Holy Ghost Fire

by Rev. Allen Baker – Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. From Banner of Truth Trust, UK (11/2010)

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:3)

If Brett McCracken’s observation is correct — that seventy per cent of those age eighteen to twenty-two, who grew up in the church, leave it never to return again,1 then surely we can agree that the evangelical church is in big trouble. Ever since the late 1970’s when evangelicalism began to suffer the loss of members, she has tried numerous schemes to stop the bleeding. First it was the church growth movement with its emphasis on homogeneity, that we ought to worship with people ‘just like us.’ Then came the seeker friendly movement with its use of drama and ‘how to’, psycho-therapeutic sermons, seeking to reach the Baby Boomer generation who was bored with church. Then came, for a brief period of time, the Emerging Church movement which sought to connect the Generation X culture with the ancient past. And now we have hipster Christianity where pastors don metro-sexual dress, sport $80 haircuts, and use shocking speech and address even more shocking topics from the pulpit in order to reach the Millennial generation.

In each of these movements there can be no doubt that some were truly converted, and surely mega-churches, for good or for ill, have come out of all these approaches. The question, however, is this — are these offerings of strange fire to the Lord? God was terribly displeased with Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, when they brought their strange fire on the altar (Num. 3:4). He killed them on the spot. There are at least three underlying false assumptions in each of these movements. Consequently the embrace of any or all of them will fail to bring the substantial, biblical growth evangelicalism wants and needs. What are they and what is the remedy? First, each of these movements assumes a semi-Pelagian view of man. Pelagius, the fourth century A.D. heretic, denied the doctrine of original sin, believing that mankind therefore was not corrupted by Adam’s fall into sin. In other words, man was completely free to choose or reject the overtures of the gospel. The semi-Pelagian (modern day Arminianism) does not go that far. It says that while man was definitely and adversely affected by Adam’s fall, he still has some ability to decide on his own free will to follow Christ. The moment one takes this position is the moment he becomes a pragmatist in gospel work. If man has the key to the jailhouse of his sin in his pocket, then we ought to use any method necessary to coerce or seduce him to use it. So, anything goes in church services with entertainment, music, sermons. If a sixty year old pastor wants to reach the Millennial and X generations then why not bring his wife on the platform, having a bed there as a prop, and talk openly and specifically about sexual intercourse, urging the married couples to engage in that activity every night for a week?2

The second false assumption is that the Word of God preached is insufficient to get the job done. No evangelical pastor will admit this of course, but this is the practical outcome. Therefore sermons are becoming shorter and shorter, more and more devoid of solid Biblical exposition and content. The emphasis in many churches seems to be on the unbeliever, ‘dumbing down’ the sermon in order to appeal to him, leaving the rest of the congregation spiritually malnourished. No wonder, then, that the problems of marital infidelity, divorce, wayward children, and varied addictions are as rampant inside the church as outside it.

And the third false assumption is that the Word of God is sufficient. ‘Al, what are you saying? Are you contradicting yourself? Didn’t you just say that many today believe the preached word is insufficient? Which is it?’ Here’s what I mean — some who hold to the sufficiency of the preached Word of God believe that is all that is required, that all a preacher needs to do is stand up, open his mouth, after studying well and preparing a good, solid Biblical sermon, and all will be well, that God will bless the simple preaching of the Word. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But this also is a faulty assumption. I hear it all the time from Reformed types. This, however, was not enough for Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Did they believe in the total inability of man to believe the gospel? Absolutely! Did they believe in the complete sufficiency of Scripture? Yes, of course. But they also believed in the preached Word energized by the Holy Spirit. Their preaching and their lives were marked by Holy Ghost fire. What is that? John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus, said that One was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11). Isaiah said that an angel came and touched his depraved mouth with coals of fire from the altar (Isa. 6:6-7). The men on the road to Emmaus, after hearing Jesus open the Scriptures to them about himself said that their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). Malachi said that the coming of the Lord would be like a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3:2-3). Applying the words of the Psalmist, the writer to the Hebrews says that God makes his messengers a flame of fire (Heb. 1:7, Psa. 104:4) Paul tells us that we will be saved by fire (1 Cor. 3:15). Hebrews exhorts us to worship the Lord with reverence, for our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). And Luke says that one of the manifestations of the coming Holy Spirit was tongues that resembled fire (Acts 2:3). This was the fulfilment of John’s words (Luke 3:16).

What does this mean? Fire in the Bible is symbolic of three things — purity, power, and passion. Isaiah is purified by altar coals. Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit and fire promises the coming power of God. And God’s messengers are a flaming fire, filled with passion to take the gospel to the nations. By all means, we ought to reject semi-Pelagianism and what comes from it; but we must also reject the notion that all we need is the sufficiency of the Scripture. We need both the Scripture and the Spirit. We need to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) but we must also pray with all perseverance and petition in the Spirit for all the saints, that the Word may go forth with boldness (Eph. 6:18-20). How do we get there? We must have Holy Ghost fire. We must have the unction of the Spirit (1 John 2:20). There is only one way, and that is earnest prayer and supplication, pouring out our hearts to God in repentance, asking for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), seeking his presence and power until we get it (James 4:8). If you are a preacher then make this your highest priority in ministry. If you support your preacher in prayer, and surely you should do so, then pray that the unction, Holy Ghost fire, will come with fulness in purity of motives, power in preaching, and passion in pursuit of ministry. I know — it looks strange, decidedly uncool in our day when hip and laid back is in — but we ought to go to church and watch our pastor burn with Holy Ghost fire as he stands to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. This is not a casual thing. This is not a ‘maybe you ought to think about it’ proposition. This is life and death (2 Cor. 3-4). Our words are a savour of life unto life or death unto death (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

Samuel Chadwick said that when the church talks a lot about its problems, when conferences increase then she is in trouble. She is looking to activities to overcome the lack of true spiritual power. ‘We are acting as though the only remedy for decline were method, organization, and compromise.’3 Surely we can do better. Surely we must do better. We must have Holy Ghost fire!

Reclame

Burn Out

by Al Baker from the Banner of Truth Trust UK

The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:18)

Are you presently living with a sense of hopelessness, a sort of low grade depression where you tend to speak in negative absolutes? For example, do you say, ‘My marriage will never get better. God never answers my prayers. My husband never listens to me. We will never get out of debt. Our ministry is going no where.’ Are you ready to throw in the towel, to check out, to cash in your chips, to say, ‘I have had enough! I am leaving my husband. I am getting out of the ministry.’ Have you entertained the thought of ending your life, of saying, ‘What’s the use? I cannot go on any longer.’ Are you angry, given to outbursts of anger with your spouse or children at the slightest provocation? Are you mired in self-pity, saying things like, ‘My husband does not understand me. My children ignore me. I have nothing to offer anyone.’

If so, then you are probably suffering from what many call burn out or depression. What is this malady? From where does it come? And what is the remedy for it. James is putting forth the characteristics of a good teacher, one who influences others for the sake of righteousness, saying that this heavenly wisdom cascades down from the Triune God like the Tuolome River in Yosemite Park cascades down with great power from ten thousand feet, along the Tuolome River canyon for some twenty miles, bringing refreshing water to the valley. This wisdom flows from a fountainhead that thirsts for holiness. In James 1:4 we are told to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing; and that if anyone lacks wisdom he is to ask God for it. The wisdom of holiness is higher than the wisdom of Solomon who wanted the ‘wisdom of skill’ to govern his people. That was a good start but he did not go far enough, eventually succumbing to the big three obstacles all men face — women, horses (power), and gold and silver (mammon). See Deuteronomy 17:14-17. The wisdom we need is not earthly (inanimate like a rock or tree), natural (literally the Greek word means sensual), or demonic (inspired by the devil and hell), but is heavenly — pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy. The seedbed of this heavenly wisdom yields a fruitful garden of righteousness and holiness, the exact opposite of the breeding ground of earthly wisdom which yields bitter jealousy and selfish ambition where nothing can grow, where everything dies.

What is burn out? It is a mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. This is evident in the lives of both Elijah and Jonah. In 1 Kings 19:4ff, after Elijah’s remarkable confrontation with the prophets of Baal, when he prayed down fire from heaven to burn up the water-soaked sacrifice at which the priests of Baal were woefully unsuccessful, he heard of Jezebel’s desire to kill him. He was overwhelmed with this mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion, asking God to take his life. He could not go further. He wanted to quit. He wanted to die. If there were so few who followed God, then life was not worth living. And we see the same thing in Jonah after this racial and religious bigot was angry with God for converting thousands of the pagan people at Nineveh. He sat down in anger, telling God that he too wanted to die. Both evidenced a sense of hopelessness, suicidal tendencies, anger, and self-pity. How about you? Do these characterize your life at this present time?

And second, from where does burn out come? Often it occurs after major accomplishments in one’s life — the birth of a child, a daughter’s wedding, the successful completion of a major project. See both Elijah and Jonah. Often it happens after some major upheaval, good or bad, in one’s life — the death of a spouse or parent, a transfer to another city far from home, taking a new and demanding job.

Tissot-Moses strikes the rock

But burn out always comes when one lives by earthly, natural, or demonic wisdom, that which is a breeding ground for destruction, a seedbed of devastation. Earthly wisdom often seems logical, the right thing to do. God earlier told Moses to strike the rock and water would flow to quench the thirst of the Israelites in the wilderness (Exod. 17:6). So when God later told Moses (Num. 20:8ff) to speak to the rock and the same would happen, he decided to do his own thing and strike it. God judged him, telling Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land because of his rebellion. And when David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem on an ox cart, after its absence for many years, in the midst of great rejoicing, the oxen nearly upset the Ark which was falling off the cart. When Uzzah tried to steady the Ark God struck him dead (2 Sam. 6:1ff). Our ways are not God’s ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa. 55:8). He chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). Earthly wisdom says, ‘Lay up treasures on earth . . . walk by sight . . . live under the sun.’ It makes sense, doesn’t it, to hoard your wealth for a rainy day, an unexpected setback? But when doing so one can jeopardize the ministry of his church or the immediate need of a missionary. It makes sense to live by what you see, to not trust the unseen God, to work ridiculous hours or to skip church to finish a project, ‘to make things happen.’ It makes sense to live under the sun, as though this is all there is, to hold onto the temporal you can touch, and to neglect the eternal which you cannot hold in your hand. In other words, burn out comes from unrealized and unnecessary earthly expectations. A pastor expects a thriving, larger ministry; a married couple expects a house full of children; a young businessman expects to be on top by the age of forty. This is living by earthly, natural, and demonic wisdom which will bring you down into the valley of despair. It is a seedbed of death that will yield a garden of death and despondency.

Finally, what is the remedy for burn out? Two things are vital. First, you must desire heavenly wisdom. Instead of laying up treasures on earth, lay them up in heaven. Don’t hoard things, use them. Invest them in the eternal kingdom of God. Instead of walking by sight, walk by faith. Believe the promises of God. Take them at face value like a child. God says he will meet your every need in Christ Jesus. He says that he will never leave you nor forsake you. He says that no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Believe what he says and act on that belief. And instead of living under the sun like Solomon in parts of Ecclesiastes, live under heaven, living with heaven in full view, getting to the place where the glory of heaven is as real to you as is sitting in a chair in your living room. Solomon’s depressing language is directly related to living under the sun.

We see the benefits of this heavenly wisdom played out in the Apostle Paul who says that he considers the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that awaits us (Rom. 8:17), who says that this momentary light affliction is working in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17).

And second, you must fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov. 9:10). Fearing God means that you love what he loves and hate what he hates. It means desiring his smile and dreading his frown more than anything. It means seeing God in every circumstance of your life and rejoicing. It means running daily to the river of grace filled with the blood of Jesus and the living water of the Spirit.

I have been ‘in the nineteenth century’ quite a bit lately, reading of the great saints and great movements God at the time. John Milne of Perth, Scotland is one of those men mightily used of God in the Scottish revival of the late 1830’s, early 1840’s.1 In 1847 at the age of forty Milne finally slowed down enough to marry. Within a year a daughter was born to John and his wife, Robina, but she died at eight months. But then God gave them a son, but shortly after his birth, Robina died. And finally a few months later his two year old son died. As Bonar says, ‘During this time Milne was hardly ever out of the furnace.’ As he told to a friend, ‘I am all alone.’ In his grief Milne went on with his life, became a missionary in Calcutta for a few years, remarried, and eventually came back to Perth and remained a faithful pastor until his death at the age of sixty-one.

How do you overcome burn out? It will not come by earthly wisdom. That will only exacerbate your problems. You must seek heavenly wisdom like fine gold or silver. You must fear God.



Notes:

1. One of the better biographies I have read recently is The Life of John Milne of Perth, written by his friend Horatius Bonar and published by the Banner of Truth. I highly recommend it.

Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

www.christcpc.org

Al Baker’s sermons are now available on www.sermonaudio.com.

Al Baker – Why are we Losing our Children?

Via Banner of Truth Trust, UK (05/11 issue)
It was a turn of events from God. (2 Chronicles 10:15).

In his book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, author Ken Ham sites a survey that says two-thirds of evangelical young people will leave church by their early twenties.1 Surprisingly, Ham has found that those who attend Sunday School are the most likely to leave the church. Why? The children are more than likely told that God made the world out of nothing (so far so good) but their exposure to atheism in general and evolution in particular in public schools and in television and movies undermines what they hear at church. That’s because pastors, parents, and Sunday School teachers are not giving their children a reason for the hope that is in them (1 Pet. 3:15). These twenty somethings are living with a gross inconsistency and they opt for the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).

While no doubt true, there is also a deeper cause for this apostasy. In 2 Chronicles 10 we are told that after Solomon’s death, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who had been in exile since Solomon’s attempt to murder him, ventures back into Israel with hopes of repairing the rift between him and Solomon’s administration. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, is made king after his father’s death, and Jeroboam comes to him, hat in hand as it were, agreeing to serve him if he will ‘lighten up’ on Jeroboam and his friends. Rehoboam tells him to go away for three days and then return for his answer. Rehoboam consults the older men who had been his father’s consultants, asking them what they thought he should do. They said that by all means he should go easy on them. If he did so, then they would serve him forever. We are told twice, however, that Rehoboam did not listen to their counsel, and instead consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. They told him to be hard on them. In their sophomoric bravado they, in essence, were saying, ‘You are the king. You must show your power and authority. Anything less is a sign of weakness not becoming such a great, young king.’ Jeroboam returned for Rehoboam’s answer and he said, ‘My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’ The people naturally rebelled saying, ‘What portion do we have in David? Every man to your tents, O Israel!’

If we stop here then we may conclude that the moral of this historical narrative is to listen to wise counsel coming from older people and reject ungodly counsel coming from young people. But not all older people give wise counsel and not all young people give foolish counsel. Something deeper is brewing here and that’s where verse 15 comes into play. A vast portion of the kingdom was taken from Solomon and given to Jeroboam. Why? ‘It was a turn of events from God that the Lord might establish his word, which he spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat,’ (1 Kings 11:29-39). Why was God upset with Solomon? We are told in 1 Kings 3:3 that as he began his reign Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of his father. By 1 Kings 11:1, however, he loves foreign women and has gone after their gods. More specifically, Solomon brought to Israel Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, the female counterpart of Baal, the fertility god and goddess. In order to ensure prosperity by having many children, animals, and crops people regularly engaged in cult prostitution to appease Ashtoreth. Solomon also built a high place for Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, on the Mount of Olives, the place where Jesus would sweat drops of blood for us some nine hundred years later. Solomon did so for geo-political reasons. He felt threatened by the Moabites and needed a way to keep them in check. But the worst of all was the Ammonite god Milcom, a bronze god with a bull’s head, having outstretched arms with a hole in its belly. This god was made red hot with fuel and while drums were beating to drown out the cry of babies, parents regularly placed their infants in Milcom’s arms, rolling them down into his belly, they being burned alive as sacrifices to their parents’ desire for pleasure.2

Solomon forfeited ten of the twelve tribes because of his idolatry. This came not merely as a divine fiat. Cause and affect are always in play. Rehoboam grew up in a household where he heard his father Solomon say one thing, but do another. He said that he loved Yahweh, but in addition to Yahweh he also bowed down to Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom. So Rehoboam never considered the fear of Yahweh as important. Instead he was prejudiced against the counsel of the older men. He considered himself to be one with the young men in their sophomoric bravado. He was filled with pride too. He loved the idea of running roughshod over Jeroboam. After all, he was the king. He could do as he pleased.

Solomon turned his heart away from God

As with Solomon and his idolatry, the big three of sex (cultic prostitution through Ashtoreth), power (geo-political security through Chemosh), and money (sacrificing children to Milcom to allow a woman the lifestyle she chooses or sacrificing one’s children for one’s career) are very much at play today. So bottom line — we are losing our children, just as Rehoboam lost most of the kingdom, because of our idolatry. Sex, power, and money still plague us, threatening to destroy our children, seeking to tear them from our covenantal grasp.

Are you bowing to the god of sex? Women, are you dressing immodestly? Are you spending too much time and money on the way you look? Men, are you secretly on the internet looking at pornography? Sin always costs us dearly. You may think you are getting away with your actions but your sins will eventually find you out. You will be exposed. It will negatively impact your children. Count on it! Are you worshipping at the high place of power? Do you compromise biblical convictions to get to the next level in your company? Women, are you buying into the world’s lie that you get your worth from your career, that staying home with young children is boring and below your gifts and talents? Are you seeking the god of wealth? Jesus says that you cannot serve both God and mammon, that you will love the one and hate the other (Matt. 6:24). Do you sacrifice your young children’s spiritual lives by placing them in public schools because you want to work outside the home? Is there no other alternative?3 Have you really thought about the implications of exposing your children to seven hours per day, one hundred and eighty days a year, to godless atheism? As I am wont to say from time to time — just raising the question. Can there be anything more precious to us than our children and grandchildren! We lose our children, as Rehoboam lost the kingdom, because of idolatry. May God give us grace to tear down these altars that threaten to undo us all!



Notes:

1. Pages 37ff address this ‘Sunday School Syndrome.’

2. Can you see the parallel today with these abhorrent gods? Worship of Ashtoreth, the fertility goddess, observed through sexual perversion, reminds us of our god of sex. Setting up Chemosh on the Mount of Olives to solidify geo-political power smacks of worshipping at the altar of power. And sacrificing children to Milcom reminds us of a woman’s ‘right’ to her own body, aborting her children because she wants nothing to get in the way of her career; of men sacrificing their children’s nurture by working ridiculous hours to make more money and gain more financial security. As Solomon says, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ (Eccles. 1:9). Man still pursues the big three — sex, power, and money.

3. Sometimes there is no alternative. A single mother must work. Perhaps the husband does not make enough money to put the children into a Christian school. Perhaps the mother does not have the gifts or patience to home school her children. And it may be that older children, say teens, are able to ‘stand above the crowd’ and go to public schools, having been firmly grounded on the Christian world view. My intent here is to challenge you to your present way of thinking on these matters.

Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. His sermons are available at sermonaudio.com

Al Baker – A New Kind of Fasting (from the world)

via Banner of Truth Trust UK

Do not love the world. (1 John 2:15)

It is no coincidence that the men whom God uses powerfully in the work of his kingdom always have one thing in common. This is true with the early church fathers — men like Irenaeus, Origen, and Polycarp. And this one thing in common is also found with men of a more modern era, whether they be Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Phillip Melanchthon of the sixteenth century; John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, or Joseph Alleine of the seventeenth century; Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, or George Whitefield of the eighteenth century, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Daniel Baker, or Charles Spurgeon of the nineteenth century, or A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones of the twentieth century. And what is that one common thing? All these men had a holy hatred of worldliness.

Consider the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne in a sermon on 1 Peter 1:14-19, preached in 1838,

My dear friends, if you wish to obey the word of God here laid before you, flee from all circumstances, from all places or companies, where you know you may be tempted to sin . . . do you know a company where holy things are slighted, where things are spoken that should not be named, where late, unholy hours are kept, where you have already been tempted to sin? Then, child of God, I charge you not to cross that threshold again, no, not once. I charge you, flee temptation, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear . . . I fear, young persons, a holy provocation, after the holiest exercises, plunging into the unholiest companies, praying in the house of God, or in a class for religious instruction one hour, and entering into ungodly company the very next.1

M’Cheyne hated anything that drew his people away from God.          So should we!

The Apostle John commands us in his epistle not to love the world or the things of the world. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones so ably puts it, John is not referring to mountains or rivers, nor is he writing generally of life in the world of family, business, or state. Instead, by world John means living independently of God. It is an outlook, a mindset that ignores God and his Word. John further explains what he means by the world, calling it the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Simon Kistemaker calls the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes sinful desires while the boastful pride of life refers to sinful behaviour. Lloyd-Jones suggests that the lust of the flesh deals with physical bodies, living for sensual gratification. The lust of the eye refers to living for the ungodly values of outward show. And the boastful pride of life means self-glorification. So by this John is saying that living for the world means living independently from God, and thus taking and owning the temporal and sensual values of the unredeemed world.

Paul commands us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Rom. 13:14). We all battle the debilitating effects of indwelling sin, a strong craving to do the very things we are commanded not to do. As believers we, at the same time, have a regenerate heart that loves God and hates sin, giving us a desire to obey God. So we can say we have within us a pig (indwelling sin) that loves to eat anything, including garbage; and we have a lion (the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus) which lives within us by the Holy Spirit. The lion is a carnivore, as it were, which lives off the meat of the Word of God. So, if we feed the pig with garbage then he gets bigger and the lion gets smaller. On the other hand, if we feed the lion the meat of God’s Word then he gets stronger and the pig gets weaker. Holiness comes through a strengthened lion and a weakened pig. So in order to see progress in holiness we must limit the garbage we take into our eye and ear gates; and we must increase the quality and quantity of the meat of the Word of God.

And herein lies our problem. Even if we are careful not to take into our eye and ear gates ungodly music, DVD’s, or television programming; even if we don’t read books, magazines, or internet sites saturated with an ungodly worldview; the simple truth is that we daily battle the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the boastful pride of life. We are not called to be hermits. We live in the world. However, after a hard and stressful day of work, when you finally make it home at night, you may decide to watch a little television to see your favourite team, or catch a couple of hours of news commentary before going to bed. Now, I am not saying we should never watch television, but I am reminding you that television is an amusement (a means ‘no’ and muse means ‘to think’, that is no thinking), a totally passive exercise. Neil Postman brilliantly put forth this thesis years ago in Amusing Ourselves to Death4. Just watch your children when they watch television. What are they doing? Nothing! When you read to them you see in their eyes their little minds brimming with imagination, and that is a very good thing.

So here’s my proposal — should we not consider a new kind of fasting, a fasting from anything that feeds the pig and starves the lion! Consider this analogy — most of us today must be intentional about physical exercise. We pay money for gym or health club memberships, we join running or cycling clubs, or we find friends with whom we can walk daily or several times per week. Coming up with exercise programmes was unheard of one hundred years ago. That’s because most people engaged in some form of physical labour or they walked to work. Today, of course our work and life styles are very different. We are sedentary and must find ways to maintain or improve our physical health.

Likewise, due to the incessant exposure to worldliness, perhaps we should consider cutting back on our television and movie time? We struggle with progress in holiness because worldly distractions suck the life out of us. We have far too many options. One hundred years ago there was no television so people read at night or they talked with one another. Many of us now sit like zombies in front of the screen for hours. These worldly amusements feed the pig and starve the lion. Why not fast for a month from television and other things that feed the pig within you? Should you not at least consider cutting it way back from present levels, and spend that time in reading, holy contemplation, or edifying conversation? You will feed the lion and growth in holiness will surely result.

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