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Dark falls upon the land and we cannot speak of it

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The terror of our time is terrorism.  All is not right with the spirit of our land and we shudder.  Perplexed the best and brightest ask, why?  Years ago as a graduate student of social anthropology I was taught that the language of the problem always contained the language of the solution.   This was not meant to be optimistic about problem solving but rather pointed to an often overlooked limitation of western consciousness.  Our solutions are simply expressions of our language and another way of re-stating our problems.  Some are now beginning to understand how giving up freedom for security in order to fight terrorism can create its own form of terror.

Another aspect of this problem of language or consciousness is that if you limit your ‘vocabulary’ in expressing the problem your solution will also be limited by the same constraints.  In other words if the expression of the problem is simplistic, politically correct or inadequate so to will be the solution.  The ‘factors’ that create or encourage terrorism are not simply economic, political, social or cultural.  There is a real spiritual dimension to the root causes of terrorism that few tackle.  Robert Sibley goes right back to the ancient Greeks searching for the proper language to describe how young men growing up in our privileged society turn to terrorism;

The ancient Greek philosopher recognized that the most dangerous creature in the world is a young man of limited education. His Socratic dialogue, The Republic, explores the need to educate young men to noble purpose, training them to direct their desires — their spirits, in other words — to the well-being of the city. For Plato, a young man’s “spiritedness” informed his character and conduct. Unless that spiritedness was educated for worthy ends it could easily degenerate into conduct harmful to the city. That is to say, young men can be turned to both good and evil. The spiritedness that prompts them to noble purpose can also be misdirected to violence if their psyches are miseducated.  (Young men can be turned to good or evil –  Robert Sibley, Ottawa Citizen  Published: Monday, April 29, 2013)

To consider this possibility, we as a society would have to tacitly admit that all is not well with our spirituality.  We would have to admit that what we pass on to our youth by way of education is lacking in the very area that preserves and creates civilization – nobility of heart, mind and soul.  Sibley continues; “Unfortunately, modern secular society can fail to provide young men with a positive sense of meaning that satisfies their spiritedness. The acquisition of technological trinkets and vicarious living through video games is not a meaning-filled life. Some, as we’ve seen, turn to violence to provide them with a sense of purpose.”

Our great leaders and educators in the west have failed to see what others in far away remote places understand and have used with devastating effect upon us.  Our consumerist and secular culture has created a spiritual void in our young people and the vacuum of it invites the worst of spiritually driven passions to enter in.  Jesus spoke of this kind of spiritual invasion of empty places;  “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.   Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

But few western academics would risk their reputations by admitting even the possibility that in our rush to secularize and empty out our public institutions of Christianity, we may have thrown out something that could make us and our children noble.  No political leader would ever risk his or her vote by even remotely questioning the wisdom of ‘secularizing’ not only the state but the spirit as well.  Sibley cites Philosopher Eric Voegelin  who coined the word “pneumopathological” to describe the moral insanity of the self-righteous world of the terrorist.  Our society must struggle with these ideas lacking as it does the most important critieria for identifying moral insanity in individuals; “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”  (Matthew 7:15,16)

Jesus taught us this but who listens to Him any more?

My Dad

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Dad as a young manWhen I was a little boy my Dad was larger than life.  When I became a man with my own family and career my Dad was smaller somehow – sadly I was so busy he became smaller than my life.  He passed away over ten years ago and now I just wish he was in my life again.

The Bible tells us; “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)  This is one of the Ten commandments.  Paul tells us that this is the first commandment with a promise; “which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'” (Ephesians 6:2)

I have a friend who is getting to know her parents through remembering with the help of old photographs.  In a way this post is a page taken right ‘out of her notebook’.   This is my Dad when he was a young man in Denmark.  He was in the King’s Guard – a royal grenadier.  He guarded the King’s Palace in Copenhagen, marching with a bear skin hat and a light blue uniform.  This was before I was ever in the ‘picture’ so to speak.  I look at my Dad as a young man and wonder what he thought about life, what his hopes and dreams were?  I try to connect and feel a longing to get to know him as a person.  This was something I was never able to really do when he was alive.  Not because he wasn’t willing but rather because I thought I had all the time in the world.

This next picture is my dad when I was a young boy of about six.  He was working the garden.  scan0004Dad was a family man working really hard as a labourer and part time farmer.  In Denmark he ‘enjoyed’ a life of privilege and position.  His family was wealthy and had a lot of land, barns, buildings and assets.  In Canada, Mom and Dad gave up a lot so that their children could grow up in a place that offered more opportunity than bygone family history.  It worked.  Because my parents were willing to break with tradition, take a risk and move to a new place, their children were all successful.   When I look at this picture of Dad, I see a very large powerful man who is determined to make a go of life no matter how hard it is.

It’s really hard to connect to Dad as a person in this picture.  Maybe because I was a child when it was taken.  When I remember this time my emotions as a child mitigate any cognitive attempt to ‘see’ my Dad as a man in the same way that I am a man.  Hard to connect through childhood memories.  It seems easier to connect with my Dad as a person through the first picture of him as a young man because I have no childhood memories of him at this stage of his life.  And so I can ‘cognitively’ put myself in a space where I can meet him as an equal.  Does that make sense?

There were a lot of reasons why Mom and Dad came to Canada.  One was a terrible tragedy that happened to my oldest brother who died when he was just four years old.  But for now, I just want to honor the courage of my Dad and my parents for making a new life in a different country.

Recovery begins when we stop blaming others

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Blaming is second nature to me. If something goes wrong, I blame someone. If life isn’t going well, someone else is to blame – It can’t be me! There’s no way I might be the source of the problem. This tendency to pin the source of your troubles on someone else beside yourself goes way back.

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God had to search them out and ask them what was going on; “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11) Adam blamed Eve; “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (v. 12) And Eve blamed the serpent; “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (v. 13) Note also that neither Adam or Eve gave a direct answer to God’s straightforward questions.

Blaming, hiding and evasion are all work against recovery. Yesterday during a rcovery group meeting the pastor stressed the simple idea that without honesty there can be no recovery. Keeping secrets through hiding and evasion are roadblocks to recovery. Adam and Eve found themselves cast out of the Garden of Eden through a chain of poor decisions which they tried to rationalize and blame others for. We truly are their children. We do the same. God still loved and provided for them; “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (v. 21) But they had to live out the consequences of their decisions.

Blaming, evasion and hiding are all aspects of being dishonest with others and yourself.  The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book states; “Those who do not recover are those who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men or women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”   For AA, there are people who are  able to be honest with others and themselves.  I disagree.  We can’t be.  No one can.  The Bible tells us; “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)  And “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)

Honesty is possible only with God’s help.  We need His Presence in our lives, maturing us, conforming us more and more to the image of His Son;  “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  (1 Corinthians 13:11,12)  The twelve steps and one million step 4’s will never be enough by themselves for you to recover.  We must allow  His hand to work in our lives.

The Bible tells us to; “. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,   for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  (Philippians 2:12,13)

You’ve got issues!

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A few years ago, I was doing some home renovations and some guys from Harvest House were helping me. We took a break from drywalling in the mid morning and sat out on the porch. It was late summer and fair time. Every year people crowd into the little town I live in and go to the fair. They all want to park on my front lawn and I hate that- absolutely hate it. It makes me crazy angry when people park on my grass!

Sure enough as we were chatting during our morning break someone pulled up and parked on my front lawn. They didn’t ask. They didn’t pay any attention to us (to me). They just parked their car and started to walk down to the fair. I jumped up and yelled – “Don’t park your car on my front lawn and I won’t park my car on your front lawn – How would you like it if I did that to you?!!!!”

The owner of the car was really apologetic and said that he wasn’t going to stay long and he was only visiting his step daughter next door to me. It turned out that I knew the guy and he was surprised by my reaction. I felt bad that I had yelled at him. My friends who were all recovering addicts said; “Hey Tony, you’ve got issues, you better ‘step four’ that resentment.”  They had me pegged!

Later that day, when I took a walk I started to ask myself – Why do I get so angry when someone parks on my front lawn. I do it every time and today I yelled at someone I knew and looked like a fool. Why do I keep doing it? So I thought – I’ll do a step four and see what comes out of it.

Doing a step four can be as simple as stating what your resentment is, who you are resentful at and how it makes you feel. It’s best to write down your resentments in a journal. When you have many of them written down you begin to see that who you are emotionally is neatly summed up by the feelings generated by your resentments. You can see them listed in resentment after resentment. There are many more comprehensive worksheets that go into greater depth and detail but for me this was how I started.

So, I am resentful of people who park their cars on my lawn without asking. When they do that I feel like I don’t count, people can do what they want to me and I’m being picked on. I feel angry, powerless and hurt, hurt, hurt! Those feeling always make me react in an angry defensive way. I suddenly realized that those were the same feelings I had listed when I did step fours for the many instances of being bullied when I was a child. The power of those feelings made me behave in a certain way that I would regret afterwards.

Finally understanding where my feelings came from gave me control over my response to the situation. People parking on my lawn is still a ‘hot button’ for me but now I don’t immediately launch into angry tirades. I can cope with the situation in a more positive way. In a way the step four allowed me to expose a ‘small demon’ in my life and took away its power over me.

Fortunately, doing step fours isn’t rocket science – we can all work this simple step and come to understand ourselves and how our past shapes our responses today. That understanding enables change!

Draw the line!

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Joshua 24:15 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

     Right before his death Joshua confronted his people.  Old gods, new gods and strange gods all drew the attention of the Israelites away from the one true God.  They were a fickle people.  They were prideful and ‘stiff necked’.  They didn’t like to be hemmed in by rules and absolutes.  Wanting to go their own way and do their own things they sought out and found gods that would allow them their ‘freedom’. 

     There is no shortage of such gods.  They wait in the dark and they are ravenous.  These gods serve a dark master; “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  (Revelation 12:12)  Like the Israelites, we are surrounded by enticements, different ways and strange gods.  It’s hard to know where to draw the line.  Joshua obviously felt the need to draw the line with his people.  Even though Joshua was their unquestioned leader, he knew each and every household-  each and every person – had to draw their own line of their own free will.  So it is with us.

     How far will we go in accepting the immoral muck of this dark world into our lives. When we dream, do we dream of winning the lottery or of winning His favour?  When others poke fun of the Bible  and denigrate believers do we laugh?   Do we silently stand by and allow false statements to go unchecked?  Sometimes the most powerful way we can serve the LORD is to stand up and be counted among those who follow His Son!  Jesus said; “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

     God, Himself placed before the Israelites a choice.  Life or death; “I set before you today life and prosperity death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”  (Deuteronomy 30:15,16) It’s not enough to give lip service we must follow through.   Jesus Himself, asks; “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

     When we make our choice for Jesus we draw a line and stand with Him.  We chose life when we follow Him.  We won’t have an easy time of it.  Jesus tells us; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  We will not become a victim to the one who seeks to devour us; “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)  Rather we will have abundant life now and in heaven; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

     Jesus has always been;  “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”   (Luke 10:18,19,20)  He knows the devil and He knows us.  The trouble with our time is that many can’t recognize either one even though both seek us; Jesus to empower us and the devil to devour us.  Sadly, in a dark world it’s hard to see clear enough to draw a line.

     We need a light to go by and His name is Jesus;  “I am<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> the light of the world.<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

     Praise the Lord!

Broken or crushed – we always have a choice

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Luke 20:17  “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ . . .  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

     Jesus confronted the Pharisees with a parable which describes how the tenants of a vineyard mistreated the owner’s servants and killed his son because these tenants wanted everything for themselves.  The wicked tenants wouldn’t recognise the authority of the owner’s son and they killed him instead.  (Luke 20:9-16)  Jesus asked them what would happen to the tenants, should the owner kill them?  The Pharisees admit their guilt by their sympathy for the tenants – “God forbid”; they said (v. 16)! 

     It’s all about authority.  It’s all about selfishness.  It’s all about the throne and not the king that should rightfully sit on it!  The Pharisees openly said it; “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”  (John 11:48)  They see the wickedness of the tenants yet cannot bear the application of justice because of their own guilt.  Is this not the way of our world?  How often we see wickedness be acknowledged and even admitted, yet many inwardly shudder at the coming justice because of their own guilt?

     Such guilt is a heavy burden.  Some become desperate under it’s weight. Your steps falter to the point that you finally trip over an obstacle long ignored and forgotten.  The slow grinding progress to hell is interrupted by falling on your face – broken.  Perhaps the obstacle is a confrontation with the truth of your actions;  perhaps it is the admonishment of Scripture long forgotten.  Perhaps it is the very dirt of your fall, the sting of which opens  your eyes to what and who you really are.  That’s what did it for me.  At that point we have a choice.  Get up and continue plodding on in sin towards damnation; the journey crushing us to dust. Or be broken, and in repentance receiving His mercy letting Him put us back together again.

     We always have a choice.  We can be like the Pharisees, acknowledge our guilt and prefer it over righteousness.  Or we can be like King David.  When the prophet Nathan confronted him using a parable (2 Samuel 12:1-13) David could see the application of justice in it.  Unlike the Pharisees when the finger of confrontation was pointed directly at him, David owned up to his guilt and repented; “I have sinned<sup class="crossreference" value="(X)”> against the Lord.” (v. 13)  David was broken in pieces.  He had to live the consequences but God made him right (2 Samuel 12:13,14)!

     Being crushed to nothing by the grinding weight of our own self-righteous obstinacy is a slow fire of damnation and oblivion that some actually chose for themselves.  Being broken, being shattered by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to repent and be made whole by His love is a choice available to any who love His justice more than their own carcass.   Such people are overcomers.

     “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”  (Revelation 12: 11) 

     Praise the Lord!

    

Lost in Spirit Land

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People will often make the claim that while they are not religious, they are very spiritual.  What does this really mean?  A common assumption that is made about the spiritual realm is that it is always friendly and benign.  Journeying through it so people think is going to be a ‘walk in the park’.  Anyone who has had any experience with true wilderness will understand immediately that you must be outfitted and prepared for any kind of excursion into the wilds of our ‘back country’.

If nature is red in tooththe nightmare and claw, how much more  potential danger do the inhabitants of the spiritual world present.   The Bible tells us that our world is beset by a powerful spiritual presence that is not friendly or benign; “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12)

The adolescent attitudes of invincibility inculcated into people ‘cocooned’ by affluence and ease create a mindset of incredulity towards any sort of notion that wild hungry animals are loose in the woods.  It doesn’t take much to get lost in terrain you are not prepared or trained for.   This caution is typical; “RCMP are stressing the importance of being properly prepared and equipped when traveling in remote regions.”  And sadly it is just as typically ignored.

Many people are just spiritually stupid.  Nobody likes to be called stupid in any way.  That being said, stupid is as stupid does (wisdom from Forest Gump’s mother)!  For example one article in wikiHow advises people that they can connect to the spiritual world by going alone into the woods and jumping into a cold lake.  People can get lost and hurt in the spiritual world as easily as they do in the wilderness.  Yet, few tread carefully when invited into a spiritual reality.  Just notice how many astrologists, psychics and spirit guides operate today and the ‘advice’ they give.

Those who dabble with the ouji board believe it to be harmless while these same people would balk at knowingly consorting with a sociopath. Yet they buy them as fun toys for their children!   Scripture tells us that there are many demons loose in the world and they don’t like us; “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9)

The Bible tells us to stay away from these areas in the spiritual realm. “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)  Witchcraft, sorcery and spiritualism has been around for a long time.  So has Satan and his demons.  It’s a terrible danger that witches and demons have become so popular in movies and television.  Our media is leading our children into terrible places while we look on.

Scripture tells us how to deal with the spiritual realm and the warfare encountered there; “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10,11,12)   Sadly, few believe this and many look for any opportunity to blindly frolic in the dangerous spiritual war zone.  We are behind enemy lines.  Many are lost in a terrible dark place because they don’t believe or just don’t know any better!

We are spiritual beings, but please let’s be careful and wise as we walk our journey.  Not every every road leads homeward and we need good equipment to travel the one that brings us to safety.

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