Monday, February 20, 2012

Keeping Our Faith While The Darkness Deepens

Let's admit the obvious. All signs show that the great darkness enveloping the world is deepening. Do not be afraid. This is the fulfillment of prophesy from Isaiah - hundreds of years before Christ - and reiterated by our Lord before He was crucified. 
Nations, economies and institutions are failing everywhere. But the good news is a far better world is approaching. If we keep our faith in God's plan for the earth, and hold fast to our humanity by refusing to fall into the trap of hate, we will witness wonderful things.
We each carry our own light in this world, a light of knowledge, wisdom, and faith. It is very dim in some people, and blazes brightly in others. There's a New Testament parable about this and the Final Days we're living in  from Matthew 25:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep 
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!: But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

This is a difficult parable to grasp for at least two reasons. First, it asks us to see ourselves as "virgins" with lamps. Imagine how offensive that image was to most of the men of Palestine and Rome, hardened men who dominated their women and looked down on them. These were extremely tradition-bound, patriarchal societies. Men today have a difficult time with that "virgin" image. 
Second, it asks us to see ourselves as entirely dependent on the "bridegroom", which is Christ, and know that the church is His bride. It says our lives have real meaning and purpose only if we are witnesses to that wedding. And if we aren't there with our lamps (souls and spirits) aglow, we're doomed to terrible darkness. This is a critical article of faith in Christianity. 

We must give maximum weight to the words of Jesus. He didn't say a lot, which makes each word significant. This parable warns us to be prepared for the unexpected, and if we aren't prepared, there may be a final and unforgiving judgment.

Sometimes in life we get a second chance to do the right thing. But not always. Occasionally we get only one chance. The hour is late now. Find your light and the fuel to keep it burning all the time, even when you sleep. 

Additionally, the parable says the oil must be purchased, "... go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ The marketplace is a divinely ordained instrument of God's will in the world, and our spiritual growth is also subject to market forces. Therefore, it follows that those who destroy marketplaces are doing the work of the Anti-Christ.

Here is the prophesy of Jesus about the times we're living in:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come".  - Matthew 24

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trapped By Hate

Hate is a difficult thing to talk about for at least two reasons. First, most of us think it's ugly, and we don't like the look or sound of it. Second, it's easy to fall into the trap of hating haters. The Ku Klux Klan, for example, cover themselves with white robes in a cowardly fashion and vilify Catholics and Jews with as much vehemence as people of color. We may begin to project onto them the very hatreds we condemn in them, if we aren't careful.
The only way we can keep ourselves from falling into the hate trap is to hate as little as possible and always remain mindful of our motives for hating.

Hate is an elemental human emotion, and like all elemental things, it must be refined. It can be transformed into something useful. Sometimes it's a product of love, as when a loved one betrays us  with intention. Forgiveness can reverse hate and strengthen our love if we can recapture lost trust:

                                                                  Discovering forgiveness

Genuine hate - as described in the Bible - is deep revulsion, and it isn't a bad thing. It's a powerful motivator. We must learn to control it, however, or it will control us. Moral integrity and reason are the only safeguards that can channel hate and direct it toward a constructive end.

Deep revulsion for cold-blooded killers, child molesters, or ruthless thieves protects civilization by motivating us to recognize, capture, and punish them. Our legal system of law enforcers, courts, and prisons is designed to effectively channel criminals and minimize the terrible effects of our hatred for them as much as it is to protect us from their crimes. When we feel unprotected from evildoers we're likely to act on our own and take the law into our hands, and civilization quickly breaks down.

If we don't do the work on our inner selves and remain vigilant, tyrants and other authorities in our lives can easily manipulate us for their own ends and wreak havoc. From time immemorial kings and dictators have unified their peoples around a common hatred. Sometimes it's necessary, as when a nation is attacked by a foe and in danger of annihilation. Without a deep revulsion for the Soviet, Nazi, and Japanese empires, America would have been destroyed eighty years ago. Seen in this light, hatred is an indispensable survival tool. But how do we put the hatred genie back in the bottle when the threat is gone? How do we resist the temptations to hate or make others hate when there's a monetary incentive to do it, as when a politician needs an issue to run on?

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights was written and ratified so that we would have a reliable framework to deal with elemental human emotions. Until recently they worked wonderfully well to steady America's course in a radically changing world, because they openly paid homage to the God of all Creation through the Declaration of Independence. These legal instruments are all that stand in the way of hateful tyrants who would gladly use any method to gain control over us and our nation. That is why we're being undermined and wrecked at this moment. The world's political leaders are working daily to destroy our human rights. The latest assaults on Christians everywhere is proof-positive. The mask of hatred for God is off, and no believer is safe, whatever religion they profess:

Authentic religion is critically important to our survival, but only if we're vigorous in our faith. The example of Jesus, particularly his refusal to hate his enemies, is an invaluable tool for our own mental health and survival.

Why did the French Revolution and so many other well-intentioned rebellions fail to live up to their promises? They were atheist and anti-theist in nature, and didn't call upon God to guide them. They were like a rudderless ship. They lost their way and devolved into tyranny.

America's founding documents were a chart and a guide for its leaders, and many were men and women of God. They set an example that served us well until recently.

There is now great envy and resentment in the world for the success of the United States, and powerful forces of darkness are mobilizing for a final, decisive overthrow of the two nations most invested in by God, America and Israel. If they fall the world will follow. We're in the middle of that war now, and there has not been a decisive battle. There is still sympathy and support for God and people of faith all over the world, but it's hard to see it through the glare and noise in the media. 

People of faith everywhere in the world are vulnerable. A full frontal assault is in progress now to demonize and destroy us. Be on guard and pray to God.

Many of those who hate us call themselves agnostics or atheists, but they've become much more than that. We're seeing - as never before - a large number of our fellow citizens turn against God and against people of goodwill who worship God. They are anti-theists.

A large number of them work for government and educational institutions, and they've been deliberately put in place over many decades. The levers of power are largely in their hands.

But God rules all, and they will fail. This is the final act of creation as foretold in Scripture. Be ready!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Full Flowering of Evil; War on Judeo-Christians

If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Josh Powell's note was simple and short, a farewell to the world after two years of being scrutinized in the media, hammered by police and questioned by judges, prosecutors and social workers, living his life under a microscope since the day his wife vanished.
Just minutes before, authorities say,  he set fire to his home, killing himself and his two young sons days after he was denied custody and ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation. Powell sent an email to his attorney.
"I'm sorry, goodbye," he wrote.
 The Sunday blaze at Powell's home brought yet another twist in the very public scandal that began when Susan Powell vanished in 2009. The case had since spiraled into a salacious saga of finger-pointing and accusations of sex and lies -- and now the unthinkable loss of two young lives caught in the crossfire.
A social worker brought the two boys to Josh Powell's home Sunday for what was to be a supervised visit, and Powell let his sons inside -- but then blocked the social worker from entering. The house was filled with gas. A moment later it exploded,  the Graham Fire Chief Gary Franz told Associated Press.

This is what evil says, "I will possess you and control you. If you deny me, I will kill you. If I can't have what I want, nobody else will ever have it." This is the evil spirit behind every tyrant who ever lived, though the spirit is often cloaked - like a wolf in sheep's clothing - to appear benign and loving. Watch for it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cleansing The Temple

Each one of us is a temple to his or her god. God is whatever we perceive and believe to be all-powerful, perfect, praiseworthy, and eternal. For many, God is not the Creator of ancient tradition, a conscious being who is interested in everyone and all life; as Judeo-Christians see it.

Many people worship wealth, power, sex, celebrities, or other idols; in spite of all evidence that this is a waste. They invest their love and money in things that vanish or turn to dust. So many people throughout history have testified to the emptiness of this worship that it's a wonder people still fall into the deadly trap of materialism. The problem is that it leads nowhere except to a dead end. It's understandable that the young or unintelligent among us would worship these glittering images, but what of those who should know better?

Money, technology, social position, power, and beauty will not save us from disease, pain, loss, loneliness, and death. These things are an inseparable part of the physical world, our material realm of life. The material universe is an incredibly violent and deadly place. Our beautiful blue marble of a planet is like a flower garden in a steel foundry. Sooner or later something's going to happen.

Reconciling with our Creator will shelter us from pain and destruction. We may experience terrible things, but they won't ruin us or take away our peace of mind. We can actually profit from adversity at times, and learn valuable things. The wisdom and knowledge we gain is engraved on our souls and spirits, and they pass with us through death to the other side of the veil of existence.

Earthly life as we know it is only a stepping-stone; by no means the only life open to us. All the great religions recognize higher and more fulfilling worlds, and seeking them is infinitely more rewarding and productive than idol worship here on earth. These more perfect worlds are our inheritance.

Ask yourself if you believe in the sacred or holy. These words are very much out of fashion, but they describe God and the higher realms. The sacred and the holy can  exist only momentarily in this world. If these words strike us as naive or silly, our temple needs cleansing. We are not awake to the most vital issue of our time. The world as we know it won't last forever, and our days are numbered. Our lives will be over in a mere blink of an eye.

Altering our mode of living to focus on God's laws and the higher realms requires that we cleanse our temple, so to speak. We must cast out our false idols and the childish emotional attachments we have to them. It's not easy, even frightening at times, but it has to be done. Jesus provoked his own crucifixion by cleansing the temple, overturning the tables of the money-changers at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. He disrupted the economy, the flow of wealth enjoyed by the corrupt priests there. They really hated Jesus for that, and we also provoke anger and violence by doing this in our own lives. But we have to take the risk. It's the price we pay for escaping this world's sad end.