Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can you still wonder?

 Picture from the International Space Station over Great Britain, also catching a view of the Northern Lights on the horizon.

What about wonder?  We can talk truth and philosophy all we want, but wonder is the backdrop that draws us.  It binds us into the search.  Don't you think?  I am not primarily a logician, but I love logic.  I'm not primarily a rationalist, but I love rational.  

I'm primarily an intuitive.  I subconsciously reel in toward the conscious clues of time, space, reality, nature, society, people, all into a cohesive band of thoughts and perceptions, systematizing into my prefrontal cortex, as a worldview.  Is that you?  

Modern Christianity has been described as dogmatic.  Fair enough.  Perhaps it has become that.  R.C. Sproul wrote a book on the importance of the arts to Christianity, which suggests to me that perhaps we have abandoned the arts?  Listen to some Christian rock and you'll be in full agreement with me on that one.  Blah! 

In addition, Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled "Recapture the Wonder."  To recapture something must mean, in the general sense of a movement, that it has somehow been lost. 

I can see why.  The theological bullies out there are pretty intense.  The orthodoxy.  The fear in my mind as I write sometimes, wondering if I might get pinned as a heretic if I don't phrase something in just the correct theological way.  It damages the ability of the believer to creatively and wondrously interpret the scriptures.  

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to put together a systematic theology that isn't at least somewhat contradictory or very often it doesn't seem quite, quite right?  Do you know why?  

I think I know why.  Point one, maybe it was never meant to be systematized.  Point two, the startling coalescence of contrarieties, the mystery of the wide, deep depths and finely tuned breadths of the message of the Bible, the cross, the gospels, is so powerful, so mysterious, so groundbreaking, so variable, so multifaceted, and multidimensional; and so truly the revelation of the divine architect of the universe that it cannot be understood fully on a purely rational systematic level.  It must be invibed on an intuitive level.  That takes wonder, and imagination.

So here are two videos that may just capture some of the wonder of the world we live in.  Enjoy.   

(Click play on the video, and then in the lower right corner you can make the video full screen if you'd like)

1. The North Lights

2. Fly on wings like Eagles

3. Time Lapses of Natural World

4. Formation of a Snowflake

5. Time Lapse of our Home from Orbit at International Space Station

Related Posts:
A Vital Spiritual Experience 
Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain 
Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth 
The Heavens Declare // Photos from Hubble 
The Cross of Christ Jesus & Reflecting the Savior

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ten Years in the Desert, Two Years in the Wilderness

In five days I'll be celebrating two years clean and sober, in the care of Jesus Christ.  It's been an amazing and challenging ride thus far.  I'm sure it'll be constantly changing, as it has been since day 1 of hope.

There are so many memories over my life.  Yet they fade, slowly, until I can hardly remember any of my life.  I live in the present.  Yet I tend to project myself into the future.  Is that you as well?  I tend to imagine and write about who I'd like to be, and without even realizing it, I tend to project my ideal self into the future and see it come to fruition.  I live by my core values, and try to see them translated into the physical world around me to my satisfaction.  That is the core of being a dreamer-idealist (INFP).

I remember a book my mother read me as a child.  It was called "Owl Moon."  It was the story of a father and son traveling out into a winter night, into the woods, to spot owls.  The Owl Moon story captured my curiosity in describing emotion through writing.  It captured my imagination.  Later I began writing, putting together novels and studying the classics. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and I was dreaming of chasing an owl into a dark forest.  I was searching for a meadow of golden sunlight.  The peace I felt there in the dream was the most real sensation of my life.  I've always had the clearest dreams.  Often I'd write about the dreams I had.  This time I wrote an entire book about that journey, into a beautiful, dangerous forest.  I called it Jacob and the Meadow.  Perhaps the forest in that dream was drug addiction.  Or simply a description of my own inward spiritual journey.  Or maybe something else.  It's hard to say.

Naturalists think all reality can be described in purely physical terms.  But that is not what I've seen.  That is not what corresponds with reality.  Instead I see a world rich with symbolism.  We live in a world filled with allegory, metaphor, and foreshadowing.   

So it's been nearly two years.  It's also been a constant struggle.  But no one said it would be easy, least of all, Jesus himself.  Jesus said count the cost.  Because it ain't easy.  But wow, is it worth it.

Transformation!  Power!  Intense, gritty, real struggle!  Moments sublime with intervals hilarious.  Can we make it?  I believe we can.  I can, with some divine charity.  Perhaps the first story has ended, of Jacob and his search for the Meadow.  If so, has the second story now begun?  I wrote three books in those delusion-filled, sleepy times of my life.  I was lost on the road, asking questions like "Where do I go from here?" and "What is the meaning of all this?"

The second story began in a floating city in the clouds.  Certainly indicative of the mind caught up in the altered states of dissociative hypnotics.  The first chapter climaxed with the main character leaping from the city in the clouds and breaking his shoulder landing on a broken wasteland below.  Below an angel appeared and healed his shoulder.  The barren wasteland below, was, as Morpheus from the Matrix movies might put it "the desert of the real."  Inevitably when the drug addict comes clean of the drugs, he must face the reality of what has happened to his own life and his own self.  Entire sections of the mind have been ignored.  Others have grown out of control.  Chemicals are off balance, and the outworking is a terrible sight to behold.

The second story really cataloged the story of an estranged man from a different place discovering a tattered, broken land full of chaos and trouble.  The land itself with a sickness upon it, the various settlements and cities broken and corrupted, divided and leaderless.  Add to that, also facing an inevitable onslaught from the powers behind the floating city, a kingdom called "Rem."  

It was really a double allegory similar to Tolkien's middle earth books.  The city in the clouds and the broken land below represented the shattered mind of a drug addict, my own, and the journey to escape that.  Yet it also represented an external situation I was beginning to perceive in the world around me, a powerful elite across the Earth keeping populations in a dumbed down state of servitude, whether directly or indirectly.  Yet in a third sort of "inverse allegory" the main character was in the city in the clouds dreaming about the real world below.  That is another reference to drug addiction, in that once a drug addict is securely placed within the world of delusion and lie (the tripping, high state), the previous life of sobriety and normalcy becomes the far away dream world that doesn't seem real any longer.  And once far enough within, hard to even remember.

The second story chronicles the journey of David aka Jacob (in each of the three stories the same character receives a new name) as he stumbles about from city to city, encountering people and places he half remembers from his dreams.  The main character works to improve the settlements, instill hope in them, and help them to unite together.  Ironically this is similar to the journey of one lost in drugs and delusion, to put together his life again.  

In the past two years I've slowly rediscovered who I am, traveling from area to area of my own interests and goals, beliefs and ideals, gathering them together to recreate who I am.  The toll of drug addiction and alcoholism is unspeakably terrible.  One might wish for pity sake that you just let the poor addict have a quick death from the start.  

Because the addict loses everything, slowly, painstakingly, himself divided, part of him wanting to stop and try to recover, but the greater majority insisting on more drug, more drug, more drug.  It's like slowly losing a war.  Piece by piece your outer life is destroyed.  Car gone, on probation, off probation, in jail, new charges, lost job, family starts slowly backing away, one by one friends disappear, 1, then another, two more, and soon all.  People start to hate you for your behavior.  Especially when they loved you deeply.  Piece by piece, life itself slips away.  

One by one, I saw myself violate my own deepest held convictions.  I saw my own strength fail time and again.  I would be able to quit for a month, relapse.  I would quit for another week, relapse.  I would get into recovery for 4 months, relapse.  Then even a full year, relapse.  Probably the worst part was wanting to quit, but at the same time not wanting to quit.  Or put another way, wanting to quit but not quite enough to convince myself to take an action or make a change.  And knowing, painstakingly knowing that there was no way out.  Expecting and even looking forward to death.  Then when death wouldn't come through the addiction, attempting suicide through more direct means.  And failing.  Ending up in a mental hospital.  Watching your own dad testify against your ability to take care of yourself in a court room.  Being raped by a drug addict.  The insults and injuries never ended.  The icing on the cake of course, is the look in the eyes of counselors, nurses, doctors, family, and friends.  The look that says "you're bad, you're evil.  just stop already."  I remember a nice Catholic lady once said "damn you" as I pleaded for mercy from a grocery store owner who had caught me shoplifting.  

But occasionally there were people like Father Marion, displaying the love of Christ.  You could search his eyes and there was not even a hint of judgment.  Just love.  And they reminded you, pointed you directly to Jesus Christ himself.  

I had tried so many times on my own power and my own strength.  I had failed.  I had wanted to show God I didn't need him.  But the truth is, I need God.  Just as much today two years later as the first day of my new life.  When I finally called out to Jesus Christ, in earnest, brutally crying out for help, at the bottom, he suddenly made the impossible possible.  

At the outset of the 3rd story, the main character was given a new name, Joshua, and the angel who was protecting him and guiding him through the wastelands gave him a suit of armor, shield, and sword.  Much like a Christian receives the imputed righteousness of Christ at his moment of believing.  So the third book began the story of a redeemed young man, with united armies to take on the evil he saw around him. (Side note: If you want to read any of those three stories click here, but I can't vouch for how coherent that reading experience will be.)

And so in my own life, in the past two years I've seen myself grow and change, from a broken, lost, hopeless young man, to a soldier of Christ, encouraging a world to love Christ with a radical love and defend the truth that we can so admire in the books of the Bible.  That is the literal, substantive transformational power of Jesus Christ, who is really, truly, God. 

Related Posts:
Mental Illness, Awareness, and Jesus

Spiritual Journey | Dreams, Darkness, False Light 
The Topic of Liberty from a Libertarian
God's work in the Human Heart
Hope for the Hopeless 
The Spiritual Journey of Justin Steckbauer
Pain/Suffering in the Christian Life
Momentary Troubles & Eternal Glory
Reading G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis
Rescue in the Labyrinth, Darkest Hour

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider

Apologetics are wonderful!  Here are some quick facts with intriguing quotes from great minds across the ages.  Feel free to share and use this "expert testimony" to any and all uses.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics

Have you ever been puzzled by the objections raised by skeptics in regard to Christianity?  Or maybe you are one of those skeptics?  If so, I'm glad you're here. 

As Dr. Ravi Zacharias would put it, "Apologetics is the seasoning, but the gospel is the main course."  I love apologetics, I find it absolutely fascinating.  I also secretly wish I had come into contact with apologetics sooner.  Because then maybe I wouldn't have had to go down so many dark holes looking for answers.  I dismissed the Bible and Christianity very quickly when I was young.  I didn't think there was a reason in the world to believe any of it.  I had a practical view similar to that of Richard Dawkins, that belief was considering things to be true that were in direct contradiction with reality.  

I've now found that the really gritty down and dirty truths of reality are indeed best explained in Christianity.  No other worldview can adequately explain why the world is such a messed up place.  No other worldview tells me so many things that I don't want to hear, yet I know deep down are true about me and those around me.  I respect Christianity immensely for that.  That's the intellectual level.  Yet I could not follow it simply on the basis of hard truth.  

I found myself in love with Christianity on an emotional level, a heart level, because of the incredible love and forgiveness in the message.  It all comes together beautifully in my view.

But there is no reason to be afraid of objections to Christianity.  I firmly believe that we ought to respectfully answer any objection or question raised.  Assuming it is raised politely!  I can't stress that enough, that it's important to be polite when both raising an objection, and answering an objection.  This is not about winning an argument.  It can't be.  Too much is at stake.  It's about speaking the truth in love.  Even a Christian apologist who wins a "battle argument" often ends up losing the person.  

We want to win the person to Christ! (That's the imperative to keep in mind).  So give ground at times, find ways to agree with points and parts of their position.  Identify with their position.  Grant fair points when they make them.  Be kind and compassionate, and very patient.  Develop a friendship, a relationship.  If losing the argument will mean bringing the person a step closer, so be it.  The person raising an objection may not be listening to the argument as much as he or she is listening to the attitudes and mannerisms of the speaker.

But very often people have legitimate concerns and reasonable questions to ask.  Many have had very negative experiences with Christianity.  They need to be reintroduced to the radical love in the Bible.  The job of the defender is very often simply clearing away all the barbed wire, bushes, garbage, and mud so that the cross of Jesus Christ can be seen unobstructed.    

So here are ten answers to common questions raised by both the honest skeptic, and the upset former believer.  Enjoy. 

1. All the ridiculous stuff in the Bible has been disproved, hasn't it?
Ravi Zacharias Answers:

2. How do you know objective morality is based on God? 
William Lane Craig answers: 

3. Am I unloving for not affirming same sex behavior? 
Frank Turek answers:

4. How can a good God allow evil?
William Lane Craig answers:

5. How can a good God send me to hell?
Frank Turek answers:

6. Why is Christianity the one true religion?
Greg Koukl answers:

7. Is there Evidence for God's existence?
Frank Pastore answers:

8. Who created God?
William Lane Craig answers:

9. Isn't all truth relative?  Is there such a thing as truth?
Frank Turek answers:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five Vital Wisconsin Ministries: Please Support & Share

There are a lot of factors that play into a successful walk with Jesus Christ.  It's about relationship of course.  It's all about prayer and learning through the Bible.  Christian fellowship is vital too.  But then there are local and state ministries that are really a blessing along the way.  Here are some I'd like to encourage you to interact with and support.

1. Wisconsin Christian News
One of the few Christian newspapers still in business in Wisconsin, and the articles are very high quality.  There used to be over 120 Christian newspapers in our area of the Midwest but that has dropped down to less than a dozen.  So if you can support Wisconsin Christian News, please do!  We desperately need that message of Christian values in a world rapidly being pushed through the process of secularization.

2. 89Q Your Positive Hits Wisconsin Radio
89Q is a listener funded ministry that focuses on a positive Christian message.  The music is very uplifting and we need that in a world that can seem so negative at times.  I've personally been blessed by 89Q while listening to and from work, and while listening at work.  Sometimes it can be very stressful at the shelter where I work.  I really need the consistent encouragements 89Q offers on the air.  Please support 89Q as well, and tune in on their website or at FM 89.5.

3. Reaching You Ministries
Actually just last night I had the privilege of hearing a talk by Kristen Jane Anderson on her journey to Christ.  This young lady attempted suicide by laying on railroad tracks, and lost her legs.  Miraculously she survived the experience through the grace of God.  Now she travels and does talks on her story.  She has been featured on Oprah, and has a ministry called "Reaching You."  I got to speak to Kristen Jane Anderson after the talk at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County.  I told her about how Christ saved me two years ago from a life of depression and disaster.  It was a very powerful encounter for me.  There's a certain community between people who have survived desperate situations, that is indescribably wonderful.  Please support her ministry, out of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Contact her ministry to have her as a speaker, her story is incredible!

4. The Salvation Army of Wisconsin
It's that time of year!  The Kettle Kickoff in my area will be on November 6th.  Bell ringers will be out soon!  Check with your local Salvation Army to find out how you can help.  There are lots of wonderful programs that support the community in my area.  Some that I can think of off the top of my head are Coats for Kids, Food Pantry, Backpacks for Kids, Christmas Toys for Families, and many others!  Sometimes we forget about the Salvation Army programs in our areas, and all that they do to provide after-school programs, a shelter for the homeless, and food supplies to struggling families.  Don't let those programs fall to the wayside.  Instead remind people, your friends, congregation members about those programs and how they can help, donate, and volunteer their time!  

5. Converge Great Lakes Churches
The churches in my area that have probably been the biggest blessing to my life are almost all exclusively members of the Converge Great Lakes arm of Converge International, a wonderful and growing fellowship of Baptist churches worldwide.  The leaders are excellent, the congregations are friendly, and the teaching is Biblical.  Of notable mention are: New Day Christian Church pastored by Aaron Winowiski, The Sanctuary pastored by Dan Mandigo, Downtown Mission Church pastored by Charlie Salamone, not to mention Bethany Baptist Church, Good News Baptist Church, and Journey Church.  There are several others outside Converge that are great too though, like Grace Station, Highland Community, Wausau Alliance Church, and of course the Salvation Army Church where I currently attend!

Additional Wisconsin Ministries of Note:
Catholic Charities Wausau - providing a warming center for homeless and temporary financial assistance
Lutheran Social Services - financial assistance, hommy home
The Center for Human Development - christian counseling services
The Neighbors Place - food pantry, asian american assistance
Community Corner Clubhouse - job services and mental health support
Celebration Church - a church ministry doing some very cool things in Wisconsin

Related Posts:
Five Causes for the New Christian Activist

The Spiritual Journey of Justin Steckbauer & Issues in Wisconsin
The Power of Your Story and mine... 
Spiritual Journey | Dreams, Darkness, False Light 
Meth and exploring Darkness 
Christianity Falling: A Request for Heroes

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dare I send you to Church?

 The scary Westboro baptist church members protesting... everything.  A stark reminder that some churches are not churches.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Recently I was attending an event at a local college campus.  I won't say the name of the organization, but it was certainly interesting.  I'd be meaning to make time for more fellowship with believers.  I attend the Salvation Army church in my town, and also their adult sunday school, but I wanted to meet more people my age.

Now I understand that I was at a sort of "outreach event."  But my goodness.  I only went twice, and the stuff I overheard was quite surprising.  Two girls, friends came up to each other and hugged.  I overheard two guys, one was the speaker for the night, and the other was one of the core leaders of the group and they whispered "lesbians" to each other and giggled.  There was an openly homosexual individual, which is fine, but no one in the group seemed to acknowledge the scriptural view regarding homosexuality.  Another guy mentioned how him and his buddies were going to smoke tobacco on the front porch later.  Social posturing, games, alpha male crap, social climbing, you know.. all that worldly stuff.  And I thought to myself.. is this it?  Is this the church?

The church is described within the pages of the Bible as the body of believers on Earth.  The people within the "body" are baptized into the family of Christ.  The act of baptism with water is representative of a rebirth of the individual into a new family.  It is a ceremony of joyous adoption into a new family.    If you're a follower of Jesus, you're part of the organic church, the versatile, adaptable "body of Christ."  Another symbolic statement.  That's the metaphor, we are the body, moving about the Earth, doing the work of Christ.  We are the hands and feet of Christ.  And he is the head, it's his work, his goals, his ideas, his plans, and all things that  bring glory to God the Father.  

So being part of the "church" is being part of "the body of Christ."  It is an organic statement, a way to describe a people rather than a building, denomination, or institution.  

I know that many Catholics are part of this organic body.  I know that many Prysbeterians are part of this body.  I know that many Evangelical Frees, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, and so many others are all, individually either part of the organic body.  I will even say that even groups like Mormons, even many Jehovah Witnesses are indeed part of the body of Christ, despite disagreeing with many of their core doctrines.  Core doctrines may reveal the tendency within a group.  But since Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses consider the Bible as the authoritative word of God, there are certainly many Jesus loving followers within their ranks.  Of course, that's something you're not suppose to say, and I might get jumped on and assaulted by some strict Calvinists.  But I'm interested in the truth and love, not lining myself up with theological bullies. 

Small men will, will, will try to keep great men down.  Small men despise great men because they see outside them something they wish to be, but are too foolish, cowardly, and pathetic to become.  They will feel threatened, they will attack you, mock you, minimize you, and attempt to lock you out desperately, perhaps in some attempt to comfort their own fragile ego.  

They will try to steal your ideas.  They will quietly attempt to recreate your efforts, while locking you out of leadership.  They will copy many things you do and are, and try to claim the ideas for themselves.  They are worms, leaches, and the church is full of them.  They will cook up charges to cover their own sins, and take every opportunity to fill your mind with jaded thoughts about the church.  Don't let them.  

The church is an organic, wonderful communion of followers of Jesus.  It's also very messy.  It's difficult.  Confrontations take place, and that's always been very hard for me.  I'm an introvert you know!  And the church is a very extroverted place.  So I've had my problems in community.  It's probably been the most difficult thing about being a Christian so far.  Existing in community, where power structures are in effect, and the possibility of abuse of power takes place, and there are clashes of ideas, and harsh words tossed back and forth.  

So I was considering the question recently: Dare I send my readers to church?  

There are many fascinating, creative, and compassionate people who read this blog.  There are some very wonderful people who read this blog.  There are some people with some very great ideas who read this blog.  There are also people who have struggled in the past with churches, leaders, and false teachings.  And I certainly wouldn't want to put those people in harms way.

Can I really send such introverted, sensitive, politically minded, intelligent, wise people into the churches of today?  

It's a very difficult question.  I have to consider my own experience with churches in central Wisconsin.  To say I've had a bad experience is an understatement.  I've found it to be very difficult.  You come in with a lot of new ideas, and people don't want to hear it.  They want to do things their way.  And that's certainly fine.  

But what about the many churches around the states and Europe that are dead?  With false teachers, crumbling with sin, or just old and decaying?  There are so many churches like that!  

Dare I send these libertarians, political activists, depressives, introverts, readers, writers, learners, brilliant, gentle, humble, loving folk out there!?

I don't want someone to go out, find this nasty, scary, creepy little church, get rebuked by some weirdo, and come back and say "see Steckbauer was wrong Christianity sucks!"

So let's just think this through first.  And we'll go over a few words of caution and suggestions regarding fellowship with believers.  Alright?  Let's start.

I've had some weird experiences at churches.  I went to this one church, it was one of the few in town that had an evening service.  I was working 2nd shifts at the shelter and having trouble waking up for church so early in the morning.  So I went to this church.  And naturally, I was the only person there under 60.  The pastor did preach a good sermon.  Unfortunately after the service I was cornered and surrounded by congregation members, led by the pastor's wife who proceeded to interrogate me as to why I came.  And as she asked me questions, and I answered them, about who I was, where I came from, what I did for a living, it was like she kept insinuating that I was lying.  Now I know from experience, that sometimes people will try to use churches for free assistance.  But come on.  I hadn't asked for anything.  

Another congregation member was trying to kind of defend me.  She told the pastor's wife that I had gone to Good News Baptist in the past.  The pastor wife asked her if she had said that first or if I had.  Like I might just be playing along with what the congregation member had already stated.  

Then the Pastor's wife started asking me about doctrine, what does salvation mean, and on and on and on.  I told her I worked at Salvation Army.  She still seemed like she didn't believe me.  So I gave her my business card.  Still, it seemed like I wasn't quite off the hook yet! Haha! Creepy.  Finally I left, never to come back again!

First thing, remember all churches are not created equal.  And it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with denomination.  A Catholic church may be a wonderful Spirit filled community while a Baptist Evangelical church may be a dead church full of sin.  It's just hard to say.  So try a few out, and if you have a bad experience at one, keep trying others.  Seek out a church that teaches what's in the Bible.  Don't skip around based on how you necessarily "feel" about it.  Test the church in regard to our ontic referent the Bible.  

 If you can't find a church where you can successfully take part in group worship, Bible study, and evangelism, then consider starting your own house church.  Have you ever heard of the House Church Movement?  It's a pretty cool thing in my humble view.  Click here to a free online book about it.  You could always start a Bible study in your home too.  Are you feeling led to do that?  Pray about it!  With the internet, the possibility of online Christian fellowships is exciting!

God loves you.  He will help you to find a good church, so pray first before you try to find one!  If you can't find one, pray about starting a house church or a Bible study.  In the meantime, be sure to spend extra time in prayer, praising God, and studying the Bible on your own.  Despite what some theological bullies might tell you, there is such a thing as a "solo-Christian."  It's a fact of life in this world.  One can be a follower of Jesus Christ without ever being bullied into the authoritarian power structures of churches, or into fellowship with "believers" who embrace sin.  

However, being a solo-Christian is difficult, and dangerous.  It's like leaving the safety of the flock.  Of course in many parts of the world there is no flock, like 3rd world countries.  So stay close to the shepherd.  In the west, same problem, maybe there is no flock, just a bunch of wolves around a false teacher, or worse yet, a bunch of wolves, and a few sheep around a shepherd.  That's a tough one.  But once again, stick with the only true shepherd, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I've had to go it alone for seasons (if I call it a "season" it's Christian then, right?) and that was tough.  Glad to have found the Salvation Army church, and my wonderful job at the shelter.  

So I'll leave it there.  These are difficult issues.  No one said this would be easy did they?  Nope, no one did.  So be in a lot of prayer, contemplation, and study of scripture.. the book of Acts is useful regarding church issues.  So is Timothy, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and many other books of the Bible.  

Related Posts:
Outlook for a Revived American Christianity
A Vital Spiritual Experience
The Adaptable and Versatile Church of the Ages
The War on Earth
12 Musts for the Future of Christianity in the West
Internet Evangelism
American Traditionalism vs. Biblical Christianity

Friday, October 17, 2014

Modern Christianity & Apologetics: Some Intriguing Lectures & Discussions

 I really enjoy intriguing and entertaining presentations regarding Christianity, Apologetics, and Science.  Don't you!?  I really, really do.  So these are five gems I've scraped together for your viewing pleasure.  My goodness, we have such a rich movement of Christianity taking form in this country today.  Don't you think?  

First off we've got an interview by the sarcastic, brilliant Eric Metaxas.  The interview with Canon White is absolutely fascinating, and funny.  It's simply astounding to hear about the work of the Holy Spirit, angels, miracles and such happening in Baghdad.  You wonder about what it's like to be a persecuted Christian from time to time, it sounds truly terrible, yet wonderful at the same time.  2nd is a presentation by Frank Turek, revealing some very intense and scary information about college professors and atheism on campus.  3rd is Eric Metaxas again, sarcastically interviewing the founder of the intelligent design movement Stephen Meyer.  4th is my apologetics hero, Ravi Zacharias giving one of the best talks I've ever heard on Christian Apologetics in our time.  Fifth again is Frank Turek discussing the fossil record, intelligent design, and the cambrian explosion.  Enjoy!

1. Eric Metaxas interviews the Vicar of Baghdad Canon White
Topic: Being a Christian in Iraq

2. Frank Turek discusses Intellectual Predators on Campus
Topic: Atheist bias on college campuses

3. Eric Metaxas interviews Stephen Meyer / Socrates in the City
Topic: Intelligent Design

4. Ravi Zacharias discusses Apologetics in the 21st Century
Topic: Intelligent Faith and Apologetics

5. Frank Turek discusses Intelligent Design, Evolution, and the Cambrian Explosion
Topic: Fossil record/Cambrian Explosion 

Related Posts:
The Power of Apologetics
Believing in the Miraculous
Apologetics: Answering Atheism, Naturalism 
Can you see through the illusion?
Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History

Power Structures: The Pyramid & the Inverted Pyramid

What is a pyramid in the terms of a look at the structure of society?  A pyramid in teaching and history has often been shown to adequately describe the basic layout of a society and how it is controlled, or governed.  One can also see an economic picture when looking at the layout of a pyramid.  

Today in terms of what we'll be looking at, it's kind of an umbrella.  Distribution of political power, economic power, and indeed spiritual power I think can be well described within the context of a pyramid.  

In our world today we have at work, generally, the pyramid structure.  At the bottom are people like you and I, with the least amount of power, and bearing the weight of the day to day operations of the society.  Going up you see the various other segments of society with increasing amounts of power, and less and less of the population involved as you move up the pyramid.  

To illustrate take a look at a political drawing from the early 1900s, obviously the illustrator was seeking to attack capitalism.  That is not my purpose for this short discussion on pyramid systems.

So the working class is at the bottom, and then you move upward to say the "middle class" something I was part of when I was in my teen years, before my parents divorced.

Remember in the late 90s and early 00s the cost of living was much lower.  The Federal reserve had not devalued the US dollar to the point it's at now.  So during that time in my life I was the son of a teacher and a nurse.  Today that would not necessarily make someone middle class.  (I suppose it would depend on what kind of teacher.)  We took frequent vacations.  I was very blessed.  I got to see Washington D. C., Yellowstone Park, the Grand Tetons, Boston, fishing in Canada, and I was even privileged to be at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  My parents worked a great deal, but there was also plenty of time for vacations and relaxation.  We owned several cars, a ski boat, 3 wheelers, and snowmobiles.  Of course today my parents are both in debt and struggling to make ends meet.  Divorce does that.  

After the middle class you have probably the upper class, people who make above $100,000 a year.  Engineers, doctors, lawyers, police chiefs, small business owners, and so on.  Sort of "upper middle class."  

Next you'd have large corporate owners people above 10+ million a year.  These are the people who really influence things on not just a local or regional level, but on a nation level. Included in this group would be Senators, Representatives, certain Religious leaders, Government bureaucrats, all the way up to the President of the United States. 

Next would be people who make over 100 million a year and exert influence over not just national politics, but international politics.  This would largely be banking institutions and the owners of those institutions, including fortune 500 companies, and representatives of international governance organizations like the United Nations and European Union.  

So that's how it breaks down.  And most people live in the money paradigm.  People will pretend they don't, but they surely do.  Money is the god, and it is not a forgiving god.  It demands tribute and gives more to those who have and as far as those who have not, well, sometimes the unexpected does occur.  

Enter, Jesus Christ.  I hope you smile at this moment.  Because the world has a lot of problems, and much of it can be attributed to the pyramid.  Entire continents starve and suffer from disease and the money is there, but it is not open to those who would need it.  But then there's our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who changes everything.  And what happens with Jesus?  He does the impossible.  

Our glorious Lord flips the pyramid on it's head.  As is written in the word: ""So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16 NIV). 

In the future kingdom we see an inverted pyramid as the style of government.  Jesus Christ is the benevolent President.  And those who had been the most abused and neglected of society on Earth as it is now will be the first in His government.  Those who ruled on the Earth in this life, will be the least in the kingdom, at best, and at worst, they will have no place in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

This is why I can't understand it when friends of mine say that "religion is the opiate of the masses."  Do you know that you're quoting Karl Marx?  Do you know that his system of government/economics has been used to enslave and commit genocide against entire populations?  Keep that in mind.

I concede, absolutely, that religion has been used as a method to power.  I consider the megachurch leaders, not all of them, but some of them, such as Mark Driscoll, who use their position as a means to power, status, and influence.  Don't get me wrong.  I loved the teachings of Mark Driscoll, but with increased power, comes increased responsibilities (Luke 12:48).  That said, God bless the leaders of the church and we should be quick to accept their acts of repentance, multiple times, 7 times 70 times (Matthew 18:21-22).  If you work that out it comes to 490 times.  So that's a lot of times.  I assume, even more. 

So there I come to the purpose of this post: Humble leadership.   

I find it quite confusing, the pastor position.  But I do live in the United States so, that might explain it.  The pastor position is kind of a position of prominence and authority as far as I can see.  They are busy, powerful, CEO-like men and women who stand atop the mountain directing the company below.  On the stage, the godly man, the representative for the people before God.

But that isn't biblical.  The biblical "leader" I suppose would be much more so like the humble servant role of Jesus Christ, washing the feet of the disciples.  The eternal servant.  In the correct model, the "pastor" or "elder" would be below the church members in the scheme of "power."  The leader is the servant.  

Philippians 2:5-11
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

This is illustrated well in the role of the church planter.  A poor church planter, according to Ralph Winter in his book "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" will do certain things:  He will have to be at the center of everything.  He will be the one in the limelight, with all the attention on him.  He will have to have his hands in everything.  He will be very hesitant to delegate any authority.  And he will then end up attracting only the very least influential members of the local culture.  

I've been a part of a church plant that went just like that.  But Ralph Winter also wrote that in a really good church plant, it will be something called a "people movement."  And it just rings true with the message of the Bible.  The church planter is hardly seen.  He tends to work behind the scenes.  He is quick to take give out power to locals.  He finds a local person of influence and simply helps that person to take on the roll of prominence in the new movement.  Then the movement takes on a very "home grown" quality.  In the best kind of people movement the church planter is never noticed.  And isn't it like our God to exalt the humble church planter in the background, out of the limelight, who painstakingly works for others to get the earthly honor?  Of course it is.

In the same way, the humble servant pastor leads up a healthy church.  He is not a CEO power player.  He is a servant of his congregation.  

1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV) So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 

In this world we have a pyramid of control, and most of us are at the bottom.  That's what it's like in a kingdom controlled by the evil one.  But in the kingdom of Christ Jesus, the poor and powerless are quickly the exalted.  I know so many people so consumed with the political corruption of the world and the brutal realities of life on Earth.  I used to be that person, searching for the truth in all of it.  To them I say, keep fighting for a saner world today, but also, have the eternal perspective.  Christianity is not another method of control.  Christianity is the ultimate solution to the greatest question: Why is the world so messed up?  And an even bigger question: How can we fix it?  

The answer is Jesus Christ.  There is no perfect economic system or form of government that will make all this suddenly ok.  Because the problem is not government corruption, or corporate corruption, or social corruption.  The problem at it's very core is my corruption.  The evil in my heart, and in your heart, because we've all at one time or another contributed to the problem.  And the only answer to the evil in my heart, is rebirth in Jesus Christ.  That is the very heart of the solution.  Become a part of that solution.  Because it's real.  And it works.  With Jesus as President, the pyramid inverted, and the evil in my heart replaced with love, finally, peace on Earth, life, joy, no more death.  Free, free at last.  That's the ultimate liberty in Christ Jesus.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Entrenched vs. the Minimized: Five Paradigms of Western Society

The entrenched Elite vs. the minimized Truth

The United States was first founded for a myriad of reasons, religious liberty, personal freedom, and probably mostly for freedom from the tyrants and dictators of Europe and the banking cartels holding such monopolies over the people of Europe to keep them in persecution and poverty.

 This world has always been lies vs. truth.  Jesus walked the Earth and taught the truth, and he was crucified for it.  And then he conquered, and rose to life.  He is alive today, as the victorious truth.  He will make all things right and perfect.  He will make nature perfect, stars perfect, weather perfect, animals perfect, and people in Christ will be made perfect.  That is our glorious hope!

Until then, we exist in a world where the truth is actively suppressed and attacked.  

Ravi Zacharias said, "Man's problem is not the absence of evidence (for God) but the suppression of it."

The truth is not usually popular, is it?  In fact today, ask a person on the street if they believe in God and that person might say something like, "I don't believe in a God who judges or condemns, I believe in a god of my understanding."

Do you see what that means?  They've decided to make their own god, in their own image.  Truth itself is redefined to suit the desires and whims of the beholder.  

So what is truth?  Let's go to the vaunted Dictionary (dot com) and see what it says:  Truth

1. the true or actual state of a matter:

He tried to find out the truth.

2. conformity with fact or reality; verity:

the truth of a statement.

3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like:

mathematical truths.

4. the state or character of being true.

5 .actuality or actual existence.

6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

7. honesty; integrity; truthfulness.

Yes, that is how brain dead or at least brainwashed we've become in the west, that we have to go to the dictionary to figure out what the word "truth" means, before we can actually ask what the truth then is.

Actuality, the actual state of things.  I use the words "actual" and "real" a lot.  Because I can say "Jesus rose from the dead." And people can take that so many different ways.  But I literally mean, he really, two thousand years ago, in the history of man, on Earth, physically rose from a dead corpse to alive and well, physically.  Do you see how I have to add all these qualifiers?  Why is that?  Maybe English is somewhat imprecise.  Or maybe it's because in the west we tend to stand in judgment, the ethereal drive-through menu demigod, and decide what we want to be true and real.  But that's contradictory.  We "feel" this is true, or that is true.  

But what is actually true? The truth is actual, real.  Most importantly it conforms to the facts.  The evidence is consistent with it.  

Lies vs. Truth, again and again we see it.  Lies have had a powerful surge in the United State since the early 1900s.  Lies and corruption have really taken charge, and now in the early 21st century they are now at the point of having claimed a firm majority and are now just about finished evicting truth from all public forums and venues.  The war has been precise, directed, and spans multiple fronts of conquest and consolidation. 

It's not all bad news though.

The truth appears to be gathering it's forces in multiple arenas as well.  The sort of "rebel alliance" in eviction gathering it's forces near Sullust (thats a Star Wars reference by the way).  It's always been like this, hasn't it?  

How long can a corrupt, entrenched power keep the truth behind a bodyguard of lies?  How long can a corrupt entrenched elite hold power over a disillusioned populace?  Hard to say, hard to say.  One might wonder if technology, weapons, surveillance, power, might be able to finally curb that problem of the disenfranchised so vastly outnumbering the elite.

These are all repeated paradigms I've noticed developing in major areas of the United States and European society.  Let's look at the five paradigms I've noticed: an entrenched elite attempting to shut out and keep down a disenfranchised, but growing resistance movement.

1. The Political Paradigm
Public Awareness: Growing

In the United States, it's always been Democrats vs. Republicans.  Divide et empera.  Divide and conquer as Julius Caesar said.  Split the views of the public evenly between two parties, so doing, divide the people.  The mood in the United States is that of disillusionment.  People are fed up with both parties for different reasons.  The anti-war party becomes the pro-war party in 2008.  The authoritarian party becomes the civil liberties party in 2012.  People bounce from voting Democrat to voting Republican, as both parties serve the interests of big business and big banking.  There is actually an App called Greenhouse to see which businesses and banks fund each congress member.  Click here to get Greenhouse.  Recently Princeton University and Northwestern University released a study in which they officially declared that the United States is now an oligarchy, a form of government where a moneyed elite few control the country.  I guess finally liberals (Princeton) and conservative Christians (Northwestern) can finally agree on something: this is not a democratic republic anymore. 

So we see the public effectively divided into two waring parties, both corrupt to the core.  Now, we jump to the rebel resistance.  It's not just one group, but many, and we've seen manifestations of it's formation in the past twenty years.  The Tea Party was the conservative-minded form of it.  Then came the Occupy Wallstreet liberal form of it.  There are many subgroups in this arena of resistance, such as the Constitution party, the Green Party, and Liberty party.  But probably the most organized, educated, and powerful of the various politically disenfranchised subgroups would be the Libertarians.  They are a highly diverse group made up of principled Democrats, Republicans, and everywhere in between with a major focus on a return to the Constitution, peace, non-interventionalist foreign policy, strong civil liberties, personal freedom, economic freedom, and transparency in government.  But the money and power is all centered on the Democratic party and the Republican party.  Will this growing resistance about 1 million strong be able to mount any real change?  It's hard to say.  The initial strategy of the Libertarians was to attempt a takeover of the Republican party through the election process, with delegates and voting and adhering to the rules of the party.  The result of that attempt in 2012 was a powerful counter-attack by the status-quo moneyed and powerful in the Republican party who changed many of the rules at the Republican National Convention to block and eject the movement from ever getting as far as it did in 2012.  The struggle continues between the disenfranchised and the powerful.  The deciding factor is information, as we'll discuss later in this essay.  As a final thought, always watch for a false dichotomy, one verses the other.  Democrat vs. Republican, Science vs. Religion.  Those are methods of control, not choices.  One need not choose between them, but choose what is actually true and right.      

2. The Economic Paradigm
Public Awareness: Growing Slightly

The Rich vs. the poor.  This is an age old struggle on the planet Earth.  We see it again and again.  Very often in history we've seen it end in violent revolution, successfully or unsuccessfully.  The Bible says Debt is slavery.  Inflation has become the tax of choice for the Federal Reserve as it prints money.  The people are over-taxed (Republican view) yet they are also mistreated and underpaid by big business (Democrat view).  Are you starting to see how the truth is divided up?  And thus, those seeking change are rendered impotent to change.  The Republicans attempt to lower taxes and the Democrats block it in the Senate.  The Democrats attempt to raise the minimum wage and Republicans block it in the House.  All the while, banks grow richer, companies grow richer, and the divide between rich and poor extends to a wider and wider range.    

The resistance on this issue really manifested itself in the Occupy Wallstreet protests in major cities from 2009-2011.  The rich wielded city police forces against the protesters, bulldozed them out of the cities while the mainstream media mounted a massive discrediting campaign against the entire movement.  The same was done to the Tea Party before it was divided, discredited, and forced back under the status quo banner of the Republican party machine.  Libertarians were more of an educated force so they had to be tactically ignored, total media black out.

Please be in prayer about this issue, because it causes so much poverty and pain across our planet.  The knowledge of this is growing, and as it grows, we will see more positive changes take place. 

3. The Academic/Scientific Paradigm
Public Awareness: Low

This is the paradigm where the current out-flowing is this false dichotomy: Science vs. Religion.  The current mood is that Science is all knowing (scientism) and that Religion is bad, but spirituality is good.  We'll get into that one soon enough, but let's talk about the real conflict first: the establishment vs. the intelligent design movement.  In the Academic world there are certain doctrines that you aren't allowed to question.  One of those is darwinian evolution.  Intelligent design suggests the possibility of an intelligent architect who triggered the big bang.  The intelligent design movement has faced a massive assault by the mainstream media.  In the Academic world, if you write articles or papers that in anyway mention intelligent design as plausible or in a positive light, be prepared to lose your job.  If you'd like to learn more about the issue of intelligent design and the war against it by the academic establishment, view this documentary by Ben Stein called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."  It's an awesome one.  This is an issue that many people are in the dark about and awareness is not gaining much traction.  Consider stepping up and being a voice for this critical issue.   

4. The Media Paradigm
Public Awareness: Growing Quickly

The mainstream media is really the key, the gatekeeper to 1,2,3, and 5.  It effectively ensures that truth stays in the dark, and lies and distractions remain in the bright lights of public interest.  And yes, I do refer to the mainstream media as a sort of entity.  What we term the mainstream media are mainly television media outlets like CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, CBS, and PBS, as well as the internet sites, local newspapers, local news stations, and many other affiliates of those giants.  Whether it's George Soros or Rupert Murdock, or others, the mainstream media has very completely fallen into the pockets of big business and big banking.  Much has changed since the days of real news reporting, when issues like Watergate were exposed for what they really were.  

Imagine if there was 24 hour coverage on the Federal Reserve's money printing, for months on end, exposing the issue on even one of those major networks.  Things would change immediately.  The Public would cry foul with a massive shout.

Imagine if there was continuing daily coverage on the HSBC bank scandal, or 24 hour coverage on the income gap, or constant daily coverage of Wal Mart's disturbing business practices, or Wallstreet's part in the economic collapse of 2009.  Imagine if there was continuing coverage on the bailouts?  Do you see what I mean?  Instead the mainstream media covers celebrity gossip, gay marriage, and never fails to mention how backwards religious people are.  So much propaganda, it's a head-spinner.  

Thankfully, there is a powerful and growing resistance, and it's centered on the open-media called, yes, you guessed it, the Internet!  Alternative news networks are on the rise, covering the truth, through websites, internet radio, internet television, it's truly a beautiful thing.  But the television still wields a lot of power, and too many are still in the dark.  But I expect to see God's sovereign blessing in this area grow over time.  God loves the truth, and he always helps it shine through.  Pray about this issue too, and get involved!

5. The Philosophical/Spiritual Paradigm
Public Awareness: Very Low

The divide here is simple: believing what I want to be true vs. believing what is actually true.  There is a great amount of respect and admiration for believing in one's own experience of life.  In fact it's a natural reaction against a dogmatic-closed minded theology.  But believing in whatever I want, while disregarding reality is simply nonsense.  That's living in a fantasy world.  Christianity, the Bible has been abused.  It's been used by the power hungry, it's been used by the crazy, and it's been used by the wealth-seeking.  However, one must never judge a worldview by it's abuse.  The simple fact is the entire western world has been shaped by the Judao-Christian view of life.  It's the reason for a democratic and reasonably prosperous Europe and United States.  

But as we see Europe having ditched Christianity and the United States now post-Christian, we see corruption growing in the west.  The west is beginning to look just like the east in terms of corruption and income inequality.  Yet we can't see the problem?  The problem is we've left behind the Bible, we've left behind Jesus, and we've left behind the true message of Christianity.  

What do we now have instead?  All-inclusive spirituality.  The Deepak Chopra, evolution, eastern mysticism, gnostic gospels, prosperity gospel, holistic, reiki, meditation meltdown.  Very interesting indeed.  All kinds of stuff really.  New age universalism.  Just all kinds of things.  Tolerance for all religions, gay marriage friendly, evolution friendly, all inclusive, everything is fine, spiritualize, meditate on nothingness, and experience everything.  All the perks of religion without any of the good deeds or hard realities.  Drugs, sex, tolerance, LGBT rights, and scientism all under the same roof.  Truly disturbing, but certainly easily made popular.  It fits with whatever the world is saying at the moment.  If pedophilia becomes popular in the next 20 years they can add that under the umbrella, no problem.  Too bad that doesn't fit with reality though.  Too bad it isn't true.

The truth is rarely an easy thing, as you may have noticed.  But the fact that it's real is so vital.  The fact that Jesus Christ is not just another idea or philosophy, but a person, whose encounter with is not simply a meditation or a trendy topic, but a real transformational experience.  Substance in the Christian worldview.  Not the popularized myths, but what's actually in the Bible.  Not the dogmatic, closed minded theology of the strict and the mean, but the loving, powerful, compassionate good news of Jesus Christ; full of liberty, freedom, justice, power and grace.  

The paradigm is once again a false dichotomy spirituality vs. religion.  Religion is pictured as the modernist nightmare church where everyone creeps you out, judges you, condemns you, and nothing of substance is ever spoken of.  Spirituality is the personal experience, the internal thought out adventure of journeying in meditation and contemplation through new and interesting eastern mysticism coupled with evolutionary science and metaphysics.

Once again, we need a third option.  The third option combines the powerful freeing experience of spirituality with the rock hard truth of religion; bound in with intelligent design, scientific inquiry, intellectual substance, real humility, and actual loving compassion.  The closest I could think of would be the Evangelical Intelligentsia movement, or Evangelical Christianity.  

I have seen Christianity beginning to regain some of it's foothold in the United States.  Europe not so much.  But there is a very long way to go.  But we can go the distance, together, we are the body of Christ, the ultimate manifestation of unity in diversity.  Jesus Christ works in us, on us, and through us, and in him all things are possible.  Amen.   


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