Saturday, August 16, 2014

Connection in love, it's what Life is all about




This is a post in connection to the monthly prompt from Synchroblog on the topic of "Connection."  Join the synchroblog to fellowship in common writing with other Christian bloggers.  This month the topic is connection.

Colossians 2:9 (ESV) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Connection is Christianity. Connection is probably the most important aspect of life.  Connection to God, through Jesus is first.  Then there is connection to family.  Connection to friends.  Connection to the body of Christ.  Connection to country.  Connection to humanity itself.  

When you look at the greats in history, they're often quoted looking back on their lives.. and asked what was the most important thing?  It's always the same:  People, relationships, friendships, family.  It's always about the next person.  From soldiers coming back from war they ask, "Why did you fight?"  Most often the reply is that it wasn't about the cause or the mission, it was about the soldier next to them, their friends next to them in the trenches.  

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
C.S. Lewis,
The Four Loves
One of my Christian heroes Ravi Zacharias tells this story, and I'm paraphrasing, but he said that he loves philosophy.  He loves reading books, he loves studying truth, reading biographies of the greats.  Those things bring him great pleasure.  He tells of his grandson.  He had been away so much, traveling and speaking that he had arrived at him and his grandson was staring across the room at him.  His own grandson did not even recognize him, very young, and just stared at him, and they both locked eyes.  And for several minutes they had a sort of staring contest.  Then suddenly the young boy realized it was his grandpa Ravi, and he jumped up and charged him and jumped into his arms.  Dr. Zacharias said that despite all the things he's read, all the places he's been, all the philosophies and books he's studied and greatly enjoyed.. nothing could compare to that moment his grandson jumped into his arms.

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living 


It's all about two things, God said.  He said love me.  And God should be loved with all we have.  That takes relationship, prayer, love, emotions, affection, study, reasoning.  But it doesn't end there.  Jesus didn't stop with that when asked what was of the most importance.  He continued, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Love your neighbor in the same way that you love yourself, and who you are.  Can't escape that part.  Relationship, connection includes being nice and kind to me.  I must be positive, friendly, nice to myself.  Then of course, I'll be nice to others.  

Connection.  Connection is perfected in love.  Treat my God with adoration and love.  Treat myself with love.  Treat others with love.  It's all connection, the art of connection.  Giving, receiving.  Forgiving, showing mercy, granting grace.  Life is all about connection, and so is my faith in Jesus Christ.  It's all about connection, friendship, love, affection, joy, and of course peace.  A lifestyle of peace.  The change I work for every day.  

Blessings to you all, my friends.  :)  Cultivate peace and love, in connection with Jesus Christ who teaches us how to love, and then use what love he gives you, to love others and of course love yourself with a Holy love that transcends all others.  Amen. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Can you see through the illusion?


Where am I?  What's happening here?  The questions are always rising.  Until two years ago I had no ontic referent.  But more so I didn't care about any ontic referent.  It's difficult, when your world gets turned upside down.  But some things do now finally make sense.  And I do have an ontic referent, an objective reference point by which to gauge the world around me.  

I was so blind before.  Truly, truly.  I can't say I see very well yet though either.  This is revolutionary.  It's truly a revolution happening inside my head.  The old lies are being cast out.  But it's a long journey.  

It's exhausting too.  I feel like I could rest for about a thousand years.  But that will have to wait until later.  Culture shock, for sure.  It's nothing new.  I've always been driving through different worlds, different scenes, different locales, a vagabond, a wanderer, a rebel without a cause.  

I worked as a journalist.  I wrote as a novelist.  I won awards for poetry, journalism, and essay writing.  Those things were a powerful expression of my own inner thoughts.  They were very important to me.  But they didn't explain the world.  

It wasn't until I read the Bible that I began to see.  The Bible adequately explains the world around me.  It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but today I'm ok with that.  

The world is a difficult place to live in.  We all know that, or we should.  The data does not support the idea that things are consistently getting better.  The data shows just the opposite.  But we tend to see what we like to see.  So does the world around it.  

To be a Christian in this world, at this time in history, during this age of unprecendented luxury is to face a world full of lies and half truths.  Can you see through the illusion?  I could write for untold pages on the illusions and half truths in this society.  And I could point to so many things we probably don't notice, that detract from our worship of God, Jesus Christ.  There are many things we don't notice, because we've been raised in the cultural context so effectively that we are blind to it.  

As a political journalist at the University of Wisconsin I had to analyze issues from multiple angles to find the truth of a given situation.  Perhaps God armed me with that to use today in analyzing the United States culture and social practices against the moral teaching of the Bible.  

In this essay I'd like to look at the overall mindset and vague values and thoughts that seem to pervade our society.  For a more direct approach that takes on clear examples of idolatry and false beliefs within the USA cultural context please view this essay: Recipes for the Babylonian Captivity: Guarding Against Temptation in a Consumer Society.  

Let's see if I can nail the national, typical mood mindset in the air.  Let's see here.. Life is about pursuing a career, having a family, and preparing for retirement.  College is expensively important.  Credit score is vital, debt is good but not too much.  Buy a house, have kids, don't hurt anyone but yourself.  Shop until you drop, capitalism is fun.  Work 40 hours a week, the job is the most important thing.  Money, money, and more money.  Sex within the first year of the relationship is no big deal.  I'm not religious, I'm spiritual.  Church is for hypocrites.  Science explains everything.  Evolution is a fact.  Only dumb, simple people believe in a personal God.  Gay marriage is good plus lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, metrosexual, no problems there we need to endorse these things and stand up for our rights.  Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus aren't evil or wrong, they are just expressing themselves and should keep doing so.  The media does not raise our children, kids remain entirely unaffected by the sex, drugs, and booze culture on the screens.  Violence on television, movies, and in music is harmless, people who think otherwise are backwards old weirdos.  Democrats vs. Republicans always and forever, no one is really in charge or on the same team everyone just fights over which way is better.  Tolerance of everything.  Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychology of me and getting what I want.  All roads lead to heaven.  Who is to say what is right or wrong?  There is truth in everything.  Every man with his own idea of truth.  All religions are basically the same and all people are basically good, aside from the terrorists and the people in the other political party.  The mainstream media is right, I need to hear about all the latest celebrity gossip and new everything.  Just wars are good things, keep spending, spending, spending.  All life is relative, so nothing matters anyway.  

Yeah, that seems to be about it.  How much of all that is true?  As a Christian critical thinker I find none of it to be true.  Not one of those statements.  Yet most would believe at least some of those statements to be true.  That's the mood we're in, in the west right now.  I could go back and look at why or how these views have come together, but I don't want to go in that direction today.  The point is those views are not working.  They are not the views of a moral society capable of sustaining itself.  They are lies perpetuated from many sources intent on pursuing their own beliefs at the expense of reality.  

I don't follow Christ because I like how it makes me feel.  I don't follow Christ because it was how I was raised.  I don't follow Christ and believe the things I do as a crutch or because it's hipster or trendy.  I follow Jesus Christ as Lord because based on the evidence from all areas and disciplines I study, as well my personal experience with Jesus Christ, Christianity is the most plausible answer.  I follow Jesus Christ because unlike many things I used to tell myself, Jesus Christ is actually real and Christianity is actually true.  If something else appeared to be more true, I would follow that.  What matters is the truth, and not ordering what I want from a numbered drive through menu display like McDonalds, but what is actually the truth!  

Today I don't drive up to the world's religions and say yes I'd like a number 4 Buddhism with a side of Hindi, and two extra servings of New Age and a little bit of Islam sprinkled on top.  And a number 11 Prosperity gospel from the desert menu.  No, I must be humble and say yes some of those beliefs are tempting and appealing, but what is actually true and real?  What adheres to reality?

C.S. Lewis was a fan of allegory.  He compared Christianity to a sort of holy resistance movement.  He compared it somewhat to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.  Christians are kind of like the Maquis, the french resistance.  A resistance fighter approaches you at a table and asks you to join the resistance.  It will be very difficult and most will be against you.  In fact it might sometimes appear like the one in front of you is working for the enemy, but you need to trust that there are grand schemes taking place and ruses are being set about to allow for acts of sabotage against the enemy.  C.S. Lewis wrote that before he was a Christian he was a rebel.  In effect when he surrendered to God he had to admit that God was, in fact, God, and he wasn't.  He was a rebel in the field, and he had to peaceably lay down his weapons.  As a result he called himself a resistance fighter ordained to acts of holy sabotage against the kingdom of the enemy.  

In modern times one could compare being a Christian to living in the zombie apocalypse.  Ever feel like you're living among the walking dead?  Even before I was a Christian I felt that way.  Maybe even more so then.  Maybe there are some hints of truth in all those zombies movies, shows like The Walking Dead.  Maybe that's what it's like on Earth.  Most are walking dead, destined for disconnection from God, believing whatever everyone else is believing.  And then there's us, the Christian survivors.  Armed to the teeth by God, but overwhelmed and outnumbered.  Sometimes Christians fall away, and get turned into zombies by all the temptations around them.  Kind of like in the movies and series when a survivor gets bit by a zombie, he dies and then comes back as a zombie.  Maybe zombies are like non-believers, trying to get us to join them in sin.  And we're like the groups of survivors, tattered and struggling against the horrors of the sinful world, hoping and dreaming of some island or safe zone, some green paradise where no more zombies will appear in the shadows to attack us and steal our life.

We are suppose to be decidedly different from the world around as followers of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  The idea of a "god" or "God" of any sort is becoming more and more alien to our country.  That is not because the evidence is leading elsewhere, it is because the interpretation of the evidence is being pushed in a different direction based on an agenda to evade the possibility of an intelligent designer.  In fact the scientific evidence tends to more and more so point to a finely tuned universe, finite in nature with an absolute starting point.  

Our society tends to see scientists the way they used to see priests.  Anything a scientist says is true, because science says so.  In addition, scientists are very objective while religious types are very rigid and dogmatic.  Both of those statements are false.  As Frank Turek puts it, "Science doesn't say anything, scientists do."  There is only scientific data, and then it must be interpreted within possibly cumulative theories.  While some religious types have been known for dogmatic views, more and more so it seems scientists and atheists seem to be working from an intense set of dogma's within doctrines that cannot be questioned.  If a scientist ever thinks to question the theory of evolution, they are often rejected from popular circles of the sciences.  

Similar things have happened in Christian history, when certain groups would adhere to a doctrine regarding the interpretation of scripture and dissenters pointed out flaws in the interpretation, one group would label the other "false teachers" or even "heretics."  Some of the same even goes on today.  The point is, whether it's theological debates, political debates, or scientific debates, the same sort of corruption takes place.  Scientists are not necessarily non-dogmatic pure truth seekers who are entirely unbiased.  In fact many of the most noted scientists in history have been Christians.  And many of the scientists behind developments in the last two hundred years of science have been atheist or agnostic reactionaries attempting to push in a direction away from an intelligent creator.  It's just a fact.  

My point here is we need to study and be well read people.  We can't just trust scientists to give us the truth, or the mainstream media to give us the truth, or our governments to give us the truth.  I've begun studying many of these topics in science, history, statistics, and apologetics.  It's amazing the truth that comes out just beneath the generalizations of the culture.  

Turns out that when you get right to the heart of meaning, within the pages of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and what life is really about, that whole block of generalizations and beliefs within our culture turns out to be entirely false, and turned upside down on it's head.  

Originally we had looked at it and had concluded the mood was this: Life is about pursuing a career, having a family, and preparing for retirement.  College is expensively important.  Credit score is vital, debt is good but not too much.  Buy a house, have kids, don't hurt anyone but yourself.  Shop until you drop, capitalism is fun.  Work 40 hours a week, the job is the most important thing.  Money, money, and more money.  Sex within the first year of the relationship is no big deal.  I'm not religious, I'm spiritual.  Church is for hypocrites.  Science explains everything.  Evolution is a fact.  Only dumb, simple people believe in a personal God.  Gay marriage is good plus lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, metrosexual, no problems there we need to endorse these things and stand up for our rights.  Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus aren't evil or wrong, they are just expressing themselves and should keep doing so.  The media does not raise our children, kids remain entirely unaffected by the sex, drugs, and booze culture on the screens.  Violence on television, movies, and in music is harmless, people who think otherwise are backwards old weirdos.  Democrats vs. Republicans always and forever, no one is really in charge or on the same team everyone just fights over which way is better.  Tolerance of everything.  Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychology of me and getting what I want.  All roads lead to heaven.  Who is to say what is right or wrong?  There is truth in everything.  Every man with his own idea of truth.  All religions are basically the same and all people are basically good, aside from the terrorists and the people in the other political party.  The mainstream media is right, I need to hear about all the latest celebrity gossip and new everything.  Just wars are good things, keep spending, spending, spending.  All life is relative, so nothing matters anyway.  

Let's see what the truth looks like for the Christian follower of Jesus Christ, and believer in the teachings of the Bible:

 Life is about pursuing God, reliance on Jesus Christ for salvation, loving and caring for your family, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  College may be important, and it may not be important for the believer.  Credit score is meaningless, and debt is unwise for a believer.  Serve the Lord with your house, care for your family and support them, try not to hurt anyone, but more so, serve others and show mercy to those in pain or lost.  Think about others more, me less.  Love.  One cannot serve two masters, money is a means to an end, and Jesus Christ is the one who is served.  Capitalism is the reality, so working is important.  But spending should be limited and family time should be a priority.  Pre-marital sex is wrong, and I refuse to practice it.  It's not about religion, it's about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Church is for lost sinners, and healing believers.  Science is useful, but cannot explain reality.  Evolution is a theory.  Turns out some of the most well educated people in history have been Christians.  Gay marriage is wrong, and any sexual orientation outside the revelation of the Bible is sinful and wrong.  Depravity in media has a strong effect on children, and celebrities so deeply involved in such sin could possibly be under the influence of evil spirits.  Democrats have an agenda, Republicans have an agenda and many politicians serve only special interests, banks, and big business.  Tolerance is important, but it goes both ways.  There is only one way to heaven, his name is Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).  Truth is not relative, truth is objective.  We can tell what is right and what is wrong because we have a conscience, a gift from God, and we also have a Bible full of teaching on right and wrong.  All religions are fundamentally different and at best superficially similar.  Life is not a random occurrence of time plus matter plus chance.  In fact, the possibility of the human enzyme coming about by chance is 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power.  At such odds, life coming about by chance is statistically impossible.  Therefore all life is created, and if created then there must be a creator, who is God, therefore, life is a gift from God.

The imperative of every Christian is to follow Jesus Christ, relying on his work on the cross for the forgiveness of all sins and a beautiful road to heaven, progressively through life.  The Christian submits humbly to the care of others and even more so endeavors to love God the creator with everything they have and everything they are.  The Christian serves God and serves others, and lives by example a humble life of service and self sacrifice for the good of others and the good of the society around them.  The Christian shares his or her faith with kindness, respect, and most of all love.  The Christian adheres to the teachings of the Bible, and over life falls more and more in love with God, finally at death meeting his or her creator face to face, in a remade world where humanity will live in peace with God forever.  

Amen.






Related Posts:
The Mainstream Media, Tolerance in American culture
American Traditionalism vs. Actual Biblical Christianity
Religion or Relationship? Good deeds or Jesus Christ? 
Using our Unique Talents to Impact Culture 
Objective Truth on a Spiritual Battlefield

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams


Synchroblog: Crash.  This post is part of the Synchroblog fellowship and it's topics.  The current "crash" topic is "Memorable roles of Robin Williams over the years."  He ended his own life recently, and it seems a fitting way to commemorate his impact on so many lives. 

Robin Williams filled a wonderful part of my life in a very real way.  In this day and age so much time is spent enjoying media, movies.  As a child I saw many movies featuring Robin Williams.  I most deeply recall his roles in the 1990s.  Mrs. Doubtfire of course.  The Dead Poets Society.  Hook.  Good Will Hunting.  His cameo on Wilfred was hilarious, more recently.  

Why would such a wonderful entertainer want to hurt himself?

Robin Williams was an alcoholic and addict.  It was something he struggled with greatly, and for that reason I am able to deeply identify with his struggle.  

The problem with alcoholism and drug addiction is not necessarily the drugs or the alcohol or being on those substances.  The problem is when the addict is clean and sober, that's when life is really unmanageable.  If alcohol or drugs was really the problem, all an addict would have to do is toss them in the garbage and be done with it.  The real problem occurs in the addicts mind.  Without a true spiritual experience, without Jesus Christ giving me a reason to live, a holy power to regenerate and sanctify my personality, and build me up in new faith, I very quickly become a suicide possibility.  That is the way of it.   

A person is not born into a manageable position, not really.  Some people can keep it up longer than others, but the fundamental fact of the matter is that humanity is made for connection with God.  That's the truth.  That's why atheists wrestle with suicide.  That's why nations war.  That's why abortion continues.  That's why the world is a mess.  Humanity is not capable of existing as the power unto itself.  It is constant degradation no matter how you look at it!  Spiritually, mentally, and most obviously physically.  

The roll I'll always remember Robin Williams for will be Hook.  I loved Hook when I saw it.  I was only six years old but I still remember it.  I suppose I identified with it because I felt like the kid in that movie.  I had a father who didn't know I existed.  In a way I ended up joining Hook on his pirate ship.  For a long time I was a rebel without a cause, a total mess.  My father never came to save me though.  I was a long term pirate. But eventually my heavenly Father did save me.  Robin William's roll as Peter Banning reminds me of how someone can change, and believe, and become part of a new family.  Kind of like becoming a Christian.  

We won't ever know exactly why Robin Williams chose to commit suicide, but we can remember him for the laughs he gave us over the years.  And we can pray for his family.  


Posts on this Topic:
Chad Jones – A Reflection Upon the Death of Robin Williams
Justin Steckbauer – Remembering Robin Williams
Glenn Hager – It’s Not Your Fault

Monday, August 11, 2014

The God who Delivers


Jesus said to his disciples, "My peace I give you."  He said be at peace.  And I have felt that peace.  It comes and goes you know.  My God gives baffling peace, from a blank despair. Because my God is a great God and he delivers me from every trouble I face.  And there are many troubles in this world.  And there are more to come, I'm sure of that.

 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV) Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

My mind often goes to dark places.  I've lived in dark places, many I care not to remember.  That's how it goes on Earth.  Lots of trouble, lot's of sadness.  Things don't always go as we plan. 

I was very troubled recently.  Things were difficult at the homeless shelter where I work, staff were down, and I felt boxed in and overworked.  I almost quit my job over it.  Worked six days in a row, and by the end I was just starting to get sick I had been working so much.  I refused to work two third shifts, called in sick, and almost was fired over the whole incident.  

Isaiah 12:2 (ESV) “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

It was very difficult.  Because being sick, flu like symptoms I was already feeling emotional and uncertain.  Depression comes easily during times of sickness.  But I finally overcame that, and came back in to work.  Spoke to the Director and the Lead, and it was all worked out in a very positive manner.  They were very kind about it.  But I felt my rights had been trampled on.  It's a hard thing to say, how much can the employer dictate when I work, when I need to come in?  Am I required to answer calls from the boss to come in on my day off?  Is the employer allowed to void agreements we've made in the past based on the necessity of the moment?  Those questions were on my mind.  But it was resolved.  Finding that balance you know, between maintaining my dignity and rights, but also being part of a team and helping out when needed.  That was the tough part of it.  

Colossians 4:2 (ESV) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

I prayed through those days a lot.  But I was right on the edge.  It's amazing how very difficult situations can come about and they don't make a great impact.  But when my emotions get jumbled, wow, it's very deadly to recovery.  Thankfully I'm still afloat today.  

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

I walked to my car, feeling the overwhelming peace of Jesus Christ that day.  And I sat down, incredibly grateful.  I love my job at the Salvation Army.  I love having the chance to help people, to pray with people, to meet needs, to give away Bibles, to share the gospel, to host AODA workshops and on and on and on.  It's wonderful!  What a blessing from the Lord, to have a ministry so close to those in trouble!  It's a dream come true.  It's answered prayer.  And he helped me.  But he didn't remove the incredible pain, the emotional chaos, but he did help me bear it and he did orchestrate events so I wouldn't explode in emotion and quit.  But it felt like it was a hair away.  

So there I was, feeling the peace of Christ.  Because I chose to face the music head on.  And it all turned out alright.  Then I turned the key in the ignition.  And it wouldn't start.  That was five days ago.  My car, the 92' mercedes benz is still sitting in front of the shelter broke down.  And I'm checking ads for used cars on craigslist.  Welcome to planet Earth, fix one problem, here's another one.  Oh well, just another day in the life of a sinner saved by Grace, seated on the throne with Christ, yet broke, in debt, depressed, overweight, with serious mental issues, recovery problems, few friends, a stuffy nose, matted greasy hair, and a laundry list of to-do's.  Until next time!

Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV) I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.