Martin Collins, citing statistics from the World Health Organization, identifies suicide as the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds, immediately following homicide and accidents. It is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages, snuffing out 105 lives each day and 300,000 per year. Contributory factors for this evil include depression, deteriorating family life, media glorification, and the pervasive drug culture. The progressive liberal culture, promoting early sexuality, self-esteem, and self-love since the early 1950’s, have not factored in the inconvenient truth that the brain development of a young adult often does not coalesce until the age of 25. The perverse self-absorption promoted by our current culture is a major contributory cause of suicide because individuals feel they are responsible only to themselves, forgetting that God is the giver of all life and owns us totally. We are not our own; we belong to God. Suicide is a direct breaking of the Sixth Commandment. The antidote to suicide is to replace the twisted, skewed, self-absorbed mindset with a determination to serve others, taking upon ourselves the yoke of Jesus Christ, who alone is able to heal a broken heart.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the holiness movement of the 19th century which led to the emergence of Pentecostal and charismatic congregations, persuasions which have engulfed one-fourth of the entirety of Christian denominations and 8% of the world's population, warns that "Pentecostalism," with its emphasis on the emotions, the intuitive, the sensational as being more important than the intellectual, meditative, and reflective, carries some serious dangers to a true believer. When examining the early ministry of the prophet Elijah, it seems that he had succumbed to a kind of emotional, self-centered, charismatic "Pentecostal" mindset, petulantly assuming God would provide a cornucopia of miracles for him. Elijah really felt on top of his game after God consumed his sacrifice in the contest with the prophets of Baal, indicating (to Elijah) that God would intervene at his will and desire. Elijah needed to learn that God was in charge of the relationship, not the other way around. Our forebears on the Sinai were stiff-necked, imposing their will on God, practicing wrong-doing to see if God were watching, acting carelessly (presumptuously), assuming God was duty-bound to take care of them, all the while twisting God's word to suit their plans. Elijah evidently was up-ended by Jezebel's threatening response, and felt a compulsion to run for his life, drifting ultimately into a near-catatonic depression, evidently indifferent to God's intervention and protection. God is more interested in quietness and meekness than in bombastic displays of power.
Dan Elmore: During this past Christmas season a discussion on the radio station that we listen to during the drive to work each morning focused on sending thank-you cards for Christmas presents. ...
In the last two editions, we saw that Israel and Judah both improperly regarded the Temple, esteeming it higher than the God for whom it was built, and putting their confidence in the fact that they had the Temple in their city. ...
John Ritenbaugh profiles the narcissistic personality, characterized by a highly self-absorbed and manipulative individual who, on one hand, has abused his God-given gifts and, on the other hand, neglected the responsibility of using them properly. Probably the biblical character best exemplifying the narcissistic personality is David's son, Absalom, clearly a spoiled son in a dysfunctional family. David was not noted for his childrearing skills, rarely calling any of his children into account for their behavior, but pampered them and indulged their multiple transgressions. Moreover, in both David's and Jacob's polygamous marital situations (tolerated but not condoned by God), fairness would have been next to impossible. Absalom developed a highly deceitful charm, able to "sweet-talk a bird out of a tree" with his disarming verbal eloquence, learning to be a controller par excellent. Using his scheming manipulative skills, he stealthily (taking the law in his own hands) arranged the murder of his older brother, a competitive contender for the throne. Absalom, using his manipulative charm and unctuous verbal skills, won the hearts of the common people, undercutting his father's honor and authority. For his vanity, his self-aggrandizement, and super-inflated ego, he became a "pin cushion" at the order of Joab. Absalom used his gifts and talents only for himself. With Absalom's negative example in mind, we need to make sure we do not use our spiritual gifts for self-service or self-aggrandizement, or worse yet, not to use them at all. Our children are gifts from God; we as parents must pass on to our children the sense of responsibility that has been given to us. We have to make ourselves answerable and responsible for their behavior, disciplining them for their carelessness and reinforcing their thoughtfulness. If Absalom would have been reared with these principles, much of David's bitterness and heartache would have been alleviated.
The apostle James informs us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Continuing in his theme of the Christian and works, John Ritenbaugh exposes just how corrupt sin is, and by this we can begin to understand just how holy God is—and just how much we need to change to conform to His glorious image.
John Ritenbaugh, examining the nuances of word definitions in Jeremiah 17:9, points out that our hearts are corrupt, fraudulent, and filled with prideful vanity. In its natural condition, the heart is incurable, hard as stone, impervious to truth, self-absorbed, and narcissistic in its approach to life. As time goes on and human nature continues to increasingly dominate, evil will increase exponentially. Cultures come and go, but the sins become worse. Before Christ returns, the moral standards of the culture will have gone into the sewer, making it easier to give in to human nature. What used to be horrible, now becomes normal. II Timothy 3:1-5 contains 19 characteristics of the defective human heart. The common denominator of these characteristics appears to be excessive self-absorption and pride, disregarding others while placing self-gratification first. These characteristics, when allowed to grow, can become a root cause of mental illness—becoming wrapped up in self and totally oblivious to the right relationship between God and man. Controlling self-absorption requires replacing human nature with self-control or self-discipline by using God's Holy Spirit. The sermon concludes with four disciplines derived from M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, including (1) learning to delay self-gratification, (2) learning to accept responsibility, (3) learning to dedicate oneself to truth, and (4) learning wisdom and balance. We are being developed in self-discipline toward solving problems such as we have never seen and developing maturity to join the family of God.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Sixty years ago, June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to establish a foothold on the European continent and to begin to roll back the Nazi army toward the Fatherland. ...
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that several parallels exist in the account of Balaam and one's approach to God. As God's children, we have to be on guard against people who are intimidated by righteousness and will seek to destroy its practice. Balaam, motivated by self-interest, believing that the ends justify the means, willing to do anything to get his way, shows himself spiritually inferior to a donkey when it comes to yielding to God's correction. The Laodicean, motivated by blind self-interest and the wages of unrighteousness, totally oblivious to the consequences, imitates Balaam's approach to God. In evaluating the Balaam episode in Numbers 22, we would do better to imitate the donkey than her master.
In this message on God's promises of protection and healing, Richard Ritenbaugh identifies several conditions for receiving them, including God's sovereignty, God's purpose, and one's level of growth. A way to see things "God's way" involves replacing our carnal, egocentric viewpoint with outgoing concern. We must transpose our "me first" attitude with a "you first" one. Nonetheless, God's promises stand, and He is very willing to fulfill them for us.
Our physical bodies, like the walled cities of ancient times, has a defense system to keep out invaders. Spiritually, how well do we maintain our defenses against error and contamination? John Ritenbaugh urges us to listen diligently to God's Word for true nourishment.
We all have low days on occasion, but when our despondency turns to self-pity, we have a problem. The "woe is me" attitude can mire us in stagnation and severely hamper our growth because self-pity is just another form of self-centeredness.
James' exhortation about the use of our tongues seems to stop with James 3:12. However, the rest of the chapter provides additional wisdom on controlling our speech.
Maybe the most basic impediment to overcoming is our innate selfishness. Our goal, however, is to bear the character of our God, whose primary characteristic is love or outgoing concern for others.
God has often used micro metaphors to illustrate macro events. For example, in Isaiah 1:4-6, God compares the whole nation of Israel to a sick patient with an incurable disease, signalling impending captivity. The church has been alternately compared to a bride, vine, virgin, woman, mother, and body. Extrapolating from these metaphors, the condition of the greater church of God resembles a patient languishing from a deadly disease like cancer. This condition has resulted from a diet of spiritual junk food (the philosophies and traditions of the world) and abstinence from the life-sustaining bread of life (John 6:63). The words we "eat" create a faith that forms the walls of our belief system?a kind of spiritual immune system, protecting it from disease. Good health, then, is not merely a matter of diet, but an entire interactive process of prayer, study, obedience, and conformity to God's purpose for our lives.
John Ritenbaugh, using the term "malignant narcissism" (from M. Scott Peck's book "People Of The Lie") to describe the blind Laodicean pride which denies our inherent sinfulness and imperfection by means of clever self-decptive quibbling and equivocation. Accepting one of the most pernicious gifts of Protestantism (no works mentality), the Laodicean doesn't know that it takes mental work and exertion to produce faith; it does not come by magic or by mere acceptance of certain knowledge. The Good Samaritan parable teaches that unless one practices doing good rather than just knowing good, his faith will be severely compromised.
Summertime reminds us of "those lazy, hazy, crazy days" of our youth. Charles Whitaker shows that biblically summertime sounds a warning to us to prepare for the fall harvest.
Focusing upon the rising tide of societal incivility, Richard Ritenbaugh warns that discourtesy and ugly in-your-face attitudes (fruits of the flesh) have also manifested themselves in the greater church of God. These disgusting works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are exactly the opposite of what God expects of us- the opposite of Agape love. Good manners (minor morals or the small change of virtue) are the fundamentals of love for others and love for God. Unfortunately, good manners and courtesy do not come naturally, but have to be learned and continually practiced. The common denominator of etiquette is to esteem others more and making ourselves less. When we show courtesy to others, we imitate God.
A main sign of the end may be the behaviors and attitudes of Generation X. Richard Ritenbaugh analyses his own generation in relation to Paul's description of the last days in II Timothy 3.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon Jesus' reluctance to go immediately to Lazarus, suggests that He intended to impress upon His close friends, Mary and Martha, the gravity of sin's consequences. The example also forcefully illustrates that Jesus (reflecting God the Father) keeps His own timetable; nobody pushes Him. The issue of fear of death is addressed in this study, with the conclusion that trust in God's ability to resurrect can neutralize this most basic universal debilitating fear, a fear that increases exponentially the older we get. Christ gives us the assurance that death is not the end. Internalizing this assurance opens the way to the abundant life, enabling us to live boldly, conquering, with God's help, the fear of death. Our approach at that point will become God-centered rather than self-centered. The episode of Jesus' weeping emphasizes that God has emotions, revealing anger, compassion, and empathy. The resurrection of Lazarus, the last of the seven signs Jesus performed before His death, proved to be the last straw for the religious leaders, who became motivated to crucify Him.
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