Friday, March 25, 2011

Circles of Pain ...

 “This won’t hurt a bit” is a common expression that instinctively brings up in my mind the thought, “then why do you need to tell me that”?  Perhaps “hurt” is in the eye of the beholder.  A pin prick for example, does not hurt nearly as much as breaking a bone.  And the pain from a pin prick does not linger and have nearly as many adverse effects as breaking a bone.  So when compared against that pain, a pin prick may very well “not hurt a bit”.  But compare the sensation of a pin prick with eating an ice cream cone, and suddenly the pin prick hurts.  In fact, next to that, the pin prick is devastating.  Of course part of the pain of shot at the doctor’s office, comes in the form of the anticipation that it is going to happen.  Sometimes, worse yet, you are allowed to see the needle and syringe get prepared.  A several inch long needle makes one squirm even more.  Knowing it is coming, can multiply the actual pain, by the anticipated pain in my imagination (which is highly developed and over achieves even in this instance).

Lucifer has done a masterful job at separating the consequences of evil from the actions of evil.  He delays consequences as long as he can, in order to propagate the evil activities until they reach habit stage.  But the effect of delaying consequences seems only to multiply their pain when they finally do ensue; and they ALWAYS follow our behavior.  We may evade them for a while, but eventually everything we do catches up with us.  It is not so much Karma as if we spread evil in the ether and it somehow materializes in our lives later; it is more like the laws of gravity – cause and effect.  Evil tries to hide its nature from us, mask the pain from the actions that will surely come, and blame everyone and everything else for its existence; but in the end it fails.  Evil is the opposite of God, therefore by nature, nothing we would ever desire.
Sometimes in our quest to measure evil, and separate some actions into “less harmful” than others, we develop a belief that certain “sins” or evil actions, are personal, just between you and God.  Personal sins, or private sins then, need only be discussed between you and God, and so are thought to be “less harmful” to others than say assault and battery might be.  But this belief is incorrect.  It is yet another deception created by the master deceiver of souls.  It is the equivalent of dropping a 3 pound rock in a bathtub full of water, and expecting only the original splash will be the result.  In addition to the splash, are generated waves of displaced water that traverse the tub from end to end – only constricted by the boundaries of the size of the tub.  If the tub were 12 feet across, the waves would travel 12 feet.  But because most tubs are only a couple feet across, and 4 or 5 feet in length, the waves simply double back on themselves making quite a havoc.  This is similar to how “private” sins disturb your own life, and the lives of those you encounter.
Take for example, the personal sin of pride.  Pride is something held only in the heart.  It does not appear at first glance to affect anyone else directly and therefore would seem to be only between you and God.  But examine it closer for a minute.  I can allow my pride to overtake my humility, as such, I become unwilling to learn from another believing no-one knows more than I.  I can become unwilling to help those less fortunate believing that “helping” is a job for those who are not as smart or as capable, or as rich as I am.  I can begin to treat others by cast, category, and classification – all of which are governed strictly by my pride.  In so doing, I tear down the image of Christ who loved all without condition, and instead erect an idol of me to worship instead.  My ill treatment of others may lead to direct evil against them, but even if that is restrained, by attitudes will definitively be affected.
Another common misperception about personal sin is that of sexual self-gratification.  This one is worse, because it is looked at as the “lesser” of a great many evils that we are capable of performing related to our sexual expression.  It sounds good at first glance.  But examine it a bit closer; the very words “self-gratification” define the basic problem at its core – pleasing one’s self.  Our entire legal system is built to keep my propensity to serve self, from interfering with yours.  Limitations and punishments are outlined to try to keep us from causing serious harm to each other while pursuing the happiness of pleasing number one.  In a sexual sense, we replace intimacy, and the concept of pleasing our partner/spouse FIRST, with searching for the bio-chemical “high” of orgasm.  Self-gratification begins by focusing solely on what pleases me, with complete and total disregard for what makes my spouse happy, as there is no spouse to even consider in the scenario.  Over time, habits form, and when my spouse does enter the scenario, I could be disappointed that it does not coincide with my mental picture of what “should” happen.
There are those who believe self-gratification hurts no-one; that it is a victimless crime.  But this is untrue.  Those who engage in this behavior are almost always unable to stop.  They extinguish the value of intimacy and vulnerability with someone else, and turn people into objects, objects without meaning or consequence.  The kind of mental imagery associated with self-gratification is usually degenerative.  Comedians joke about being children and looking at the underwear sections of the Sears catalog, or at the National Geographic magazines with naked natives.  But this soon turns to the “art” of Playboy, then to the eroticism of Penthouse, and finally to the pure hardcore smut found in an infinite number of specific Internet sites, or former print publications.  The imagery degenerates further into sub cultures like S&M, Bondage, Baby-Play, Anal fetishes, etc..  But it is not limited to these, further degeneration leads to the infliction of severe or permanent pain, child molestation, animal molestation, and finally the association of death and sex together.  A downward spiral, no-one believes themselves capable of, until they find themselves in it.  Yet still the belief, that we remain unharmed by our actions.
For those who believe they only hurt themselves, yet another revelation.  The industry that provides the materials for your mental imagery could care less who it hurts in the manufacture of these materials.  Countless daughters, sisters, mothers, even elderly – both women and men – put into positions where self-esteem is destroyed, where the danger of disease is rampant, where intimacy loses all value.  And for the person unable to control their baser passions, often this behavior does not end when marriage begins.  It continues into the marriage, depriving the spouse of true intimacy.  It is bringing baggage and expectations into our sexual expression that should have never been in the first place.  Men must unlearn almost everything they think they know, before they will ever be capable of sharing true beauty and intimacy in giving to their wives.
Lucifer, under the guise of social norms, propagates these ideas that a women or wife should be a gentle lady out of the house, and a “freak” in the bedroom.  Countless women’s magazines offer advice on how to please and keep a man through sexual proficiency when the reality is far from these ideals.  Honesty, vulnerability, clear communication, intimacy, even spiritual dependency on Christ will do more to keep a man, than will tricks dreamed up in a magazine.  There is nothing wrong with creativity or invention in the bedroom, it is only a problem when biology replaces intimacy as the primary objective.  Orgasm is not the ultimate goal, a union of mind, body, and soul, - is.
So our thought to be personal sin, hurts us, hurts those we claim to love most, hurts our families as it affects our attitudes in what we teach our children, our community in how we treat others, and finally God as He must bear witness to the pain we cause in our “personal” acts of evil.  In the end, sin, or evil actions always cause ripples of pain, that grow as they reach others.  Our 3 pound rock in the pond may be a veritable Tsunami by the time its full effects are cataloged by unseen hands.  This is the nature of evil.  This is the nature of poo.  Poo smells.  You can hardly conceal it when it is physically nearby.  Even its after effects will be known for a while after it has left the area.  So it is with evil.  Evil is nothing more than poo, wrapped in a shiny wrapper.  The shiny wrapper is at best a momentary distraction until the clear evil of poo is revealed.  But by then sometimes it is already too late.  Behaviors are formed, habits ensue, slavery is initiated, and thus the need for Savior.  Thus the need for a “creator” God who can re-create IN me what must be completely redone.
It is not enough to want only some of the poo, out of my life.  It can only be enough when ALL of the poo is out of my life.  No more habits, no more chains, no more bad choices, no more regrets – just the freedom that comes from giving the problem to the only God who wants to take it over and remove it FROM us.  It does no good to clean half of the cesspool of our lives.  We must let Him clean it all.  I know the work is hard, and atrocious, and was made so by us in our persistence at spreading our feces from wall to wall.  But this is the work Christ is willing to do in our lives.  He sees evil as this level of abhorrent, and wishes only to see it completely removed from your day to day.  Let go the shiny wrappers, and embrace the freedom of Christ.  Let us stop making ripples of pain in the oceans of our lives, and replace it with wave after wave of His love for ALL who we encounter.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Obsessed with Control

Do you believe in fate?  How about destiny?  Predetermination anyone?  Most folks I know do not like the idea of our future being beyond our control.  We make decisions.  We make choices.  So why is our fate up to debate?  If I choose to go left at the stop sign instead of right, won’t the final outcome be different, surely the short term results should be measurable.  Yet despite our ability to decide to go left at the cross roads, there are many other factors that remain out of our direct control.  Large items like the weather and gravity come to mind; but many other smaller items are equally impossible to mandate such as the behavior of others and unforeseen events.
We are faced with the unpredictable all around us, and so rather than allows ourselves the truth of the uncertainty of our continued existence, we decide to cling to an illusion of control.  The idea that despite what we are unable to control, there are still many things we can control, has greater appeal to us, than the truth of how limited our ability is to even influence an outcome, let alone control it.  Those fortunate few who have developed a strong will in their lifetimes by being able to exert a measure of control over their actions, have an even firmer grasp on the illusion of control, than those less fortunate few who realize their own behavior looks more like addiction than self-control.  But what remains in us all is a shared belief that we have at least “some measure” of control in our lives.
This thinking however, infects our spiritual desires as well.  The ideas that we somehow control our lives, invades the ideas that we should equally be able to influence our spiritual lives.  “Obedience” becomes the spiritual mantra for our conservative brothers and sisters.  Not obedience found in the converted heart, but rather obedience for the sake of obedience; sometimes presented as a prerequisite of God’s approval, or even worse, as a prerequisite of coming to God.  Indeed, scriptures are full of texts outlining why obedience is so important to us and God.  But it is our illusions of control, that lead us to believe we are simply capable of obeying or not.  Similar to the alcoholic who believes they can quit drinking anytime, but just never seem to get around to making that decision – so Christians seem to believe that they can stop sinning anytime just by choosing to do so.  And like the alcoholic, they just never seem to finally get around to making the sin-stopping decision.
Evil is like cancer, in that it spreads when it left unchecked.  Note that the identification of cancer does nothing to cure it, that would require treatment, perhaps surgery.  But just saying to the patient, “Yes, you sure have a nasty case of cancer” does nothing to actually help the patient.  Condemning cancer also does nothing to cure it.  Telling a patient … “if you had made better choices, lived a healthier life, and essentially gotten my approval, you might not have this terrible disease” does nothing to cure cancer, and may even make an enemy of the cancer patient.  Telling the patient about how “bad” the pain is, seems a bit redundant, and again does nothing at all to help the patient get better.  Ever even met a cancer patient whose first thought was not about getting better?
Yet we treat fellow Christians who are found in error, the same way.  We judge them according to our own standards of Biblical morality.  We ridicule their life choices, and blame them for the conditions they find themselves in, taking no personal accountability for their conditions.  Then instead of focusing on a cure for our erring brothers, we instead focus on the disease, all the pain they should be feeling, all the desperation, none of the hope.  The best Christians have been able to offer the world, is forgiveness after the fact, but seldom a cure to eliminate the need for forgiveness, and to live a healthier life in the first place.
But if we know this about the nature of evil, and cancer, and how they both spread – then why are they still spreading?  The answer is painful.  It is because we have chosen our illusions of control, over the truth of total dependence found in the word of our God.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam bit the forbidden fruit, and in so doing, he ceded control to Satan over this world, and over himself, and all of mankind.  It is not just the dirt, Satan gets to rule over.  It is the hearts, minds, and inclination of the people God created in this world.  From that moment on, Adam put all of mankind into slavery.  We are NOT free.  We are BOUND to the will of our own carnal natures.  If left to ourselves, we will choose to act in our own self-interest even when that conflicts with the needs of another.  What are the famous slogans we see around us – “who is looking out for number one”, “do unto others, then split”, “God helps those who help themselves”.  All designed around the idea that man must be self-focused before he can be externally focused, even in the case of spiritual concepts.
The illusion of control is a form a self-worship.  It is a form of exalting our decisions, our choices, and our supposed capabilities above even Satan or God.  We somehow think we free of our own accord to choose to follow God or not.  Even this is untrue.  Adam entered us into slavery.  Our chains prevent us from making a truly free decision.  So even in this, our God must elevate our minds, and balance the scales of our lives in order for us to get even enough to make the decision to choose Him.  Otherwise we would every one of us default to our evil natures and choose what is natural over what is not.  The idea that we control our world is as silly as believing we can cure cancer in ourselves, simply by deciding it will be so, no matter what chemistry says.
In order to treat our disease of evil, we must as Yoda says, “unlearn what you have learned”.  We must begin by embracing the truth of our existence, that we have NO control over it, we have at best the ability to influence it slightly.  Our greatest abilities to influence our existence come only in regards to how much worse we can make it, seldom in how much better.  We can elect to kill ourselves, but we cannot decide to make ourselves 100% cured over every medical ailment we suffer from.  We can elect to cut ourselves, but cannot decide to simply undo the damage to our bodies we inflict while making such a deranged and negative decision.  It is easier for me to destroy your sandcastle on the beach, than to spend the hours it takes creating one with you.
We must continue by rejecting the connections we have formed between God and patriotism.  The American Dream as most define it, is a lie.  Owning your own home, 2 cars, a spouse, 2.1 kids and a white picket fence does not define the ideals of our success, nor does it measure the contributions we are capable of making as citizens of this or any other country.  The idea that through hard work, anyone can succeed is simply false.  It takes more than just hard work.  And the ideas of self-reliance we have been taught must be rejected.  We are rather, and in fact, fully dependent on our God for our lives, our sustenance, and our success.  And by allowing our God to mold our characters into His image, we will be better prepared to sacrifice for the sake of others, including our fellow citizens in this, or any other nation.  The truth would make us better citizens and patriots of our native lands, than the lies we embrace today.  Our nation, and our world, needs those who would by example serve others and enrich the lives of others; than merely another generation out to find only the maximum fun they can derive before dying.
And finally we must reject the god of self we have allowed to creep into our Christian philosophy, and realize we are slaves bound to self, that self is the enemy of our God.  We must begin to see that “I” truly am my own worst enemy in the spiritual realm.  We must embrace the words of Paul when he writes … “I die daily”.  This is not a rerun of an old SouthPark episode where they kill Kenny every week.  This is rather the mantra of Christians who understand that self is the enemy of the entirety of God’s government, and “service to others” is the only real heroic aspiration.  We must submit our will to our God each day.  We must give back to God the life we wake up to each morning, and ask that He alone be in charge over it.  To do with our lives as He alone wishes.  To make any changes He sees fit.  To use us in His own good service as He would envision, but not merely as it is convenient to us.  We must ask to “want” what He “wants”.  We must ask that He teach us how to “love” like He “loves”.  In this our earliest morning prayer, we are able to echo the words of Paul and join him in dying daily.
To witness true obedience in our lives, these are the “choices” we must make.  It begins with the abandonment of lies and illusions of control, it ends with promised work of the Messiah in our hearts and minds.  This is the cure of cancer and evil we have sought and has so long eluded us.  This is the promise we can cling to without reserve.  This is the way that Christianity can once again return to the prominence it experienced in the Apostolic days.  For in those times, as in this age, we must focus completely on Christ as the ONLY solution to our lives.  For it is He alone who can rid us of the evil we embrace, and He alone who can further eliminate the natural inclinations that drive us.  It is Christ who can finally and fully set us free.