Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Distracted Church

I hesitate to write this, for I know what people will say. They will say all I can do is rant about what I believe is wrong with the modern western Christian church. Who knows, they may be right. But I cannot help it. Especially when the solution is so simple.

A month or so ago, I was reading my Bible when I believe the Lord showed me a clear picture of the Church. It was in a common passage, and yet, I had never seen it this way before. The passage was John 5:1-15. You may want to reacquaint yourself with the story before continuing.

I admit, after I read it, I was incredulous. It was beyond belief that so many who had needs, so many of "God's people" would congregate around a pool where God's power was in operation in a benevolent dynamic that was so seldom seen. And I can just see them. The waters stir, and no one looks around to see who is in the most need. They all just surge forward to try to grab the blessing first. I don't know what amazes me most, the selfish nature of these good church-folks, or that God would perpetuate this display of what I deem blatant humanism. Did their parsimonious approach to God's grace stem from a lack of divine demonstration in their day? And yet, the person, regardless of motivation, would splash into the water and be healed.

Sounds like Church, doesn't it. I cannot deny that good things are happening in Churches. But what is the peoples' motivation? The fact is, when preachers preach that in God, there is provision for all one's needs, and that God's thoughts toward us are only benevolent, are met by His grace, he is essentially preaching a truth. It is bait to attract a crowd of people who want God's benefits, but not God Himself. It is humanism. Even the Churches that do not buy into the prosperity bit, but who emphasize the benefit of going to Heaven after they die might be guilty. I know it is truth. But its emphasis is out of proportion. One is saying, in essence, "God exists to make you happy on earth." while the other is saying, "God exists to make you happy after you are dead." Both appeal to the thread of humanism that exists in us all. The desire for happiness. The desire for security. That is Satan's ploy. Shuffle the truths of Christianity where what is central is pushed aside for more superficial aspects.

C. S. Lewis got it right. In the same breath he used to describe God as good, he said, "He isn't tame". That means, he isn't safe. He isn't a domesticated God. His interaction with humanity is more profound that meeting needs and answering prayer. We are His bride. He is our husband.

Indeed, we are like the wife that is devoted to her husband as long as he is working and providing a good living. But let that flow of provision become jeopardized, and the wife's loyalties begin to waver.

Think back to the pool of Bethesda. Christ... the very God who was responsible for the stirring of the water, walked right in among them, and no one recognized Him. EVEN THE MAN HE TOUCHED AND HEALED DID NOT KNOW WHO HE WAS.

Would we, with all our alter calls, tears, and going-through-the-motions, recognize Christ if He were dynamically in our midst? Is our purpose in all our Christian activities (Church attendance, prayer, study, etc) to apprehend His benefits, or to apprehend Him?

All the past rhetoric about streets of gold and walls of jasper, and seas of crystal, should all be in the periphery of our Christianity. Even more recently, all the temporal "name-it, claim-it", "purpose driven", "your best life NOW" benefits of being a Christian, are all a ploy by Satan to get your sights on the benefits, and get them off Christ. Satan is not threatened by our temporal prosperity, or by your eternal security, especially if that prosperity and security renders us spiritually lazy and consequently impotent (and it does).

Let me be straightforward.

We have one reward.

Let me re-emphasize that...


Jesus Christ, the son of God.

If all our mind is on is answered prayers on earth, and mansions and precious metals in Heaven, then there is no Heaven for us. No reality, no existence, can provide the euphoria that Heaven contains. We need to rearrange our priorities, and let everything aside from Jesus Christ, even the precepts and truths of Christianity, become, at best, an ancillary, or better yet, a mere related aspect.

If our focus and desire is not for Jesus Christ, can there be a Heaven for us? All the good things God does for us, or that we do for God, could be the very things that keep us away from Christ. Remember Martha, who was too busy to sit with Mary at Jesus' feet (Luke 10:38-42)? And the good church folks to whom Christ claimed to have never known (Matthew 7:22-23). When I drive through town, and I see all these churches building gymnasiums and annexes, my questions becomes clear. Why? Will all these amenities contribute to one's spiritual life? I wonder if the recent explosion in Church attendance that presumably has created the need for all these buildings would exist if the humanism was trimmed away from the version of Christianity presented, and Christ, the bare Christ, in his person, walking in the midst of a people whose eyes are glued to the pool waiting for a stirring of the water, was presented in these churches?

The point is clear, although the allegory is easy to miss. Take your eyes off the pool, whatever that is in your Christian walk. Scan the horizon for Christ in His person. Quit rocking on go to splash into the pool when it stirs, and find the most infirm, and least likely to benefit from the stirring. Chances are, when Christ does show up, that will be who he gravitates toward. Take action to know Him, not the perks, even the eternal perks. All the perks, both temporal and eternal, pale before the privilege of knowing Him.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Ten Introvert Myths

I saw this on another website the other day and thought it was very interesting and staggeringly accurate. I have always thought extroversion makes it easier to acclimate to society, while introversion kept its victim at a distance from the variables society thrusts upon us. Being a introvert myself, I always thought it strange that I could sit back and study the social habits of others, especially extroverts, and naturally diagnose the underlying causes of their behavior. This became very apparent in high school, where teens are just learning how to grasp and adapt to the ever changing social atmosphere and adjust their position in the social hierarchy accordingly. Watching all the peer groups and like-minded ones congregate in their respective corners of the social spectrum was an interesting experiment that I enjoyed back then. Even today, I can tell when someone is genuine, and when they're patronizing.

If you are not familiar with the personality traits known as introversion and extroversion, acquaint yourself with the Wikipedia article here. But be sure and finish this blog entry, as it debunks many of the myths that even the Wikipedia article depicts.

So, here's to living in a world where society, the Corporate World, and even (and this is profoundly unfortunate and pathetic) the Church, values extroversion more than introversion. Even so, I thought this might bring clarity to our recondite ways. Enjoy!

Introvert myths...

Myth #1Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.


#1 - Respect their need for privacy.

#2 - Never embarrass them in public.

#3 - Let them observe first in new situations.

#4 - Give them time to think. Don't demand instant answers.

#5 - Don't interrupt them.

#6 - Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.

#7 - Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.

#8 - Reprimand them privately.

#9 - Teach them new skills privately.

#10 - Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities.

#11 - Don't push them to make lots of friends.

#12 - Respect their introversion. Don't try to remake them into extroverts.


1. Practicing conversations with people you’ll never talk to.

2. When you want to cut all ties to civilization but still be on the internet.

3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t want to sound like a bad person by saying no.

4. When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you’re missing out on time with friends.

5. And you fear that by doing so, you are nearing ‘hermit’ status.

6. When your ride at a party doesn’t want to leave early, and no one seems to understand your distress.

7. Trying to be extra outgoing when you flirt so your crush doesn’t think you hate them.

8. That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings and you’re not mentally prepared to chat.

9. When you have an awesome night out, but have to deal with feeling exhausted for days after the fact.

10. People saying “Just be more social.”

11. When you’re able to enjoy parties and meetings, but after a short amount of time wish you were home in your pajamas.

12. Staying up late every night because it’s the only time that you can actually be alone.

13. People making you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

14. Having more conversations in your head than you do in real life.

15. The need to recharge after social situations.

16. People calling you out for day dreaming too much.

17. Carrying a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter.

18. People interrupting your thoughts, and you get irrationally angry.

19. Having to say “I kind of want to spend some time by myself” when you have to deal with that friend that always wants to hang out.

20. When you’re asked to do a group project, and know that you’re going to hate every minute of it.

21. When you hear the question “Wanna hang out?”, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

22. When you hear, “Are you OK?” or “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time.

23. Having visitors stay with you is a nightmare, because it means you have to be on at ALL TIMES.

24. When people stop inviting you places because you’re the one that keeps canceling plans.

25. Being horrified of small talk, but enjoying deep discussions.

26. When you need to take breaks and recharge after socializing for too long.

27. The requirement to think introspectively rather than go to someone else with your problems.

28. Not wanting to be alone, just wanting to be left alone. And people not understanding that.

29. When people mistake your thoughtful look for being shy, or worse, moody.

30. That people need to know that you aren’t mad, depressed or anti-social. You just need to not talk to anyone for a while. And that’s okay. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Witches, Wizards, and Elves, Oh My!

We are a literary people. We are this way by design. For whatever reason, God designed us to have a written version of our spoken languages, and subsequently to use that medium to publish thoughts, ideas, and even stories for our fellow man to use. Why else would God have used the medium of a book to propel His Word down through the history of mankind, if we were not meant to be readers.

And yet, every time a good book comes along, Christians always manage to hack it apart and demonize it.

I am speaking of the Harry Potter book series. I recently completed it and loved every minute of it. But with the final movie adaption about to exit theaters and move on into the local Red Box, the religious publishers are still taking pot shots at it. I find this irritating and disrespectful. And it also reflects the state of the Church in its current understanding of Satan's tactics. Allow me to explain.

Obviously, the Church's objection is the idea of wizards, witches, and the use to "witchcraft". The problem I have with this is that the depicted magic in the Harry Potter books bears little to no resemblance to real witchcraft. In fact, the closest it comes is Divination, which even the primary characters of book condemns as bogus. Rowling loosely based the magic of Harry Potter on magic as it is depicted in the Arthurian legends. In fact, the interjection "Merlyn's Beard" is often heard, as well as prominent characters are often members of the "Order of Meryin". Arthurian magic is based on the idea that the magic of one generation is the science of another. For example, in both Harry Potter, and the assumed magnum opus of Arthurian Legend, The Once and Future King by T. H. White, there is a satchel that has had a charm put on it so that it can contain a room full of items in spite of its small size. Sound outrageous? My Amazon Kindle, smaller than a single book in itself, contains 500 books, which is 20% of its claimed capacity. Doesn't sound so outrageous anymore, does it?

In Arthurian legend, Merlyn lives backwards, from future to the past. He had already seen things like airplanes and trains, and was mesmerized by them. Rowling continued this with some characters' fascination with what they called "Muggle artifacts".

This depiction of magic in Harry Potter bears no resemblance to true magic, as is condemned in the Scriptures. It is far too pedantic. Witchcraft is often defined as an art that any human can undertake to learn, that uses the power of a supernatural entity to perform in the real world actions that would otherwise be impossible within the parameters of our normal physical laws. Real witchcraft is coercive and controlling. A smooth tongue that can use words to manipulate a person to do one's will. And just to further show how hypocritical the Church has been in condemning these books, the transliteration for the original Greek word for "witchcraft" in Galatians 5:20 is pharmakeia. That is the same root word from which we derive our word "Pharmaceutical", "Pharmacy", and "Pharmacist". That's right folks! If you want to see honest and biblically condemned witchcraft, one really needs to look no further than their own medicine cabinet.

Of course, no one wants to hear that. Everyone likes to think that they are immune to the really heinous sins. They enjoy believing that the sins God hates the most are the ones most distant and foreign to their very lives. Ever notice how most Christians strongly condemn the sins they themselves are not generally tempted to? We need to honestly reread the "mote and beam" story in the Scripture again. We love defining our point of reference for moral fidelity in such a way that puts us in good moral standing with God. How quickly we forget that our moral standard, the epitome of holiness, is Christ. Who can measure up then?

Of course, the magic in Harry Potter is different than the magic of other books, like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia. In those two books, firstly, it is an entirely different world. Magic comprises part of the natural landscape to those worlds. It is as commonplace as the Sun and Moon. Second, not just anyone can undertake the learning of magical arts in those stories. Either you are, or are not, a being who can use magic. For example, the wizards in The Lord of the Rings, like Gandalf and Saruman, are not human, but rather, they are the Istari, or divine beings sent by Iluvatar (the world's deity) for a particular purpose. The elves are also magical, but not in the same way as the Istari. In Narnia, the magic was there, almost a person in itself, defined and written by that world's deity. In fact, Narnia, being patterned after Christianity, one might say that the magic that pervades the book is the Narnia version of the Holy Spirit. The atonement of that world is called "Deeper Magic". The magic of Narnia are the governing laws of the world, including the laws that govern Aslan Himself, written by Aslan's father.

In fact, consider this. If magic can indeed be defined as the presence of a supernatural power performing actions that would otherwise be impossible within the parameters of our physical laws, then wouldn't some of Christ's actions appear as magic to those who had no theological background? Raising the dead could be construed as necromancy, Turning water into wine could be construed as transfiguration. And obviously, there had to be a transcendence of our physical laws that made Christ buoyant enough to walk on water.

Sorry if I have gotten your ire up. That might have been a tad too much for the constrained minds of modern Christians.

I suppose this has turned into a rant. But magic, as depicted in literature, equals power. And too much power always defines a good antagonist for the protagonist, typically outgunned and weaker, to overcome. In other words, magic makes a good story.

Finally, having said all that, do I think Harry Potter is the work of the Devil? Well, probably so, but not for the same reasons the Church is popularizing. Growing up around raccoon hunters, I learned a little about it. The only defense a raccoon really has against the sensitive noses of the coon hounds is the clever tactic of throwing them off the scent. Use rivers, creeks, and trees and march them north while the raccoon is safely heading south. That is precisely what Satan has done with books like Harry Potter. As long as the Church is looking for children playing Quidditch or taming Hippogriffs in an enchanted forest, the real witchcraft continues unchecked and unchallenged by the Church.

Honestly, when was the last time you saw a fourteen year old buzz down the street on a broom, or brewing polyjuice potion in their basement, or sending friends messages by using an owl? And yet, these innocuous activities, only found in literature, and foreign to those who practice genuine witchcraft, are ripped apart from pulpits and Christian publications as if they were fundamental dangers to our societies. The Devil laughs at the Church's utter lack of understanding. The hounds are heading north, while their quarry heads south.

It is yet more condemning evidence as to the current atrophied and emaciated state of today's established Church.

My message to the Church is, leave good literature alone. Know what you're talking about before chopping away at it. It is not the time to go on a demon hunt where no demon exist. There are more pertinent things out there. Outside the Church, pornography has become rampant and easily accessible. Divorce rates continue to climb. Joblessness is on the increase, and people are hurting now more than ever. Within the Church, rampant humanism continues to pervade the doctrines and orders, seemingly without resistance, continuing to erode the fundamental truths of Christianity. In truth, all you really have to do is preach the Gospel... The GOSPEL!!! You do not really have to worry about keeping the moral alignment of the Church in tow if the genuine Gospel is preached with the unction of the Holy Ghost. Christ said that He would draw all men to Him if He is lifted up. If men are drawn to Him, and are standing at his feet, moral misalignment becomes a moot point. Stop trying to define what has already been defined. Quit attempting to fit people into your moral molds. Take people by the hand, and lead them to Jesus. Not much can go wrong after that.