Thursday, February 26, 2015

We are Blessed Beyond Measure in Grace, Peace, and Gratitude

We have a lot to be grateful for as believers, don't you think?  The truth is we are truly blessed.  We've been selected by the designer of the human soul to spend eternity with him.  How marvelous is such a calling as this?  What greater purpose could there be?

Science, industry, fame, fortune, even art, music, and philosophy all pale in comparison to the humility of being in the presence of the designer of the rivers, the mountains, the animals, and the human soul.  

He is the grand architect.  Who can understand such a transcendent being?  We see God as our Father, yet he is certainly much more than that.  We see God as the architect of the universe, but he is much more than that too.  We see him as our savior, yet he is much more than that.  We see him as a being of immense power, but he is also much more complicated than that.  He is love, yet he is justice.  He is strength, yet he is tender care.  He is designer, yet he is intimate friend and companion.  He is God, yet he is also a man.  He is Spirit, yet he walked also as flesh.  He is the grand master of science, the inspiration behind art, music, sculptures, and speeches.  He dialed the constants of the universe as he designed his universe.  He set the Earth in nothingness, and painted the galaxies with stars and gas giants and nebula.  

Yet he also crafted the ears on the cat, and the jaw of the dog.  He ran his hands along the contours of the horse and the immense dimensions of the whales of the ocean.  

Despite his infinite power, and ability and knowledge, he chose of all those about, to love me.  And I have begun to learn how to love him.  He loves you also.  He loves you with a special love, a love designed live a puzzle piece that fits into your soul.  He designed humans to love and be with him.  You and I are designed in his image.  

I can't understand it.  I really truly can't.  I bump my head on the sealing.  It's very real.  So real.  God reveals a plan and a requirement through the books of the Bible.  The haunting thing about the Bible is it reveals something has gone terribly wrong.  From the world it becomes clear.  Thankfully the solution is offered, a substitute, a savior, God himself, Jesus Christ.

Blessed with grace, as children of God, we've found ourselves returned to our natural state: communion and fellowship with God and other believers.   

Did you find a Bible?

One of the craziest things about the Bible, "the book" is that every time I start reading it, and really focus on one verse at a time, it's like something very special starts happening.  They aren't like any other words I've ever read.  There's power in them.  There is a unique presence in the word of God.  That's why I hand out Bibles, and that's why I leave Bibles at laundromats, diners, and coffee shops.  Everyone ought to read the Bible.  The words are powerful.  They jump right off the page.  

John 16:33 ESV 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Did you find a Bible?  Stick around.  I'm not anyone special, I'm just a young guy who believes that God is real.  That God actually exists.  But when you think about it, how else did the universe get here?  How else could human kind, the plants, the animals all be so complicated, yet harmonious?  

Before I began following Jesus, it was like I kept running into dead ends in my life.  Dozens and dozens of them.  I worked jobs that I didn't really like.  I felt like I wasn't where I was suppose to be in life.  I would try to force good things to happen in my life, even when I could tell they were crumbling in my hands as I tried to form them.  I tried to create the perfect relationships.  I tried to drink to have fun.  I tried to apply for jobs that maybe I might enjoy doing.  Yet it always seemed like something was missing in my life.  Do you know what I mean?

It always seemed like there was a blank spot in the middle of my chest.  What was wrong with me?  I tried to speed up my life as much as possible, so I wouldn't have to really stop and think about what life was all about.  Yet deep down I wanted peace.  I wanted peace of mind.  I wanted that spot in my soul to be filled.  

In fact I did try to fill that spot, I tried to fill it with friendship, with family, with alcohol, even drugs, and sexual acting out.  But I would always wake up the next morning feeling empty as ever.  

What is a person like me to do?  Jobs, driving here and there, living in central Wisconsin, just sort of wondering.  I went to college, got an education, yet it was all so empty.  At times I felt a sort of spiritual connectedness.  But I honestly didn't really know what I needed.  I pursued what society told me to pursue, fun, success, fame, girls, and on and on and on.  But it never led me anywhere good.

The missing piece in my life, the engine that was missing, was Jesus Christ.  Now I was raised Catholic, but I thought it was just a bunch of made up fairy tales.  I didn't think it was actually real.  In fact I'm still surprised that this Christian stuff in actually, truly, real.  But it is.  God is real.  He's revealed himself in the books of the Bible.  Now you have to understand, I'm one of those people who would be the last to say something like that.  I did not want some God telling me what to do.  And I was a well read person, Thoreau, Orwell, Huxley, Tolkien, Lewis.  But none of that helped me.  None of that really transcended life.  I thought of other religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, but there seemed to be no presence in those religions.  They were all maps to how to live a more moral life.  

But Jesus Christ and the message of the Bible is not simply a better way to try to be a good person.  Jesus Christ did not simply claim to teach the truth, he said "I am the truth."  Jesus did not simply point to the way, he said, "I am the way."  Jesus did not say 'do these things and you'll live" Jesus said, "I am the life."  

When we believe in our hearts, and really make a choice to trust that Jesus Christ is exactly who he said he was, the Son of God, then we receive eternal life through him.  All our mistakes and failings and setbacks are forgotten.  We are reconciled to God.  That empty hole in our chests is filled with the love of God.  The Holy Spirit given by God leads us in a new way of life.  I used to be a drug addict, and an alcoholic, with nothing, and Jesus Christ gave me new motivations and hungers, to seek recovery and to have it.  

So if you found a Bible, I encourage you to study it diligently.  Begin to experience a spiritual awakening in your life.  Begin taking steps toward Jesus Christ.  Begin to pray daily, and study the word.  Find a good Bible teaching church in your area.  If you've got addiction or alcoholism problems, seek out fellowships like alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous.  God works through many organizations and people.  Will you let him begin to work in your life?  It's your choice.  But believe me, this is the easier, softer way.  

Trust in Jesus.  

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sex, Cuisine, and Television: Overcoming the World

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What is the matrix?

The most important question of our age may be: What is the matrix?  In light of the rise in secular humanism, and the growing concerns over political, economic, and banking corruption worldwide, one must wonder... What is going on here?  Why is the depravity so pervasive?  What is causing this rise in corruption?  Why are so many institutions no longer trusted by the public? 

I first began to understand some things when I read a book called 1984 by George Orwell.  I understood a bit more after reading another book called Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  These are two books written by atheists, ironically enough.  A certain series of movies called the Matrix helped me understand more.  Documentaries like Inside Job, Food Inc, Bowling for Columbine, For Liberty, Why We Fight, Endgame, Evolution vs. God, and Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed helped me to further understand more complex issues.  And a big book called the Bible helped me put all the pieces together.

Let's go on a little journey.  Scope out if you will, and try to look beyond the society.  Look beyond the billboards, television screens, the bar grills, the sports fields, the church conferences, and the American dream.  

What is really happening here?  What is the truth?  What is the matrix?  Why is there a matrix? And how do we escape this matrix?

To understand how to truly escape the matrix requires an understanding of faith and spirituality.  But I don't want to get ahead of myself.  This will not be an attempt to logically prove that such a matrix exists.  Anyone who investigates the entirety of the evidence, I believe, would have to come to the conclusion that there is a matrix of control.  It manufactures consent.  It builds the minds of young people to assimilate into the system.  This essay will instead be an examination of some of the allegory found within the Matrix movies regarding the system of control and the key to it's defeat.  If you've never viewed the Matrix trilogy then don't read any further; spoilers, and you won't be able to follow the ideas very well.

"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?" -Morpheus

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—

I've always known, since age four or five, that something was very wrong with planet Earth.  It didn't quite make sense.  And so began a journey.  For me, that was the journey that eventually led to the spiritual seeker mentality.  It was the deepest sensation, very real, and based on intense observation, yet also an intuitive response: Something is wrong here.

World wars?  Diseases?  Those weren't even the first questions.  The first question was why does going anywhere, doing anything require money?  Why are so many resources directed towards what seem to be foolish pursuits?  I remember wondering.. where is the community center?  Where do people go to just talk, spend time together, without having to buy something or purchase a product?  Well, there is no such place.  No "city center" as I thought of it.  There are restaurants where you pay, movie theatres where you pay, and many other establishments.  No loitering.  I found it confusing from a very young age.  What's happening here?  Is this right? 

After reading books like 1984 and Brave New World I began to consider things on a larger scale.  Why do nations war?  If the nations are all in such debt, who are they in debt to?  Why are all my friends so obsessed with trivial pursuits like clothes, sports, games, drugs, and brand names?  Why are there television screens everywhere?  Why do people have access to such information yet know so little?  Even larger issues.. like Genocide.  War. Sex slavery.  Disease.  Corruption. Poverty? 

Money, money, money... greed, greed, greed.  At the core, most everyone serving themselves and ignoring the needs of others.  Enough resources to go around, but the few hoarding to the destruction of so many.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils -1 Timothy 6:10

 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Proverb 22:7

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. -Isaiah 1:17

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  -Galatians 5:13


"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it." - Morpheus

Matthew 12:30 Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me.

Our hero Neo can sense sin all around him.  It's a splinter in his mind, and it drives him mad.  So he seeks out the truth teller, the rebel in the wilderness, he seeks out the John the baptist character, Morpheus, who is part of an underground truth movement.

The Morpheus character meets with Neo and invites him to join the resistance.  Red pill or blue pill.  Red pill, he joins, blue pill, he wakes up and believes whatever he wants to believe (kind of like the new spirituality - believe whatever you want.)  Neo selects the red pill, but Morpheus offers a warning, "Remember, all I'm offering is the truth."  The truth is not always a pretty thing.  In fact, I've found it exceedingly difficult to "swallow" at times.  But I've found the very grim truth to be best described in the Book.  And I'd rather know the difficult truth, than believe a convenient lie like "consciousness evolution" or "all paths to the same place."  There is a serious problem on planet Earth.  Every person knows it.  

After taking the red pill, the main character Neo wakes up from the illusion.  He finds himself in a broken wasteland, in a pod suspended in mid air, with millions of others, with plugs in his arms legs and body.  The system recognizes he is unplugs and rejects him, down a shoot into a garbage area, and it's there that a hovership piloted by Morpheus picks him up.  

As they bring Neo onto the hovership Morpheus says, "Welcome to the real world."

To me, this is an allegory to becoming a Christian.  Many would throw up their arms in disgust at that statement.  "You mean something so cool as the matrix could have anything to do with that!?  "Christian" is sitting in a boring wooden pew every week half asleep with pedophile priests!!"  Now now, no. That's the control system caricature.  We all know very well that more often than not, the truth is surrounded by a body guard of lies.

But think about it.  Really think about it.  The Christian leaves the world of convenience and self service to a radical new mission.  The modernist "everything is hunky-dory" mentality is shattered.  The middle class pursuits, the 9 to 5, bar life, empty existence..  It's all shattered.  At least it should be.  The Christian wakes up on a very real battlefield.  It's a spiritual battlefield of the mind.  The Christian finds himself on enemy territory, in the dominion of evil, but freed from the control system by Jesus Christ, the hero who has overcome the world.  He invites us to acts of sabotage against the control system.  If we will believe, and follow him, everything is possible (Philippians 4:13).

"You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." -Morpheus

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5:36 

Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Morpheus trains Neo as a new member of his hovership the Nebuchadnezzar, a vessel that hacks into the matrix system to "free minds" from the control system and teach them the truth.  Much like Christians are called to "free minds" from the dominion of darkness and bring them to the light of Jesus Christ.  Neo finds himself as a member of a resistance group defending "the last human city" a place called Zion. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

So what is the matrix?  It could be said that the matrix is a sort of modernity, a modern mindset that keeps a person enslaved.  To me it's the lavish lifestyle of the American and European.  It's buying, buying, buying.  It's being exposed to thousands of advertisements a day.  It's an unnatural obsession with sexuality.  It's a depraved media.  It's a political climate that never changes.  It's the curtailing of civil liberties.  It's the dominance of industry over people.  It's the quiet rule of banking institutions.  It's the power of industry and media to manipulate the mindset of entire countries of people.  It's slavery to selfishness, greed, and superficial pursuits. 

Even after reading Orwell, Huxley, Thoreau, I was still locked in tight.  I wasn't necessarily plugged into the full mentality.  But I was plugged in through drugs, alcohol, and selfishness.  Despite my knowledge, special knowledge was not enough.  The matrix wasn't just around me, it was within me.  

It was Jesus Christ who set me free from the matrix.  He rescued me, and made me a new man.  I needed to become a new person to transcend the false reality.  Then he gave me a ministry.  He put me to work as a maquis, a soldier of the global resistance.  Just like Neo, Morpheus, and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar I now hack into the matrix and free minds from the control system.  I write regarding the truth, I attempt to defend the truth and expose "different" folks like myself to the truth.  I'm on a hovership, dodging sentinels, fighting a spiritual war for the souls of mankind.

As a Christian, walking through a "super store" with the screens everywhere all on the same channel... or at an Applebees bar with ten different screens on the wall.. or in a waiting room, with a screen on the wall playing a cooking show... or waiting in line to make a purchase at the dollar store... I know that I am the resistance.  I know that I've been called out of the matrix, to tell people about how to escape the matrix.  And there is only one way to escape the matrix: Jesus Christ as described in the books of the Bible.  Those words bring with them His presence.  Secular humanism will not solve the problem.  New age vague spirituality will not solve the problem.  Consciousness evolution, the deification of public education, will not solve the problem.  Why?  Because they all ignore the fact that the problem is not outside us, or around us, in the wall, or in the institutions, in the technology, the problem is more fundamental than that... the problem is within all of us.  Thankfully there is a cure.  Jesus Christ.  He is freedom from this world, with it's many addictions and slaveries dressed up as delicacies.  The Matrix will be toppled by our savior outwardly in the years to come.  But it can be toppled today within you, by his indwelling presence.  Take a chance, and shimmer.

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. 

 Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed"
John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

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