Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flower arranging

Regular readers and pals know that one of my favorite hobbies is flower arranging. I've been spending two solid weeks doing one or two arrangements a day, until my room likes like a flower shop or a funeral parlor!

Tonight was mega cool though. I noticed a huge truckload sale of flowers at a nearby clearance store, bought some for myself, then mentioned to my neighbor. She invites me to go with her while she picks out some flowers, but I find her agenda is to let me go crazy and redecorate her home's floral arrangements. I spend the evening at her house in kind of mosh pit flower bliss! She let me deconstruct all the ones she already had (yeah!) and using the materials, plus the new, I was able to get six totally new arrangements cooking. Yeah! Totally stoaked with the results, even before I get a few more new items to touch up further.

Shoot outs, OKC building, 9/11....

So I get in my car yesterday at 10 am and drive down the street and can't get to the buildings where I am going to pay some bills for the guy I house keep for because the road is blocked with a tipped over bike, wrecked cars and lots of police. Figuring a bad accident I try to get around that intersection, but a whole block is closed. Some wreck I figure and drive further east to get around it all. Didn't realize it was a shoot out AS I was there. Only got the full story as I read the paper online this morning, since I'm not hanging on the TV checking out the news all the time.

This made me think of something to share with you about me. I'm not hanging on the news all the time, getting shocked at what people are doing to each other, because if one's a real follower of God, human antics are never a shocker, actually. The Bible is full examples of bad behavior, but they don't go into the gory details since that's not the point. For example, anyone who knows any history knows that idolatry was not just worshipping some stupid calf statue but killing babies as sacrifices to false gods. Once you realize that the Chosen People themselves got lured into doing exactly that, not once but a number of times, you don't get too shocked at anything that people do-sad, yes, grieved, yes, but not shocked.

So now you understand why I wasn't glued to the TV first thing each morning and thus missed the opening acts of both the bombing in OKC and 9/11 itself. I found out about OKC when my cousin phoned and told me, then I turned on the TV. Years later I've heard through the grapevine that people wonder why I do not cry, run around, rend my garments and over emote when something like this happens. Huh? The Israelites themselves would listen to the word of God, who was personally there, and then turned around and killed babies to false gods, and I am supposed to be shocked that someone sets off a bomb? Grieved, yes, but not shocked and not acting like it's the first bad thing I've ever heard about humans doing.

Same thing about 9/11. I was on the computer chatting with an ex and so I did not have the TV on. No relatives called yet since the ones who were caught up in the actual events were still caught up in the actual events (escaping, being held in planes on the runway). When I'm done with my chat I turn on the Weather Channel on TV and wonder why they are talking about "of course there are no flights right now in the USA." That piqued my curiosity and I turned to any channel and saw the two buildings burning.

What did I feel? Grieved. The same as I always do. Was I shocked? No, because this stuff is really inevitable. Read the Bible.

Again I heard people being mad, through the grapevine, because I'm not acting out some sort of outrage or hysteria. That's like expecting someone who got through World War II, including concentration camps, to wildly applaud at a Western movie shoot out. When you've already long ago seen how far and how bad people will go, it's not a lack of caring that keeps one from being reactive like a howler monkey. Instead, I am thinking, "Oh oh. This is not good. People need to stop the slippery slope into hell on earth followed by hell for eternity."

So that's why my pulse did not even quicken as I came across what looked like a bad wreck and only later find out it was cops defending themselves from an attacking nut. "Just another day in paradise," as a friend of mine ironically says.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Very funny Sofia News Agency joke


Exercise to detox from cult thinking

I just thought of this exercise for you, which is part history lesson and part a detox study for debunking cults and their warped thinking.

Let's start with setting the stage for this exercise before I explain the background. Suppose that President Obama developed the ideal comprehensive health care plan, one that is absolutely solid, just, fair and would work. The only problem is that for some reason no American can have an individual name nor know their birth date. That is the only "price" for this health care plan. This is just a mental exercise, so don't worry about hidden reasons for this... there are none, this is a totally innocent and obvious case study. So everyone agrees that they will no longer have a name and they will no longer know their date of birth. What do you think would happen? Would the world end? The universe implode? Everyone go crazy?

No...obviously not. People would start to have nicknames "Like brown eyed dumb ass" or "The tall guy who is son of the short guy." People would celebrate "birthday parties" whenever they want. And a lot of computer systems would have to be rewritten, LOL. Life would go on, and better than it ever did before because in this case study we are assuming that President Obama really did come up with an actual great health care plan.

How do we know that there would not be chaos or, more to my point, that there is no "spiritual" or "apocalyptic" fallout of having no names or knowledge of birthdays?

Because that is how most of human life already has been lived.

Young people, you must realize that no one even owned a calendar, say nothing of caring about the day a child was born, until very recently in human history. Only a hundred years ago plenty of people had no idea of their birth date.

And the giving and having of a formal individual name is also a very recent phenomenon. People were forced to think of names for themselves when governments organized enough that they wanted to draft and tax them. This reached its height in the Middle Ages, when people were forced to think of last names for themselves. This is why many Jews have pretty last names (when translated), meaning things like gold, roses, etc. Since they were forced to think of last names, they just picked out really cool names for themselves.

Most of the world did not (and many still do not) have last names. Even their first names were not unique. I remember when "Mary" was the most popular name for girls. In Islamic countries they continue to use the most frequent, often of the Qur'an, names, with last names being the lineage of who was the father, then grandfather.

Why am I teaching this to you? Well, what is the cornerstone of most crazy occult beliefs? That there is "significance" to a person's name and birth date. Cultists who are by definition totally delusional over analyze and become control freaks over names and birth dates, deriving sounds, anagrams, synonyms, numerology, "symbolic meanings," astrology bull crap, supposed reincarnation bull crap.... all from information that ninety nine percent of humans did not have and did not track during their entire history.

Whenever you are tempted, young people, to believe some baloney about the "significance" of your name or your date of birth (and hence numbers etc), think of this scenario that I have now presented to you above. What if President Obama wrote and funded a perfect health plan, but all one had to do for some innocent reason was give up having a formal name and knowing one's date of birth. I mean, would the universe "fall apart" because there is this bat crap crazy notion that it is secretly "controlled" via that information? Information that still does not exist for much of the world AND did not exist at all, since people had no names or "dates" of birth, for most of the thousands of years of civilization. Um, obviously not because you all are here, aren't you? You are descended from great great grandparents who didn't even necessarily have last names and/or didn't record the date of birth of their kids, even if they knew what it was. If you are of my age you probably knew when you were a child elderly people who remember the times when large families barely kept track of birth years and months, say nothing of the date.

I hope that you have found this helpful as another way to 1) use logic when confronted with a dubious theory 2) use reasoning to think through "test cases" of comparative examples of scenarios and 3) to train your mind away from believing stuff that has absolutely no logic when closely examined and 4) use the truth of real human history to study what actually happened. I mean, have countries where most of the people still have only one casual name, no last name, and no clue as to the exact date that person was born, and name generation after generation of daughters Mary and sons Abdullah have some sort of black hole hovering over them because freak cults aren't "in control" to keep "the universe in so called 'balance?'" Obviously not.

Read for example any newspaper article in countries like Indonesia, India, China and so forth. When interviewing bystanders the reporters often have to say something like "Witnessing the incident was a man who only goes by one name, Chan...." etc. I see that all the time, where in those cultures people still have just one name, a common name. If you go there and talk to them, many would have no clue as to their birth date. That is how humans developed and how they were for most of their history, not with crazy bat crap notions that have reached almost Nazi type of control hysteria that names or dates of birth have "spiritual" significance. They do not, obviously.

I did a blog a while ago where people could watch me calculate how you can divide the population of the earth by 365 to see how many people have the "same birth date." It means nothing and you can see that because human beings exist today at all, and thrive in numbers, if not in mental health, precisely because they were, until recently, reality based, and not moon calf imagining about the "meaning" of alphabets and numbers in a personal life or societal well being. It is such crap I cannot believe that anyone who is not on drugs or drunk has ever believed it.

But you, young people, have been taught by teachers who secretly believe this, and parents who believe it, and who themselves are the victims of not bothering to learn the basics of real science, real arithmatic, real geology, real sociology, or logical thought etc. Too much "whatever" and "correctness" being shoved down kids throats instead of their minds being filled with strength, integrity and knowledge. Hope this has helped!

Watching rocking Psalm reading

While preparing to blog some more I saw on the TV the rocking version of Psalms 102(103) during the Papal mass in Czechoslovakia. LOVED IT!

understanding Satan, another point re: angels

I hope the previous blog post was helpful. This morning it occurred to me that you might still find it difficult to understand how ex-lead angel, fallen angel Satan can lack comprehension of God's All Knowingness. After all, would not an angel know better than anyone? That is exactly my point: no, they do not. None of the angels comprehend God's All Knowingness since it is totally impossible to comprehend, by either angels or human beings! But here is the difference. The angels in heaven believe. They have total faith in God, which overcomes their inability, as created beings, to totally understand God's All Knowingness. Only God himself understands his All Knowingness.

You see, some "New Age" thinking has crept into the thinking of both believers and non-believers that once one achieves heaven, or nirvana, or "is one with the universe" that suddenly one "understands everything." You most certainly do not. No one has ever believed that until these modern technical times, where humans have started thinking of themselves as having the ability to "be anything you want to become" and to "achieve anything." Older humans were a lot more humble and realistic. They realized that going to heaven meant being constantly at peace in God's presence in paradise, NOT becoming God given "experts." So no, the fallen angels, the multitude that is unimaginable that are in heaven with God, and humans who achieve paradise through salvation do not at all understand God's All Knowingness. The difference is that the multitude of angels who serve God have total faith that he is the All Knowing, and humans who achieve heaven also have as their reward total faith and ability to believe with no question that God is indeed who he is, but the fallen angels recognize God, but lack faith that God is all that he really is. To use a modern term, fallen angels (and living humans) have a "mental block," an inability to comprehend God's All Knowingness.

Humans have that mental block as a condition of their being alive in a finite world within finite bodies that are limited (no matter how intelligent or "spiritual") by the neurons of the brain and the reality of the body. So humans are incapable of truly comprehending God's All Knowingness because they are in bodies and minds that can't grasp it. They can, however, develop marvelous and tremendous faith, in that way emulating the angels in heaven who believe because of course they are there and can see God all the time. It is important to cultivate faith because faith overcomes natural blindness. That is precisely the problem with Satan and those who follow him. Lacking faith that God is totally who he truly is, they have mental blocks and blind spots to understanding God's true nature and All Knowingness, even though Satan can and does, as we see in scripture, continue to be able to speak to God face to face when God allows it. Satan can look at God and obviously believe in his powers and obviously attest that God most certainly exists and is the creator of all (since Satan like the other angels saw it all), but Satan and the fallen angels are flawed not by being "born evil," but because they would not serve.... and service, in heaven, means having perfect faith!

Generations of humans have been saved and reach heaven based on faith, not on their ability to perform "good deeds." Without getting into that whole argument (that is based on misunderstanding plus a weakness of faith in God, ironically), the faith versus works artificial argument among some denominations is a similar lack of faith problem in God's All Knowingness. How is it that the poorest of the poor, those who are unable to do any "good deeds" such as "works," but have unshaken faith go to heaven (see the Beatitudes for the scriptural references) while at the same time, rich people with faith risk going to hell if they do not accomplish the very specific works that God expects them to do, rather than works of their own choosing (see Luke 16)? It all comes down to faith in God's All Knowingness. God knows the true state of each person's heart, soul, thoughts and purity of intentions. This is why a poor person unable to do any works but filled with faith will go to heaven, while a rich person who believes in God but thinks that he or she can pawn off certain works "good deeds" or "social work" with the intention that those are earned tokens toward heaven certainly risks hell instead. God knows before one even has the thought just how dumb a person thinks that God is.

So Satan must be understood in exactly that light-of being unable to understand, as we see in scripture, God's All Knowingness-to serve as the correct negative role model for human beings who wish to be saved. When you read the beginning of the Book of Job, if you understand what I have just pointed out to you in these two posts, now the scales will fall from your eyes and you will really "get" the Book of Job properly. Why did Job suffer so much? Because Satan, like humans, cannot understand God's All Knowingness, and constantly challenge, marginalize and test it, while the faithful, such as Job, do not lack understanding that God is All Knowing.

For more scriptural reassurance on what I am saying, read the sections where the mother of James and John asks Jesus that they sit at his right and left hand when Jesus comes into the Kingdom (which she of course misunderstands the nature of). But think about what the court favorites who sit around the king indicate. These are people who are near to the king, but not the king. These are people who are rewarded by the king, but do not as a result receive or have the power or the knowledge of the king. Everyone in Biblical times understood full well that even the people who achieve heaven do not receive "secrets" or gain God's knowledge, etc... they hoped for being in his constant presence.

And thus you can see that indeed happens for some as you read the Book of Revelation. John sees that a number of (unidentified) elders surround the throne of God, casting their crowns in front of him and worshipping him. If these are the few humans, the prophets and elders, who achieved such proximity to God, and they are still in the form of humans in their spiritual glorified bodies who glorify God all day, you have to understand that there is still that distinction between God and everyone else, both angels and saved humans. No one is "absorbed" into God's All Knowingness. That is a fake technology industrialized and now New Age affectation and false belief that has no bearing on reality since obvious physics of God and his created creatures belie that if you give it any thought, and the scriptures illustrate actual scenes and events that show such thinking is totally false. The difference is that in heaven, both angels and saved humans have perfect faith and know that God is All Knowing: a belief that the faithful have while on earth but have rewarded in the knowing when in heaven.

That lack, by the way, is one way to characterize humans who go to hell. No one who really, really, REALLY believes that God is All Knowing is stupid enough to do the things that they do, and think the things that they think, that ends them up in hell for eternity of suffering and punishment. Every chronic sinner (both of sins of commission and omission), does not, despite what they may say, believe that God is All Knowing. Again, a great way to improve one's chances of salvation is to have faith in God, but the God as God really is... because when you believe all there is to believe about him exactly as he has constantly presented himself to generations of the faithful and the chastised unfaithful, you in turn will have cascading changes in behavior and mindset that improve greatly your chances of becoming worthy.

Here's a mental image for you. Suppose that someone in hell was taken out of hell by God, put back in their body on earth, and "given another chance." What would happen? Your knee jerk reaction is to say, "Well, of course that person learned his or her lesson and that he or she will lead a wonderful life that is corrected from all bad ways." Wrong! The person who goes to hell, and then in theory gets a second chance at life, thinks to his or her self, "Ha! I knew the religions were wrong and that hell is permanent. See? I'm back." A person who goes to hell is permanently flawed, like Satan, in their lack of faith, so that even if God gave them mercy and through a miracle took them out of hell and gave them a second chance at life, the person would view that as another cornerstone to their lack of faith rather than increasing their faith. They figure if God "breaks his own rules," then the rules are bogus in the first place. That is why no one ever leaves hell, not even to give a message of warning to those who are in danger of hell themselves on earth (Luke 16). God in his All Knowingness knows that those who merit hell are incapable of increasing anyone's faith, no matter what mercy God bestows on them, since they have warped their soul into being incapable of having humility of faith, say nothing of conveying it to others still alive. How can you feel comfortable inferring this? Notice how even in hell the rich man expects the poor man, Lazarus, who is being comforted by Abraham himself in heaven, to be the one to bring him some water in hell. The man in hell is too darned arrogant and stupid to do something like pray to God for relief, even as heaven is opened up to him in this one time event! Luke 16 is a constant gold mine of understanding God's reality, faith, and the pernicious problem of lack of faith.

So yes, the angels observe and serve God all the time in heaven, and have perfection of faith, but this does not mean that they are now "extensions" of God, that they share in his All Knowingness, which is not possible. They do, however, have perfection of faith in God, as do all humans who are saved and gain eternity in heaven. This is one reason, by the way, for my Muslim friends, that in the Qur'an you read that God ordered the angels to worship Adam right after God created Adam. The angels are not worshipping Adam per se as the flawed vessel that all humans are by nature (even though Adam had not yet sinned) but the angels are paying obeisance to God's All Knowingness in his wisdom to create goodness. So the angels are not lifting Adam up, but they are acknowledging that they are to continue to have faith in, believe and honor the works of God.

Those who are saved have as their hallmarks either the simple faith in God of the good hearted and naturally humble, or faith in God that they have had to constantly work at, like a garden that is always threatened with weeds, so they look to the saints, and the read the scriptures, and they work, really work, at increasing their faith, not their works. Good works and what God expects of everyone in charity is a natural fruit of faith: it does not have to be artificially planned and managed like on a spreadsheet or a shopping list that has check off marks. If one works only on fear of God and increased faith, one will naturally heed God's expectations for their works as a result.

I hope you have found this helpful!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Understand real Satan not cartoon Satan

Satan is a very real risk to all humans, both believers who risk their faith being disturbed, and non-believers who risk never opening their hearts enough to believe and be saved. So I am always glad when I hear a preacher remind their listeners that Satan is a continual reality that cannot be ignored.

However, it is, like all topics related to faith, important that one protects one's self by understanding the real threat, and not a misrepresentation or cartoon of the threat and as always one has to rely on God's word in the scriptures, and the actual events depicted within.

We know that Satan is the leader of the group of angels who, after being created by God, when given the choice of free will (a gift God gives to all whom he loves, both angels and humans), chose not to serve God. Because of this they were cast out of heaven. Satan is allowed to roam the earth at will and has great influence over human world events (which is why he is scripturally refered to as ruling on earth... he's not THE ruler of earth, but he receives that title because by not serving God he can only serve and thus influence things of the world. In other words he is both in the world and "of" the world. Christians in contrast are taught by Jesus to be "in the world" but not ruled by the world, hence they are not "of the world." Their priority, unlike Satan's, is heavenly directed in service to God even while alive on earth and not in heaven).

So there are two aspects of Satan that sound alarming and powerful on the surface, especially the non-scriptural depictions, but are not all that difficult to refute and to have some peace of mind about. One is that Satan is obviously not THE ruler of all earth since he obviously, both in scriptural and in secular earth history, does not run around undoing God's creation. Satan does not blow up mountains, destroy cities, poison the water, kill baby animals as they are born, uproot trees, change the weather, etc. God is still in control of his creation, which he has declared "good" upon the making of each component, and Satan has never had any power, authority or ability to use godly powers to harm life or the natural processes and features of earth. If Satan had that power then there would be nothing left of earth a long time ago, as he would have caused havoc everywhere. But the scripture reports that Satan just wanders around the earth, tempting people to sin against God and each other at every obvious opportunity. Thus it is totally wrong and alarming for no reason to have any concern at all that Satan has some sort of like running amok, evil destroyer, invading alien, anti-life, kicker of sand in the faces of baby dinosaurs type of ability or impulse. Satan's sole interest is to tempt human beings.

And that is the second reality check that people need to keep in mind. As I've pointed out before in my blogging, and I've heard more preachers allude to it recently, Satan by no means denies the existence of God. That is a weird misconception that is pretty recent and is refuted by any even casual reading of the Bible. Satan, actually, is by his obvious existence and interaction with God (the Book of Job detailing a far from hostile conversation between God and Satan) is kind of the ultimate witness to God's reality! People who want to get into witchcraft and so forth or believe strange things have recently thought of the impossibility that Satan is like an "alternative possibility" to believing in God. That's obviously ridiculous since the scriptures show that Satan continues to not only acknowledge God's reality, but interact with him, including promptly showing up to test and tempt Jesus Christ at the beginning of his ministry. Further, Satan obeys God when God establishes limits on how much Satan can afflict Job. Demons and so forth who serve Satan are the first to recognize Jesus, before Jesus even speaks to them, and they rapidly proclaim their belief, their alarm and their subservience to Jesus' authority to cast them out. So people who think that maybe there's a real powerful Satan but no God are totally delusional on two basic points. Satan has very little power and controls none of the infrastructure of earth or the life upon it AND Satan himself is the first on most scenes to acknowledge God's reality and his movement in human matters.

So, if Satan does not deny God AND Satan has no actual power except to tempt, how is he so persuasive, so effective and so dangerous? This can best be understood and thus defeated by thinking of the common saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." This old saying means that many humans end up going to hell because they did something evil, wrong and sinful because they "meant well." In a way, Satan is very much like the humans who go to hell because they do wrong things but self justify that their "intentions were good." Don't get me wrong because I'm not using the word "good" with "Satan," but I'm preparing you for the analogy. Satan's basic error is that he cannot grasp God's All Knowingness; he just doesn't get within the core of his being that God already knows all that there is to know. Satan's a bit condescending to God, thinking that he knows better than God, particularly when it comes to human weaknesses.

Realistically, can anyone of even weak faith think that God knows less than Satan in any scenario? But that is the Achilles heel of both Satan and human beings, which is why they are such a potent mixture. Satan thinks he knows better than God and thus is even somewhat "protective" and condescending toward God. We see this in the Book of Job, where Satan is debating with God whether Job is really truly faithful to God and if he would stay faithful if God's protection were removed from him. Um, duh, Satan thinks that God doesn't already know every "what-if" scenario already? I've blogged before how one must realize God's All Knowingness by using analogies humans can grasp, such as how God knows every subatomic particle that ever existed or will exist in the universe and all the places each particle was and will be. So God doesn't know what Job will do when hardships befall him? God knows everything already because he is God and he is the only All Knowing.

But you can see that Satan honestly thinks something like this: "Wow, that God is naive. Sure Job loves and worships God now, since he's blessed by God and has a great life and many possessions due to God's protection. I've got to show God that he can't trust Job to stay faithful to him once things start going bad for him." Satan simply does not grasp that God already knows everything, absolutely everything. We know this because Satan recognizes who Jesus is, and promptly shows up to tempt him, and Satan thinks, what, that God didn't know that Satan is going to tempt Jesus? And that Jesus, as the Son of God, would be temptable? It's like Satan thinks that maybe God didn't prepare Jesus enough, or send him with enough power, and thus there is some actual chance of tempting Jesus to disobedience to God!

So the crux of understanding Satan and his enormous power over many human beings is to realize that Satan just does not grasp and ultimately does not have faith in the All Knowingness of God. Satan has plenty of faith that God exists because more than anyone he's been there around God "from the beginning" and so obviously God's reality is Satan's continual focus. But what Satan just does not understand is God's greater plan, which is, of course, the culmination of God's All Knowingness.

And that pride, since that is indeed what we are describing, a condescending pride of Satan's, is exactly the same prevalent flaw in many human beings. Can you think of many humans who do not at some point think they know "better" than God does? Or that God "needs their help?" Brothers and sisters, you know exactly what I mean.

While few people would confess to actually thinking that God needs their "help" or that they "know better than God," they do it all the time when they cherry pick what part of God's word they choose to believe. When they discard or ignore large parts of scripture, (or even just small parts that prohibit one's favorite sin), that is more than being someone of weak faith, or maybe a hypocrite. Secretly, subconsciously, that person is thinking that he or she knows "what God really meant" and that he or she can thus figure that "God would agree with me that this part of the Bible is out of date, and that part doesn't apply to me, but that I can go along with that other stuff because those sinners out there (not me) don't do enough of the good things and God needs my help" and so on and so forth. That is music to Satan's ears and fertile ground for him to sow weeds.

This is why some people are such willing and easy dupes and tools of Satan, while others seem to have a Teflon coating and barely notice Satan's existence. Satan works best with humans who do not believe in, have faith in, or trust God's All Knowingness. The people who diminish God's power in their minds but magnify and glorify their own potential roles in both earthly and, imagine that, heavenly matters are natural allies and pawns of Satan, since they have the same weakness and "philosophy." People who lack fear of God but magnify their own spirituality, resourcefulness and role in life are the most prone to be influenced at alarming speed and depth by Satan. People who fear God (in the way I've explained in previous posts on this subject) and who are humble about their role in the major matters of divinity tend not to be tempted by or hear Satan at all. Satan totally gives a pass by to those who are shielded by their sincere fear of God and their sincere humility.

Now, some of the most devout saints suffered from great torments by Satan. I'm about to say something that is not meant to be unkind or unloving, since these were indeed genuine Christian saints of great sanctity. However, even some saints have insufficient fear of God and humility to render themselves safe from any attacks (or imagined attacks) from Satan. Some very revered Christian saints who were indeed sanctified and worthy of God had the all too human flaw of being sucked into thinking that they are linchpins in some sort of huge "good versus evil" striving. I mean, how scriptural is that? Not at all. What do I mean? Here is what I would have said to some medieval saint in the making who is afflicted by torments he or she feels is sent by Satan:

Read the scripture about the Last Supper and the betrayal of Christ by Judas. Judas, the most ripest, the biggest target of all who ever existed for temptation, was only entered by Satan at the moment he left the table to betray Jesus. Satan spent only a matter of minutes, until the betrayal was done, in Judas. Why in the world do you think Satan is having supposedly hours, days, months or years of battle within YOU?

Sometimes you have to be a tough spiritual director, even with the most sanctified of people.

Humans all are in constant grave danger of the "road to hell is paved with good intentions" weakness and pride. Saints are no exception except in one matter: their suffering (even if self induced or exaggerated) never destroys their faith in God or takes them from their sanctity of service. But I explain this problem with certains saints in order to point out to you the scriptural basis for what I am saying: Satan does not occupy or vie with human beings. Satan only strews temptations that those who fear God and are genuinely humble never even notice, while those who do not fear God and who are prone to pridefulness catch themselves up in the temptations all of the time. Satan's temptations are like lint or dust on furniture: you don't even notice it unless you think it is your job to clean it up. That's the danger of not believing completely in God's All Knowingness and over exaggerating your role in "helping" God. You start thinking that you are the one who has to dust all the furniture, and thus those hundreds and thousands of tiny nearly invisible temptations to sin, like dust motes, gather together as you focus your attention on them. The rest of us live with dusty furniture ha ha. (Just some levity for a serious subject... please excuse the humor, I so rarely get to demonstrate it!)

Do you see what I mean? This is why an analogy is so powerful. Satan is constantly scattering tiny harmless temptations, most centered around insufficient faith in God and excess pride in one's own judgment and supposed "goodness." People who are not vulnerable to temptations of hubris, pride or vanity, and who are firm in their fear of God and trust in his All Knowingness, never even notice the tiny dust motes of temptation. But those who are prone to scrutinizing the dust particles start to pick them up in quickly growing clumps that stick to them and they are now accepting of and subjugated to Satan's temptations with alarming weight and rapidity.

Taking upon one's self a perception that you personally are "battling Satan" is a grave and not-scripturally based error. Remember, Judas himself did not "battle" Satan, nor was he owned by Satan or possessed by Satan. Rather, Judas picked up a lot of "dust particles" of pride which estranged him from his basic trust in God's providence, and then Satan only had to enter him for a few minutes to actually perform that greatest betrayal. If you think that you are in combat with some supposed spiritual forces, you have deviated from the truth of what is in the Bible (no one in the Bible is combating Satan etc on a personal basis). What they are doing is resisting Satan's temptations. There is a huge difference between the two.

This is why Paul said that Christians must be "dead to sin." When one is dead one is inert and like a chemical that just won't react with anything. Being in a hypersensitive and combative stance toward anything is not being "dead to sin." Rather, like collecting the dust motes, it is a problem of insufficient protection (study of scripture, faith in God's power, cultivating fear of God and humility) while completely over exaggerating one's own interaction with temptations. People, like that class of afflicted saints, who think they are in some sort of numinous and supernatural "combat" against "evil forces, such as Satan" are driving themselves nuts by collecting every dust mote of temptation that Satan has laid out there for them. Who in the Bible is actually "combating" Satan? Jesus did not even waste an hour of his earthly time doing so. Moses didn't. David didn't. Isaiah didn't. Joseph and Mary didn't. John the Baptist didn't. All the prophets and holy people of the Bible were focused on two things 1) teaching God's will based on righteousness to the people and 2) strengthening their faith so they resist all temptations, both the worldly everyday ones and the opportunistic ones by Satan himself.

Here's another analogy, with pop culture. Remember how in "Lord of the Rings" Gandolf is going crazy trying to open the door that is secured by a magic spell? He is reading the sign that says "Speak friend and enter." He thinks that if you are a real friend you will be able to guess the secret magic password phrase, but all his guesses are wrong. After a painfully long time he realizes that the password IS to speak "friend."

Satan and his temptations are exactly that obvious. There is no secret profound "battle" between humans and Satan or other "evil forces," one where humans must "help out" the obviously hapless God who is just not handling things without the supposed wisdom and combativeness of humans. You just don't pick up the temptations of Satan; it really IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT. Thinking you are battling him personally and that God is just kind of hanging around waiting to see what happens IS one of Satan's most effective temptations: "Guaranteed to work on saints and sinners alike."

I hope that you have found this thought provoking and helpful. Read the Bible (or Qur'an, of course, for my Muslim friends). It really is that simple. Fear of God and humility regarding the puniness of humans compared to the All Knowing of God is the best protection from temptation, such that those who attain it barely notice temptation even if there was a ton of it piled in front of them because, like those particles of dust, the truly faithful and humble just don't even notice worldly or Satan provided temptations.

Understanding God: punishment

I noticed an article by a pastor refuting the idea that God ever punishes (via weather or individual tragedy) in these modern times. You can find it by doing a Google news search on punishment, which is how I came across it. I thought about writing to the pastor but decided to write a quick column here instead.

Now, I'm going to say this with kindness, but firmly. Too often pastors who want to minister in a time of grief are so mushy that they surrender all scriptural integrity and thus ultimately lose their credibility with the believers that they are trying to help. The tone of that opinion piece, for those who don't read it on their own, is as follows. 1) He's quivering with indignation at those pastors who imply that disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina etc might be the full or partial result of God's wrath 2) He is faced with a person situation where members of his flock have suffered the loss of a small child in a tragic accident 3) The parents, grief stricken, worry if they are at fault via sinfulness or omission of faith in some way and 4) Pastor assures them that God does not punish temporally. What???

I am ALL for comforting the parents. Here is how it ought to have been done. 1) Yes, God does punish, because the scripture is full of God's own words of warning and specific follow up, and he does punish both individuals and nations 2) Thankfully his punishment is very rare because most humans suffer their own consequences of misdeeds, so God tends to punish mostly in instances of great sin and falling away of faith, such as idolatry 3) They can, however, receive great comfort from the Gospel's clear and unmistakable correction of two sinful misapprehensions of the time of Jesus, which is that the sins of fathers and mothers are visited upon the children (Jesus refutes that) and that children are not of great worth to God (Jesus most certainly refutes that).

So this pastor should have confirmed rather than minimized or denied that God has, does and will indeed punish both individuals and nations, but thankfully that is rare and it is very difficult to second guess a specific incident. He should have praised them for their self examination in this matter. He then should have comforted them most strongly by explaining that Jesus himself refuted what was a popular belief which is that calamity fell upon children due to either their own sinfulness or that of their parents, plus Jesus explained that children are the role models for those who wish to enter heaven. Thus it is extremely unlikely that God would punish parents for some imagined (or real) fault by having their little child run down by a car.

The pastor probably would have to explain the difference between God being in control and allowing bad things to happen versus God actually smiting via punishment, since people, including those in ministry, seem not to understand that, so of course the people are also confused. It is back to the obvious truth that God put into place natural laws and consequences, including the dangers due to mechanics and physics of death via injury due to mishap or lack of care or attentiveness. God is not going to step in with a miracle to overcome such an inevitability in a finite and injury/sickness prone human life. That is the difference between God "being in control/allowing" bad things to happen versus God "punishing" or "smiting."

Think of the time when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and God sent punishments, warned of by Moses and intending to motivate the Egyptians to let the people go. God sent punishments that on a low scale happen anyway, for the most part. For example, grasshoppers eat crops all the time, and people die of plagues, etc. When it is normal part of life, it is an example of God being in control but not punishing. However, when Moses warned the Pharaoh that he was defying God's will and then God backs up what Moses says with an eruption of pests or the sudden onslaught of plague, that is God smiting or punishing. If one always uses common sense when reading scripture one always finds illumination.

So the pastor could have explained to the parents that little children get into tragic accidents all the time and it is a constant but natural danger of life, which God is in control of but does not manipulate arbitrarily... far from it, since he allows humans to stumble into finally doing the right thing (such as automobile safety features, safe food laws, etc) all on their own taking decades or even hundreds of years to do so. Like the natural hardships in Egypt, their child's accident is a consequence of a routine risk of being alive. God intervenes with punishment, as the scripture demonstrates, only when the people and their religious leaders as a whole fall away from him, especially those who engage in idolatry.

The parents may be grieving but they are thinkers. They will read the Bible and wonder why any pastor denies that God does punish somewhere and somehow since the Bible is filled with examples. The pastor's job is not to strip God part of his job description, but to explain how to wisely discern and be comforted through the Gospel, the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, who addressed exactly those questions during his time (see where the disciples ask Jesus about deaths in a recent rebellion, plus deaths in an accident involving a collapsed tower, where they asked him who was the sinners that caused these current news tragedies, and Jesus explains that it does not work like that in God's eyes.)

I hope you have found this helpful, especially if you are in a helping profession where such questions are encountered on just about a daily basis.

.... I just decided to add one more thought, as I'm trying to pretend this is a conversation and anticipate questions. What if I was asked, "OK, suppose these parents were idolators? Does this mean that God kind of sent that car to run over the child as punishment?"

My answer is that no, it's not such a direct action, since God never causes evil to happen. What it means is that if the child's death is at all connected to the parents' idolatry, this is how it would occur, in one of two ways. The first is that their idolatry distracted them from routine precautions and responsibilities. I'll make an extreme example just because it's simple to get. Suppose those parents thought that nothing bad would ever happen to their child whenever the Moon is in the sign of Leo (which occurs for a few days every month). So on those couple of days the parents are very lax in their dilligence of their child's safety, thinking that due to the idolatrous teachings of their cult that their child is "protected" due to idolatrous and bogus powers. Thus God does not have to "send the car" to hit the child since the parents' own false beliefs prompted through natural law of cause and effect a dangerous situation with no precautions. So it is a punishment of their own making for putting their faith in false idols instead of in God and in the truth of the world as it really is, which is that children must always be watched and protected, where at all possible without turning yourself into a total control freak.

The second possibility is that again, suppose the parents were secret idolators. As idolators that means they have no faith in the true God, or that they are lukewarm believers who diminish God's authority in their personal lives by sharing it with bogus idolatrous beliefs. In this case God has a option to perform a miracle and save their child by having an angel tap the shoulder of the driver, or push the child out of the way, etc. but God will usually withhold a miracle if, I mean, duh, people are diminishing his authority through disbelief and idolatry. Thus, again, God does not send the car to hit the poor child and instead, God's heart breaks for the child, but he does not intervene with a miracle if that miracle is going to be attributed to glorify idolatry and occult beliefs. Again, that is punishment that is a natural outcome of the people's own actions, in this theoretical scenario...

Music talk: wrote a song this morning

Proof that my own advice works, LOL. I had just woken up and was with bleary eyes changing radio stations to listen to a favorite preacher when the idea for the song, both lyrics and the tune, just suddenly occurred to me. I had to grab a sketch pad to write it all down. This is the first song I've written in a very long time and the kicker is that it's reggae. LOL! Imagine that. It's so simple yet I think the best popular song I've written to date. Hmmm.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Truth plus music provides reality safety net

I actually hurried back to my room from lunch in order to post this blog follow up because I think these further thoughts will help all of you even further to understand what I am explaining, to better inspire rather than stunt your artistry, and to promote more reality based peace of mind, even in edgy and interesting art.

It's not just the lyrics, the words, that I am cautioning must be honest, and not dishonest, and truthful, in addition to "valid," but also the compositions, the music itself. Here is the perfect example, which will help you to not only better understand the history of popular music, but also the human psyche.

Looking again at the blues, ask yourself, what are "the blues?" They are songs that follow a certain lyrical and compositional format. The lyrics tend to be about the hardships of life. The music follows, for the most part, a very specific structure called the 12 bar shuffle. Now, why would an entre genre of music follow a pretty limited structure of composition? Because it is the ideal format. It is ideal not only for the particular song type, but also for the human psyche and well being.

The blues shuffle is irresistible. When one listens to the blues, whether you are a fan or not, you cannot usually resist bobbing your head to that sound, tapping your foot, and/or swaying forward (as the performers often do) in time to the beat. Like a perfect match, the blues shuffle stimulates an ideal response in the human heart, body and spirit. There is a positive interaction between the music itself (forget about the lyrics for a moment) and the human body. In other words, the blue shuffle is not a downer trip, a bum out session, or berserker or suicide stimulation! But it's also not cloying syrup and artificial happy faces. It is a fundamental truthful positive reality foundation, musically, upon which a variety of "hardship of life" and "sad" or "troubled" lyrical themes can be built.

So the blues shuffle is musically and psychically a truth based solid reality that is a safety net upon which people who have suffered a great deal can write their tunes of the hardships of life, without opening up a "valid" but dishonest black hole, in both themselves and their listening audience.

This is why virtually all of the early great rock bands produced music that was directly built upon the blues. Both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, for example, have talked from the very beginning about the fundamental influence of the blues upon them. Without even realizing it they adopted and adapted the truth based "safety net" of the musicality of the blues, transforming and importing it into the new genre of rock and roll. That is one of the reasons why rock and roll as a genre is certainly not evil.

The trouble arises when genres such a heavy metal and later rap totally misunderstand the difference between composing and writing for a "valid effect" and being genuinely truth based and honest. Without a safety net of musicality that does not at all intend to make the writers, performers or listeners sink into a black hole of unreality and dishonest despair, much of the music of the 1980's marketed dishonesty, disguised as "validity," "authenticity," and "that's how the disenfranchised youth 'really' 'feels.'" But that is not at ALL honest or true. How do we know that? Let's look at some comparisons of songs and behavior.

Think of any heavy metal gloom and doom song. Regardless how "authentic" that song is supposed to be, do you think they felt that way as they actually recorded the song? As they perform the song to their audience? Far from it, since just as those musicians are performing for their fans, they are on the natural (or artificial, but I'm only nodding at that factor, not discussing it now) high of having fans participate in enjoying their music. People are singing about how awful and crap life is just as they are actually having the time of their lives with an admiring audience. How bogus is that?

Compare that to a sad song that pops into my head on occasion. The lyrics I am thinking of go, "In my room, way at the end of the hall, I sit and I stare at the wall, each day is just like the last, for I live in the past." Now that is both valid and truthful, good "sad" music. It, like the blues, describes a situation, one that can be both thought about and felt, with a truthful safety net, rather than spewing garbage about the artificial blackness of life. So please understand I use this example deliberately so that you know I am not trying to be thought police, but actually I am trying to show how many of you have enslaved your own thoughts to artificiality, just as you most think you are "keeping it real." Spewing is never real because no one actually lives in evil spew all of the time.

So, looking back to the blues, the blues can sing about addiction, death, despair, poverty, a destroyed love life, etc, and still keep it in context, in reality, using a musical safety net that does not promote total despair and the desire to blow one's brains out! This is why early rock and roll had fantastic protest songs and songs of social awareness, again without giving people the impression that we might as well all hang ourselves now since we only belong to evil alien matrix black universe of nothing but despair. That is, I guess, "valid" if someone actually thinks that, but it is the height of dishonesty.

There is the slippery slope of symbolism. We all love to wonder "who is that song about." The classic example is, of course, "Layla." All rock fans knew the story of Eric Clapton and George Harrison's wife. More to the point, though, it was and remains an incredibly valid and authentic great song not because we know who it was specifically in the background, but because the song is clear enough that we know it is about someone. What I am decrying in my previous blog post, about why I totally stopped listening in total to all popular music for twenty years or so, is that music lyrics became hidden agenda driven. They sound like they are about a person, but they are about hidden cult beliefs, or they sound like a song of despair about life, but they are actually about the sadness of a specific person. It is dishonest to craft songs like that; there is just no way to sugar coat that assessment. Hidden and symbol messages are mind altering arrogant affectations by those who have the power to do so but lack the wisdom and ethics to understand why that is both wrong for their public but also wrong for themselves, robbing them of their own artistic integrity and authenticity. If you are unhappy about a girl, write that you are unhappy about that girl... don't write a song bashing her religion, for example as a "stand in" for your actual topic. If you totally disguise your artistic intention in impenetrable symbolism you are being dishonest to yourself and to your public.

Read lyrics of blues writers from the classic era of that genre and you can rest assured that if they are complaining about addiction, they are actually talking about addiction, and not using the entire song as a lie, covering up that they are really unhappy with their salary. Or if they write about being lonely, or having a lost love, they are actually singing about being lonely, or having a lost love, and not using it as a "step in" substitute for writing that they no longer believe in God.

You know what it's like? Imagine you are a painter. You paint the picture you really want to produce on the back of a canvas, and cover it up with paper. Then on the front of the canvas you paint it all green with a few cubist symbols on it. You sell it to someone based on what they have seen on the front, or worse, you sell it to a museum who proudly display your work in their facility, with a sign next to it describing what the green and cubist symbol means, having no clue the real painting is on the back under paper. You made money and you got your rocks off, but was that authentic art? Was that artistic integrity? Was that honest? Of course not. Saying that "no one was hurt by it" is also wrong. You've made people who trusted in you look like fools. That is always wrong.

So that's another analogy that I hope helps to explain how music estranged from, separated from, and ultimately divorced me, not I it. Disguised sniggering is not honest artistry of music, no matter how creative the lyrics and the composition. Also, music that is intended to convey a dishonest world view so that people can feel brainwashed, for either worse (the usual case because there is no utopia other than the truth) or not is also not authentic art. If you are called to be an artist, then be an artist, but be a honest and truth based human being first and foremost of all.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you are a creative person, or just an interested young person (Hi!), listen to some of the traditional blues, or at least read the lyrics, as a great detox experience. It will really cleanse your palate for the truth.

Music talk follow-up

For a simple yet profound place to do some individual thought and study about what I said in the previous post, do a search for lyrics of bluesman Robert Johnson's songs and read them.

Hint, start with one of my favorites, "Crossroad blues."

The lyrics seem simple at a glance, but that is one of the clues, for in a few lines he's conveyed profound validity and truthful images, yet in strikingly artful ways. I don't mean just because he mentions the Lord. Look at the image of the rising sun going down. He conveys sadness by implying that the sun which has just risen is already setting. So you can believe in a truthful and realistic world and still convey incredible power in music.

And most of all, keep in mind these artists were writing real words with what they really meant, not filled with anagrams and coded messages. You can listen to the song and believe what you hear as being both valid and truthful.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The need for truth in music, the arts.....

This is just a personal and philosophical/theological and factual observation, that is follow up to what I've been blogging where I explain that faith is authentically obtained by seeking the truth, the genuine, absolute truth, rather than "the best" "faith for me." Recalling what I've written that if one really cherishes and seeks the truth, one will inevitably find it-and the one true God-because God and his creation are the truth, let me explain my feelings about music.

I totally love music and as I reckon I've blogged before, I was listening to blues and pop music and rock and roll from the cradle (much helped by my much older brother playing the radio.) I wanted to play an instrument-and sing-but was kept from having any music lessons at all until I was able to pay for them on my own when in college. So I have a very clear love of music.

However, my friends, especially those in the music industry, wonder how I have lived for decades without listening to either current music or replaying those I've enjoyed in the past.

It became painfully obvious to me in the 1980's that almost without exception, all popular music, even the most brilliant of pieces, were written and composed by people who did not believe in the true God. Now, I am not saying I wanted Christian music because, actually, I find the same problem in much of Christian music from around that same time period. Since the 1980's the groundwork for the brainwashing and destruction of faith (genuine, factual, orthodox faith) that had been put in place during the 1960's-1970's started yielding their global bitter fruit. Even though most popular songs have absolutely nothing to do with God or faith as a topic, it was still painfully (and repulsively) obvious to me that the songs were all written in a distorted, God less and nihilistic mindset. Even the "happy" songs were clanging and warped, sometimes subtle, but usually very obvious to me. But it was obvious that ALL genres of music had become pieces of production made in in pained, God less and angry/manic depressive music "factories."

Now, young people especially, here is the crucial point I need to make to you, regarding both this topic of music (and art) and of faith and life in general. You must learn to distinguish between and properly manage, and put respectful boundaries around the two completely different mindsets of "truth" and "validity." Your parents (and many of their parents) combined the two, erroneously, in their minds, and have therefore caused their own mental, spiritual and emotional downfalls. It started with "let it all hang out." That is the philosophy that if you feel a certain way, then it is valid, "authentic" and honorable, and must be shared, even if everyone who listens to it then goes off the deep end and wants to shoot themselves. There is a huge difference between being "valid" (which means that right or wrong that is how you think/feel) and the truth, which is reality, a reality which includes the one true God and his role in this world.

For example, someone can write a miserable song because they feel like shit and they think they are evil reincarnated alien spawn. That's "valid," because that's what they think and feel (usually because they were brought up that way, or fell into the hands of sick "gurus"). But it is not the truth, because they would not feel that way if they were taught and came to believe in the truth of the world, a world that very much includes the one true God.

So sure, I am not against someone who has to do a "core dump" in the form of music of their sadness, anger, alienation, addiction, misery, aimlessness, vengefulness, spite, and so forth, since that is "valid...." that is, indeed, how he or she feels.

The problem is that like building houses on sand foundations, instead of bedrock, I noticed starting in the 1980's that virtually the entire music business prompted songs written, composed and produced by people who had totally lost their footing in the truth. They no longer even believed there is a truth, in the world, in their public lives, or in their private lives. They came to think that the current (or past) "validity" of what they think or feel IS the truth, which it most certainly is not.

So even the most inane and harmless of happy songs (those few there were, especially as rap, metal, angry punk and other genres took over increasing market share) were written by people who thought that the truth was to force out something commercially happy as a product, even though they did not believe in the truth. In other words, unhappy people living with perspectives that lacked recognition of truth were writing both happy and unhappy songs. This means that instead of most houses being built on solid foundations, most houses were now built on sand.

I can hardly listen to anything of the past few decades without seeing directly in the souls of those who produced and wrote these pieces and seeing their alienation, their loss of truth and worst of all, their determination that their "validity" IS the truth, and must be imposed as depressive and warped realities onto each new generation of listener. These adults raised children in the business who completely lost truth about life in the world and yet, brilliant as they are, produced brilliant music that is like a poisoned apple, great to eat but it kills you with each bite. We are on the THIRD decade of this disaster. That is why I cannot listen to music, most music, without pain.

I can even tell you the last song I gave a serious listen to as it came out, the version of "What's the Story (Morning Glory)" by Oasis. That is absolutely the last popular song I listened to and heeded and admired as it was released. Why is that? Of course technically it is wonderful, but more to point, it put into words exactly what I have described above: the disaster of being in a world where all your dreams are made when you're chained to the mirror on your razor blade. I pretty much turned off the radio after a few good listens of that, and that's no lie (as my stalkers can attest!) This is why I cannot listen to even the big hits, the really brilliant songs, even those of great compelling validity, of the late 1980's, the 1990's and the 2000's thus far. ALL of them are only "valid," very, very, VERY few of them are written by people with their heads screwed on properly and who believe in any truth, say nothing of the truth, of life, and of God's role in life.

I wish I could give you a real life example, so instead, imagine along with me the difference in a song about the exact same life experience written by a person who is valid, but does not know about or accept truth, and a person who is valid and is writing from a position of acknowledging the truth. So imagine that each songwriter wants to write about the misery of an addiction and ruined life, for example. One songwriter believes freaky things, nihilistic things, and writes about his or her addiction in that context. Even if they never mention their depressive and nihilistic mindset, that mindset, of course, is the well spring and informs their talent, which shapes their song. The other songwriter writes about the same intense valid misery in their, his or her, own life, but the well spring they have is one that still has at least a foundation in the truthfulness of a world that was created good, where there is a God, but where things go terribly astray. They might even come up with very similar words, and/or the instrumentation and music may be similar. But there would be a profound difference. Like I said, I wish I could give you actual examples but the scale is totally tilted with the bulk of compositions being of the "valid" but not grounded in overall life truth perspective. I'm not as able to access, not being part of the music industry crowd, of course, information where I can make such a real life comparison. The best I can do is point out how the blues, the old, traditional blues, were written by often very sad and afflicted people, and they are powerful and valid, but also honest because they were written by people who were still in touch with truthfulness in the world, including at least a nod toward the reality of God and his goodness, even if that did not comprise any of the song. This is why the old traditional blues are truly treasures of validity and honesty, in addition to their musical craftsmanship.

However, when I have a song recommended to me, which happened quite a bit in the early 2000's when people would email me "OMG I can't believe you never listened to this songwriter or this song or this group or this band" and then attach a link, I do listen and there it is again, but no one else understands what it is, since it's so pervasive. Only someone who grew up in the 1950's and listened to music that was still created on the foundation of truth (even if personal valid experience was miserable) can explain to you that there is a very stark "before" and "after." So after I listen to the song I resist the urge to shoot myself, and then research the artist and his or her other tracks. OMG, it is always the same. You can tell in their discography that they are totally into "validity" while living in a miserable, manic depressive, warped lack of truth. I then have to resist shooting myself after just reading the song titles. Good grief, it is a nightmare.

This really is a topic that lends itself more to face to face discussion (imagine that!) and having the help of a DJ who can pull examples of what I mean. But I thought that many of you, since you are questing, alert, and aware that these are disturbed times, will get the gist of what I mean, and have insight not only into how/why I perceive and do things as I do, but think about the facts as I have presented them and examine your own experiences for further insight.

A person can write the most brilliant piece of music ever, and it still be a wrong thing to do. That is a controversial statement, I know. By wrong I don't mean criminal or necessarily sinful or immoral. But just as products should not be subliminally marketed (the old popcorn hidden in the movie film scam), depressive "validity" that is denial of truth should not be deluging people, as it has for decades now, because that is dishonest. Artists, you must understand that it is possible, very possible, to be "valid" and "authentic," but totally dishonest. That is the boundary you must start to recognize, for the well being of not only your audience, but of your individual self.

I hope you understood as best as I could present these words tonight. I still love music, but for decades, music has not loved me back.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Too tired to proof read

(There are no "secret messages" or Freudian slips in any typos!)

Understanding God: little look at big picture

How to say a few words about the gigantic subject of why God has chosen to allow humans to know him in the way that he has. In other words, many wonder why things have gone the way they have in getting to know God, rather than perhaps God imposing more of his presence on everyone in the world simultaneously. So here goes, but to keep this reasonably short and sweet, a few points to ponder rather than discourse.

1. God did introduce himself to everyone in the world, since he created Adam as first man, Eve as first woman, and they not only knew who God was but he was physically present in a form with them in Eden. We know this because they heard God's footsteps as he walked in the Garden in the cool of the evening, so God took a human form to interact with them face to face. (No, this does not mean that "all of God" is thus inserted into a human form. God IS everything, both visible and invisible, so he can't take all of himself away from heaven and the universe and stick his entirety into one place and not still be everywhere else. It never occurred to me to have to explain that until I came across people who actually thought that, particularly regarding Jesus. Pagans have a mental block with this, since they imagine their mythical and bogus gods to be able to move their position in a godlike way, appearing here and there, but when they are "there" they are only there. Pagan gods are by definition false since their believers do not acknowledge that the one true God can only be all encompassing and everywhere at the same time, since life and time do not exist outside of him. Thus God manifests in angelic or Theophany form, but that's an image of him, not his totality of spirit by any stretch of the imagination). So God did do the logical thing, which is to create a perfect place on earth where the first man and woman can know him and be companions to him.

2. Thus, even when they disobeyed God and were put out of Eden, they of course retained knowledge of God and a relationship with him. We know this because their sons, Cain and Abel, knew how to make offerings to God and received direct feedback from God on how worthy (or not) their offerings were. So God continues to speak with all the people of earth at the same time through Adam and Eve, their children, and the extended families that these children married into and beget on their own. Thus God continues in dialogue and relationship with each growing generation after Adam and Eve.

3. Now, as I discussed, at the same time as God is the creator of all that exists, both seen (earth and the universe) and unseen (heaven) in a physical way, God is also the creator in a spiritual way. Understanding God's role in the physical realm is like one lens in your pair of glasses, while understanding God's role in the spiritual (faith) realm is like the other lens in your pair of glasses. You need to look through them both at the same time, in a balanced way, to have a full and correct view. So it is alright for some of the faithful to be totally comfortable with Adam and Eve being literally the first humans created directly from dust by God, while others of the faithful believe that God created all that exists, including Adam and Eve, but that they are the beginning of "faith history," the "faith parents," not the only two human beings that exist in the beginning of humanity. Why do we know it is OK to have either view and still be faithful to God's word in scripture? Because if it were not OK to understand that other humans come into existence, God would have explained where the spouses of Adam and Eve's children came from. So it is not unfaithful to God's word in scripture to believe that Adam and Eve are either or both the actual biological parents of all human beings or they are the faith parents of all human beings, since they are the first and only that God chose to make himself known to.

The whole debate about evolution or creation, seven twenty-four hour days or millions-of-years God-days is really a diversion from faith, rather than faith affirming, because it is trying to textbook scripture into a "how did God actually do it, molecule by molecule" attempt that hinders rather than strengthens faith. I know that many in good faith feel the opposite, that they are somehow being disloyal to scripture if they believe that God had other people alive soon after Adam and Eve's creation, or that God may have used his own definition of a "day" during creation, rather than an earth-solar day. But again, if you really have faith in the scripture, which 1) states that the children of Adam and Eve married real people and had real children and 2) which states that God created the animals and the plants, but does not give details about his exact process, but extols Adam's naming and stewardship of them, you have to recognize that God used visible processes that humans can later discover, study, name, ponder and so forth as they collect knowledge (knowledge being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by the way).

Adam and Eve got into trouble because they sought the wrong knowledge, knowledge that would be used, they hoped, to be like God. So there is nothing wrong with knowledge (in fact, God teaches them how to create clothes from animal skins once they had their fall and had shame over nakedness in his sight). God expects humans to study nature and ponder how God made things work and ponder their wonder. There is a lengthy discourse by God in the scriptures (I'll let you look it up, LOL) where when he chastises humans and puts them in their place, he recounts the qualities of various animals that he, not humans, created, and the forces of nature that he, not humans, create and command. That is "good" knowledge, to understand (another gift of the Holy Spirit) the world around you, both geological and life forms, and the processes like weather... but the "bad" knowledge is to 1) think humans created it 2) that humans or idols control it, and not God and 3) to use that knowledge to be bad rather than good stewards, or to be unjust rather than just. So people of faith need to have faith that they are not "letting God down" or being "disloyal to his word" if they acknowledge that they do not fully understand how, or even why, God rendered creation as he did, using the time frames and processes that he created, ordained and commanded.

4. So now you start to understand why so much of Genesis is genealogy, with lists of who begot who. It is not just the list of proud parents and sons, but it is also a list of the humans and their families who keep in touch with God, who preserve the knowledge and dialogue initiated with Adam and Eve and their children. This is why it is called "faith history" in addition to "secular history." It is regular human history in that it lists events and places, but it is also faith history because it lists those who continued to know God and pass that knowledge and access to him through worship from generation to generation.

5. As I discussed in a recent blog, the early descendants of Adam and Eve met humans who, being from actual cities and their equivalent of "advanced civilization", seemed wondrous and they intermarried. We can understand that human nature is the same from the beginning to today. Some of the descendants of Adam and Eve would marry and bring their spouses into the faith, and knowledge of God, while others would marry and drift away, settling in distant places (which in those days could have been as short a distance as fifty miles) and not take their faith with them, and instead adapt to the local pagan beliefs and mythologies.

You see that same behavior on a micro scale every day in each family. Children in families that are religious move away, marry, and may change faith, lose faith, or transmit their faith to others. This is what happened, since humans are humans and God has given them free will, to the descendants of Adam and Eve. This is why a core of people retained the knowledge of God as he introduced himself to them, while others melded into the local pagan beliefs and mythologies.

6. This is where one must have faith and admire, rather than be disturbed, that God did not chase after every human being and demand that they know the one and only true him. Why is that reassuring rather than worrisome? Well, for many reasons. But the bottom line is this. Human beings will continue to exist and thrive only if they live in a truth based world, one that is genuine reality and honesty. The core of truthfulness and reality is realization of God's existence and his control of all that is and ever will be. Understanding humanity and understanding God are the most basic survival needs for the human species to continue living, say nothing of salvation after death. When humans start to deny God, it is the first warning sign that they will not thrive, and indeed could self destruct, very soon thereafter. This is not because God will smite them for not believing in him (as you can see, he lets regimes that deny him come and go, such as Communism). It is because when humans start to deny reality in the form of God, they will then start to engage in other self destructive behavior that is counter to reality as it really exists. Humans who live outside of truth and reality rapidly decay and fall apart, both individually and socially. We see much of that happening now. So God allows free choice (as he did when he created the angels and some decided not to serve and obey him, and hence fell from heaven) because free choice IS reality. God always opts for truthfulness and authenticity. If he wanted cool titanium robots he would have made them. He didn't. He made angels and he made human beings and they both have the ability to make a choice to believe and serve or not. The angels that fell believe God, obviously, since they were there in heaven with him and thus knew "how he did it," but they would not serve. Humans have to believe and choose to serve if they are to acknowledge truth and reality. It really is as simple as that.

7. Because God loves his creations, humans, who he considers, as the scriptures say, adopted children (and there is all sorts of cultural nuance in the esteem of those Biblical times for foster or adopted children, but rather than get into detail, scripture presents God's love as such to make clear that God is not false like the pagan gods, who presumably have biological children and so forth... God thus calls humans his adopted or foster children when he wants to be precise about that)....because God loves his children, even if they leave him and no longer believe, God has put in place a fail safe mechanism, LOL, or, a beacon, or a homing device, or a longing... or an emergency cell phone, whatever image you prefer, in their soul... a longing to know him. That is the movement of the Holy Spirit.

8. The Holy Spirit moves constantly among all individual human beings, and gatherings of them, whether near or afar, believers or not, stirring them to the desire to know the truth and to reach for that which is higher and the only genuine goodness that exists, that being God and a relationship with him. It is the Holy Spirit that maintains that yearning in people even through the spiritual aridity of living under God-denying tyrants and despots, of pagan rulership, or of people who drift away from knowledge of God and who have forgotten him and their faith history with him. It is that yearning, from the Holy Spirit, that results in societies and cultures developing respect for natural law and codes of conduct and humanity. It is the Holy Spirit who stirs among people who may develop a faith that is good intentioned but erroneous in theology, because the Holy Spirit is able to get at least a partial response that people want to be good to each other, and want both a more prosperous but also a more spiritual world.

I don't have the book in front of me now (probably in storage) but in one of the books, I think the series of books that interviewed Pope Benedict XVI before he was Pope, and he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, that he explains this in a very kind and insightful way that impressed me as I read it. I think he was being asked about other faiths, such as Buddhism and so forth, and why God would allow them to develop. The Pope explained, and here I am using my own words, that each faith that seeks belief in a higher power and spirituality and an inherent goodness among humans to each other is in a way, even obscurely or dimly, trying to reflect as in a mirror some level of acknowledgement of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So this is why as the growing multitudes of descendants of Adam and Eve populated the earth, just the core group, detailed generation by generation in the Bible, in the secular and faith history, maintained knowledge of the true God as he made himself known from the very beginning. However, you read in the Bible examples of where even pagan king, certain ones, had a open mindedness and even a longing for, and thus grew to respect and to worship, the God of the Israelites. Often that was through a demonstration of his power, as when God gifted Joseph with interpreting Pharaoh's dream. But there is no mistaking that there are examples in the Old Testament of where the demonstration of the true one God's power is the door opener, there is a yearning to understand the truth, a higher truth of God, that is like a slow growing seed, even among those who worshipped many idols and false gods.

9. So.... one of the questions, asked in jest sometimes but often in pain or puzzlement, by Jews is "why were we the Chosen People?" What I have detailed is why... because they are the lineage that through the generations of proliferating descendants of Adam and Eve, they have had consistent knowledge of the true one God, even when they were at their most disobedient. This is why I commented that the Jews know, at a gut level, God better than anyone. They have a continuity of God's constancy and eternal oneness and sameness through just about every possible variation of human history and challenge to their faith. This is why they were, Biblically, the Chosen People, because they have the unbroken continuity of knowing God as God first introduced himself to the first human beings.

10. To use a modern music term, Jews heard and hear the same song that is the true God, both plugged and unplugged.

11. However, God has always been consistent in stating that humans need and he will send the Savior, the Messiah. All of scripture points to the coming of Jesus Christ. God alone comprehends all of the perfection of his timing, that he sent Jesus when he did, where he did, to minister as he did, and to fulfill the scriptures and proclaim the New Covenant. This is, obviously, a huge topic of itself, but Jesus must be understood in the context of what I am explaining to you as being the refreshment, the renewal, of God's relationship to humans, beyond the tenuous, extreme minority of human population that were the descendants who have held fast to the continuity of the lineage of knowing God from the time of Adam and Eve to the then present. In the perfect timing that only God understands, since he is All Knowing, and knows all of what humans need, Jesus, who already existed in heaven as part of God himself eternal the beginning and the ever being of All, took human form in order to bring knowledge of God to all the world.

12. Previous to Jesus being born to humanity, humans knew God one of the two ways I have described. The first was through the lineage of those who recall and renew their relationship and service to God since Adam and Eve. The second was through those who seek God, in often very wrong or imperfect guises, but in honest response to the urgings of the Holy Spirit throughout the world. This is one reason that Jesus is given a title of the New Adam, not only because Jesus, corrects the great wrong of disobedience by Adam, but also because Jesus brings the face of God to all the world, as Adam first knew God in the Garden face to face. Jesus ministered only to the Jews, since Jesus was fulfillment of the Old Covenant with the Israelites and the bringing of the New Covenant to them... but it was obvious that Jesus was, as he said, the sign for all humankind. After his Resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God made it known that now the Gospel was to be preached to all. Jesus was like global email :-)

13. Now you might better understand what I have explained in previous blog postings about Islam. Descendants of Adam and Eve, and of Abraham, the Patriarch of what would become the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the forefathers of the Arabic people who would become Muslims were of that lineage who knew the true God, but who moved and settled at a distance from their brethren. This is all detailed in the Old Testament, but not what happened specifically to them, but we know through the obvious secular history that they settled among pagans in the area that is now Saudi Arabia. Thus they are a group of the many descendants who did not take the faith "along with them." That was not easy to do, since the Israelites were local patriarchs and eventually after the Exodus, a theocracy (religious rulership) on a very local basis, with the Ark and the Temple central. It's not like today where people could pack up their faith and believe in another neighborhood or country. So when people spread out to gain land for their growing families (and to avoid conflict), they could not really take their faith and remembrance with them. The Prophet (PBUH) reconnected those descendants back to the lineage of remembering and knowing the one true God, the God of Abraham, and also faithfully repeating the message and miracles of Jesus. Islam was born in order to plug those descendants of Adam and Eve back into the shared lineage of knowledge of the one true God.

To wrap up this little look at the big picture, one must, in honesty, admire and appreciate that God is no autocrat. God makes himself known as he really is, as he truthfully is, and is consistent and constant through the generations of human beings and indeed through the ages, since he is Eternal and Unchanging. He does not force humans into robotic or other artificial obedience since that is not his nature but more important than that, it is not the truth. Life and love is the truth, not coerced or enforced behavior, and God is the source of all life and love. Thus God provided a constancy of access to knowing him from the very beginning, and sent prophets among believers when they needed to correct the disobedience and straying of his people. Why does God punish, as we know he does, then? Because what he is punishing is denial of truth. Denying truth is, as I explained in the beginning of this commentary, not a useful survival trait for humanity. Disobedience to God is denial of truth, not God being arbitrary. For example, it's disobedient but also more to the point simply wrong, a lie, to worship an idol, a false god that simply does not exist, or the workings of human beings own hands. God punishes humans when they deny the truth because ultimately humans will destroy themselves (as they are most certainly doing now) by living amidst a fake world of lies. Denial of truth, constant lies and falseness are already destroying the livelihood, the sanity, the health, the morality, the ethics, and the decency of humanity... God dumping an asteroid onto the earth would just be the icing on the crumbling cake of what humanity is already doing to itself by denying truth in all arenas of life.

A species, human beings, cannot continue to thrive and/or survive in a world that they perceive in increasingly total falsehood. God already knows "how it will all turn out." More to the point, though, is to recognize that each saved soul is precious to God, just as each and every of the innumerable multitude of angels are known to him individually and loved by him, and as they serve God they share in his beatific vision of all that can and will be. Thus God will continue to be patient with generation after generation of unfaithful disbelievers because he loves and will save those, however few, that DO remain faithful to him and thus cognizant of the truth. I wrote not too long ago about the importance of not seeking the "best" or "right" faith, but seeking the truth, which will if honestly (and sanely) done will only lead you to the one true God who is truth and the source of all that is true. This is why humans can, and should, only marvel at the one true God, not the imaginings of human beings, who can in his perfection balance the giving of human beings the "free will" that they, like the angels in the beginning, craved and demanded, but will also draw a firm line in the sand about reality and the inevitable consequences of denying the truth and, thus, him.

Denying the truth of God is just like denying the truth in a secular life or death situation. If the bridge is out, broken over a raging river, it is not a survival strategy to deny the truth of the bridge being out and driving over it, and thus plunging to one's death, nonetheless. News story commenters often sardonically call that "Darwin at work," when someone does something incredibly stupid. It is the same with believing in the truth of how the world and the universe really works and of God's real presence. Disbelieving the truth means bad and stupid decisions that have their own consequences in the near term (as we see all over the world these days) AND, even if one evades outright denial of survival trait truths in life, when one dies one finds out the reality of God when it is too late to change what one has done in disobedience while alive. Again, it's not just because people "behaved bad" and God's "mad at them," but because disobedience to the God and denial of the truth is viral... disobedient believers and disbelievers don't just harm themselves but they harm others and lead others away from the truth. We see this on a massive scale today, one of the greatest perils facing young people today who have grown up in such hugely false times, knowing nothing different from fraud, fakery, poseurs, pride, denial and falsehood.

How difficult is that to understand? When Satan refused to serve he then got busy egging humans on to likewise not serve God. In a similar way, disbelievers and disobedient believers behave like mini-Satans, since their teachings, deeds and life examples are likewise intended to mislead others, leading them astray from God. That all ends badly, either by making life a lie and thus unbearable in either the short or the long term, or at the very end, when one finds that indeed God exists and he knows all that you have thought and done and has judged you upon your death.

The reassurance of God's constancy and ability to forgive anything (if sincere and immediate) should be of far greater comfort to humans than it is. Why is it not more reassuring? Because people have become somewhat addicted to uncertainty and falsehood, where even miserable lies are "better" than hopeful and good truths, in the minds of many.

In closing that line of thought, let's loop back to Adam. Think about how he dealt, poorly and thus fatally, with certainty and uncertainty. Adam embraced certainty, but only partially. He obviously believed in God, being face to face and taught by God, and thus he believed that the tree of knowledge had fruit that would give him some of God's knowledge. But here is what I mean by false love of uncertainty. God tells him not to eat the fruit of that tree. Eve, at the prompting of Satan, brings the apple to Adam. You must understand that in that moment Adam loved uncertainty, the "maybe" .... because obviously he thought, "Maybe I can get away with this." That is the horror of what modern humans are increasingly falling into. They have become in love with lies and uncertainty, and even denial of truth, since it plays to their weakness, which is pride. I mean, how dumb could Adam be? He believes God about everything, but then when offered the first chance to be uncertain about the truth of one specific thing that God says, he "bites." But far from being dumb, Adam is classic human being, where pride tempts a human to disbelieve the truth since he, or she, then thinks they control other "options." Then, like I gave the analogy above, people will drive over bridges that have fallen down, thinking that they have "options" rather than the humility of truth that the bridge has fallen down.

I hope that you have found this helpful.