Archive for the 'Cosmic System' Category

Facebook Envy

All right, I’ll confess: I’m not a fan of Facebook. Yes, I appreciate my husband’s drawing my attention to various updates of mutual friends (some of them more my friends than his) or family members. Sort of. Mostly…

But overall, the way it’s set up, the sheer number of people you end up “interacting” with (I use the word  with reservation), the superficiality of it all… not for me.

Especially not for me is all the “liking” and collections of comments on posts and… oh, my.  No.  I could see that my flesh would have a field day there. It could be immensely stimulating, sure, but not in a good way, and it also holds the prospect of being very distracting and even debilitating.

The other day a friend was telling me how one night when she was very tired, she checked her Facebook account to find a conversation between two “friends” that, in her fatigue and in the (unnoticed) ambiguity of the conversants’ words, she took to mean something that wasn’t meant at all. It wasn’t until the next day that she found out the truth, and in the meantime, her Facebook experience had not been pleasant.

I doubt that is an uncommon occurence.  I know I could easily fall into such a misunderstanding and waste hours fretting or feeling condemned or condemning myself. I know my weaknesses and I know my flesh is not improving, even after all these years. I know this not only from actual, experiential evidence, but because the Bible (2 Co 4:16)  tells me that my “outer man is decaying day by day.”  (“Decay” – diaphtheiro – means to putrefy, rot, grow more corrupt). Hence the need to renew our inner man…

Turns out I’m not alone in my Facebook weakness. A recent German study has determined that at least one third of Facebook users  end up with negative feelings after browsing. The primary cause of their negativity is envy: they become jealous of their fellow Facebookers’ perceived happiness and accomplishments, and discontent with their own, which seem much less than other people’s.

An msnbc article on this study, “Is Facebook envy making you miserable?” reported  that the number one cause of discontent among Facebook users was viewing the wonderful pictures of other people’s vacations.

“Oh, if only I could go to the Caribbean, I would be soooo happy. If only I could have a perfect family Christmas like that, then I would be content.

Really?  I’m of the opinion that if you’re not happy or content where you are right now, you’re probably not going to be happy in the Caribbean or content in the (nonexistent) perfect family, because the problem isn’t  where you are, it’s what you think.

But I digress. After vacations, other causes of envy are the accomplishments of others, and the social life of others.

All this in addition to the ever-present opportunity to compare how many Birthday greetings, comments and “likes” their postings get versus how many their “friends” get. And if the numbers are not good enough, they are sad. 😦

That’s one of the reasons I’m not on Facebook. I know I would be tempted to do the same. Besides, the Bible tells us not to compare amongst ourselves, that to do so is to be foolish. (2 Co 10:12) And Facebook’s structure inevitably invites just that.

In fact, while all this comparing drives some of us to 😥 , others are moved to concoct their own glorious reports in retaliation and one-upmanship.

Yes, the German study found that this whole problem of envy and comparing drives some users to overstate the fabulousness of their vacations, happiness, social lives and accomplishments! Furthermore,  the areas of overstatement seem to be gender based. Men, says the study, tend to oversell their accomplishments, whereas women , their appearance and social lives.

None of which surprises me in the least. We are, after all, a fallen race, living in a fallen world, and if there’s one thing our sin natures delight in, crave, lust after, it’s being lauded and approved.  (Well, some of us have sin natures like that. Others would rather have power, or pleasure, and who cares what others’ think? They’re probably not among the one third that suffer from Facebook envy, though.)

The downside of all this is that people who are left feeling resentful and lonely from their Facebook experience soon stop using it, or at least use it less. One of the researchers wondered if Facebook was reaching a saturation point in some markets because of this and would soon begin to decline in popularity…

If you want to read the actual article on the study, it’s here.

A Web of Lies

It was a movie that caused the protests by the “folks” outside the US Consulate in Libya, and the protests that allowed miscellaneous evil doers who just happened to be walking by … at 9:30 in the evening — armed with mortars and RPGs, which are easily found throughout Libya — to take advantage of the moment, scale the consulate’s walls and kill the American Ambassador who was working there at the time. That this occurred on 9/11 was purely coincidental.

So says Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN. I’m not sure why the US Ambassador to the UN was selected to be the spokesperson in this matter. What does her job have to do with Libya, or the consulate or other matters of State? Shouldn’t it be some State Department person, someone in the chain of command relative to embassies and consulates that was chosen to make the  statement? 

No matter, that is what she’s said, as reported by Fox News today. 

In the same article, Fox also reported that an intelligence source on the ground claimed there was no protest outside the consulate at all that night, despite our own government’s insistence that there was.

“There was no protest and the attacks were not spontaneous,” the source said, adding the attack “was planned and had nothing to do with the movie.” According to this source, the attack came without warning, with firing originated in two separate locations.

This corroborates an earlier report from McClatchy of an unnamed Libyan security guard who alleged the same thing. “There wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said.

The Obama Administration rejects both sources, as well as the Libyan president’s claim that this was a planned out attack, a view the Obama administration says is not consistent with “the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community,” which has been investigating the incident.

“He doesn’t have the information we have,” the U.S. official said of Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif. “”He doesn’t have the (data) collection potential that we have.”

Except… recently we were told that the situation in Benghazi had been turned over to the FBI to investigate, because it was now regarded as a crime scene. There could be no further talk on the matter beyond whatever the FBI was willing to reveal — not what happened, not who was involved,  not the condition of Ambassador Stevens’ body… nothing until the Justice Department’s investigation was completed.

Unfortunately, the FBI agents haven’t even gotten to Benghazi yet, because it was decided the area was too unstable for them to enter.

So… who is investigating? And how can the US say that the President of Libya, who is in Libya, doesn’t have the same “data collection potential that we have,” when our agents haven’t even gotten there yet?.

“A consensus view of our intelligence community”  just means the majority opinion, not eyewitness testimony or any kind of hard facts. And majority opinion isn’t always right. In fact, I’d say it’s rarely right.

And how is our “data collection potential”  relevant to all this?  “Potential” means we haven’t collected it yet, otherwise it would be real not potential.

So really, all the administration has said in defense of  it’s theory is that they’ve voted on the best guesses of what really happened, and since the US’s ability to gather data is so much superior to Libya’s, eventually the data we’re going to collect will support the majority-opinion guess.

Which means, the US official really didn’t say anything.

So why did I write an entire blog post on this? Because the dissembling fascinates me, especially when I notice it. I grew up with the notion that those in authority don’t lie.  Perhaps bend the truth. Or leave certain things out. But not outright lie.

Even having blogged about the doctrine of taqiyya, I still find it hard to believe that people actually do it. But in a society like ours, where we don’t believe in such things, where a man’s word was once his bond, and honesty is still mostly considered a virtue, it’s harder still.

I know all politicians lie on some level or other. I know it. But I think I still don’t totally believe it. Otherwise why would this stuff surprise me?

Maybe because it’s so obvious and how can they think we all won’t see it? Do they think we won’t care. (Granted a far too many of our citizens don’t seem to.)  And yet the media just reports it all as if it’s truth, as if it’s not the least bit inconsistent, and certainly not that it’s reprehensible.

(The only thing they seem to think is reprehensible is that pathetic little movie trailer that’s supposedly started all this.)

It seems like it should be against the law for government officials to lie like this, so easily, so blatantly…  Because the result for me  right now is that I have no idea what is truth and what is lie. Are the Intelligence “Source” on the ground and the unnamed Libyan security guard lying?  Could be.

The President of Libya? Yeah, he could be lying, too.

The US administration official? The US ambassador to the UN? Obviously. Everyone’s clearly scrambling to cover their rears…  It would be funny were it to show up in some comedy movie.

But it’s not a movie.

How can we, as supposed-to-be-informed citizens ever know what’s actually going on, when everyone seems to be lying? All the time. When one lie doesn’t work, they just float another… Where is that all going to lead? 

I don’t have answers for these questions, but I do believe that this is one more thread in the unraveling of a culture once based on Biblical standards, now steadily heading down the road to destruction.

“In the last days,  difficult times shall come. For men shall be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” ~ 2 Ti 3:1-4

The Plague of Busy-ness

Recently I’ve been going through old computer files and came across the following article which I wrote in August 2002 for the newsletter I was putting out then. This was about three months after Arena’s release, during which time I was busy making  trepidatious trips into local bookstores (“Who did you say you were? And why are you here, exactly?”), designing and ordering bookmarks, mailing out postcard announcements, putting together press kits and having a book signing.

In addition to a family related vacation to the east coast that summer, followed by a trip to the west coast for the 2002 CBA conference in LA, I also finished up the final touches on The Light of Eidon before turning it in to Bethany House, then began the rewrite of The Shadow Within to bring it into line with changes I’d made in Eidon.  All this in addition to updating my website, and writing the newsletter in which the following appeared.  Hence the reference to “activity and folderol.” The ideas expressed seem as applicable to me today as ten years ago, so I thought I’d share it again, this time in a different venue.

***

“Let your occupations be few if you would lead a tranquil life.” ~ Democritus

THE PLAGUE OF BUSY-NESS

With all this activity and folderol, I’ve seen how easy it is to lose one’s focus on the things that really matter — that is, the things above, rather than the things on earth. In fact, in some research I was doing recently I learned that one of the techniques used by cults to suck in their new recruits is to keep them busy all the time, to tire them out and to never let them be alone.

If they are constantly occupied with some task or engaged with some person, they’ll have no opportunity to stop and think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they’re coming to accept as truth simply by default.

I believe this plague of busy-ness is one of the main assaults Satan’s world system is deploying upon Christians today, particularly in the United States with all of its prosperity and corresponding options.

Daily we are bombarded with things to do and be and have. With people to listen to and do things with (and for). It can get overwhelming, to the point we’re just like the newly-snagged pre-cultist. Run ragged by all the demands, opportunities and perceived obligations, by all the people who come into our lives (have you ever stopped to count how many?) we can end up losing track of who we are and what we really want.

Worse, we end up losing track of the One who’s put us here and for whose glory we’ve been created. We sell ourselves out for the “stuff” of the world.

We may say we haven’t, but in the measure of our hours spent, how many are devoted solely to concentrating on and communing with the One we claim to love above all others? Even one out of twenty-four hours is only 1/24th of our day.

Doesn’t seem like very much, looked at that way, does it? Especially when you consider that none of us could even live were it not for our Lord who holds the very atoms of our bodies together.

Nor when you remember that time is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that eventually all these things that seem so important today will be destroyed and utterly forgotten…

 “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”         ~ Colossians 3:1-2

 

 

 

Asceticism

The Buddha as an ascetic

This post has been sitting in my drafts box for some time. I thought it was unfinished. In fact, I thought I’d barely started it and so had been ignoring it. Today I was moved to click on it, intending to see if there was something here I could develop, or if I should just delete it and move on.

Instead I was surprised to find an entire post, finished but for the final editing. And, oddly enough, it ties in to what I’ve been thinking and writing about lately in regards to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The original date on it was March 18, 2011, a kind of prologue thoughtwise to more recent ruminations. Here’s what I was thinking last year:

Most Christians are aware of the fact that they still have a fallen nature even after having believed in Christ. But how many of them have considered what this fallen nature is like beyond “bad,” “evil,” “selfish,” “prideful”  and “something that sets itself against God?”

My pastor has considered what it is like and taught us a number of things as a result of his studies. One of the big things about it is the fact that it has an area of strength (most of us have certain sins we’re not even tempted to commit) and an area of weakness (sins we fall into all the time). I think the area of weakness is pretty well-known, but the area of strength is something that doesn’t get as much attention. The area of strength is often the source of human good, which of course, is disgusting in God’s eyes, but often very attractive in people’s eyes.

In addition to an area of strength and weakness, the sin nature also has a trend, either toward lasciviousness or asceticism. Or, put more simply, some people trend toward self-indulgence and others toward self-denial and self-discipline.

Examples of the latter include the Flagellants I just posted about, as well as fasting, vows of silence and poverty, dietary rules, and one I find most amusing, the stylites… Eastern orthodox monks who lived on small platforms atop long poles for years, fasting, praying, and preaching, they believed that the mortification of their bodies would ensure their salvation.  Many Eastern religions embrace ascetic practices as well, with followers vowing never to use their left hand or right foot, restricting their diet, wearing neither clothes nor shoes as they moved from place to place, not staying in any one place so as not to get attached, etc. Clearly there is a strong tendancy in some sin natures to be abusive of self in the name of “holiness,” or just in the name of getting something they might want.

Few people in our day practice the type of asceticism I’ve just described (at least in the United States) but that doesn’t mean they don’t practice it in some other form. Exercise regimes, abstaining from certain foods or drinks, supporting “green” practices, abstaining from smoking, card games, dancing or watching movies, even practices associated with Lent all have to do with denying self certain pleasures in the interest of achieving “holiness” by our own efforts.

Unfortunately holiness is far from the result of asceticism. What it leads to is moral degeneracy, a state wherein a person is moral and often religious but thinks far more highly of himself than he ought. His self-denial and self-discipline,  his avoidance of the lascivious or self-indulgent sorts of sins (drug addiction, fornication, etc) make it seem that he is a better person than say, the woman working the corner down in the ratty part of town. Which is, of coures the point: to make of oneself a better person, a more spiritual person, purer, more enlightened than everyone else.

I’ve recently read several articles noting how self-righteous and holier than thou some people in the global warming/environmental movement are, how it has, in fact become a religion in itself to those who follow it. Michael Crichton was one of the first, or at least the most famous first, to point this out in a speech he gave to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 2003.  (Read it here) Ditto vegetarians, the defenders of animals and even those who eat only organic foods, pr so  claims an article on MSNBC titled “Does Organic Food Make People into Jerks?

In addition to the holier-than-thou syndrome, ascetism leads to legalism — not only in the sense of judging others, but of judging self. Not the judging of self where you confess your sins to God, but where you come up with a set of rules you have to follow so everything will turn out right; or so someone will be pleased with you or happy or at the very least not displeased; or perhaps a set of rules to follow so God will be pleased,  or so you can gain health or wealth or success or …  the list is endless.

And once you have your set of rules in place, you’ve created a launching pad for guilt and worry. You have these rules!  And you have to follow them; if you don’t, disaster will ensue! If you don’t, you can never have any peace. Who cares what God’s word has to say? You have your rules of what it means to be good or successful or responsible or compassionate or whatever…

Which means now you can also worry you might not follow them all, and then beat yourself up when you don’t.  And if there’s someone around who fails to follow them even more than you do, then you can focus on that person and beat them up instead of yourself for their infractions.

And it can all look very nice on the outside, while inside it tears you apart.

What a contrast to the life our Lord intends for us to live. A life of peace and rest, confident that we don’t have to follow our silly little rules, because in Christ we’ve already been made holy. By His work, not ours. There’s not one thing we can do that will make us one ounce holier than He’s already made us the moment we believed in Christ.

All we have to do is keep learning His Word which, if we believe it, will slowly transform our thinking into His.  Our new life in Christ is one that offers tremendous peace and freedom; why would we not want to live in it?

God’s Power Appears out of Our Weakness

In light of yesterday’s post about driving myself crazy with all the things I’ve found to do in my recent junket around Internet Marketing Land, I’d like to note some of the things that have been said by my pastor in Bible Class during the same time period. He’s in Florida. I’m in Arizona, and he doesn’t know about any of this.

So it’s been clear to me Who exactly is talking. God the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from Pastor Farley’s messages:

“The thinking that originates from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is an attack to get us away from the life of God and into a system where we turn from Him and it’s all up to us to discern between good and evil and make ourselves good.

“We want do’s and don’ts so we can just follow the rules. That IS the knowledge of good and evil.

I saw at once he was right.  In the six days of the restoration of the Earth, God looked at everything and kept saying it was good, good, very good. Adam was in the middle of this place of goodness. So what would he need the Knowledge of Good for? It was all around him. God walked with him in the garden daily and he knew God. Clearly this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not what I always thought it was.

Just looking at the title and actually thinking about it also helped to clarify things:   it’s that function or capacity of creature tos think we have the capacity to figure out what’s good and what’s evil, when really we’re incapable of that. Incapable even before Adam fell, much more incapable now.

Even so we think we can do it. Just give me some rules and I’ll do the rest.  I like that idea. It’s comfortable and safe to have rules. You know what you’re going to do (you think) and how it’s going to go, you’ve got everything figured out so it’ll fit into the time and you’ll do good, whatever the category of “good” is. Could be a good job, a good party, a good word, or a good deed. The world says this is a good thing. Your flesh says it’s good, too.

I’ve found it’s very hard to really turn your back on this idea and live by faith. Until God starts making a point with you and it seems no matter what you do or plan, it almost never goes “right.” Worst is when you make the plan and then, for one reason or another,  fail yourself  to carry out your own plan, after which you beat yourself up because you didn’t do “right.”

Pastor Farley continued:

“The idea of this and trying to live a life this way is impossible. Realize you are a sinner, hopeless and helpless and call on Him.  Life isn’t about me trying to work things out according to good and evil.

In the past I’ve always taken this good and evil thing to mean moral issues or spiritual issues (like demon type spiritual issues) but suddenly I realized it had application to every day issues.

Like all these things I’ve been told I have to do if I want to succeed in the writing world. Things that make sense to do, but that I haven’t had time to do.  How can I figure out which of them is good and which is not? Which I should do and which I shouldn’t. How I can make my schedule work (good) so that it can fit everything in that seems good to do? I don’t want to make a mistake (evil)  and do the wrong thing so that I fail to fit everything in…

“Understand that God gives us one day at a time to live and we should live it for all it’s worth. Rather than focus on what I think we too much do focus on — that old tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — we should focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit living inside us wants us to live a mystery form of the Tree of Life.

“And yet sometimes we live our lives like we’re still the old man — all caught up in what’s good and what’s evil [about the people and situations in our lives — who’s right and who’s wrong] when in reality the Lord’s calling us through the Holy Spirit to a life of freedom. We should get up every day and orient to His resurrection and live that life He’s called us to.

“And YOU CANT DO BOTH!!

That is, you can’t live the life of freedom at the same time as you’re always trying to figure out what’s the right thing and the wrong thing, and having all these rules you think you have to follow to be happy.

That statement hit me hard. Talk about double-minded! I’d been experiencing it. Should I do all these things… start the Facebook page, work on my website, improve my titling?  Maybe if I set up a schedule and this time really stick to it, maybe I could get it all done… If I just had more discipline… if I just…

“Wake up!  These situations where you complain and murmur, feel bad about yourself, and are frustrated… That is ALWAYS where God’s power goes to work. You gotta stop fussing and fuming and thinking how you’re gonna do this better, get a better plan, a better planner, one that will finally get all my things together so you’ll be very efficient and able to call more people and do more things and finally your life will be good… No!

STOP THAT!

Stop it and just say, “Okay. Paul says, ‘I will rather boast in my weakness so the glory of Christ might be revealed…’ so the next time one of those things hits like, ‘Ah, I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that…’ STOP! And say, “Pfft. I’m frail. And this is a great opportunity to say, “Watch the power of God at work!”

And all the foibles of the old man getting the better of us — God doesn’t condemn us in that, He just wants us to start to see it. I’m supposed to get to these places where I don’t have what it takes. Supposed to. Because God’s power is made manifest in my weakness.

So. I’ve returned to the conclusion that I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure everything out and all that. I’m using the Pomodoro technique generally. But if the words start to flow and the timer goes off — too bad. Word flow always takes precedence over a timer. I can go take a break when the flow stops.

Which is what I intend to do right now, seeing as that is exactly what’s happened. 🙂

Good and Evil Thinking

Recently I came across an article  entitled How to be Happy at Work by Geoffrey James on Inc.com.  I have no idea why I clicked on the link, because usually I don’t. I guess the title was a good one.

So was the article. It claimed that being unhappy is a choice and described a guy who was always miserable because everything mattered to him. The only time he was happy was when he won a million dollar account — which happened once a year. The rest of the time everything irritated him, and the reason he was always irritated was because he had all these rules. Or maybe just one rule, which was that for him to be happy everything had to go his way.

Or, put another way, if everything didn’t go his way he was bent out of shape. To be happy he had to win the million dollar account.

That resonated. That’s me. Well, minus the million dollar account. Maybe not “everything” has to go my way, but if a certain number of things don’t, I’m going to be upset. Mad, sad or bad, is the phrase I’m using.

When Quigley lags on the path, I get irritated, because my plan is to walk smoothly with no hitches, get the walk done so I can get on to the next thing. Also, he’s the dog and he should obey me and if he doesn’t I will get irritated because he’s not following the Rule. Finally, it starts to make my back hurt to have to keep pulling on him, and that makes me irritated too, because another Rule is that the dog should not make your back hurt.

Once I started looking out for this sort of thinking, I found it in way too many places. 😳

Going back to the article, another guy in the office was asked what made him miserable, and he said not much. What made him happy?

“Another day above ground is good,” he said.

What an attitude! This has such applications to doctrine. Another day of grace. Another day to bring glory to God. Another day to see Him work and get to know Him, and have opportunity to trust Him and thus bring glory to Him. It all has to do with choosing what your Rules are going to be.

So yeah, I have a million idiotic little rules I didn’t even know I had, and just now I came upon another one. Not only must things in my periphery do the right things and “go right,” but I must do the right things as well. I must follow the plan I have devised for myself, even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if conditions beyond my control have warped it enough that it can’t even be done any more.

And in this morning’s Sunday message, Pastor Farley cast a whole new light on this business with the rules: it’s thinking born of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It’s thinking in terms of what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. You’re constantly seeking in your own power to determine what is right about your periphery, your actions, your viewpoint and what is wrong; you’re wanting a law that you can live by, and if you can just abide by the rules, everything will be wonderful.

<<<ROTFL>>>

The Happy at Work article advised us to make new rules. So when something happens — like you get to the store and realize you forgot something and will have to return home — instead of getting all upset, realize you’ve made a rule about how things are to be and change it. So what’s the big deal about returning home — in my case a 5 minute drive? Why is that worth getting all angry at myself? You just go home, get whatever you forgot and return. Why is that such an awful thing?

Well, I can’t think why that’s such an awful thing — at least in my life. And I’ve started to catch myself in this thinking, and realizing how absurd it is. It really is a matter of choice and for believers in Christ, whose lives are supposed to be in Christ, whose God has ordered our days and allowed every detail that appears in them, it makes even less sense to go about in bondage to a million silly little rules…

And then Pastor Farley, took it a step further. But that’s a post for another day…

A Self-Made “Man”

 

I thought I was done with my musings on the nature of Satan for the moment, but some of the comments on previous posts, plus my discovery of this last bit of excerpt from Chafer’s book Satan, has convinced me there’s at least one more post to do on this subject.

Maybe I’m misreading things, but people seem very reluctant to admit that Satan could possibly want to build and order and do “good” things. Several commenters keep coming back to him as ruiner, render, devourer.

I have no argument with that. In the end that’s exactly what he is. Right now that’s exactly how he feels toward God, God’s plan and ways and God’s people.

He’s the roaring lion walking about seeking someone (in context, some believer in Christ) to devour …

But what exactly does “devour” mean. After all, he’s not a literal lion. So how might he go about devouring?

In the context of the verse where this appears (1 Pe 5:8), the believer has just been told to humble himself, to cast all his anxiety on the Lord, to be of sober spirit (not letting emotions get the best of him) and to be on the alert because his enemy the devil is on the prowl seeking to devour him.

Since Rev 12:10 says that Satan is in heaven accusing the brethren day and night before the throne, and since he is a creature who can only be in one place at a time, clearly this roaring lion is not Satan himself, at least in the vast majority of cases.

Instead it would be his minions and the world system he has devised. The word for “devour” — katapino — means to drink down, swallow down, devour.

When you drink or swallow or devour something, it becomes a part of you. Its original form is broken down, changed to other things and assimilated into the body. That is, it becomes part of the body. So the believer’s thinking — because the spiritual battle we’re in is all about thought, the source of action — and motivation and way of living — is drunk down, swallowed up, changed to something else.

Changed to the system of thought the world advances, one that exalts self and opposes God, though it may not always be obvious that’s what it’s doing. Because very often it includes God, the Bible and even Jesus Christ in its subtle methods of exalting self and opposing God. That’s the nature of a counterfeit, to include as much truth as possible into the lie, because the more it looks and sounds like the real thing, the more people will be deceived.

Consider Chafer’s observations regarding Satan:

“His own terrible sin before God would not be condemned in the eyes of the world, for it is that which they most idealize and praise.

In his sin he aspired to that which is highest, and proposed to realize his ideal by his own self-sufficiency and strength.

Are those not worthy goals in our world today? Aren’t we forever being told, even as Christians, that we must strive for excellence and offered myriad ways of doing so in our own strength? Don’t we have and venerate all sorts of competitions to determine who is most excellent? (Especially now that Olympics Season has begun!)

Chafer continues:

“True, he has lowered his Creator, in his own mind, to a level where he supposes himself to be in legitimate competition with Him, both for authority over other beings and for their worship.

“Yet this unholy ambition and disregard for the Creator is a most commendable thing according to the standards of the Satanic order (ie, the present world system).

“In the language of the world, Satan is simply “self made” and every element of his attitude toward his Creator is, as a principle of life, both commended and practiced by the world.

“Though hiding himself, Satan has had the satisfaction, under limitations, of governing the affairs of men; and the delight, to a large extent, of receiving their worship.

If people — including Believers in Christ — are admiring and living by his ideas and his values, then they are essentially worshipping him even if they don’t realize it. And in that regard they have been “devoured”.

 

 

Demonism or the Depravity of Man?

A month and a half ago, I did a post on the Dean Koontz novel What the Night Knows in which the villain, a nightmarishly cruel, self-absorbed, power-lusting, bitter, angry, hateful, lonely, unloved and unlovely psychopath, is urged along his path of the “art” of murdering families by a demon named Ruin. (Demons, says the narrative, are sometimes named for the sins they “most  particularly advocate — names like Discord, Envy, Jealousy or like Perdition, Disease, Ruin.”)

This got me to thinking about the depravity of man, the implication here being that on his own, man could never be as bad as someone like Koontz’s villain, Alton Turner Black. Or Jack the Ripper. Or Nero. Caligula. Ted Bundy. Adolph Hitler… No, man would need the help of a demon to be that bad.

Whenever there’s a story — fiction or real life — about a really nasty psychopath, the suggestion almost always arises that he’s demon possessed. I’m guilty of falling into that thinking myself, most recently regarding the “South Beach cannibal” down in Florida.

Lately I’ve been rethinking that.

Part of the reason for that is because of teaching Ive received from a book I’ve been studying called Satan, by Lewis Sperry Chafer (written in 1919, reprinted ins 1964). It’s fantastic.

Chafer  was a prominent dispensational theologian in the early 20th century and founder of Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas. He was mentored by C.I Scofield (of  Scofield Bible fame), and was in turn a  mentor of Colonel R.B. Thieme, Jr. I was introduced to Chafer’s work immediately after my salvation, when the man who led me to the Lord and taught our college and home Bible studies used Chafer’s book Major Bible Themes as a his class outline. Additonally, my first Bible was one of those above mentioned  Scofield Bibles.

What I like about Chafer’s work is how Scripture-based it is, and how clear;  he sets the various applicable verses in comparison and draws what seem to be the obvious conclusions.

In this case, talking about Satan’s plans, he cites the passage in Isaiah 14 where Satan’s motivations are clearly stated:

 “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars (angels) of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly (of angels) in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE THE MOST HIGH.”

In other words, he wants to be like God. Not a fiend. Not a destroyer, per se. But like God. He wants authority, control and worship.  His motivation is to oppose God and exalt himself, to take God’s place, and his primary method is deception. Chafer describes it thus:

“He who was the measure of perfection, full of beauty and wisdom; he who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms; has been willing to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality, that he might , in the end, realize his own deepest desire.

“Again, his own subjects (unbelievers and ignorant believers) have strangely neglected the plain teachings of Scripture on his real power and authority.

” To them he has been an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell, and himself the impersonation of all that is cruel and vile: when, on the contrary, he is real, and is the very embodiment of the highest ideals the unregenerate world has received; for he is the inspirer of all those ideals.

“With his own he is not at enmity, and he, like the most refined of the world, is in no sympathy with the grosser forms of their sin. He would hinder those manifestations of evil if he could. And certainly he does not prompt them; for they are the natural fruit of an unrestrained fallen nature…”

Matthew 7:21-23 confirms this last, stating:  “For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, amplifies this, speaking of man in his natural state: 

“As it is written, there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.

Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known.

 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Having read that, cannibalism seems to fit right in. Yet how many of us reading the above passage would almost instinctively attribute such traits to other people, to another society in another time? Or even, unthinkingly, to demons?

We live in an era that promotes the good of man, the universal brotherhood of man. So many of our countrymen are engaged in making the world a better place, bringing about justice for all, perhaps even believing or at the least, assuming that their good intentions and efforts will ensure them a place in heaven. Or good status in their next life, if that is the direction of their beliefs. Of at the least make their life worthwhile if they think this is all there is.

In our times, people are outraged and incensed should someone even say something bad about another (unless the “other” happens to be George W. Bush :-)) . Oddly, should they happen to eat someone or shoot a bunch of them in a public venue, there doesn’t seem to be outrage so much as hand wringing and wonderment over what could have driven that poor perpetrator to do such a thing. Was it Sarah Palin? Talk radio? Incivility in public discourse?  Western Imperialism? Poverty? Drugs? Racism? Demons?

Never is it  just the fact that people — all people — are depraved and where’s the big shock when they act like it?

And yes, I do mean all people, for even us Christians still have that depraved nature inside us — that power that is totally against God, seeks always and insidiously, every chance it gets, to exalt self, and inevitably at times gets the better of us.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren (note Paul is talking to Believers– Christians); only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Note that we have a choice!) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (ie, Godly things, like love your neighbor as yourself).

I’m not saying there is no demon possession. There is. But it’s done with a purpose, under the authority of the Prince of this world, the one who possesses all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-7) And his purpose is the same as that of our flesh: to oppose God and exalt himself. And his means of executing his purpose is almost always deception.

If he can get us to think we’re not that bad, not as depraved as the Bible says we are, well, then we won’t think we even need a Savior; or if we have believed, won’t understand what that Savior has truly done for us; won’t have the gratitude we ought to have; will think more highly of ourselves than we ought… won’t realise our need for the complete and total overhaul in our thinking and motivation that can only be effected by our daily immersion in God’s word.

Nor the ease with which we can be led astray, by others or by that deceitful power within ourselves.

The World Is Not Christian

I owe this post to Becky Miller who, on her blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction, recently referenced a viewpoint put forth by another Christian blogger that she took issue with. I read her post with interest, and decided I also have issues with the referenced viewpoint. Quite a few issues, in fact.

The unnamed blogger’s contention? That “this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Ro 1).” Therefore, as Christian writers if we simply present “the world as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ.” And that without having to “include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world.”

To which I say … nonsense! The Scriptures say this world is anything but Christian. Yes, it was created by God in perfection, and though it became corrupted when Adam fell, it can still reveal God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature. But it is not a “Christian” world.

A “Christian” by standard definition is one who adheres to the Christian faith, core to which is the good news that anyone who believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, will be eternally saved. Those who do not believe are condemned already for one reason only — that they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

The world does not adhere to the Christian faith. Not by a long shot. Nor do the trees, rocks, mountains or houses. They may proclaim that there is a divine creator — God — but believing in God is not the same as being a Christian. Even the demons believe in God — and Christ! — in the sense of acknowledging their existence, but demons are most definitely not Christian. (James 2:19)

Though created in perfection, the world fell when Adam fell as I mentioned and is now said, not to be “redeemed,” but longing anxiously, enslaved to corruption, subjected to futility, and groaning as it waits for Christ’s return. (Romans 8:19-22)

Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And we as Christians are also said to be not of this world: our citizenship, our true home, is in heaven. (Phil 3:20)

Christ said that the world hated Him because He was not of the world, and if we are in Him and follow Him, the world will hate us, too. However, if we are of the world, which is not a good thing, then the world will love us. (John 15:18 -20)

We are told to love not the world and all that’s in it. As Christians. (1 John 2:15) If this world were intrinsically Christian, why would we be told not to love it?

In fact, the very next verse in 1 John 2 specifically says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. (It) is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Clearly the world and the one who does the will of God are not the same.

2 Pe 3:10, 11 tells us that the world and all that is in it will be utterly destroyed, and a new heaven and earth made… Why would it be destroyed if it were Christian and proclaimed Christ?

It wouldn’t be.

In fact, this world is ruled by the devil; its system of operation was created by the devil who, in 2 Co 4:4 is said to be the god of this world. Adam gave up rulership to Satan when he adopted Satan’s viewpoint (exalt self, oppose God, believe lies). We know this because when Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, he took Him to a high vantage point (not a literal mountain) and offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” Satan couldn’t have offered them if they weren’t his to offer.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us there is a system in the atmosphere (“heavenly places”) — which is, boiled down, talking and communication — that is devised and controlled by Satan, who has deceived the whole world. (Rev 12:9) He has schemes (2 Co 2:11) and seeks to devour Christians. (1 Pe 5:8) His system shoots flaming thought missiles at us (Eph 6:16).

This one who is the god of this world, ruler of this world, is a liar and has been one since the beginning. Not a Christian.

He disguises himself as an angel of light and has deceitful workers, false apostles, ministers of righteousness, that look good and right (2 Co 11). He has a false gospel, false righteousness, false doctrine, and a false communion.

The world is not only NOT Christian, it is anti-Christian and anti-Christ. The idea that as writers we can simply record in a truthful manner all the depravity and futility and evil machinations of sin and human good and evil, without one word of anything theological and by that “present Christ” is just wrong.

The world is a place of darkness and death and very, very bad news: ie, that all men are sinners, cut off from the life of God. As a Christian, to simply portray it as it is would be, in my view, an utter waste of time. We’re here to be a light in that darkness, and our light is not us, but the word of God that we carry within us. It’s a light that, yes, can be manifested in our behavior and lives, but inside it is very much thoughts, concepts, words. Jesus Himself is said to be the very Word of God. We are to offer words of good news. Which I’m pretty sure means you need to get some “theology” into a book (by which I mean distinctly Christian thoughts and concepts as taught in the Word of God) before you can call it “Christian”.

What is Truth?

“What is Truth?”

That’s the famous last question asked by Pontius Pilate of Truth Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.) Immediately after asking this Pilate turned away, indicating he had no interest in an answer. Or perhaps that he didn’t think Jesus had an answer… or even that there was an answer to his question.

In researching Roman culture, I’ve learned they had a very similar more to that which is dominating our post-modern culture these days — a problem discerning or even believing in absolute truth. The honorable Roman felt it was important to be tolerant of other faiths. They would even make altars and offerings to the gods of other faiths (witness the Temple of the Unknown God Paul references in Acts 17), and in return they expected the proponents of those faiths to reciprocate. (The Jews’ continued failure to do so, is pretty much what provoked the Romans to destroy their Temple and Jerusalem and scatter them about the empire in the first and second centuries.)

The problem with tolerating all other faiths, in the sense of making they equally valid or “right”,  is that you negate the truth of any of them. And pretty soon you have no truth, as Pontius Pilate expressed.

This thought train was sparked by an article I read today in The Independent on post modernism by Jay Merrick (PoMo: Everybody’s doing it)

Here’s how it starts:

“Forty years ago, we lived “modern” lives. Ideas, emotions and actions seemed ordered, and part of a zeitgeist of confident restraint that originated in the science, mass-production, architecture and art of the 1930s.

“Now we are profoundly immersed in the tortuous, commercially controlled currents of postmodern design and thought, and its weapons of mass psychic deconstruction. Has this made our lives richer in meaning, or just richly vacuous?”

I confess, overall the article was a bit over my head, and much of it centered on the postmodernism of art, architecture, fashion and literature, all of the sort that has never held even the slightest interest for me. Art that takes the most banal of subjects and tries to make something out of them, as if a golf ball is equally as interesting and important subject matter as the material Michelangelo presented in the Sistine Chapel. Fashion chosen to be deliberately ugly, architecture that jabs and slashes or incorporates humongous chairs or concrete suitcases, just because.

As I read his descriptions, it seemed to me almost a deliberate turning away from things that made sense to things that didn’t, from authority on even the smallest of levels. “They” designed socks to be worn on the feet, thus we shall wear them on our heads; “they” say that art should celebrate beauty or drama or truth or the divine… we will make art that celebrates the ugly, the boring, the silly, the profane… It’s an affected, fancy-pants version of “you’re not the boss of me” and I’ll do as I like.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Merrick is saying in this next paragraph…

 “Postmodernism duly arose in an uncoordinated blitz of individualistic artistic and intellectual objections to the more or less failed idea of rationalised lives and environments.”

He goes on…

 “The novelist Martin Amis warned us that postmodern people “over-existed”. Our postmodern, supposedly self-designed lives are embedded in these modes of over-existence. We’ve accepted the commercial, social and semiotic propellants that have ensured over-consumption in the guise of entertainment. Blizzards of imagery and opinion form a chimera of endless, conflicting possibilities without beginning or end; we seem to crave maximised senses of fractured movement, overlay, ennui and nowness.

“And it’s the hundred times a week we hear, or utter, that most über and craven of postmodern words – whatever.

“Modernism’s either/or mindset has been obliterated by this pervasive whateverness. Few of us now imagine any prospect of lives in which ideas, behaviour and outcomes can be clearly determined. To many, the details of the present must seem increasingly indeterminate or ambiguous; which duly turns our perceptions of the past and the future into cabinets of equally trivial curiosities, rather than illuminating points of perspective.”

<snip>

“The and/but vibe now suffuses almost everything we think and do. Surface has become more important than depth. Style – or, more accurately, stylee – trumps coordinated articulation; disbelief is more acceptable than belief.”

<snip>

“One can’t help fearing that the sheer psychic tonnage of postmodernity’s “undecidable things” is rendering most of us terminally passive and far more interested in ephemera than, say, socio-political ethics, or the implications of Facebook’s plans to calibrate and inter-link the media product preferences of their users…”

If you believe in nothing, if every faith or belief system is equal, then none of them mean anything. How can they? How can you accept the notion that God exists and also that He doesn’t? That He cares, and that He doesn’t. That there is eternal life and there isn’t. That the Bible contains truths we need and yet it doesn’t.

Saying all are equal, brings one down only to one’s own ideas, which are always going to be unstable, since the whole point of this postmodern everything goes is that there’s no absolutes. And an absolute truth is, by definition, stable. Without it, one will be tossed here and there by every wind of false teaching. Whatever sounds good today, whatever works today, whatever I want today, but the result is a life of doubt, and shifting shadows, a life that is “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” roiling and endlessly rising and falling, going it knows not where.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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