Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Making a Choice

It is difficult to determine where you are in life.  The veil of the fallen world distorts our thinking to a large degree.  One way we notice this is that we have inconsistent actions.  For example, we may believe that abortion is an evil as we are dedicated to respecting life, but we may also be fine with innocent, collateral damage in a “just” war.  These two ideas are incongruent.  If we have a guiding principle that life is valuable in every way, then this should alter the way we think about ALL life.

If you hold the Bible as your guide, you will read that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven (or God) quite often.  Jesus first message as he began his ministry was to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17)  The theme of the Kingdom of Heaven runs all throughout the New Testament writings culminating in the visions of Revelation.
For us to truly understand where we are, we must get this point.  We must see that there are two and only two competing Kingdoms.  Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven.  He brought about its possibility here on earth, in this realm.  Up till that time, since the sin of Adam, our realm had been dominated by the Fallen World System (FWS).  The earmarks of the FWS are death, sin, and evil, only evil.  Even seemingly good actions in the realm of the FWS have evil at their core.

Many believe that there is vast worldwide conspiracy being perpetrated on humanity by the Illuminati or some other very wealthy and influential group.  I believe there is a conspiracy in our world, but it is being enacted by the FWS and that system has a master who is Satan.  Satan seeks only our death and destruction (John 10:10).  He is evil and everything about his system is evil.  He attempts the make the evil seem good (see the Garden of Eden).

Thus, when Jesus came to bring in the Kingdom of Heaven a great war began for the realm of earth.  The realm of earth had been dominated by the FWS for a long time; the battle began and is continuing today.  The battle is not for land so much as it is for the hearts and minds of created order.  Jesus came to free us all from the bonds of the sin and death (FWS).

I can hear people saying, “Don, is not God sovereign and can He now just defeat Satan with a Word?”  The answer: Yes.  The defeat of Satan has never been an issue.  The issue has always been the battle for your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Out of His love, God gave us the ability to rebel against Him.  Love can never be compelled it must be chosen.  Evil seeks rebellion, while Jesus seeks Shalom, a restoration to proper relationship.  The battle has never been about land, money, and power.  These are weak, deceptive, and small ideas.  The battle is for your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Thus, we are confronted with this most concrete reality: There are two Kingdoms vying your loyalty.  The first is the Kingdom of God.  This Kingdom always seeks the good even when it is hard and inconvenient.  Sometimes it is not always easy to see the good, but there is always a good.  Then there is the Kingdom of the Fallen World.  This Kingdom will you use any means necessary to perpetrate evil.  It will even surround evil in apparent good.

There is much that could be argued for these points.  Many scoff at such a dualistic way of viewing the world.  Are there not shades of grey?  Are there not people who are not Godly, but do good things?  The answer is yes, of course.  They are participating in Kingdom of Heaven realities without even realizing it.  The Bible is full of these types of people.  Egypt was a Fallen World system that God used for the good of the Israelite people.  Balaam was an evil person that God used to advance the Kingdom.  The list could go on and on.

The greatest challenge we have is how we are to live in a dual Kingdom reality while discerning which is the good path; the Kingdom of God path.  We can be sure of this when we are doing good we are participating in the Kingdom of Heaven, and when we do evil we are participating in the Fallen World.  The “church” has been used at times to perpetrate great evil.  When it behaves this way it ceases to be the Church of the Living God, it ceases to be the Church of Jesus Christ.  It becomes something different.  It ceases to be a church by Biblical standards.  What you think and what you do both individually and corporately MATTERS!

The greatest temptation of the Church is to align itself with the values of the FWS.  The Church fails when it molds too readily the values of the culture as truth instead of the God’s eternal truth.

Many are on the sidelines and passively make no decisions.  They arrogantly sit aside as an observer thinking that they are above the fray.  A passive response to life is actually making a decision.  Doing nothing is a decision.  We cannot go through life without actually standing up for something.  If we do act passively we end up getting steamrolled by the FWS.  We will be easily swayed by its thought patterns.

The battle really is for your mind.  What you think does determine your actions.  We are reminded that we are to be transformed by the renewal our minds (Rom 12:1-2).  We must have clear thinking.  We must understand how the World attempts to pollute our thinking.  We must also choose to fill our minds with the good.  We must be soaked in the Word of God.  How can we know God’s nature and character unless we know His Word?  God is outside our self-reflection and self-actualization.  We must choose to live daily in the Kingdom of God dynamic.  We must always, always, always choose the good.  In doing so, we help advance the Kingdom of God.

I encourage you to really think about your daily actions.  What do they say about you?  Do you really think about the Godly good in all situations?  How do we discern what is the Godly good?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Are Here

How does a Christian respond to the things of the world?  There are a lot of terrible things happening right now.  There really have been a lot of terrible things happening throughout history.  Christians have at times responded well and responded poorly.

A challenge to a proper response to the world is that many Christians lack a certain understanding of how Christian ideology should apply to the world around them.  Christians lack a certain unifying philosophical perspective on life.

Most people do not understand their own personal philosophies or where they originate.  Thus, we are not really able to calculate our actions, reactions, and interactions with those around us.

Here is an example: Most Americans believe that people should have freedom, and this freedom can only be taken away by the justice system for infractions against freedom.  When problems arise in Africa, the Middle East, and in Asia, Americans believe that freedom, democracy, and capitalism are the answers to the issues.

This is a fundamental philosophy that we hold and we do not really even know why.  Thus, our answers to the problems around us are really not based on the actual problem, but more based on our philosophy of life.  Problems are often much more complex than simple glib answers, but the glib answers allow us to shirk any real thoughtful action on a certain situation.

Another example: We believe hard work will lead to success.  So you ask some wealthy people about helping poor people and you might get some callous responses like, “They just need to work harder.”  This is not really a callous response, rather it is an oversimplified response based out of someone’s life philosophy.  Our philosophy is largely based on our experience.  For that particular wealthy person hard work has paid off, but for many disadvantaged people hard work may not produce the same results.  Thus, divergent philosophies begin to develop based on life experience.  The relative “worth” of hard work is dependent on many factors.

One thing can be said for certain is that two people living in the same society can have dramatically views on the world based on their experience and socialization.  Whether we realize it or not, our philosophy on life affects every decision we make.

Nothing could be more important than developing the proper view of the world around.  We must consider another example based on Christian axiom: God helps those who help themselves.  Many people assert this philosophy sure that the testimony of Scripture backs this understanding.  It is false in many ways and is not Biblical.  It is based on the idea of the Christian work ethic that pervaded America throughout its history.  It rang true to many who felt that hard work lead to their success.  Thus, an axiom was created to help them define their success and still give a little nod to the work of God in our lives.

First, this axiom is not in the Bible.  Second, it is troubling because it does not mirror the authentic Christian experience.  For something to be true, it must be able to be applied across all cultural experiences.  You do not have to read Christian history long to understand that this statement is actually against some of the very fundamentals of Christianity.  Did God help Paul because Paul helped himself?  Did God help Stephen because Stephen helped himself?  Did God help Abraham because Abraham helped himself?  Are you worthy of forgiveness because you helped yourself?  Once you begin to flesh out this axiom it is easy to see how false it really is.  We must scrub this philosophy from our lives.

I use this only as an example of how insidious some philosophies on life can be.  We must be thoughtful and reflective on our views.  Humanity is greater than its conditioned response to a situation.  We have the capacity to learn, to grow.  It takes more than just muddling through.  It takes actual reflection on life.  It takes reflecting on your behavioral patterns, both bad and good.  It takes understanding yourself.

We cannot really understand ourselves until we understand where we fit into the cosmos.  Most Christians have answered this question.  We should view our lives and our actions in understanding that there is an active, just, and loving God.  Christians of all stripes would agree on a basic understanding of God.  While we cannot really understand all there is to know about God, we can understand His character through the reading of the Word.  However we miss God many times; we do not know what He wants because we have not studied His Word.  We have not let His Word and His character inform our actions; rather we seek to explain our actions by abusing His Word.

I am not attempting to argue the existence God to someone who does not believe in Him.  Rather, this is a call for Christians to understand where they fit into the world.  Also, it is an attempt to let people truly see the world, to help us really understand the problems we face.  We have too quickly adopted the mindset of the world.  This has prevented us from confronting evil the way we should.  This has caused us to be overly sensitive to certain things.

I remember being young and going Christmas shopping at Governor’s Square mall in Tallahassee, FL.  This was really the first time my parents let me navigate something on my own.  At intervals around the mall there were maps.  You could find your location using the “You are Here” star on the map.  I loved this.  It comforted me.  I might not have been where I wanted to be, but at least I knew where I was.  The first step in getting where you need to go is in understanding where you are.

We must stop for just a minute and consider why we think or react to certain things in certain ways.  We often do not understand how the fallen world philosophies have taken over our “faith.”  We must take an honest assessment of where we are in the world and what has influenced us.  Only then can we really begin to find where we need to be.