Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Orthodoxy, Orthopathy, and Orthopraxy: Know it, Feel It, Live It

The Christian faith is not mere ideas, not a series of facts or depictions of reality, no, it's more. It's alive, and burning brightly like a fire.  It's not mere emotions either, there's daily practice to it, a true walking and living of it.  Yet it is not about doing, but it is about believing, and not just a vague emotion or vacant assent to, but there is a deep, specific, clear set of concepts, fact and truths in which we yield our minds to.  And at the center of these three areas of truth, feeling, and living, we find a person, the person, the God-man Jesus Christ. 

We're surprised a great deal, surprised by Him.  Surprised from behind, by our love for Him.  We're surprised by joy.  Surprised by peace.  Surprised by trials.  And amazed by our own inability to come to know Him in our own efforts.  We're amazed by our failure and amazed by the fact of our total dependency on Him for anything good to be in us.

There are tears that flow. They flow deeply and meaningfully. There are truths, truths that run so deep, and cut through so many layers of society, of philosophy, of history, and deep into the mind.  And joy in the knowing. Mysteries that God delights in revealing to us. There is a difficult practice, a fighting, a warring, a yielding to God. 

Too often we fail to explore.  We get up and leave, just before we ought to.  There is so much to explore with our God.  There is such a journey of relationship, when we willingly engage with Him. Let us consider it...

Orthodoxy, to know. Of course my favorite thing is to know. I love knowledge, I love wisdom.  I love to study and learn. The greatest truths are to be discerned in the words of God.  To know is to understand the world.  To know is to understand what is wrong with the world.  To know is to see the truth beyond all the lies and propaganda of our world.  Christianity is paradox. The obvious answer of this world seems right, but then we realize the paradox, that it is not. We always have to think twice. Thinking once, the gut reaction leads us one way, then the second thought, well, that's where we realize the paradox.

"If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows...then we must starve eternally." -C. S. Lewis

Jesus said, I am the light of the world.  Jesus said I am the bread of life. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus said I am the good shepherd.  He said I am the gate for the sheep.  I am the true vine.  I am the way, the truth, and the life.  

Without orthodoxy there is no Jesus, without Jesus' words, there is no Jesus.  Without the Bible, there is no Jesus.  Jesus is discovered in orthodoxy, in truth, and the knowing of it.

"Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible."
C. S. Lewis

Orthopathy, to feel.  We are not mere machines, programmed with data. We do not simply assent ourselves to core truths, no matter how important they are, they are not the end.  To know God is to feel Him.  To know God is to feel His presence with us.  To know God is to feel deeply the emotions of life, the joys, yes and the sorrows. 

"There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

Those first Christians, in the ancient Roman empire, doused in kerosene and set afire to light the streets of Rome, they felt the pain.  Those first Christians, arrested by Nero, and sent to the lions, they felt the pain of their death. But perhaps they felt something else, as they saw the glory of the kingdom of God... they felt love. And joy.  And peace. 

I long to feel God and to commune with God.  But there is little communion with God in a vacuum, though the times I've felt him most deeply have been in times of personal prayer and meditation, turning my eyes to Jesus. But I feel God, when I serve God.  I feel God, when I'm at work for God.  I feel God when I preach the gospel.

And God communicates to us through experience.  He speaks to us through the larger events of life. 

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” 
-Malcolm Muggeridge

To experience God is what we are hoping for in this Christian life.  To really have relationship with God is the goal.  In daring to go deeper in emotion, do we find a new depth to our relationship with God.  But emotion in a vacuum, with minimal truth or action, is a recipe for disaster, milquetoast therapeutic deism can result, or even prosperity gospel, or simply superficial Christianity, a cherry picking of feel good verses. 

Orthopraxy, to practice. Is being a follower of Jesus just on Sunday morning?  No.  Living it is the hard part, day in and day out.  I suppose that's why I was drawn to Methodism, which emphasized the daily practice, a method of living differently.  I want so badly to really live out my faith.  I want to make sure it's real.  I'm not messing around here being a Christian, I'm deadly serious about it, and I'm going to make the maximum impact for the kingdom of God.  That's what it's about. 

I want to live it.  I want to pray an hour a day. I want to faithfully attend a small group.  I want to head over to Bible study. I want to ready my Bible, literally every night before bed!  I want to witness faithfully for an hour a week to people I don't know.  I want a real praxis. And I will do it.  I will, God willing. 

Orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxy. It all fits together, to form a true worldview that is functional in all areas of life and mind. 

"Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence." -Augustine, ancient theologian

Related Posts:
  1. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  2. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell
  3. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life
  4. What is the equation that shows us how to inherit Eternal Life?
  5. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  6. Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?
  7. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of God's Word
  8. God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life
  9. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  10. How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Pilgrim's Forest: An Allegorical Dream of Fallenness

Despair, yes, ruin... and self destruction. These are things common to our world.  Something inside of us, an impulse draws us toward the wrong, even when we know the right.  Something inside, it's not even a decision, but an impulse takes us away.  It causes us to sabotage that perfect relationship.  It causes us to leave that great job.  It sends us back to the bottle after years sober.  It's an impulse, that of self-destruction.  

This cancer permeates reality. Yet reality persists.  It's laced through the rotting stump, in the forest of this world.  It cuts through in the wild fire triggered by the lightning strike.  It leaves ashes.  But life persists, somehow.  

After all, don't we exist in a temporary reality, a broken, fallen place?  I can see the straps and trappings and duct work, I can see all the equations and temporal realities and time space phenomenon that hold it all together just begging to come crashing down.  I see it when a storm rushes across the horizon.  I see it when lightning cuts through the dark clouds.  I feel it when the ground shakes beneath me during an earthquake.  The clock is ticking on this entire universe.  It is destined to be burned, and remade. 

Long ago, I fled into a shimmering sphere, a beautiful mysterious expanse in the woods outside the door of my life as it was. I had dreams about it, I wrote about it, but I'm not sure I ever really understood what it was, until now.  It was the mirage world, the alternate universe hidden all around us, the world of self-ruination. I finally understand what it was, that world I entered twenty years ago.  One day, I went into that deep dark woods, with shimmering lights within it.  

It was so beautiful. Yet so foreboding.  I felt the fascination, and also the terror. That majestic woods, the lanterns and golden lights hanging from the trees, the bizarre mysteries I encountered there.  I recall it so clearly now.  And of course the dangers, the deadly nature of the forest, and all that I encountered there...

It was a labyrinth of extremes, beautiful and hideous. It was safe and warm, yet cold and treacherous.  A reality that consumed my life, like a virus.  It was growing, and growing.  

It was a complex metaphor, appearing in my dreams, in my stream-of-consciousness writing, and in my mind's eye as I'd look off into the backyard.  

I was inexorably drawn to it, and I was convinced it was a positive good.  I was certain, that the journey through the forest, to the center of the reality, this vortex, would lead to paradise and salvation for my soul.

I recall an episode of Star Trek Voyager, where the crew thought they had encountered a wormhole back home, but they realized that there was some kind of deception taking place.  But as they got closer, they all fell victim to the seductive appearance and the belief that might finally make it home.  As they sailed into the wormhole, they didn't realize, they were sailing into the belly of a giant monster seeking to devour them and their ship.

The mystic forest, was a bait and switch, a trap door reality.  And beyond the gentle flickers of light and beautiful scenery there was great danger.  It was a trap.  And monsters would soon seethe through the doors of the reality to attack and kill me.  

That's where I went.  And I knew that I had to get to the meadow at the center.  I'd seen it in my dreams.  So I went deeper and deeper into this forest. I chased a mysterious owl through the forest, as well as a beautiful butterfly that kept appearing here and there.

I think I finally realize what this forest was... the great vortex of self destruction.  I recently viewed a movie called Annihilation, a rather gruesome, dark movie.  In this movie, there is an expanding sphere called the shimmer. Many went inside, and were lost in it. It was expanding, threatening to destroy the entire world.  So they sent a last team inside of it, five of them, and they discovered a beautiful reality, yet also deadly, and dangerous.  And the story bounces between the self-destruction of the main characters and the saga of their journey into the shimmer. I don't recommend watching this movie, it's very dark, even demonic, with brutal, disgusting scenes of murder and death within the shimmer, as well as adultery and demented sex scenes.  But it did help me understand something from my past...

I recall in my dream, the story of the forest, there were tornadoes ripping through fields, and terrifying sojourners along their way.  The tornadoes were vortexes perhaps, vortexes to hell, that I only nearly escaped.  But after that I went underground, to a place of crystal miners.  And they were mining the crystals surrounding the center of the forest, which had broken to bear broken fields.

I went deeper, and deeper.  I had been chasing an owl through the forest all that ways.  And then something terrible happened... I encountered myself, a dark version of myself.  It was almost like A Wrinkle in Time, and the dark version of Charles Wallace.  And I wrestled with the evil twin of myself, and defeated the evil twin.  The owl turned evil, and attacked the butterfly.  But the butterfly though crushed, appeared once again, and the owl was defeated.  And then the woods broke, and the forest disappeared, and the meadow came into view.

I realize what happened... the forest was the matrix of self-destruction, death, and brokenness in my soul.  The boy journeying through the forest was me.  At the center of the forest was the consummation of self-destruction, death.  The various encounters in the forest were delusions and hallucinations and false realities of the broken-state, mirroring and distorting true reality.  The monsters attacking me in the forest were Satan and the evil ones.

Yet something was frightfully necessary about the journey inward.  If I had fled from it, it would've invaded the real world and destroyed my life.  But by turning and going bravely into the depths of it, I was able to face it, fight it, and defeat the true enemy deep within this vortex: The brokenness in my soul, and the old self, the old man, the man of sin, within each of us, that must be put to death, for us to be reborn, and drawn into the new kingdom of Christ.  We must each face the darkness, and defeat it.  If we run from it, it consumes our waking states, if we turn and face it, and march on it's black gates, we have a chance, to defeat the evil in ourselves, in Christ, and crucify the old self, and become entirely new.   

I recall in the dream, in the vision of the forest, the underground cavern... where I saw the great figure standing above the waters... and the butterfly that kept appearing, and leading me away from danger... and the vision of counting the stars and the dialogues with the little boy named Luz, these were encounters and protection provided by God, as He came to me, protected me, and guided me toward the black darkness of caverns, where He would bring me to the point of ruin, and teach me to cry out to His son Jesus for salvation.  

At that moment, the fallen forest was destroyed, the false self was put to death, and the new self was born.  Do you know what's interesting?  The story doesn't end there.  What happens next, in the next two books I wrote, is that the boy became a man, was given a new name, fell from a city of delusions, and woke up in a broken world under siege by a dark kingdom.  Just a dream?  Another delusion? Or a metaphor to waking up in a real world in the midst of a fierce spiritual war? 

Related Posts: 
  1. Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth
  2. What is the matrix?
  3. Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)
  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  10. Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Twelve Steps & Jesus: Steps 6 through 9

Click here for post on Steps 1 through 5

Previously we talked about steps 1 through 5, about how we want to admit our powerlessness over the drugs and alcohol, and that paradoxically because of that surrender we are then able by God’s grace to come to believe that God can free us from the mentality of addiction and commit our lives to serving and obeying God. Those are steps 1 through 3

Then importantly we talked about the fourth and fifth step, about the importance of being free from the baggage of the past, by putting it all down on paper, and then sharing it with a trusted friend or sponsor. When we did that, we felt the weight of the past lifted from our shoulders, and the sunlight of God’s spirit come into our hearts and lives.

Now we consider steps 6 through 9.

Step 6 says: “We Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 6 is simply recognizing our former ways of living life, that didn’t work. Selfishness, anger, self-pity, being inconsiderate of others, those ways of living our lives failed us. They landed us here. So we recognize that we’ve got some defects of character, and we become willing for God to remove them. That’s the hard part, is becoming willing. Because pride wants to get in the way. But we have to humble ourselves and overcome that pride if we want to get well. Which leads us to step 7.

And Step 7 says: “We Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

So if we’ve recognized our character defects, mine was always fear, selfishness, and self-seeking, pride, ego, and manipulation. I always tried to play the game to make things go my way, and then they wouldn’t go my way, and then I’d flip out. Recognizing that stuff in myself was very, very hard.

Even today I can struggle with pride, and ego, when it should be all about Jesus, sometimes I make it about myself. And that’s not acceptable if I want to stay well. We have to recognize these things in ourselves. And once we do, then we take them to God. Because we can’t remove these defects of character. Only God can.

So then we ask God to remove them. Usually people will pray this prayer: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen."

Then we watch for opportunities to live differently. And each day we consider how we’ve lived at the end of the day, taking an inventory of our day, to see if we lived as the new man, or if we slipped back into old ways of thinking. We continue that process, in prayer, and in taking action and over time God removes all our character defects and makes us like Jesus.

If steps 4,5,6, and 7 are about getting right inside ourselves, then steps 8 and 9 are about getting right with the people around us.

Step 8 says: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

So if we’ve done our 4th and 5th steps, we have the list of the people we’ve harmed already. If not, then it’s pretty simple to point out who we’ve hurt. For me it was mom, dad, my sister, my grandparents, several close friends, and a few bosses and coworkers. We make a list of how we hurt these people, and we become willing to make things right.

Step 9 says: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

It’s pretty simple, but not easy. We go to the person we hurt, for me, we’ll take the example of my dad. I went to my dad. And now, from my perspective, my dad has hurt me far worse than I ever hurt him. There’s things I won’t go into right now, but it was difficult to come humbly to my dad and apologize for what I did. Because I would prefer to hear apologies from him.

But that’s not the purpose of the 9th step. It’s about cleaning up our side of the street. They may leave their side of the street dirty, but that’s not our problem. Never, ever, ever, when your doing an amends, never ever bring up anything they did wrong. Your there to clean up your side of the street. You can’t control what they do.

So like with my dad, I talked about how I stole from him, used him for money, manipulated him, and hurt our relationship. I didn’t bring up the divorce, or the fights we had, because its about my cleaning up my mess. And I apologized. I told my dad I was wrong, asked for forgiveness, and I also asked how I could make it right. Part of that was agreeing to regularly spend time with my dad, and call him. That’s what he wanted as part of the amends. We do that again and again with people we’ve hurt, and its interesting, you know the promises that they read in AA? Those are in the big book right after the 8th and 9th step. And the promises say “by the time we are halfway through we will know a new freedom.” And people always wonder: “halfway through what?” If they’d read the big book, it means halfway through their 9th step amends!

So in conclusion, work the steps in order. I’m still available to help anyone who wants to work on their 4th and 5th step. I’ve had two residents talk to me about that, and I’m still willing to help anyone with that. So come see me. I’ll also help you with the character defects portion or help with making the list of amends.

Do this process, just do it. Do it with a good sponsor. And you’ll see big changes in your life, and this will provide the foundation for a lifetime of recovery. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Twelve Steps and Jesus: Steps 1 through 5

The twelve steps are by far the most effective method of permanent recovery from drugs and alcohol ever developed. That’s why we make use of them here, in your workbooks, and that’s why twelve step fellowships like AA, NA, and GA have sprung up across the globe.

We’re going to today look at steps 1 through 5 of this process, and hopefully you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the steps and how they function toward recovery.

Of course we must always remember that the greatest help to recovery and new life is Jesus Christ himself, as displayed in the gospels.

So let’s look at step one: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol/drugs–that our lives had become unmanageable."

Surrender is the key
Recognition of Powerlessness
Willingness to see the reality of total brokenness 

What does it mean to make an admission of powerlessness? Its to admit that we can’t do it ourselves. We admit that we can’t overcome addiction alone. Let’s be real, many of us have tried time and again to quit, and we couldn’t on our own.

The Big Book of alcoholics anonymous refers to it this way:

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” –Big Book, pg. 24

So, step 1 is a difficult thing. None of us like to admit we are powerless over anything. We want to think that we have it all under control. It’s only humility after a lot of suffering in active addiction that gets us to admit step 1.

Next we consider step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So if we’ve become powerless over the drugs and the drink, then we need to discover a power outside ourselves that is stronger. Step two is about the process by which we come to believe that God can restore us to sanity. Because to drink and use drugs until we’re near death is insanity. And this power greater than ourselves, God, is the only one who can remove the addiction problem from our soul.

We had always tried to quit on our own will power. We would swear off and say “I’ll never do that again.” And that’s how most normal people quit drugging or drinking. They just quit. But with an addict, we can’t just quit. We always go back. So the solution is to seek God and be broken free by the power of God. 

Essentially this is a realization that God can do what I can’t
Builds upon a recognition of personal powerlessness
Begins to point the key to recovery away from self and toward God

Step 3 says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The Big Book says pg 14: “Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”

There’s no way around it. If we really want to be free from addiction for life, then it means turning our will and life over to God. And that is a decision we make.

Essentially what this is, is a design for living that works in rough going. According to the big book, on pg 15. “There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us.”

Bill Wilson, the creator of the 12 steps, thought to himself, when he had finally accepted these facts and taken his 3rd step prayer: “These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known.” Pg. 14. 

While step 1 was a recognition of our own ability to force ourselves out of addiction
And step 2 was a recognition that a force beyond ourselves is the only way to escape addiction
Step 3 is the point at which we recognize God is real, that only God can break the chains of addiction
Then we turn our will (our choices) and our life (our future) over to God

But it’s important to remember that faith without works is dead. Which is why after taking the 1st three steps we have go on into steps four and five.

Step 4 says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

I’ve worked with many guys on the twelve steps. And I would always get every excuse under the sun for why they don’t want to do a 4th step inventory.

“I want to leave the past in the past.”

“I don’t need to do an inventory I’ve already talked about it with others.”

And a million excuses. But the truth is they’re afraid. They know if they open up all those memories from the past, of all the things they’ve done, it will be painful. And it is painful. But when we keep all of that stuff locked in the past, it eats away at us, and the pain of it, even locked away in our minds, leads us back to addiction.

Which is why we have to do this step thoroughly. We have to get a notebook and fill that thing up with these memories and stories. We absolutely have to, because these memories and experiences are the key to why we feel miserable when we’re sober. They affect our present mind, even though they exist in past memories. These are traumatic experiences that fill our present with pain, post-traumatic stress, intense anxiety, and depression. We have to bring them into the light, and then the pain disappears.

So on the screen here you’ll see an example of how I was taught to do the 4th step inventory, and I’ll just walk you through the process. If you’ve got a notebook with you, just jot down this diagram on some paper and use it in the future. 

Most never do this and wonder why they keep relapsing
An honest personal inventory forces us to see who we really are, good and bad
This takes guts & courage to do

If we are brave enough to do this, we will be transformed by the process

Finally we reach step 5 which states: “We Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

So very simply, this is where you take what you’ve written and share it with your sponsor, or a pastor or priest. You read through everything you wrote, and share the memories, and the pastor or sponsor provides feedback on the various resentments, fears, and harms to others.

I want to let you know that while I’m here I’d be willing to hear any of your 5th step inventories if you’d like. My office is on the 2nd floor. I’m sure others staff here might be willing to hear such an inventory as well, though you’d need to ask that person directly. Or if you prefer, go to some outside AA and NA meetings, and see if you can find a sponsor to do the steps with. That is probably the best way to go about this. 

Take your 4th step inventory and read it to a trusted individual (preferably a sponsor)
Discuss the issues involved
Leave nothing out, even talk about the very worst things that have happened
After completing this step, spend some time alone reflecting on what was said

So I’d really encourage you to work all of the steps. The truth is, if I had just started going to church, and I never attended AA or NA. And if I hadn’t worked the steps with my sponsor, I would’ve relapsed, and probably be dead today. Church isn’t enough for most of us, we need the weekly support of AA and NA meetings.

But remember, the steps are all essentially about Jesus. The twelve steps were inspired from the Oxford groups movement, which was a Christian movement. So as a Christian you don’t have to be afraid of the steps. The 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles. We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober and clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior. 

The 12 Steps actually have their origin from principles taken from the “Oxford Groups” a movement of 19th century Christians
Thus the 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles
We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober an clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Impossible Revolution: Making War on Self and Wearing the Armor of God in a Fallen Culture

Audio Message:

It was the year 1775 and the British army was marching on the colonial cities of Lexington and Concord. In a field outside Lexington John Parker the leader of a group of 77 minute men stood in a field, attempting to block the advance of 400 British troops. The British had attempted to seize the guns of the colonial militia the previous night, but had failed due to the minute men.

Both sides lined up facing one another in an open field. Someone fired the shot heard around the world, and the revolutionary war had broken out. The militia outside Lexington were driven off, but they again made a stand at bunker hill, before again being defeated, though they forced heavy casualties on the british. Then the British took the city of Boston.

Later, General Washington successfully drove the British forces from Boston through the use of artillery cannons stolen from the British at fort Ticonderoga.

Then the full might of the British army, the most powerful military force in the world came to bear on the fledgling colonial army. At New York General Washington prepared defenses, and very quickly the full weight of the British military came against him. 400 ships of the line surrounded Long island, the greatest naval force assembled ever at that time in history. And 20,000 British troops stormed New York, driving off the force of 10,000 men under Washington.

In that time of defeat, and in that time when it seemed like it was next to impossible for the Americans to survive against such a mighty power, on July 4th 1776 the 13 colonies declared their independence from the tyranny of Great Britain. And they declared that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This seemingly impossible revolution is not unlike our battle against the darkness and tyranny of addiction. We’ve found ourselves on a battlefield of the mind. The shackles of addiction are so overwhelmingly deceptive, so we must fight this spiritual war in the mind. We’ve found ourselves in a brutal war against a tyrannical evil. The odds are stacked against us. In fact, many of us will die in the grips of this malady, though for some of us there is hope.

When I was near death, in the clutches of addiction, I had given up all hope. I had resigned myself to death by addiction. I was planning to die at age 27. That’s the power of sin. That’s the power of addiction. I remember the hopelessness, the depression, and the suicidal thoughts I would have. I used to lay in roads at night and dare God to kill me. But little did I know, God was working things in the background to save my soul.

I was running from God. I was alone and afraid. All my friends had abandoned me. My family had given up on me. I was hoping for the end of it all. Yet God was still sovereign. God could see my future. He could see how He would change my life. So he waited for me to give up running.

And one day there I was at the edge of the cliff, the lamb having run away from the flock. I remember this picture, of the lamb, on the ledge, but like, two feet down the ledge, stuck on this little crevice in the side of the rock face? And Jesus is standing at the edge of the cliff wondering “How did you even get down there?” That was me. And Jesus reached down, and pulled me out of that. What’s interesting is that when the shepherd found the lost sheep, he would break the sheep’s leg, so it couldn’t run away anymore. And the shepherd would bring the sheep back hanging around his neck, and then the sheep would stay very close to the shepherd as his leg healed, and not venture too far.  God certainly did the same for me, when He rescued me.

To toil in addiction is to be enslaved. It’s like being in a Nazi death camp, slowly starving to death, hopeless, waiting for our turn in the gas chamber. If you’ve ever known the horror of addiction, you know this metaphor is not extreme in the least. To be addicted, hooked on the drug, is to slowly die. So if we’ve found ourselves locked in the slow-death of addiction, just as I was, like the lamb on the cliff, then our first step is to escape.

But here is the problem: We always try to break out of addiction in our own strength. We try to muscle up our will power. And that always fails us. We’re caught by the guards and forced back into the death camp. So we have to bend down to our knees and call out to God. And God breaks our chains, and we rally our soldiers and break out of the death camps of addiction. In other words, we the lamb who is trapped on the cliff cries out for Jesus: Jesus save me! And Christ finds us in the crevice, and pulls us to safety.

Once we’ve escaped the clutches of addiction, by God’s power, we get sober and we get to work on our lives. That’s what you’re doing here right now. You’re being trained in how to survive addiction, and how to flourish in the real world out there. You're learning by God's grace how to work, how to serve others, how to rally against addiction, and how to overcome sin through the blood of Jesus.

So if you’ve broken free from the death camp, and you’ve trained yourself at the citadel of recovery, then is the time to make war. We need to make spiritual warfare. We need to send out our armies in all directions to conquer. I don’t mean a few token actions here and there. I mean on fire warfare week in and week out. I mean going to 10 AA meetings a week. I mean going to 3 Bible studies a week. I mean praying an hour a day, and studying the Bible constantly. I mean making war on the cancer of addiction in our souls. We must make all-out war, on land, sea, and air.

We must send out our armies of determination in all directions to fight, fight, fight! But we can’t fight in our own power. Jesus said, Human power is of no use at all (John 6:63). And, apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

2nd Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

There are strongholds in your life that only the divine power of Christ can destroy. Fortresses of evil in your minds. There is a stronghold of addiction. There is a stronghold of pornography, for many. There is a stronghold of fear. There are strongholds of lust, lying, theft, idolatry, and depression.  But in Christ we have power to destroy those strongholds. When we break from the death camps, we must send our soldiers to invade those strongholds, and destroy them. We can do this by the power of Christ in us.

Where did all these strongholds come from?  How did they gain such power over us?  It's because we've been born and raised up in a broken system, a sociological system of great confusion and deception. We were each born into a fallen society. We were born into bondage to sin. 

We were raised up to think science and technology had all the answers. We stared at the television screens growing up. And we did whatever the television told us to do. We were influenced by books, by media, and by the people around us, sometimes toward good, sometimes toward evil.  

Even today, we stare at the television screen as it pours sin into our hearts and souls. We stare at the screens, all around us, and we have to break free. We have to break free from the shackles we were born into. 

Our ancestors, the founders of this nation knew that Jesus Christ was the foundation of all of life. They built this country on the motto “In God We Trust.” They weren't perfect, not at all, but when they founded this nation they tried to do it the right way, by enumerating rights and liberties for mankind in an age when rights were only for royalty.  Over time we've tried to correct the errors they made, in regard to all races being equal, and women being equal with men, among other concerns.  But sadly our society has left behind faith in God, in large part.

Now our society has rebelled against God, and rejected God, and children are taught in schools today that there is no god, and science is god, and the government is god. People today believe the government must solve every problem. People today believe science explains everything. People today stare at the television, the ipad, the iphone screen, and the computer screen, and believe whatever they’re told by the media, and the academic institutions. This is a fallen society, that has turned away from God, and embraced lies.

They’ve forgotten the book of the law, the Bible, that made this entire republic possible. And I have absolutely no stomach for people who attack and mock the founding of this country. We know it wasn't perfect, not even close.  We know there was oppression back then.  

But it’s ironic how millennials today mock the founding of America. They call it racist, sexist, and evil white men who slaughtered natives. Some of those things may be true. But should we emphasize the positive or the negative? When we talk about King David, do we say he was a sexist murderer? (2 Samuel 11)  No, we focus on all the good he did. And rightly so. Many like to focus on the flaws, but there is also so much good that was done at the founding of this nation, that we should focus on as well.  

But it comes from a sense of entitlement. They don’t realize they live in a society so wealthy and so free that no other generation in history could even imagine what we take for granted every day. People who travel the world, and see the tyranny in countries like China and India, where there is so much poverty, and those who travel Europe, where there is so little liberty or freedom, will often come back and say, thank God for the USA.

But we see this nation beginning to fall apart, as the people turn toward immorality, toward the lies of the sexual revolution, as people turn toward drug addiction and alcoholism, and as human trafficking, abortion, gender redefinition, and homosexuality spreads across our land, we see how far our nation has fallen from God.

The enemy, Satan, knew how to attack us. He targeted men. He targeted and destroyed men in our society, supplanting their authority, and cutting them to the core with many sorrows, sins, and addictions. And here we are. We’re meant to be men of honor, but we’ve become men of shame and sin. But there is still hope. We can still be what America needs us to be: Men of honor. So as you march forward, day by day, to fight and win your battle, with yourself, the world, and the evil one, I call you to put on the full armor of God.

“So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God's people.” –Ephesians 6:14-18 GNT

There is still a holy resistance movement out there, a small remnant who still call Jesus Christ savior and love His holy word. And we’re fighting every day to call people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you join the impossible revolution?

It’s a lot like King Josiah. Josiah’s father King Amon was an evil leader over Israel, and Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh was also a wicked leader, though he repented later in life. Israel was a nation founded by God. Yet they had fallen so far from God that they didn’t even know who God was! Josiah became king at a very young age. And during his reign he told Hilkiah the high priest to order the temple of the Lord to be rebuilt. So Hilkiah goes to the ruins of the temple of God. And he finds a book laying on the floor, probably in a pile of rubble, and he’s curious. So Hilkiah gives it to the secretary Shaphan. And Shaphan goes to Josiah and says “Hilkiah found a book.” And Josiah is probably thinking: “I wonder what it says?” As it was read to him, King Josiah realized it was the Bible of his time, the book of the law, and he tore his clothes in sorrow and repentance.

Josiah realized God was real, and His word was real. He discovered a truth lost in the history of his nation, covered up by the rubble of sin, the lies of world, and the false values of his society. He had discovered the precious truth, in a world of lies. And Josiah took action. He went to work. He called the nation of Israel to national repentance. He had the book of the law read to the people. He went to work to transform his nation, and lead his nation back to God.

So here you are today, in the temple of God, and just like King Josiah, you’ve found the book of the truth, in the wreckage of the sin of America. I found that book too, when my grandpa handed it to me 7 years ago.

Your standing here in the wreckage of your life, in the temple of God. It’s ruined, smashed to pieces. But there is a light shining through the stained glass windows toward a book on the floor. And if you’ll bend down, pick up the book of the law, and apply it to your life, everything will change.

You can no longer say that you didn’t know. You can no longer say that all you knew was the world. You’ve found that Jesus Christ is real. You’ve found that He will break your chains of addiction and set you free. You’ve found the Bible, the truth about this troubled little planet. Now what will you do? Will you run back to the dope pipe, to the booze and pills? Will you run back like a dog returning to its vomit? Or will you be courageous, rally your forces, and rise up to holy warfare and rebuild your life in the power of Christ?

Just like the founding fathers, the people of the colonies during the American revolution, they were going up against the greatest power in the world. They were fighting a seemingly hopeless cause. But they rallied, and cried out to God. The battles seemed bleak at first. They were defeated at New York, and defeated in a string of battles. Washington’s continental army was struck with disease, and thousands died. At the end of 1776 it seemed like the war was pretty much over. They’d lost. But then on December 25th, General Washington led the beleaguered troops across the Delaware river in a desperate surprise attack, and the battle was won. This marked a turning point in the war, and slowly the tide turned.

Today is your turning point. Today is when you can decide in your mind that you’re really going to do it this time. You’re really going to give your life to God, you’re really going to live for Jesus. You’re really going to turn away from sin. You’re really going to work the steps 1 through 12. You’re really going to attend Bible studies, go to AA and NA meetings, you’re really going to join a church when you get out. You’re really going to make amends with your family and friends. The time is now brothers. It’s time to make war against addiction. It’s time to make war against yourself. Greater is he who can conquer himself, than he who can conquer a city.

Fight like the founders. Dedicate yourself to change like King Josiah. Consecrate yourself to God. Fight tooth and nail, fight through all those memories, emotions, and all that pain. The time to fight back is now. I believe you can. I believe you will. You’re going to make war against the darkness, and you’re going to win.’

In conclusion, victory is certain in Christ. Revelation 12:7-11 ESV says: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” 

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Social Justice and Critical Theory: Biblical Justice in an Age of Ideological Civil War

There is an ideological civil war taking place in the United States, and in western civilization overall.  This is a battle that displays itself along political lines, social lines, academic lines, and along religious lines.  This ideological civil war is most pronounced in the partisan political battles between left and right, though it also displays itself in other ways.  Specifically, the battle for the soul of the church is a front in this battle, among many other fronts like media, academia, culture, and the sciences.  

In the church we see the same divide developing across the normal lines, left vs right.  We see both sides attempting to push their political views in the church, and this is causing a polarization. What happens in the culture we see mimic itself in the churches.  We see struggles in denominations between high and low views of scriptures, between biblical marriage and gay marriage, between social justice warrior progressives vs. traditional justice causes. We see people in the church wanting to step behind and advocate for President Trump, and we see people in the church trying to turn their movement into hashtag #resistance movement.

In the various movements of the churches in western civilization, I've seen a growing divide along fairly partisan lines.  There is a growing polarization, and it shows itself on social media, and in decisions by the leadership of various movements.  We see traditional evangelical theology and liberal theology vying for dominance. We see homosexuality and LGBT ideology attempting to supplant traditional marriage and biblical teachings on gender.

The church has re-embraced one of it's founding concepts of justice advocacy; but it's a new ideology, that they call "social justice."  And this social justice has increasingly become a means by which progressive ideology is beginning to infect the church.  

Only the progressive causes seem to be allowed full vent in this new social justice warrior ideology.  It centers around issues like human trafficking, gender inequality, white privilege, institutional racism, illegal immigration advocacy, LGBT advocacy, refugee advocacy, wealth inequality issues, advocating for victim groups, and pushing for multiculturalism (instead of the melting pot concept).  

Traditionally justice causes had included topics like biblical marriage support, pro-life advocacy, fighting homelessness, fighting hunger, supporting the family unit, human trafficking, educating children, fighting poverty, and dealing with other evils of the times.  

The new social justice warrior causes are not grounded in traditional Christian beliefs, but actually come out of the secular university system, and tend to be rooted in thinkers like Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, and Max Horkheimer.  We should be very, very careful as a Christian movement when embracing so freely ideologies like critical theory, group identity, and identity politics.  

Let's identify some terms.  Critical theory is the idea that people are enslaved in various forms by society and that the chief end is to set people free from oppressive societal structures.  Should we even accept such a premise about society overall?  It's debatable I suppose, but I don't tend to believe society works that way.  Our society for example is a democratic republic.  I don't see it as an oppressive power structure of racism and bigotry.  Neither should you, because it's not.  The United States is a meritocracy, we rise and fall based on our merits and how hard we work, not based on oppressive structures.

Critical theory is rooted in Karl Marx's ideology of power structures, that power is controlled by a select few, and only by enforcing total equality can people be free.  Marx thought the structures of society must be criticized (critical theory) attacked and torn down to destroy the elite ruling class (the bourgeoisie). 

Group identity is part of critical theory in some ways, and it's about dividing people up into victim groups.  Victim groups are apparently supposed to be people who are victimized by the oppressive power structures of society and need to be liberated.  Thus we are told we have to advocate for victim groups, like blacks, the LGBT community, the Latino community, and so on and so forth.  The problem is people are not and should not be identified by groups.  People are not groups, people are individuals with unique individual identities.  Society is not about victim groups vying for power from an oppressive societal structure. Society is about individuals, who organize in community. Society's base unit is not groups, but the family unit, and more so, the individual.  

We should completely reject these false premises coming out of the humanities and social sciences departments at secular universities.

Last term, identity politics is the process by which political movements attempt to gain power by pandering to victim groups.  This usually means that anyone who disagrees with the politics of the movement in question is labeled and slandered as a racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, so and so.  This also means that anyone who departs from the group think of a victim group, like blacks for example, is slandered and ostracized. You'll often see black individuals who leave the group think, like Dr. Ben Carson, or Thomas Sowell, or Larry Elder slandered as "uncle toms" (a racial slur) for having differing political views.  

How have these social justice warrior faux causes invaded various church movements?  If politics is downstream from culture, sadly the church is downstream from culture as well.  The secular university system pushes ideologies like Marxism, feminism, secular humanism, white privilege, group think, and so on, and then those ideologies gradually invade the church and become part of the churches identity.  

Increasingly we see in the church, liberal and conservative on one side, with a rabid progressive ideology on the other side.  Liberal and conservative are very similar in many ways, foundationally so because they both embrace the basic principles of the American founding. Both liberals and conservatives share common values like personal liberty, equality of opportunity, democratic republicanism as a system of government, natural law, and the sanctity of life.  

Unfortunately the progressive ideology does not share these viewpoints.  The progressive viewpoint tends to see the American founding from a critical theory perspective.  Critical theory says that the systems in place are in place because they are evil and stole power from the masses.  So the American founding is attacked and slandered.  The American founding is re-packaged as evil slave-holding white men killing native americans and forming an evil oppressive religious theocracy that must be toppled and rebuilt from the ground up.  Essentially progressivism is an utopian ideology.  The idea is that if only the progressives can gain power and over-throw the existing structures, only then will people be free and utopia will finally come about.

We in the churches of western civilization, we who follow Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible should reject these false ideologies, and we should challenge false concepts like multiculturalism, white privilege, institutional racism, supposed gender inequality, open borders immigration policy, the language of advocating for victim groups, and so on and so forth.  These ideologies are not rooted in Christianity.  They are rooted in secular social theory.  We should resist them at every level of our organizations and church movements.  

Much of the time it's really political, and based on partisan battles.  Though just as often, it's simply what people have been taught.  Other times, people in our movements are pushing them out of a misguided desire for justice.  This desire is good, but basing it in these secular social theories does little to alleviate societal injustice.  Let's look at these social justice warrior causes one by one and see what they are really about.  

Multiculturalism - Multiculturalism is essentially the opposite of the melting pot.  The melting pot is the idea that various cultures and peoples come to America for a new life, and they assimilate in various ways to American culture, while also enriching American culture with their own unique cultures.  Multiculturalism is the idea of cultures remaining separate and unique.  We see this play out in major cities where various cultures are divided into different parts of the city.  Multiculturalism says you should not learn the native language, but speak your own language.  Multiculturalism says you should reject any level of assimilation.  This is not good my friends.  And in the Christian worldview, we come from various cultures and societies, but we make up a unity, as the body of Christ.  We are all parts of the same body, we're not broken up into groups and separated.  

White privilege - White privilege is the idea that evil, racist white people stole all the power from the various victim groups we've talked about.  And white privilege is this idea that you need to feel guilty for being white, and you need to give away your power, and you need to "check your privilege" and apologize to victim groups for hurting them.  This ideology says that all cultures are equal, aside from "white culture" which is evil (a misnomer because European Caucasian cultures are very diverse).  So all cultures are equal, except "white culture" which is always bad and fallen. 

Your individual conduct doesn't seem to matter here, you are required to take ownership of slavery, of racism, and of all the supposed evils of mean white people, even if you've never personally done those things.  Even if your ancestors immigrated (legally) from Poland in the early 1900s, like mine, you still are suppose to take ownership of racism and slavery and apologize for how awful you are.  It's ridiculous, and once again based in critical theory, the idea of tearing down existing institutions and advocating for "victim groups."  

Institutional racism - This is the idea that entire institutions are racist and evil.  They would suggest that some police departments overall are racist.  They would argue societal norms are rooted in racism.  And essentially, just suggest that just about everything in some way or another is rooted in racism.  It's bizarre. 

Racism certainly does still exist in our society.  But it exists on an individual basis, not as part of oppressive societal structures. We should fight racism and put an end to it forever. But not based on institutions. That's not where it exists. Racism exists on an individual level.  Identify an individual racist based on their personal conduct, and deal with them personally, but don't condemn entire entities for the actions of single individuals.  

And never forget that a generation of these "evil white men" laid down their lives by the hundreds of thousands (620,000 in the Union) in the civil war to end slavery in the USA.  We seem to like to ignore that historical fact, but we shouldn't.  Too many bled and died for it.  

Illegal immigration - Why open borders should be a cause for the church to champion I will never know.  Countries have laws.  All countries have borders, and laws to cross those borders.  There isn't anything wrong with that.  So I've never understood this issue entirely.  But I think it probably has something to do with the ideology of utopianism, that the way forward is for the entire world to unite, without borders, and that somehow this produces utopia.

Of course it doesn't, and it's caused huge problems across Europe.  But in the United States immigration is seen as a racial issue, just like everything else in identity politics.  The victim group is Mexican families seeking new lives in America. And anyone who opposes open borders is then branded as racist, xenophobic, and hateful.  But with politics, you have to look beneath the surface.

And the beneath the surface is this reality: The progressives are, through open borders, transforming the voting blocks along the border states and indeed throughout the whole country.  Of course this fact would be branded as racist and hateful, but it remains a reality.  That is the truth, that and Wallstreet's power brokers want cheap labor.  Sadly, those are the real political motivations behind open borders.  It's ugly, and grim.  But there it is.  

In any case, wouldn't it be wiser to help the people of Mexico thrive and flourish in the country of Mexico?  Why should the best and brightest keep fleeing Mexico to break into the United States?  I dream of churches helping Mexicans to transform their own society, and build a brighter future there.  

Refugee advocacy - There is no problem with advocating for helping refugees, as long as those refugees are adequately vetted.  It always comes down to the struggle between compassion and truth in the church.  Those on the left want all compassion, those on the right want truth.  So we have to find a balance.  

Gender inequality - Just so you aware, the "gender pay gap" is a myth.  And the study that suggested the gender pay gap has been debunked, because it didn't take into account the fact that women typically prefer jobs that don't pay as well in certain cases. Of course that's not always the case.  But here is an article to back that up.  Once you factor in differences of lifestyle choices and preferences for certain jobs, the supposed pay gap disappears.  Interesting isn't it?  

Wealth Inequality - The concept here is that wealth inequality exists because the mean rich people are oppressing the poor.  I'm sure there are some cases where that is true.  But it's not a rule for society overall itself.  In a capitalist society, like the United States, one rises and falls economically based on various factors like education, marriage, children, and just how determined you are to work hard and do your best.  It's actually amazing how much people can rise and fall economically in the United States.  For that reason and many others, I don't understand why the church should be out there pushing Marxist ideas of wealth inequality.  If someone wants to be wealthier, they need to work hard, get married, stay married, don't have children until after they're married, maybe go to college, and never give up.  And it's also wise to not play the victim!  

In conclusion, instead of pushing secular social theory in our church movements, we should look to the Bible, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to understand what justice is and is not.  

We as Christians need to be very careful. Many, sadly, don't really love the word of God. They don't really love Jesus, in fact. They love their ideology, and they push it in our church movements. And if we don't stop them, they'll convert us from Christians to secular social justice warriors. Sadly, the end goal for some, not all, but some of those who push the social justice warrior mentality in our church movements, is for the gay pride flag to wave over our churches.  For some, the ultimate goal is to transform the church into a progressive movement, in other words, apostasy. 

We should advocate for those who struggle and suffer. We should stand up for traditional marriage, pro-life causes, ending human trafficking, caring for refugees, advocating for religious liberty, and we should carry the gospel to the lost all over the world.  But we should reject secular social theories based on critical theory and Marxism, and instead look for our causes in the pages of the Bible.  

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