Tag Archives: Christianity

The Fakes We Make

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin.  What can I say?  Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk).  On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:

In the cold eternal light
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold.  Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith?  Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.)  Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide.  Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?

I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.)  Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes.  What has made our churches into fake factories?

One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.”  Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us.  Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt.  What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way.  We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.

There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard.  So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick.  If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right?  If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right?  No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right?  Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works?  What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?”  Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd?  They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.

Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them.  However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general.  I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing.  We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people.  We are going to keep producing fakes.

A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes.  Why?  Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death.  We don’t have that here in the West.  If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness?  In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation.  What do you guys think?  I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now.  I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday.  It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true.  It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one.  What’s happened to us?

My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different.  We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that.  We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it.  And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does.  What are your thoughts?  I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church.  Have you been “the ember fading?”  Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt?  How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Theology

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful…

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful by way of John Senior, and Ben Cash

Have you ever heard of John Senior?  If not, and you’re a Christian, you should make yourself acquainted with him.  More Catholics than Protestants have heard of this teacher, but in this day and age we can all benefit from his kind.  There is a fantastic biography of him by Fr. Francis Bethel, OSB called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.  During the 1970’s Senior was a professor at the University of Kansas and was instrumental in developing an Integrated Humanities Program there.  Interestingly the college shut the program down after several students converted to Christianity, many of them becoming Catholic.

The ideas the Senior put forward were that we are only truly human when seeking and finding the good, the true, and the beautiful, and doing so with our minds and our senses.  Not only were the classics taught in abundance, Senior and several other professors introduced the students to dancing, star gazing, poetry, and even singing.  Truth was presented as it really is; fixed and real.  Goodness as something to be pursued because it is rooted in truth.  The flip side (rejecting Truth), Senior argued, results in depression and hopelessness, destructive personal behavior, which in turn leads to a breakdown in society and culture.  Sound familiar?  Maybe sound like what’s going on in Western culture right now?  (Go check out the suicide statistics, study the trend, and then let that sink in.)

When I first watched Captain Fantastic, which I reviewed here just the other day, I instantly (and somewhat ironically) thought of John Senior and his method of teaching.  As I mentioned in my review of the movie Ben Cash is the father of the Cash clan and his method of teaching included star gazing, anatomy, copious amounts of reading and debating, music and singing, and exercising one’s mind and body through physical encounters with the real world.  I said “ironically” above because Ben Cash apparently despises Christianity (at least through much of the movie), which John Senior championed and also held up as the ultimate lynch pin of everything, including the true understanding of the humanities.

Both Senior and Cash seem to hold some key to the massive sense of… ennui we currently seem to have in our society.  Technology isn’t evil, but I think we can all agree that in most cases what was supposed to draw us closer together either hasn’t produced that promise, or, perhaps worse, has made us all engage in compulsive comparisons which then results in depression.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become global, and when the Joneses only post the highlights of their lives on social media it compounds the problem (folks, here’s the secret; Mr. Jones has a gambling addiction, Mrs. Jones is contemplating suicide, the kids hate each other, and they are in debt so far over their heads they’ll never get out… well, maybe that’s hyperbole, maybe not.)  Consumerism has run amok, mental health issues are on the rise, and we are more divided as a people than ever.

Both Senior and Cash call us back to our senses; we are whole and complete creatures only when our physical selves are involved.  Seeing someone’s picture or even a live vid of them is great when that’s all you can get, but isn’t a hug 100 times better?  You can see the real person, feel them, heck, even smell them (hopefully it’s a nice smell!).  How about nature?  Seeing a picture or a vid of a tree isn’t anything like experiencing a tree with our senses.  When our senses are involved it speaks to the concrete nature of our world, it gives us experiences that are more rich and steeped in truth.  When you are out hiking and trip on a root or a rock and fall, you are experiencing gravity first hand, and yes, you experience physical pain.

We have become divorced from nature and nature’s God.  We’ve even become divorced from each other.  And, yes, I’m speaking in generalities, as there are those who actually make an effort to experience life first-hand, instead of through a screen (however, I know more people who gripe about tech and social media and yet still have their noses shoved up against screens 24 hours a day).  How many of us still hike, stargaze, grow our own food, hunt our own food, write letters with a pen and paper, hold books in our two hands, bury our noses in roses, learn to actually dance with a partner in a manner that takes finesse and skill…  The classics of literature are being trashed (sometimes literally), and cast aside.  We read less and less (especially the males of our society) and watch TV more and more.

What Senior and the fictitious Cash calls us toward is a reconnect with what makes us human, something that gives us roots and wings.  I think of Tolkien’s hobbits when I read of Senior as well; comfort, and parties, and food… a warm, dry house, and a full belly while strolling in the garden that you planted and tended.  Sure, Bilbo and Frodo were grand adventurers and heroes, but that is because their roots were in the good, the true, and the beautiful represented by the Shire.  Ben Cash’s kids were indeed brilliant, but lacked that incredible piece of the puzzle that makes us fully human; society.  Now our society itself lacks the good, the true, and the beautiful, and it’s up to us as individuals to seek them out, and to offer them to others as much as we can.  (BTW, Ben Cash, and his wife, both turned their backs on God and that was the other major piece of the puzzle missing… interesting how Cash’s downfall involved rejecting both key commandments summed up by Christ; Love God, and love your neighbor.  So, as much as Cash reminded me of Senior in his teaching style, that’s the major difference and why Cash became so disconnected to the world he tried to teach his kids about.)

We need more physical activity, more time in nature, more unprocessed food, and to share that healthy food with others, more gratitude.  Instead of basking in the glow of our electronics, perhaps a good ol’ fashioned cookout is in order, with the glow and the warmth of the fire reflected from friendly faces.  When is the last time you read a classic?  How about some poetry?  Go visit someone you haven’t seen in forever, take ’em some home grown veggies, flowers, or just yourself.  After it’s all over, find and acknowledge those feelings of gratitude.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, perhaps spare some time for Him, and that’s to fulfill your needs, not His.

In other words, let’s remember what it’s like to be fully human in the world we inhabit; seek and find the good, the true, and the beautiful, share it with others, it’s still there.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology

Captain Fantastic; The Review I Want to Read

As seems to be the norm, I’m late to the game… but better to show up late than not at all. Right?  This post is a review piece on the 2016 movie Captain Fantastic staring Viggo Mortensen.  Quite frankly, the reason I’m writing this review here and now in 2019 is that I keep reading reviews of this movie and haven’t ever found the one I’m looking for… I guess that means that like everyone else, I’m looking for something that aligns with my subjective take on the thing.  Having not found one in 3 years that I agree with (in total), and after much sighing in frustration, I decided to write my own.

Well, it’s not really that I just want to write my own, it’s that almost every Christian review I’ve read about this movie is embarrassing to me as a Christian, and I’m going to focus a lot on the religious (or anti-religious) bits of the movie.  So, let’s get a few things out of the way; this movie features cussing, anti-religious sentiment, and last but(t) not least, full-frontal male nudity.  Yes, indeed, if you want Viggo in all his glory, this is the movie for you.  I happen to love this movie, but that is in spite of, not because of, Viggo’s glory.  Please, if nudity offends you, I totally understand, don’t watch the movie.  If someone using the Lord’s name as a (or in the midst of a) curse word, is a deal breaker, avoid it.  I really do understand completely.  (One point I never see mentioned when people are going off about said nudity is that there is zero, 0, female nudity in this movie, and the nudity is not sexual in any way… I think that is on purpose and makes me like the movie more, because I truly think the writer/director Matt Ross did it to make a point.)

Anywho, enough about the nudity.  This review and discussion contains spoilers, and yes, the movie is 3 years old, but on the ‘net there is always that one person who screams bloody murder at the fact there wasn’t a spoiler warning even though it’s old news.  What we have with Captain Fantastic is a story about parenting (specifically fatherhood), and the attempt to be present in your offspring’s lives to a greater degree than anyone else is; to raise your kids as you see fit.  Matt Ross then adds the layer of; what if those parents have an ideology that does not line up with the majority population?  Most reviews miss this basic point.  Many believe this movie exists to bash a certain political or religious perspective, and they contend the vehicle for this is how we are supposed to feel about Ben (played by Viggo) who is the patriarch of his family.  I don’t know what movie they were watching but the father is not portrayed as a hero… all I can come up with is people were 1) not paying attention while watching and 2) were so offended by what they perceived to be the point early on, that they missed the point entirely.

The family; Ben Cash the Dad, Leslie the Mom, oldest brother Bodevan, twin girls Kielyr & Vespyr, Rellian the rebellious brother, Zaja the death obsessed sister, and the “baby” of the family, little brother Nai.  Mom and Dad are out of the norm and hard to quantify specifically, but what I instantly noticed that never really gets mentioned is that Ben wears a Mjolnir pendant.  Now, we are told flat out that Leslie, his wife, is an Buddhist in regards to philosophy not religion, but we are never told what Ben is, other than he isn’t Christian.  Their main beef seems to be against organized religion, which may be a reaction against Leslie’s upbringing that sharp-eyed viewers will find to be Catholic.  Many wear Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) as a sign of protection, or as a nod to heritage, there are even Neo-Nazi’s who have latched on to it as a symbol.  Some wear it to simply show they aren’t Christian, but Ben’s use of it is interesting because who exactly is he wearing it for?  They see almost nobody, but even in the deep woods, or when showering in a waterfall, he keeps it on and no one (in the movie or in the reviews) really seems to notice. (Interesting side note; Viggo, as himself, has been photographed wearing one as well.)  Further, if I may jump to the end of the movie, in the final scene we clearly see he is not wearing it anymore, which is a really important clue that he has indeed changed his ways.

The whole family lives out in the Pacific northwest on a kind of homestead; tiny house with teepee, garden, treehouse, etc… They hunt and grow and can their own food.  The kids are homeschooled, which includes hand-to-hand fighting, meditation, wilderness survival training, lots of phys ed, field trips, music education, and a handpicked reading itinerary complete with tests and debates.  They all dress (or undress) however they feel like.  Mom is conspicuously absent and we soon learn why; she’s been admitted to a hospital because of her bipolar disorder which has finally forced her families to try to get her intensive help.  She slits her own wrists one night and we get the feeling she’s threatened to do this many times before, but this time succeeds and kills herself.  This sets the stage for the rest of the movie.

Now, here are some points that many don’t seem to catch.  When Ben finds out she’s dead, he looks through their important papers and opens her will.  We see (and hear) that Ben himself is shocked at her requests (we are kept in the dark about the particulars at first), just as earlier in the movie we see he is shocked at little Zaja’s death obsession that revolves around taxidermy, altars made of animal skulls, and Pol Pot.  Again, dad is not fully in control here and we are allowed to see that, nor is he immune to the norms and mores of the wider culture.

Leslie was being treated close to her mom and dad, who are rich, powerful, and used to getting their way.  Because of the Cash family’s “wild” ways they do not want Ben interfering with Leslie’s funeral and burial and warns Ben to stay away, which of course he doesn’t.  Now, here is where I wish more Christians would express their outrage along with Ben.  Leslie’s mom and dad, who are Catholics, completely and totally ignore their daughter’s wishes and will.  Leslie was a Buddhist who wanted to be cremated, not embalmed and buried.  She wanted music and dancing; a celebration of her life.   And, yes, she wanted her ashes flushed down a toilet. Hey, I don’t agree that’s how human remains should be handled, but that is what she wanted and had listed in her will.  Other reviewers focus on Ben (and fam’s) “bad” behavior in the church during her funeral… bad behavior? Reading her will, dressing out of the norm, and trying to stop the proceedings is not the bad behavior.  The bad behavior is on the part of the mom and dad who did not respect their daughter’s last wishes, who had her embalmed, placed in a Catholic Church, all laid out in a massive coffin, and then buried under a Christian tombstone.  None of that is acceptable from a Christian perspective and is meaningless to put a non-Christian through it.

Other worthy mentions; reviewers target a conversation that takes place in a bank.  The kids are shocked when they see everyone is so overweight.  They haven’t been exposed to that before, and they wonder if everyone is sick.  Nai thinks everyone looks like hippos and says so.  His sisters remind him that isn’t proper, “We don’t make fun of people.”  Vespyr helpfully chirps, “except Christians!”  What most Christian reviewers miss is the look of exasperation on Ben’s face right after his daughter says this.  He knows he’s caught in the very same hypocrisy that he claims infects Christianity.  Does he correct this? No, but the look says it all and we are supposed to catch it as the viewers.

In another scene, Ben is rightfully pulled over for a non-functioning left taillight.  The police officer boards “Steve” (their modified school bus) and begins poking around because the kids are not in school and the situation appears unusual.  Bodevan gets the idea to run the officer off by proselytizing like a stereotypical evangelical Christian homeschooled family, and they all begin serenading the officer with “One Day When Heaven was Filled with His Praises” and the officer beats a hasty retreat, sending them on their way.  Somehow this offends Christians too… but this Christian has heard the jokes my brothers and sisters tell each other; “When you get a call from either a salesperson, or a fake phishing call, just start telling them about Jesus and they’ll hang up really quick! Hahaha.”  We know how proselytizing can come off, and some have weaponized it, and now we’re going to act ticked off because it’s used in a similar fashion, but by a non-believer? Nah, it’s funny, lighten up.

Let me flip it for a second and also clarify a point that confuses some reviewers.  Ben and fam don’t celebrate Christmas, even the secularized version.  This is one of the areas of the film that I’m really surprised they didn’t tweak.  Instead of any holiday like Christmas, the Cash family celebrates Noam Chomsky day… and they celebrate it early on their adventure, just like Christmas in July.  Rellian, the family rebel, thinks it’s stupid, and asks why they can’t just celebrate Christmas like everyone else.  Ben then weaponizes his own philosophy against his son; he essentially humiliates Rellian by demanding an answer to the following question. “You would prefer to celebrate a magical fictitious elf, instead of a living humanitarian who’s done so much to promote human rights and understanding?”  I’ve seen Christian reviewers get really bent out of shape here… because they think he’s referencing Christ.  No. He’s referencing Santa Claus of course.  (Personally I think this is a misstep in writing Ben’s character, but it may have been deliberate to sidestep actually bashing Christian beliefs.  Why would Ben have focused on attacking something we all know isn’t true vs. attacking the idea of Jesus Himself?  It doesn’t fit the character, IMO.)  But that’s beside the point, the point is, this is not an attack on Christ.

And finally the point of the movie itself; the dad was wrong.  Not only was the dad wrong, he figures that out, and tells the kids (and us) just how wrong he has been (this is after what I see to be the climax of the movie when his daughter Vespyr falls from her grandparents’ rooftop and about dies).  Now, if the point of the movie was to glorify Marxism, and anti-Christian sentiment, why would the dad admit his experiment was “a beautiful mistake?”  Why would he then change course, move his kids back to a farm and enroll them in public school, and remove his Mjolnir pendant for the first time in the whole movie? It’s clear as day that he is still a loving, devoted father, he’s just realized there is more than one way to show that and to guide and protect his kids.  We can also see that the family does not throw out their former lives or learning, but things are repurposed and balanced out.  The point is; if you make your kids into philosopher kings and they have no society to interact with, then what’s the point?  If you get your kids seriously injured or killed in raising them up, then what’s the point?  Ben has finally learned you have to walk the path between order and chaos in a balanced manner.

All of that to say; I loved the movie.  It’s one that should make you think, but if you go into it with a chip on your shoulder about what you initially perceive as “anti” this and that, then you’ll miss the lessons Ben learns along the way.  Movies like this should especially challenge us Christians and make us reflect on if there is any truth to the stereotypes against us, and if they are something we want to change or not.  It should also make everyone, Christian and non, realize the importance of educating ourselves and raising the bar when it comes to interpersonal discussions, and parenting.  Finally, it also calls our society into question; what we spend time, effort, and money on, and if those things are actually meaningful (or inline with the Christian ideal anymore).

I plan to post at least one more article on particular aspects of the movie that I found so interesting, I hope, dear reader, that perhaps they will be interesting to you as well…

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Filed under Atheism, Catholicism, Christianity, Humor, Musings, Philosophy, Religion and Politics, Reviews, Sacred Secular

First the Cross

It’s Good Friday.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on what Good Friday means to us, so I thought I would add mine.  Here are some of my takeaways as to how to apply the lessons of Good Friday to our lives.

Even though you know what’s coming, keep pushing forward.  Avoidance only works in our lives in the short term.  If there is a rough road ahead we sometimes try to skirt around it, and then wind up in a ditch.  We need to logically look at the facts around us, pray to God that His will be done, and then move forward.  Sometimes life flat out stinks… if you see someone preaching that life is roses and kittens 24/7, run the other way.  We, as Christians, are to be made over into “little Christs,” well, that means sometimes first the cross.

Even though you are anxious, keep pushing forward.  Read the scriptures about Jesus in the garden.  Courage isn’t about a lack of anxiety, it is about having anxiety and acting anyway.  Humans get anxious when confronted with hard things.  That’s ok.  Seek out people that can help you with the burden of anxiety, seek out the Father that is always there, always listening to our fears and desires.  And, if you are anxious about everything, it’s time to get some help with that, and I’m saying that sincerely.  Anxiety can turn into a beast that we start to feel we can’t control, and there’s lots of reasons that anxiety can take over, but it can be fought and put back into perspective.  For rational anxiety; things work out, but first the cross.

Even though you are going through excruciating times, you can be right in the middle of God’s will.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate messages?  Don’t let other Christians shame you into thinking that we only suffer if we sin… did not Jesus suffer?  Was not Jesus sinless?  It rains on the just and the unjust alike, and the sun shines on both.  I would love to say that if you convert to Christianity that you won’t suffer… I can’t say that, it would be a lie, but what I can say is that as Christians, suffering has meaning.  Suffering also has an end.  We aren’t to seek suffering out in some masochistic manner, but when it comes to us, we hit our knees, seek His will, and remember His cross.  The resurrection is coming, but first the cross.

Hang in there my fellow humans, it doesn’t end at the cross.

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Filed under Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Prayer, Psychology

No, I’m not French, nor a Parisian…

Hang with me here… We just saw another attack against civilians made by Muslims.  They are extremists and they are terrorists and they are Muslim.  They went into Paris and targeted civilians.  They went into Paris with their ideology and they sought wreak as much havoc and kill as many people as they could.  They targeted a free people with the intent not just to kill, but to punish freedom itself.  They worship a false god, and follow false teachings in a book filled with philosophies antithetical to Truth, justice, and freedom.

I’m not French, I wasn’t a New Yorker after 9/11… I’m a small-town American and I won’t pretend to know the level of fear and pain that those innocent people suffered in those cities.  Yes, I stand with them, yes, I pray for them, but I won’t tarnish their experiences by using a pat phrase.  Perhaps instead of wasting our empathy with phrases and hashtags we can instead, or alongside of that, educate ourselves on the threat we all face and what can be done about it.  This can’t be handled in cyberspace.  This can’t be handled by sentiment. Before it can be handled we have to be an in formed populace.

Have you not followed the refugee crisis in Europe?  Have you not learned why ISIS is doing what it is doing?  Have you not read and studied the Koran and the various volumes of the Hadith to understand what is fueling their attacks?  As bad as it was in Paris, do you realize Christian children are being targeted for crucifixion in ISIS controlled territory?  People are being raped, tortured, and killed all for their witness to the true God.  Genocide has happened and now the perpetrators are exporting death.  Russia is on the move and Putin is actually being called upon by Americans to do what we won’t.  We don’t owe it to the victims of these heinous acts of terror to label ourselves with their labels, but rather to respond with knowledge, wisdom, and courage.

I’ve just read an article that was acting offended that the Republican candidates were “politicizing” the Paris attacks… um, yeah, because you are seeing the ineffectiveness of Democratic leadership in the face of an exploded Middle East, an exploding Europe, and an America that can’t control it’s own borders.  I hope that all the candidates both liberal and conservative tell us what they would do about the Islamic threat.  Now is the time folks.

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Filed under Christianity, Of Interest

The Armor(s) of God

So, I’ve blogged a bit about all the troubles we see around us, and as my brothers and sisters in Christ know, we are to put on the whole armor of God… but what does that really mean?  What are the references to this armor in scripture?  Do you know Paul did not originate the idea, nor was he the first to write about it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s take a look;

Ephesians 6: 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

So, in Ephesians we have Truth as a garment that is girded (tied for war), Righteousness as a breastplate, the Gospel as boots, Faith as a shield, Salvation as a helmet, the word of God as a sword.  Let’s dig in a bit to the words here;

First, truth is an easy one, in the Greek alḗtheia, which is just as we would read it, simply truth.  Unchanging fact, and that truth is tied up, girded, as a garment around the “loins.”  The loins in Jewish thought represented (and were) the seat of procreative power.  Truth protects the future of the people of God.  We are to be draped in Truth, and when in war, gird it around us to aid in battle.

Next, we have a Breastplate, covering the thorax and it is Righteousness.  Righteousness in Greek is dikaiosýnē, and is “right-ness.”  It is union with God in the sense of having been made “right” and “upstanding” in relation to Him.  Of course, we believe that is the righteousness granted to us by Christ, by His Righteousness.  So, that covers the thorax; the lungs that breath, the heart that pumps the blood.  It covers your vitals, and the heart is seen to be the seat of thought in Jewish teaching.  The air we breath, the thoughts that make us “us,” and the very blood pumping through our veins is to be covered in Right-ness.

For a foot covering we have the Gospel of peace.  Gospel is euangélion in the Greek, and you should recognize that; evangelize. Are feet are protected and bound up with the Gospel.  In Jewish description, disciples sat at the feet of the teacher.  As we go forth and as we teach others, the first and most important thing to present is the Gospel of Christ; the good news/tidings of Christ. Further, the Gospel acts to protect us on our journey.  Even when we are just walking and not fighting, the gospel protects us because it is covering our steps.  Peace… the gospel is the good news of how to have peace with the Creator of all.

After that is the shield, which is faith.  In the Greek pistis, faith, is trusting with great confidence.  It isn’t head knowledge, it is reliance on something, and it can have different targets.  For the Christian it is God.  In this context it acts to shield us, and is so powerful it doesn’t just stop normal “arrows” but can actually quench the fire that is riding on the arrows.  One of the drawbacks of many shields was that the arrows raining down would “stick” into the shield, and if they were lit with fire, you would have this fire clinging to you.  The shield of faith takes care of the heat and flame, it will not touch you.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

The helmet is next, and is salvation.  Soterion is salvation in the Greek.  Salvation protects your brain.  Remember what the Lord said?  A fool hath said in his heart there is no God.  The mind is a tricky thing, as well as the heart.  We can over think things and even confuse ourselves because we are so sure we are brilliant.  Salvation cuts right to the point and keeps one humble; you can’t save yourself, and if you are smart, you will believe in God.  With salvation comes the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He changes us (including our minds) from the inside out, and protects us from the outside in.

Finally is your weapon; the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  We forget that a sword is both offensive weapon and defensive armor, in the sense that you block oncoming attacks, not just with your shield or other wearable pieces of armor, but also with your weapon.  Notice that Paul tell us we have to “take up” the armor, including the sword.  It’s not just something “there.”  If you want a weapon you need to know the word.  That means time and effort in order to become armed.

Isaiah had a few things to say about armor;

Isaiah 59:15 Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the Lord saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. 16 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. 17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. 18 According to their deeds , so He will repay, Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; To the coastlands He will make recompense.

Notice the similarities?  Notice the differences?  Breastplate/Righteousness, and Helmet/Salvation is the same.  Notice this is the Armor of God Himself, it is what He wears.  What is different?  He also has garments of vengeance, and a mantle of zeal.  We don’t have the same thing, we aren’t to take up vengeance, and God’s zeal, His passion and jealousy aren’t a part of our armor or our clothing, they are His.  We learn elsewhere, in Revelation, that He also has a sharp sword coming out of His mouth; the word of the Lord.

Last but not least, read Paul again, and think on this;

Romans 13: 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

And now, to the crux of the command; put on the armor of Light.  And what does that mean; put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Folks, we are living in a war zone, the deeds of darkness are all around us, but we have been given access to the armor of Light.  Put on the whole armor of God, be active in it.  Don’t mistake our clothing for His, we have what we need, we only need to accept and utilize what has been provided for us.  If you haven’t put on the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, my prayer is that you will do so soon.

Grace and peace to all those covered in Him,

K

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“It’s time to practice what we big boys call ‘self-control…'”

Self-control.

Where have you gone, self-control?

What has become of you?

Have you left our land never to return, or are you there waiting to be reintroduced by those who should already know you?

Oh, self-control, don’t hide your face anymore…

Ha! Just a little strange poetry humor to get us started… anyone know Silverweed from Watership Down? No?  Moving on… Self-control. No one talks about SELF control any more, or if they do, it is actually seen to be a negative thing, something to make fun of.  However, when we read scripture it become evident that self-control is extremely important and is a valuable thing.  It is my argument that many negative things we are facing in our current culture arises, in part, from a lack of self-control.

Freedom and self-control go hand-in-hand.  Do we see this in scripture?  We sure do!  Please check out an earlier article on mine that goes into the Greek behind “temperance” which is self-control, and that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 9; Temperance

Self-control is also taught in the OT; Proverbs 25:28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.  If you lack self-control, you lack defenses against the enemy.  Sound like that could be a connection with all the things we see around us right now in our culture? When we have a lack of self-control, we suffer as individuals, but we also hurt others including the whole of the Body of Christ.  When self-control is absent, addiction can move and set up shop in our lives.

We look around and we see the lack of self-control; sex and porn addiction, homosexual acts, fornication, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction, gluttony, addiction to gossip, and on and on.  Not only that, we see a generation of kids who can’t control themselves.  Debts is out of control, and people can’t seem to put their electronics down for more than a minute at a time.  One of the reasons we see this is that it has become a belief that control comes from outside of ourselves.  Drugs are a popular example of this.  I’m all for necessary medications, but there is now this thought that whatever is wrong, legal or illegal drugs can correct.  We also see law, or legality, as an example as well. If it is legal, it must be ok, because if it wasn’t ok, it would be illegal and the government would control us.  Speaking of the government, they are also trying to impose control in other ways.  Kids not eating healthy?  Take away the vending machines at school.  Outlaw big gulps… yeah, that’ll work.

No.  God puts the responsibility squarely on us, and says if we are walking with Him, if we are believers, we will have help from the Holy Spirit.  One of the major things I hope people understand is that it is not weakness to seek help for something we feel is out of our control.  Let’s use the porn epidemic as an example.  Men and women are both affected, sometimes in different ways.  Further, some may think porn “doesn’t hurt anyone” so what is the big deal?  First of all, it is a big deal to God. It hurts the one viewing it.  It changes the neural pathways in the brain in a way that is unhealthy, and causes the individual to react differently when met with a real-life woman (or man) and a real relationship.  It also hurts the ones participating in the pornography itself; it is degrading and debasing for all involved.  It hurts the whole Body of Christ, for when one person is harmed the rest are as well.  It’s like a virus spreading; what we do in “private” is not disconnected from everything else, nor everyone else.  Perfect example of all of this; I’m sure you’ve read or heard of the Josh Duggar scandal.  He never actually internalized self-control, but was instead controlled by thoughts, urges, and hormones; the perfect example of what not to do or how to be.  He learned how to mimic self-control, not how to actually control himself.

We see other examples surrounding us, or even in our own lives.  How we eat, how we spend our money, how we handle anger, where our thoughts go, how we spend our time, our actions, our words… It’s past time we take a look at our selves, and start practicing self-control and teaching our children how to practice it as well, if we haven’t already.  Practicing self-control isn’t locking ourselves away from temptation, but rather learning how to respond correctly to the temptation when it rears its ugly head. Part of this is embracing the freedom God gives us, and learning responsibility within that freedom. God says He always gives us a way out of temptation… it’s time to look for that open door.  If you need help, find help.  This is not a legalistic thing, but rather it is all about health; the individual’s spiritual, physical, and mental health, and having good defenses.  As each individual gains proper healthy defenses, the body of Christ as a whole can flourish.

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Filed under Christianity, Health, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology