that is now intolerant. The religion of the day is that all religions should be nice to each other and that no religion is really right.

Of course, no one really believes that. Not even the vermin. When someone is murdered, suddenly they all believe in right and wrong. When one of them steals from another, no one ever says that they simply have a religious preference about ownership. Like most of our teachings, this would be easy to disprove if the vermin didn’t want to believe it so badly.

His increasing isolation from other children of the Enemy is very helpful. Along with the notion of tolerance, we have added the idea that religious preferences are not just personal, but exclusively personal. So personal, in fact, that to mention them to others is rude. We have been able to drag more of the Enemy’s children out of the church with this than any other tool I can remember. The church, of course, is a place where beliefs are not personal but are subjected to being either true or false. Not a place we want to go.

Mudpot, you need to foster in him the very American belief that he can go it alone. That he needs nothing and no one. He can make up for himself men who did it by themselves without support and conquered their enemies. He needn’t consider that no man has ever done anything without help from others and no man has ever worked against us effectively without the Enemy’s Spirit. Let him believe that accepting help or correction is somehow weakness.

I love how you have gotten him so deeply convinced that the “forgiveness” of the Enemy’s Son is really just a chance for him to do whatever he wants. Fight any notion of guilt or remorse. The Enemy’s Spirit in him will be making him uncomfortable, it is your job to make him complacent. A few good statements to keep him saying are “nobody’s perfect” and “everybody makes mistakes”. These are so glorious for us because they recognize that there is a sin and the fail to do anything about it. I like to call those two statements the Conscience Killers. Use them often Mudpot.

The Totally Unacceptable

He is engaged and not fornicating. Some of the poorest tempters out there can pull this off Mudpot and you can’t. I don’t think you realize the harm this can do to us. If he can avoid fornicating before his marriage he will be much better prepared to avoid adultery after he is married. The patience he is learning will be a very dangerous tool in the Enemy’s hands. Get your patient fornicating!

Convince your patient that if he feels committed that he is “married in God’s eyes”. You see, the vermin really do mix up felt commitment with commitment. None of them would tell their pastor that they were just impatient so we need to equip him with a good excuse.

His plans to go to seminary have been moving forward. This is causing great concern in the Lowerarchy. It is doubtful that you will be able to persuade him to become a plumber, so I think you should focus your energies on getting him into one of our seminaries. You need to use ‘tolerance’ to its full potential now. Guide him to seminaries that are ‘open’ to ‘alternative lifestyles’. If he can come to believe that ‘acceptance’ is the same thing as Love, then we have him.

You see, acceptance is nice. There is no conflict with it. It makes one look enlightened and kind. Love, on the other hand, can often lead to conflict. To truly love someone, the vermin must press them toward the Enemy. This is not very ‘accepting’.

I have included a list of seminaries that will meet our needs. Make sure he gets into one of them. I have also included a copy of the book Neutering the Clergy by Lord Blackmist. It is the best work on how to handle this very dangerous group.

Finally, I would like to emphasize and important section from Neutering the Clergy. It is the five ‘Anything Buts’. If you can get your patient to go for anything but these, we have already won. They are:

Anything but the Enemy’s Book

Anything but Faith

Anything but Grace

Anything but the Enemy’s Son

Anything but the Enemy’s Glory

Work hard to take away these pillars of the Enemy. Review the ‘Anything Buts’ every day and hammer at them. There is hope to neuter him if you do this thoughtfully.

Not that you are good at doing anything thoughtfully.

Count Vicegrim

Image created by Cavin and used with permission

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip