Monday, December 31, 2012

Chasing Truth - Part Three - Hard Words

(Amos 7:10) Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.  (7:11) For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.  (7:12) Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thou away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:  (7:13) but prophesy not again any more at Beth-el; for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a royal house.  

Truth is hard more often than not. It’s a diamond. It can cut through just about anything. And like a diamond, even ground into fine particles truth can be quite abrasive and expose hidden layers. It can engrave and reshape useless things into great good things. But the hard nature of truth is the very thing that repels fragile humanity and causes us to dismiss or avoid it. 

There has never been a time, in recorded human history, that mankind has liked and/or preferred the truth. The old testament is filled with stories of God’s prophets speaking hard words to His people, and more often than not, they have responded with stiff-necked obstinacy, to their detriment. Some lessons are too difficult to learn, apparently.

There was the exception of Nineveh, the reprobated tribe that repented, to Jonah’s  disgruntled surprise, when he was finally made to speak God’s hard words to them. Even that didn’t last though. Nineveh reverted to its old ways in just over a hundred years and was summarily destroyed, with little trace to include them in historical reference. This ought to be a sober lesson for anyone but, again, humans are cursed with short term memory loss when it comes to behavior choices. Prophets come and go, repentance, at least for the short term, adds to the progress of a people. And then, they do what people do, they forget, compromise, rationalize, and slide gently away into a  softer, more blissful, self-serving blindness, which, at least in the case of God’s chosen people, has always resulted in slavery. Always means without exception.

The first bad sign of a reprobated society usually manifests itself in the devising and embracing of synthetic truth. It looks good and sounds good, but, in fact, at its core it is the antithesis of good. But it seems so good because it is often much more gentle, palatable and thus easier to swallow. It claims it represents “love”. Who doesn't like love? The hallmark of this kind of truth is the absence of the requirement for humility, repentance and internal change. 

It looks as though in this touchy-feelly age we have come to a pinnacle of this kind of substitutionary truth. Only syrupy words of comfort, inclusion, tolerance and acceptance are allowed because, after all, who wants to hear that in order to be salvaged he/she must admit to bad behavior and resolve to change? Hard words are not only rejected as having no place in this enlightened society, they are bordering on illegal and certainly punishable by rejection and expulsion. Hard words must be silenced. If that doesn’t work, next comes imprisonment. Say the hard words and reap the honor of being public enemy number one. 

Prophet or not, in any age, a teller of truth is labeled everything but good, especially if the truth spoken is proclaiming doom for those who will not repent. Naysayer, doomer, anti-social, curmudgeon, cranky, judgmental, negative nelly. Who can abide with such a downer? And ever it has been. But one day, a day of reckoning, the truth, hard as a diamond, will finally emerge from the manmade muck that has been piled on top of it and  it will shine the light of truth into every dark corner. And liars and lovers of lies will go the way of the people of Nineveh. 

Hard is as hard does and no where is it written that we have to like it for it to be true.

For Christ,

(Thessalonians 2:7) For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only [there is] one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.  (2:8) And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming;  (2:9) [even he], whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,  (2:10) and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  (2:11) And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie:  (2:12) that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free Will

Have you ever been in a tight situation and made a promise to do or be something else if only the hard circumstances would ease and the outcome turn out in your favor? Did you follow through when all was said and done? In other words, did you keep your promise? 

Interesting thing about promises is that they are almost always toward a higher good, aren’t they? I mean, think about it. A child who promises his parent that he will behave or clean his room or stop pestering his little sister is actually promising to rise to an already assumed expectation of that which he knows he should be doing anyway. A kid never promises to be a liar or a thief or a bully, does he? 

So, cutting to the chase, we know right from wrong instinctively, even from a very young age. We know what God expects of us, if we are willing to admit it. So it isn’t much of a stretch to promise that we will conduct ourselves appropriately when our finger is caught in a ringer. We also know when to be sneaky and to lie to protect ourselves from a chastisement that we fully understand would result from being caught. Just like kids. 

We are children who already know what their parent wants from them. What we don’t understand is that, like a good parent, God not only wants what is best for us and He wants us to trust that He knows what that might be, He also wants us to grow up spiritually with grace so that we will easily recognize and make the good choices that are in our own best interest. Thus He wants us to truly want what He wants, not merely identify what it is. This is a subtle distinction to grasp, but important, nonetheless. 

However, wanting what He wants always means giving up certain things, and that might be the crux of our obstinacy. First of all it requires forfeiting our right to ourselves, and tuning in to what we know to be true about the higher good. Secondly it means leaning on Him without reservation and accepting that what we had planned might not have been the direction He wanted us to take and then willingly leaving it behind without lingering doubt. Did He not admonish Lot and his family to not look back? Remember what happened to his wife when she just had to take one last sentimental look? 

What is asked of us is abandonment of our free will in exchange for His will. Letting go of free will means surrender, to be sure, but it is also blind acceptance and faith in the supernatural power of God to know, better than we, what path we should be taking. He wants us to not only choose the higher good, He wants us to experience the sheer joy of truly wanting the higher good. 

This, then, is the conundrum of free will. God wants us to choose to come to Him, to choose His way, so He gives us opportunities to decide, yes or no. But He wants us to do so willingly, not simply because we don’t want to get into trouble. Taking the high road by cowardice may keep our hands clean, but it won’t instill in us the nature of God. Goodness in and of itself is only a veneer. Only the deep solid grain of God’s genuine goodness dwelling in us can last against the ravages of time and adversity. Desiring this is the only way to get it. Getting it means not looking back to your old ways with sentimentality. It also means practicing. We have to exercise our faith muscle in order for it to grow. We must be ready to listen and obey, without question the small promptings in order to practice listening and obeying the life altering prompts. 

But, like children, we still want to have choices. We want to be the captains of our destiny. And, like children, when we make our bad choices we still want our loving parent to come to our rescue. So, we get in our tight spots and boldly make our promises to be and do what we knew we should have been and done in the first place. 

I’m so grateful that He is patient and has all the time in the universe but I am painfully aware that we are the ones who run out of time.

For Christ,

Reprinted from I Was Just Thinking - Essays From the Edge of All Light by A. Fields
Available at Amazon

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Life Without Christmas

For nearly two decades I wrote a monthly column called I Was Just Thinking. Every December I looked forward to penning my annual Christmas essay. The early themes focused on the joys of the season, family, friends, events wherein I could express my long standing love of Christmas. Writing about it was always just as much fun as being in the middle of it.

Over time, as I matured and the world started coming apart at the seams, the tone of my essays became somewhat more reflective, introspective and philosophical. My most recent was titled Life After Christmas – a more somber examination of the difficulties of keeping up with the demands society burdens us with during the “holidays”.

I had not thought about if or what I would compose this year until I ventured out one day into the shopping experience. I just needed a string of lights. What I saw, with surprisingly new eyes, while out in the fray, began to churn inside of me. I’ve been letting this ferment for a few days and now I am ready to write about it. I think. This one might be the hardest one, if not the last one.

Apparently Christmas has been hijacked and replaced with a sad, shallow replica. Now, I’m not blind, and, in spite of what some claim,  I have not been away on another planet for the past few years. I know that there’s been a huge outcry, every year, that Christmas is too crass and commercial. Stickers scream out from car bumpers “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON” and “KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS”. The ongoing struggle to keep Christmas a religious holiday over a reason to bump the bottom lines of commerce, has been going on for many years. 

But this year, I think the dark side has finally won.

Strolling through the aisles of Christmas decorations in several different big box stores, I made note of the things missing rather than the things offered. Whereas the once specific Jesus themed items used to include nativity scenes, stars, and all the religious symbols attributed to the day assigned to celebrate Christ’s birth, these are few and far between. Lots of snowmen, santa hats, and sparkling LED lit winter type representations line the shelves.  Not so much on the Jesus stuff.

Again, this isn’t a new trend. It’s been coming for some time now. Who hasn’t noticed that Christmas comes earlier every year, now launched simultaneously along with Halloween and Thanksgiving in mid-September, so as to stimulate spending and maximize the most profits out of the last quarter of the year. That’s been around for awhile.

But something has definitely changed. We have turned a real corner. Regardless, and in spite of, the limp efforts to keep Jesus in the middle of the holidaaaazz, the fights to block nativity scenes in public places, to rename Christmas trees, and now, to remove them altogether because of their “religious” inferences, seems to have finally gotten the upper hand. Commercially made products reflect this politically correct attitude now. It isn’t a leap to consider that it won’t be much longer before the secularization of Christmas will finally be complete enough to rename it. Thus removing Christ from Christmas completely. Why not? Christ is just barely there anyway already.

What if Christmas was not? 

What would happen to the economy if suddenly everyone decided to skip Christmas? No more Black Friday after Thanksgiving, fist-fighting and behaving like neanderthals over TVs and video games? No more drunken office parties, no more anguishing over what to buy for Aunt Louise because she always returns everything anyway? No more hauling out decorations and spending days decking the halls? No more struggling to get the schedule for everyone to get together to eat and drink too much?

Aside from economic collapse, what would happen, really, if the atheists and antichrists managed to outlaw all the traditions of Christmas in the interest of keeping religion out of view and in its place, i.e., in the past? 

Well, if all the things, the doings and the trappings, the food and drink, music and gifting, colors and images that have always represented the event we have called Christmas for centuries should be banned one day, I believe those who call themselves Christians would still remember that December 25th is the day we honor the birth of our Savior. It doesn’t even matter if that is not really the day He was born. It’s the day we say, “Thank You, Lord, for the babe who came to save the world.” So, just like in the movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, we would still celebrate in our hearts, even without the stuff. The stuff is of the world anyway and He is not. 

And the world can never overcome that.

Merry Christmas, 

For Christ,

(Luke 2:9) And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  (2:10) And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people:  (2:11) for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  (2:12) And this [is] the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  (2:13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  (2:14) Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.