Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tension of Living in Two Worlds

...the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV)

We live in this world but are not to be of it. That's quite a lot to pull off-- a little like taking a bath without getting wet. One of my children did that once, or so he said, but this is not a command we can get away with lying about, and certainly our Father is no father who can be lied to. So we lay ourselves down, like a rope in a tug of war, and attempt the impossible.

Whatever our hands find to do, we must do with all our strength-- not half-hearted, not lacking in ambition, whether our careers or even just avocational interests. God cannot be honored by sloppiness or lack of commitment, so we concentrate our skills and attention and yet...

We try love our neighbors as ourselves, to take up the cause of the widow and orphan, and to respond to the fallen on the way. It requires not an unnoticeable amount of time and effort, and even some material. We focus on the effort to make the world a better place by easing the suffering so prevalent, and often end up squeezing the Gospel out of the picture and embracing a humanist ideal. Hmmm....

We are citizens of the land we live in, regardless of whether we give it much thought or not. In some countries, it does not demand that much from us; in America, civic duty is always clamoring for the Christian's attention: jury duty, taxes, elections, the incessant stream of e-mail warning us that the country will go to hell in a hand basket if we don't call our congressman today. Evangelicals decided to make a political stand part of their spiritual agenda in 1980. Since then, if anything, the country's decline has been more precipitous...

This world is not our home. To be too at home here is destined to make us too strange to him who matters, and too antagonistic to his interests in our lives. To go off on our own, even as if on a mission from God, to make this world a better place is bound to corrupt the mission we do have from God, and frustrate the Spirit he gave to fill us. The tension of living in two worlds is apt to tear the best of us in two: could any of us ever endure if it were not for the grace of God?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Throne of Satan

In the Apocalypse, Pergamum is designated as the place where Satan's throne is. What is in mind by such a designation? Let's explore the matter.

Pergamum was a city familiar with hosting the throne of a kingdom. One developed there with Pergamum as its capital after the fall of Lysimachus (one of Alexander's generals) in 281 BCE. Until 133 BCE, Pergamum was the throne of this Attalid Kingdom when it was peacefully deeded to the Romans because its king died heirless. I find that more than an interesting crossing of paths between the Roman and Hellenistic worlds.

Under Roman hegemony, the city continued to prosper, and became noteworthy for two inventions: parchment and Emperor worship. We can be thankful for the first, not so much for the second. The imperial cult had its very first temple dedicated in Pergamum in 29 BCE, and so the city became the trailblazer in the development of emperor worship. In much the same way that the Whore of Babylon is a prophetic image that is indicative of the genesis of idolatry in Babylon, the Throne of Satan is a prophetic attribution which is indicative of the genesis of emperor worship in Pergamum.

John doesn't leave it alone at that, however, he further states that Pergamum is the place where Satan dwells. In speaking an eschatological word to the church which will be without Apostolic voice thereafter, John says Pergamum is not only the birth place of emperor worship, but is as well the very base of operations for Satan on earth. Given that the focus of the Apocalypse is the return of Christ, John's attributions necessarily focus our attentions on that place as significant in relation to Christ's return.

What do you think that might mean in locating the base of operations of the Antichrist, who will be the ultimate emperor demanding the ultimate worship? For me, it means I must look to Pergamum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Making Sense to the Devil

Some things really bug me...

Drivers who tailgate: since they don't have the sense to drive judiciously, I have to decide for them to slow down in order to make their following distance safer. I don't like going that slow, but what are you gonna do when they're obsessed with reading the fine print on your license plate?

Dramas: what can I say? The last thing I look for when blowing some time watching a movie or show is more real life (or something akin to real life only artificially more emotional). Puh-uh-lease! Give me a good car chase, bad guys getting their comeuppance, or some good belly laughs. I get enough reality in reality!

Complainers: I mean, really, what makes them think for one second I care about their opinion? If you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all-- didn't we learn that in, like, KINDERGARTEN? Groucho like, it would be nice if a banner dropped from the ceiling saying, "Here's a quarter, call someone who cares!" whenever they did their thing. Beside, "talk to the hand" is so yesterday!

Anal retentive dictators: folks who've figured out just how everything should be and expect you to follow their lead make me nauseous. It's unfortunate when they live across the street, more so if in the same house! There's not enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to soothe and coat that bellyache!

I could go on, but I'll spare you. It makes me wonder, however, what, if anything, bugged Jesus. He showed some irritation at times, but I've got to believe that a lot more bugged him than he actually let on. He was perfect, absolutely aligned with what was right and good all the time. How did he manage to walk through the sewer that is humanity without going mad, or driving us all off the face of the planet, scourge in hand?

We are all self-centered, and particularly so here, having that quality so catered to in America. We want what we want, and we look at people as those who should go along with what it takes for us to get what we want. In our own mind in makes sense, in our own eyes, it is only right and reasonable. The result, however, is that we end up looking at people more like the Devil does than does God.

God sees the blunt truth about us, warts and all, and even that which we're not even aware of, yet. Despite us, he walks with us to the end, never losing track of what we will be. It's so easy for us to become frustrated with one another, annoyed, peeved, and judgmental. We make sense to ourselves, so we think that is the same as sense objectively. In reality, the only one our attitude makes sense to is the Devil.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Take A Hot Bath, Kill A Polar Bear

The temperature of the world has been much warmer than it is now--not millions of years ago, but only about 1000. During that warm period, there were Polar bears roaming the Arctic, Polynesians thriving throughout the Pacific, and ice pack weighing heavily upon Greenland and Antarctica. At least no one is suggesting otherwise.

Yet, today, there is a chorus of panicked voices warning us that our energy usage and the carbon it pumps into the atmosphere is threatening (through the mechanism of global warming) the extinction of the Polar bear and the flooding of Polynesians out of their ancestral homes. In near history there have been extensive periods that were much warmer than it is today, or even will likely become according to global warming predictions. None of those things happened then.

Our collective, highly educated, global warming panic attack spurs the question, "have we finally gotten too smart for our own good? There's no question that we're too big for our own britches. We've arrived at the place where we don't need an antiquated notion like the Devil to scare the bejeebers out of us anymore. We may need truckloads of Xanax to calm our irrational side, but in our evolved hubris, we instill fear and a sense of doom all by ourselves.

Or do we?

If you live in the far north, where the polar bears roam, a hot bath may well be the safest place to be should a ravenous specimen, stressed by climate change, break into your house. That species prefers its meals swimming in frigid water, and so it may well turn its picky snout up at the likes of you. But then again, if the global warming gurus are correct, the collective energy consumed in heating the world's baths might kill off the problem before it ever comes snarling through your front door. 

So, dear reader, go ahead and take a hot bath despite any global warming guilt. You might kill a polar bear, but then again, you might be saving a life! 

Saturday, August 1, 2009