Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere

I recently read a novel called The Mephisto Club about a small private club of Satan hunters. I am not clear on their objective, but they wanted to hunt/study Satan by observing people possessed by him. Not something I’d want to do, but it induced some thoughts. Our modern humanistic world of materialism completely discounts the notion of absolute evil or the idea of it having sentience or even personality. Yet we don’t have to reach back very far into history to encounter events that befuddle any other explanation. For example, the atrocities of the Third Reich. I don’t care what theory of psychology, or of sociology or of anthropology you care to put forth, it will not explain lampshades made from human skin. This concept is discussed in the seminal work of Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians, in a section of the book entitled “A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere.” The revolting fact is that there are even today many manifestations of pure evil --- crimes whose details you don’t want to know. Sometimes these are multiplied on a large scale, and sometimes not.

The pop Christianity view of some tug-o-war, involving you, caught between God and Satan, is an infusion of paganism into Christian thought. The Bible paints no such picture. I recall being challenged decades ago, in an undergrad class, to write a term paper about Satan in the Old Testament. It was a short paper. There isn’t much there. The most extensive treatment is in the book of Job, that seminal book of philosophy from the catalogue of early Wisdom Literature. What we see there is Satan (who would have then been called saw-TAWN), a word which means adversary, but Satan is an adversary that is of no significant challenge to God on any level. In fact, in that account, he performs God’s will and then plays no more role in the story. The Bible depicts a sovereign God whose abiding and overriding value is Love, and it is a love that is characterized by an unconditional loyal caring, affection, and manipulation of lives to bring about certain outcomes. And sometimes that manipulation includes using evil spirits to bring about events that are springboards to personal growth.

In the New Testament, Satan (or “the Devil”) is developed in a much more detailed and larger treatment. There he is painted as a desperately dangerous Evil One seeking to devour and destroy, but in none of that literature is there anything to suggest that he is not fitting completely into God’s plan. No, there too we have the picture of a clever and powerful God who determines and engineers outcomes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Letting Go of the Past

We sometimes get bogged down with the past.  Sometimes we blame our addictions on it.  We dwell on what we think someone did to us. We assume certain addictions cannot be reprogrammed on the basis that they were formed in the past.

We hold grudges and burn up our present, chasing the past, even though we know that we cannot change it.

When we blame the past for the present and use it as an excuse to not reprogram, we lose an opportunity to get rid of thought habits that are setting us up for unhappiness.

Each moment has its own circumstances.  Each moment is new, and we should allow each moment to arrive without shackles.  We need to learn to live in the moment.  This is not the same as living for the moment.  Living in the moment means that we let each moment possess its own blessings and we realize that at this very moment we have what we everything we need for the moment. 

There is no point fretting about what someone did or what happened to us.  The past is dead.  It is over.  It is not coming back. Our reality is our here and now.  The current moment. 

Paul, in an encouraging letter to an encouraging people, advises us (Philippians 3:13) to be “forgetting what lies behind”: it is back there in life and gets further back there the longer we live. 

It’s an even bigger issue.  Y’shuah says that if we look back, we aren’t fit for the Kingdom of God.  Read the 19th chapter of Genesis and see what happened in verse 26 when someone looked back.  This isn’t about blaming the past, but it’s about clinging to it when it ought to have been let go.  

We need to live in the moment, not the past.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Government Run Schools

In last week's HFT Connect by David Hocking is the following article. The main issue seems to be the government control of schools. I get that there are problems with this, but I also get that there are problems with NOT having this system. What is the alternative? We would be short-sighted and remiss if we created a system through which a child was denied an education by reason of his parent's inability or unwillingness to pay for it.

Here is that article:


Franklin Graham's outrage over government-school coaches being forbidden to pray on school property and at school functions reveals the deep inner conflict that has inflicted the greatest damage upon conservative Evangelicals in America.
Graham posted Friday blasting a decision by the Ninth Circuit to uphold a government school district's suspension of a coach for praying at the 50-yard line after every game. He says,
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that coaches can't pray or make religious gestures on the field after a game. These progressive activist judges have gone too far.
He calls for action:
At next Friday night's game, on Sept. 1, I think it would be great if football coaches across the country went out on the field wherever they are and prayed. And those there to watch the game stand in prayer with them.
Perhaps nothing gets conservative evangelicals as riled up as messing with "our" schools. Whether school prayer, religious symbols on clothing, Bible reading, or the homosexual agenda, Christians today routinely express their feeling that they are "under attack" in government schools.
Christians less often, however, see the underlying problem. When the government owns the building, property, buses, teaching contracts, administration, books, and virtually everything else about the system, and also taxes local property owners to pay for the system, we have a phrase for that: government ownership of the means of production. We also have a single word for that: Socialism.
Stick with me, now.
The deep inner contradiction among conservatives and evangelicals today is that in so many areas of life, they are the foremost opponents of socialism; yet when it comes to education, we are totally blind to it.
Franklin Graham's career over the past couple of decades or so exemplifies this conflict. Graham has been among the most vehement critics of "socialism." Just last fall during the election season he decried the "forces of evil" and their "irresponsible socialism."
About the same time, he rightfully condemned socialized health care, saying "socialists and atheists are scared to death of the church." He criticized "Democratic socialists" for wanting government-run programs in health care and welfare where private individuals and the church ought to provide solutions.
Earlier last year, he blasted socialism on Fox News: "Socialism is godless," he said.
That being the case, why would any Christian desire to hand their children over to it? Who would want their children raised, trained, and educated by a system fully rooted in that which is "irresponsible," "evil," "godless," and "scared to death of the church"?
Yet when it comes to the government education system, Graham is its foremost defender. Just a couple years ago, Graham decried the teaching of "gender fluidity" in government schools. His solution was for Christians to run for school board. While it may sound good to put righteous people in leadership, that will not work if the system is what is corrupt to begin with. This does nothing but legitimize the system the left invented. Baptized socialism is still socialism.
As far back as 2004, Graham spoke on a proposition at the Southern Baptist Convention to pull children out of the socialistic school system. He opposed the move, saying, "I hope Christians will not surrender the public schools. Instead, let's take them back. Let's consider them a mission field."
There was no acknowledgment of the "godless" socialism inherent in that system.
Graham probably has not realized that his argument is exactly how the socialist "Christians" around the world, and on the left in America, defend every other socialist program. Imagine how you (or Graham) would react if you heard a liberal saying:
I hope Christians will not surrender public health care. Instead, let's take it back. Let's consider it a mission field.
I hope Christians will not surrender on raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. Instead, let's take it back. Let's consider it a mission field.
I hope Christians will not surrender food stamps. Instead, let's take them back. Let's consider them a mission field.
I hope Christians will not surrender the public housing subsidies. Instead, let's take them back. Let's consider them a mission field.
On down the list of socialist welfare programs we could go. Granted, all of these areas-poverty, housing, health care-are mission fields, but we don't want the government in them! They are not the government's job! And neither is education.
Now Graham is speaking out because a federal court has inched the bar of "godless" socialism one step further and forbidden a coach from exhibitions of public prayer. He calls for Christian coaches everywhere to defy this ruling and pray.
On the one hand, it's wonderful that a Christian leader is willing to call for civil disobedience. Bravo! We should ignore, criticize, resist, demonstrate, nullify, and in some cases even fight against unjust laws. So few Christians today believe it's acceptable to resist unjust laws in general. It's refreshing to hear one, even if only for such a small thing.
But that's just it. This really is a "safe" thing to speak up about, isn't it?
Because on the other hand, the real problem is godless socialism itself: the redistribution of wealth and state control of the educational system in general, and Graham (and millions of other evangelicals and evangelical leaders) not only won't speak up about that, he defends it.
There is no greater expression of socialism in our culture than the government-run school systems. There is hardly an area in which government ownership and control of the means of production is more entrenched than in education.
Christians like Graham also don't realize that the moment we try to defend government schooling, that very moment they legitimize every other socialist welfare program that exists, and many others than leftists would like to exist. If it works for education, and Christians defend it, it's only a matter of time before it will "work" for health care, housing, jobs, transportation, industry, agriculture, and everything else, too. Why not? The Christians already told us they'd defend it once it's in place.
Leaving your kids in government schools is such a powerful endorsement to socialism in all other areas of life, it far outweighs a direct vote for Bernie Sanders any day. Bernie, Hillary, and Karl Marx have all been laughing for decades as we prove them "right," not by speaking socialism, but by practicing it.
Christians, you have good options, and the more we pull out of government schools, the better the free market reacts and makes those options even better: home school, private schools, private tutors, online schools.
The only way to defeat socialism is to delegitimize it. This means, we must get out of the system while we can, while we are free to do so, and replace it with that which we truly believe and preach: private, free market solutions.
Socialism is theft. Don't be a thief. Let him that stole, steal no more (Eph. 4:28).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Atonement: Was It Penal Substitution?

It seems to me that the broad Christian world believes that Christ died for the purpose of paying the death penalty incurred by people because of their sins. This is not the early teaching of Christianity though. Y’shuah himself said that the reason he died was to ransom many (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45). Paul says we were bought with a price (I Co 6:20). I don’t think that Christian literature contains the notion of penal substitution until the writings of Anselm, a notable 11th century English cleric. His teaching, upon which subsequent teachers have built, was that people earned death through their sins, and that God came in the form of Jesus to pay that death penalty so that people might live.

There are problems with this teaching.  First, did Y’shuah really pay the penalty of sin? The Bible teaches us that “the soul that sins, it shall die” and “the wages of sin is death”, but is this penalty paid by the crucifixion? We still die. Wait, you say, the penalty is eternal death. Okay, suppose it is. Jesus did not stay eternally dead. The second problem is that it hardly makes sense that an all-powerful God can’t just forgive without exacting a penalty. We do it all the time, and we are only human. Third, is it reasonable that God killed himself to appease himself? Fourth, the Bible teaches us that Christ died for all, but this would either mean that everyone will be saved from the penalty of breaking the law, or some will not be even though Y’shuah paid the penalty for them.  I could go on, but this is a good start at encouraging a look at the issues.

What one believes about the atonement has to align with and probably flow from what one believes about God (is he primarily love, or is justice paramount?), about Christ (was he God, or was he just a good man?), about the law (is it inexorable, exercising an unbending penalty?), and about man (are we basically good with a capacity to make mistakes, or are we essentially evil?).

Monday, August 7, 2017

Welcoming Pain

The pain of life is my segue into the awareness of the addictions that I need to transform into preferences if I am to be freed from the emotional patterns that bring that pain.

Because these painful experiences serve such a purpose, I welcome them.  For example, when I originally started writing this, I was experiencing a hurt occasioned by someone not living up to my addiction to having them care enough about me to fulfill what to me was an important promise. I decided to welcome this pain because it provided me with an occasion to realize that I have an addiction.  That realization was the first step to reprogramming it so that I am no longer addicted to them keeping their word. I can upgrade that addiction into a preference, and if they then fail me, it won’t trigger that same emotion. Instead, I will realize that I don’t need their integrity. There are other ways of being loved.

The Bible teaches us to welcome these events.
James 1:2-4: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” 
Matthew 5:11 tells us of a specific type of suffering in which we can be glad: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
I Peter 4:13: “but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
In that experience, I had to choose between (1) being hurt and letting it preoccupy me and keep love from flowing out from me and (2) thinking about what I have instead of what I don’t have.  I also had a choice between (1) emotionally insisting that people don’t fail me and (2) preferring that they are honest with me while I accept that sometimes they won’t be, and what really matters is that God will not fail me (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5).   

By the way, I was able to assert myself with them on the issue and express my desire that they keep their word, while inwardly being alright and not being bent out of shape over what I perceive as their failure.  It’s an issue of reprogramming.

How to reprogram is where we are now going.