Saturday, September 14, 2013

Recovering Consumer & Self Righteous Intellectual

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

We are all born with and continue on in our lives with eternity planted on our souls.  We all know inwardly that we are created by a God.  Naturally we are lead to believe otherwise in very,very powerful ways.  Every emotion and impulse, every thought is directed in the opposite direction by the world.  The indoctrination by society is powerful and relentless, add to that, that we do not tend to look at it from that kind of angle.  Taboos are created in all directions to discourage and "snap shut" the mind from even the mere possibility of a God.  

We are raised up to be self sufficient.  We are raised on evolution.  We are raised on believing only what we can tangibly see.  We are raised to consume.  We are raised to fulfill our wants and desires.  We are told to make a life for ourselves.  We are bombarded, daily, with advertisements for every product and service imaginable.  Think I'm wrong?  How many name brands or companies can you name off the top of your head?  I could make a list very long.. lets see, Mcdonalds, burger king, snickers, microsoft, best buy, kraft, febreze, target, goodwill, walgreens, ibm, family video, toys r us, beanie babies, mobile, exxon, wal mart, green bay packers, etc.  I'm sure all, not just some, but every single one of us reading this could name many, many, many more.  Now, name the twelve apostles.  ... See what I mean?  

So we've got a world very much in our faces constantly, blasting us on all sides.  And we have constant desires, pulling us in all directions.  Sometimes less than helpful parents.  Television screens, phone screens, and computer screens to mesmorize us more than we might imagine, into a state of blank thoughtless gazing.  I'm not trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, I'm just saying there is an incredible amount of stimuli in the world pushing us in negative directions.

Compounding this already powerfully difficult situation, the few of us legitimately exposed to religion, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, probably had a negative experience with it.  If you didn't, awesome, good for you, I'd love to hear about your church, because I was not exposed to a true Christian message.  I was exposed to a Catholic message.  Now I'm not saying all Catholics are bad, or that Catholic churches as a whole are bad, I'm saying mine, and many others experience with it is not positive. 

This is what I encountered being raised at my particular Catholic church:  I was faced with constant criticism.  I was scared of God, because we kept having to ask him to have mercy on us.  He seemed like a big scary bearded man in the clouds.  The sermons seemed old, and out of date, and I took little to nothing away from the sermons that was at all applicable to modern life.  If that wasn't enough, the sermons also lacked practical application of any kind.  "Be holy!" Well, how do I be holy?  What's the practical application?  So I assumed, because I wasn't being holy, that I just couldn't be holy.  I wasn't told there were methods and practical ways to develop a lifestyle of connection to God.  On top of that, masses were very boring, old out of tune organ, robes, candles, lots of things I didn't understand.  

So that became my conception of religion, an old, out of date, one hour a week ceremonial ritual that seemed to have little relevance to my life in a fast paced technologically advanced society.  And that was that, I didn't know there was any other way.  So naturally I left frustrated.  Thought details may be different in many of our cases, haven't many of us experiences such issues with "organized religion"?

If the scientific indoctrination, wild consumer society, constant impulse stimuli, and under-relevant hypocritical modern Catholic church weren't enough to push me in the opposite direction from God, I didn't WANT there to be a God.  Then I would have to be accountable for my actions.  Bummer!  Add to that, the media playing Christianity as backwards in the spotlight, not to mention the media promoting sin celebration (chasing money, chasing jobs, chasing styles, chasing sex, chasing drugs, etc) and diverting my attention elsewhere.

So theres the one end of the spectrum.  It's no wonder, even when people are placed with compelling experiential and physical evidence of the existence of a God, and a savior, that they simply refuse to believe anyway.

On the opposite end, well, after all of that I still had eternity placed on my soul.  And it wasn't going anywhere.  That's where that insatiable curiosity comes from, to understand what life is, why life is, and how life is.  After all that stuff, I still was curious about the possibility of an all loving God.  The trouble with that eternity on the soul is that it requires filling.  Satisfying my desires day by day, for alcohol, for escape, for fun, for adventure, for studying, for learning, for friendships, for relationships, none of it provided a fill.  As soon as I dumped it into the eternity spot on my soul, it was empty again the next day.  

That's how and why we hear about the old cliche, a young man gets married, has kids, buys a house, nice car, picket fence, power lawnmower, and one day sitting in his arm chair a middle age man, realizes he has all of this but isn't happy.  Vala, middle life crisis.  

1 Timothy 6:9 (GWT) But people who want to get rich keep falling into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires which drown them in destruction and ruin.

Sadly that wasn't enough for me to take a hard look at the God question.  It was enough for me to invent my own God-less spirituality however.  Then I still wasn't accountable to anyone, but I could fantasize and make up my own spiritual world with telepathy, speaking to the dead, spirit guides, and all kinds of nonsense I read in bogus esoteric books.  Naturally, that didn't lead anywhere.  It wasn't real, it was a vague sort of spiritual conception that lended itself no concrete results as far as inner growth or solid lasting change.

With that plant of eternity on my soul, I had another desire: to save the world.  I wanted to help people.  I wanted to see the world restored to right and just law and liberty.  I wanted to be the chivalrous knight, the honorable mysterious warrior, the Jedi knight standing against evil and darkness.  I've always wondered if that's everyones experience or just mine.

Naturally as I've explained before, that wasn't enough for me either, and it took my life becoming a complete mess, and then a complete and utter disaster of wreckage and pain and misery before I truly called out to Jesus for help.

Romans 10:13 (LV) Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.    

I was constantly trying to intellectualize the world around me.  And let me tell you, that is very fun, and it certainly leads to some useful information.  But it didn't lead to a new me that wasn't a screw up.  It didn't lead to the rebirth Jesus told Nicodemus about.  It lead to an arrogant pothead thinking he knew something about the world around him.  Naturally I learned great ideas from Emerson, Thoreau, studied Libertarians political ideas, learned about computers, nature, the weather, and studied writings of Hunter S Thompson, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Madeleine D'Engle, and H.G. Wells to learn my craft of writing, but did I really apply any of it to myself?  Was I really out there making a difference in the world?  Or was I sitting in basements and run-down houses with self-righteous hipsters getting stoned?  Being a Christian I don't really like South Park, but I appreciate the episode when the boys hang out with hippies, talking about stopping the corporations, but every time the boys try to get them to actually take legitimate action, the hippies just sit and keep getting stoned, or at best, throw a festival.  Really at the core of all that drug talk and mindless philosophizing is an attempt to fight the ever-more-present realization that while I claim to care so much for the world and want to see justice done for all, I am, in fact, sitting in a basement hitting a glass pipe everyday as the world goes on around me.  At the heart, utter selfishness so blatant the only way to push it off is to talk about the troubles of the world, very easily blocking out the recollection of my own serious problems and their possible solutions, that might require a bit of ACTION AND SELF DISCIPLINE.  That was too hard.  I wanted to get stoned and complain angrily about issues outside my immediate influence.  So I did.

Colossians 2:8-13 (MSG) Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. 9 Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. 10 When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. 11 Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It's not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you're already in - insiders - not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.  (underline and italics added for emphasis)

What I learned from all my intellectualizing was this.. there are so many roads on that path, a billion roads, leading a billion directions, all most intriguing, all quite provoking, but I had missed the reality of it because I could not see it, in my own pride and ego: the greatest challenge is a humble truth hidden from us all in taboos, organized crimes, and assumptions I thought were my own but indeed were taught into me without my knowledge, the hidden truth was that I could not understand the one who created all things, and once my pride was all but washed away, my eyes could see that my trust had to be placed without knowing, and if I took that leap into the dark, despite my pride, I found myself on a path I couldn't have imagined, a true path, made possible by Jesus Christ. Consider this.

Matthew 7:7 (NLT) "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you."
And why do so many never receive a connection to God?  Not because he isn't real, but because the process is too hard.  It's too hard to try believing and take a leap of trust.  They don't really care about checking into it, anyway.  And when all of the skepticism is washed away, and they're presented with the raw possibility of a one true God, they simply decline the invitation to that road.  This is an invitation I believe God presents to every single person born from the beginning of time, until the end of it.  He presents the invitation as a raw possibility, worth exploring.  At that moment the individual sees that road, and there is no doubt, that it is at least possible (more will be revealed).  And that person, if they choose to decline that sincere invitation, have no room, no room whatsoever, to claim an unbiased position ever again.  They have made their bias all too clear, by refusing to take a simple walk down the road of possibility.  

Romans 10:16-17 But not everyone who hears the Good News has welcomed it, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed me when I told them?”[b] 17 Yet faith comes from listening to this Good News—the Good News about Christ.
Now, let me insert a disclaimer here (I swear half the time I spend writing about Christianity ends up being disclaimers for things that might "upset" people).  In fact I just thought about adding a disclaimer for the disclaimer, because I don't want to seem rude by putting "upset" in quotations, that might infer sarcasm, let me say now, I'm very sensitive to the difficulty people have with religion and God.  

I'm digressing, the point is, I'm not saying this raw possibility theory is an absolute.  God can offer the possibility several times, a million times, or he can just knock you off a horse and say "Hi I'm Jesus, get with the program." 

So we've got the external forces that draw us away from God nailed down, right there, all consuming, and it is so very very easy to lose ourselves in any one of those things, whether it's alcoholism, television, fashion, even hobbies like boating, fishing, hunting, or eating or gossiping, or talking endlessly about local politics or over-working.  I'm not saying those are bad things as part of a Christian life, but when we fall into them as the center of our life, then we've got a problem.     We've nailed down the fact that seeking a connection to an all loving God is a hard path even to want to choose, much less walk down earnestly. Really a possible and fairly probable conclusion that could be drawn from this is that when humans aren't raised in fair and true Christianity, which in it's true form is an experience of connection, joy, love, peace, and liberty from compulsion and obsession, that it is hard to be open to the idea later in life.  And at this moment, church attendance is at the lowest it's ever been in the United States, 18%.  The results of this decline, whether directly or indirectly, is poor leadership in government, death of morality in the public mind, economic decline, drug use on the rise, and a corresponding increase in everyday misery.  

1 Peter 5:9 (MSG) Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.

Now more than ever in the history of our country, is the time to take on a true evangelical attitude.  Sharing the message, which is harder than it's ever been, because we are often cast out and looked at as "weird bible thumpers" or just "intolerant crackpots."  I'm asking you to take that stand.  Bring the message of evangelism to your churches, if you're reading this message now.  We've got to live out a truly loving attitude, in that way non-Christians cannot ignore us and write us off.  Love, true compassion, and all encompassing forgiveness have a way of shocking people out of disinterest and apathy.  Be that message first, daily, and then share the message, daily, lovingly.  That's my request, and I don't make them often.

Matthew 28:16-20 (MSG) 16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. 
18-20 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

And my message to atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, and those who are uninterested, yet somehow ended up reading here, is this: There is a God.  I know, I was surprised too.  And if you were raised on a religion that condemned you, pushed you away, or seemed old and irrelevant, let me tell you now, that isn't Christianity!  Isn't, isn't, isn't.  Christianity is not about keeping the ten commandments, period.  That is not the message at all. 

 Galatians 3:11 (MSG) says "The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: "The person who believes God, is set right by God - and that's the real life."  

This was written less than 100 years after the resurrection of Christ, and somehow the Catholics missed it, evidenced by the ten commandments written in stone above their churches, instead of Jesus command to love God and love others.  

I'm telling you the truth here and now.  There are churches out there where the true message is preached, though they are far between.  At my church is a practical message.  We talk about events in the world and in the local area, and see how they apply to our faith.  There is great encouragement and always something I can take home and apply to my life and growth.  The message is love, forgiveness, salvation, and utter truth.  That is the message.  And such a message is incredibly wonderful to be a part of.  After being alone in the world for so long I was shocked by the loving environment around me.  In fact I was so dead inside, I thought they wanted something from me, they were being so kind.  I realized they wanted something for me, love, happiness, and peace.  I saw my life change in a powerful way, a way I didn't think was possible, by calling out to Jesus Christ for help in my troubles.  Call out to him if you're troubled.  Earnestly call out to him.  The worst that could happen is that you're talking to yourself, the best, you could see the truth, be changed utterly by the truth, and become part of a beautiful family under a loving and forgiving God, that gives great peace amidst this storm of life.  Try it.  Please, try it.  This is the moment, seize it.

Hebrews 11:1 (MSG) The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see.