Posts Tagged 'Cosmic System'

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.

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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

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adjustment Bureau

Last Friday we watched the new Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau, which I thought was going to be much more like Inception than it turned out to be.

Briefly, David Norris (Damon) is on track to become New York’s youngest senator, when he has a chance meeting with the woman of his dreams. As he seeks to find her again, he discovers the Adjustment Bureau, a behind the scenes organization of non-human operatives who keep track of everyone — making sure they all proceed in accordance with their “Chairman’s” plan.  Unfortunately for Norris, the Chairman’s plan doesn’t include him and the mystery woman ever getting together and the story is about how he fights that plan in going after her, essentially attempting to write his own destiny. Ultimately this is the “message” the film leaves us with: that we must fight for what we want to do, to achieve our own destiny in order to really be free.

At least… I think that’s what the message was.

At first it seems that this is a movie about destiny, about God’s plan for our lives, about how unseen agents are moving and shaping us along the tracks we’re supposed to follow. The AB guys have a book which they consult to keep them on track with respect to the actions their charges take — whether such actions are part of the plan or not. And there is that Chairman up there (at the top of a New York skyscraper apparently), who has many names, one of which is “God”.  There are special doors that lead into another world and back to ours, and the caseworkers have special powers that enable them to manipulate the environment of their charges, all of which could be taken for angelic ministers, shepherding us on our way.

Except of course… Jesus doesn’t figure into any of this. His name is only mentioned in the usual way it’s mentioned in Hollywood movies…as an expletive. And the Plan changes each time someone does something outside it, so that the agents are constantly playing catch up, trying to “clean up this mess,” and get things back on the track they’re supposed to be on. Not exactly the way God does things.

So, on the one hand, it’s cool that the film is going to cause some people to think about God and His plan, about free will, about their decisions, etc… But on the other, it’s annoying that they make God and his agents so inept. And weird because it when you get down to it, the movie’s set up and even resolution really implies we have no free will at all — only what the agents allow us to have. Like unwitting cattle we are moved about as they desire, oblivious to their manipulation. The exceptions are a few, stubborn, passionate individuals  (like Norris) who manage to break out of the track that has been laid for them and follow their own plan…

Ick.

We’ve spent the last month studying the Divine Decrees in Bible Class. Thinking about God’s awesome power. Reflecting on how He knew simultaneously all the plans there ever could be and all their courses, successions, outworkings in every detail. Every detail. He knows every decision every one of us has ever made and ever will, and every decision we would have made, had circumstances been different. And out of all of those options, He chose the best, the one that will provide our highest blessing and His glory. It buries the Keystone Cops stuff that’s put forth in The Adjustment Bureau.

Moreover, as I said, the real plan all hinges on Jesus: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He?”

God has shut all of us up in sin so He can have mercy on us all. And His mercy is the fact that He sent His son to die for the sins of every one of us, believers and unbelievers alike. All we have to do is choose to believe. Or to reject. In the end those who have rejected Christ, the only sin He couldn’t die for, will stand before the Great White Throne and give an account for why they rejected the work of Christ, and provide whatever they think they have to offer God that could possibly compare with what He’s done.

Of course none of that was in the movie.

Because really, the movie wasn’t about God, in my view.  Early on my take in watching it was that the Adjustment Bureau couldn’t be God’s organization — there was no grace, for one. No, I think it’s a great illustration of Satan’s organization.  The Adjustment Bureau is the kingdom of darkness, the rulers and principalities mentioned in Ephesians. The agents going about trying to make sure people don’t find out what God’s plan for their life is, and seeking to impose the plan their Chairman has written. Yes, they are presented in some cases as appealing, nice, trying to be helpful, etc,  even as they have no idea what they’re doing. One is guilt ridden for some of the things he’s had to do to Norris’s parents. And many of them even wonder if what they are doing is right.

But the strength of a counterfeit lies in its closeness of form to the thing it is counterfeiting. And Satan’s many systems always incorporate ministers of light, and deception and confusion.

I cannot imagine any of God’s elect angels  wondering if what they are doing is right. Or feeling guilty. Or going against His directive will. Or any of that.  The agents in the film spend much of the time blundering around. They threaten and intimidate and lie…

But God is not the author of confusion. God is not taken by surprise. He’s not up there going, “Oh no, Norris got off track! I didn’t foresee that! He must not kiss that woman or disaster will ensue! You guys get down there and clean that up!” He’s not up there going, “Oh, gee, I had a plan for you, David Norris, but I see now that your plan is far better than what I came up with and since you are sooo insistent… I’m going to give you what you want.

Paul was insistent. He was going to Jerusalem to see his people and never mind that God told him not to go three times in a row. He was going. So he went. And ended up imprisoned in Rome for years as discipline because of it. Granted, God used that to allow him to witness to the Praetorium Guardsmen he was chained to, and to write half the New Testament, but that only shows how God can take our messes and make blessing out of them, not that we have any business writing our own destinies.

Secular Legalism

So, to continue my analysis of where I’ve been, the day after I wrote the journal entry I posted yesterday I got up early — about twenty minutes to 7 and went into the office, got focused about 7:20am  and worked for 45 minutes. Then I went to Wikipedia to find out about the Year of Jubilee and from there began reading Chuck Norris’s website. There was a link to it. Apparently he has a “Friend of the Jews Man of the Year” Award, and that’s what caught my eye. It had nothing to do with anything I was doing, but I’ve been a Chuck Norris fan for decades — used to watch all his movies, and even Walker, Texas Ranger until it got too cornball to watch.

Ahem. So. I got distracted. Most likely because though I read through all my notes and cards, I ended up more confused than ever. All I seemed to do was generate more questions and arrays of possible answers, as I detailed in an earlier blog post. That’s really okay, and really pretty much the way it always is when I’m writing, but I tend to forget that. Instead of waiting patiently for things to open up, I get agitated and start blaming myself. Instead of relying wholly and moment by moment on God, it becomes  my responsibility to wrestle all  this stuff into order and come up with a solution. And because I’m spending my time on that and getting nowhere, home duties are undone and now I can condemn myself for those as well.

It’s all a big… test? No, more of an obstacle I think. God’s withholding progress for His reasons, which are good and are not all about me,. But the withholding is also a form of training.  To remind me to see all deviations from what I had planned or hoped as coming directly from God’s hand, reminding me that it’s not My plan or my kingdom but His. That He is God, not me. I’m the servant. I’m reliant on Him.

And it’s when I have to wait that I forget that. (okay, I probably forget that even faster when I don’t have to wait). I think I’m not reliant on Him, but that He’s relying on me to do my part. (yuck!) He is not relying on me. He’s either doing this book or He’s not and I must await his direction. Patiently, without agitation, anxiety or self-flagellation, fully confident He has all under control. Including me. It will come when He’s decreed and all my thrashing and turmoil and self-condemnation won’t change it.

Recently in Bible Class we were warned against the cosmic systems’ attempts to insert legalism into our lives/souls. Satan’s prowling about like a lion, looking for someone to devour in this way. Legalism is where you want to do it your way. You have your own plan and you’re going to follow that. I would say there’s a lot of legalism and religious tendencies in all of us that He has to reveal and strip away. This whole fixation I have on working and accomplishing, not wasting my time, on making the right choices, being disciplined… plus the cloud of frustration and guilt that comes over me as a result of it all… It’s disgusting. It’s debilitating. It’s certainly not freedom. I believe it’s secular legalism… It’s not God I’m really striving to serve, it’s my idea of what is “right.” Working and accomplishing and not wasting my time and making right choices, being disciplined all seem right. But they’re mostly about me. And they’re very much about slavery.

Here’s a quote from a class from several months ago that I recently found: 

Unrealistic expectations toward self invariably produce frustrations that distract us from the word and destroy the true focus of the Christian life: occupation with Jesus Christ, NOT self.

And another. 

Never put yourself into a position where you feel you have responsibility and accountability toward man.

And “man” includes self. I do this all the time. I make myself responsible and accountable to my self. My goals. My standards. And half the time those goals and standards are ridiculous…

So how do I get out of this? I asked the Lord. Do I just have to wait for you to do the work?

Yes. But I believe He has been doing it.

And this post is already way longer than I’d anticipated, so I’ll save the first of the two articles He led me to for tomorrow…

Differing Worldviews

My son and his fiancée were here over Christmas and since I had finished The Black Swan (which he had loaned me) and he had not yet read it all the way through himself, but wanted to, I gave it back to him. Thus my posts from that source will be coming to a halt here pretty soon. But not yet.  Today I share some observations prompted by a statement the author made regarding differing viewpoints:

“This confirmation problem pervades our modern life, since most conflicts have at their root the following mental bias: when Arabs and Israelis watch news reports they see different stories in the same succession of events. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans look at different parts of the same data and never converge to the same opinions. Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right.

Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.”

Taleb’s observation that different people can look at the same series of events and come to wholly different conclusions is quite true. [Bush Derangement Syndrome comes to mind] And yet the implication in his words is that there is no one “right” conclusion, just conclusions based on whatever each individual regards as correct in his own eyes, each person’s perception shaped, maintained and bolstered by his innate tendency toward confirmation bias.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Only God has the true perspective and according to His word, there are absolutes. There are right ways of thinking and wrong ways. Life and death. Lies and truth. The flesh and the world versus the spiritual and the heavenly. As believers we are engaged in a battle against the spiritual forces that for the moment have rulership over our planet. It’s difficult to fight against forces one cannot see nor feel. We’re not going to be slugging it out physically. No, the battle is one of ideas; one of opposing systems of thought. And there are only two: man’s/Satan’s systems (which encompass all of those things that “seem right to a man” in their varied sameness), and God’s.

If you orient back to central principles of each world view, you are going to reach consistent conclusions. In Satan’s worldview, the creature is supreme. The creature operates independently from God (even if he is claiming to serve and love God, he does it in his own way, not according to God’s way) and seeks to solve his problems and improve his situation using creature power and solutions. In God’s worldview, all credit goes to Him. He is perfect. He does all the work. We, by grace, receive the benefits of what He has done, initially in salvation and continuing throughout our Christian walk. We must decrease, He must increase.

Satan’s genius lies in the way he has drawn in all manner of variation, complication, detail, urgency and just plain volume to obfuscate the central conclusions of each viewpoint. As the Lord said in x, the worries and cares of the world rise up to choke the truth of the word. Pretty soon we no longer see the forest for the trees.

But ultimately there are only two viewpoints. Man’s thoughts and God’s. And the two are not remotely similar.


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