Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Counselor

Counselor

I don't know how many of you have ever had counseling (or how many of us would admit to it, hah!)... but it's wonderful. I've only seen one professional counselor (at University) for a short time, but I've talked with a pastor who also did counseling, and then with two spiritual mothers to whom I could open up and unload.

Opening up and unloading is wonderful. Paul wrote that we fulfill the law of Christ when we "carry one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). The few times I've been able to do this for others have probably been as fulfilling for me as for them!

Somehow, though, I never applied the wonderfulness of "counseling" to the word "counselor." You see, the Bible says that Christ is the wonderful counselor, and Jesus called the Holy Spirit "The Counselor." Somehow that always sounded very cold and factual, maybe like a military advisor. Perhaps it had something to do with how the "Holy Spirit" is generally intellectualized as your "conscience" or is not allowed to speak -- we often only allow Him to "impress" us as we read Scripture.

But one night He spoke to me about His name, Counselor, and He connected it with what I had experienced. The wonderful rest of opening to another, of being held by another, of a trusted one holding your hand, holding your head, stroking your hair, and holding your burden. Taking your burden. Taking it away. And leaving you there lying on the couch with rest, with a peace you can't quite explain, even if your "problem" didn't get "solved" immediately, you're set at peace because the Counselor is there, loves you, and you trust Him.

This is our Counselor. This is the Holy Spirit. Know Him anew today as your Counselor!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What We've Allowed


What We've Allowed

Most ancient Meso-American cultures practiced human sacrifice. The Aztecs did so out of a belief that blood needed to be spilled in order to keep the sun in the sky every day. Theirs was a culture that relished in war because it spilled blood, and thus they believed it helped their world and the universe keep going on and existing. Their gods demanded human sacrifices, and to these gods their leaders and priests sacrificed their own people. Sometimes it's historically portrayed as people nobly laying down their lives for everyone's sakes. But when you hear that children were sacrificed because the rain god demanded tears, you see the true spirit behind what was going on. It makes me cry to even think about it.

This is not a subject I enjoy writing about. I happen to be half-Mexican, actually. But this picture is not about Mexico. It's not about the Aztecs. It's about US. The U.S.A. It's about what's been happening spiritually in the USA in the last decade, and how Christians have been spiritually blind about it.

There is enough evidence that Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda or 9-11. The evidence has been well-known internationally and at home since the beginning of the attempts to start the war. There have been enough re-tracked and re-spun statements to show that the "evidence" didn't actually matter. The war was going to happen whether there was evidence or not. There have been enough testimonies from insiders that the war was a goal from the day the administration took office. There have been enough revelations that the administration knowingly tried to link Saddam and Bin Laden in the public's eye and sentiment, and continually kept the nation in fear of attack.

Why?

Because as one Christian prophet boldly declared, "We wanted to go to war."

I don't know exactly "who" is behind everything, and I'm not sure it's critically important that we know "who" to blame. What is important is that we wake up to what's been happening, that we begin to see in the Spirit and discover our blindness that made it possible.

There are people in the administration and in the government (or behind it) that wanted this war to happen. The "evidence" they tried to assemble against Saddam was a cover. Yes, Saddam was a bad person. Yes, he did bad things. But the United States was never bothered by his bad deeds when he was doing them -- rather the U.S. government supported him and gave him aid during those years because he was at odds with radical Islamic fundamentalists in neighboring Iran. And yes, he was also at odds with Al Qaeda for his lack of support & religious enthusiasm. All this was well-known to the U.S. government even during the Clinton years.

So...

"They" didn't start the war because Saddam was a threat.
"They" didn't start the war because Iraq was a terrorists' haven (it wasn't until the war).
"They" didn't start the war because Saddam had WMD's, WMD "programs", or "intention."
"They" didn't start the war because Iraqis were suffering.
"They" didn't start the war because Iraqis needed freedom.


What was so important that the evidence didn't matter? What was so important that the lives of soldiers, civilians and even enemies were esteemed so expendable?

One story I read back when it was all beginning revealed much of it very clearly and shockingly. Perhaps you remember that the United States sponsored several UN resolutions that paved the way to allowing for military action against Saddam because of his alleged WMD's. But before the final UN resolutions were even voted on, before the "evidence" came back about Saddam and what he did or did not have, preparation for the war was already in the works. Months before the start of the war, during the time the UN resolutions were being put forth and the administration was still trying to sell Saddam's guilt to the world (and the necessity of dealing with him militarily), long before the war began the US government was already handing out oil contracts to domestic companies for development of oil fields in post-war Iraq.

Oil profits. Power. Control. Greed. Military industrial profits. These have been the "gods" in the hearts of leaders or people in power. These have been the "gods" that they served. These have been the "gods" to which they sacrificed the lives of their own people, their soldiers, Iraqi people, Iraqi civilians, and even the lives of enemies who would come to fight the U.S.

They knew what to say. They knew which "buttons" to press in Americans' hearts that would arouse their fears, arouse their 'righteous' indignation, arouse their sense of believing that something needed to be done. They knew how to make honest Americans believe that they were doing the right thing. They knew how to sway things so that anyone who opposed America's course would appear to be suspect, corrupt, greedy, on the "bad" side, and anti-justice.

Most grieviously of all for me, they knew how to snare the hearts and indigation of Christians in the United States (and sometimes Christians abroad, too). They wore the right pins. They spoke about righteousness, law and justice. They even supported some of the right causes. And the Church did not investigate. We didn't look deeper. We didn't want to look deeper. We wanted to believe them. We wanted to believe our leaders were godly, righteous, and "God's men" for the job of leading our country in the way of righteousness. We were "a Christian nation" we believed, and our leaders were "born again". For a long time we'd actually been looking to some of our leaders for the final word on matters instead of investigating things for ourselves. And we had been endorsing them from our church pulpits for quite some time.

We were ready and waiting to be manipulated.
We were ready and waiting to be misled.
We were ready and waiting to be deceived.

We didn't want to listen to information that contradicted what "they" said.
We didn't want to hear the evidence that proved "them" wrong.
We didn't even want to stop to ask why the evidence didn't matter.
We didn't even want to stop to ask why the rationale for the war kept changing when the evidence began to melt away.

I'm not saying this because I enjoy blasting the mainstream Church in America. No, even though I am living abroad and disagree with the American Church sharply about Iraq and the last eight years, I include myself among them in heart and in the Spirit. We want to serve the same Lord. We call upon the same Lord. At times we look with no other help and plea than to the grace of the same crucified and resurrected One, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Because I live abroad, I haven't been under the canopy of nationalism and fear that the administration fomented following the 9-11 attacks and maintained until the Iraq war began. For some of us living abroad, things have been clearer from the beginning. It's been a shock to many of us (as it has to most of the world) how the American public (especially American Christians) became so fervent to start a war based on such a lack of cause and evidence.

It's weighed on my heart and caused me to grieve. It's split my own family at times. I don't hate the leaders involved. I don't hate the people who are probably orchestrating things behind them. I don't even know them. I just hate the deception itself. It weighs so heavily on my heart that the American Church is one of the last stalwart supporters of the administration and the righteousness of the war. As the evidence piled up and non-religious supporters began to see the truth, the Church has yet held on strongly, continually ignoring the evidence and plodding on in the same directions and avenues that enabled it to be deceived and led astray in the first place.

As the election approaches, I began to realize that no matter who won it, the Church would go on believing against the testimony of witnesses & the evidence and would continue standing in a spiritually-blind position ready to be manipulated again when the opportunity arises.

I began to ask the Lord how He saw this situation. I wanted to see it as He saw it and paint it. I wanted to say something about it. And this picture came. It came as my family and I ate at a Mexican restaurant here in Osaka. I hadn't expected such a picture of horror.

But this is what we've allowed. Human sacrifices.

We may believe we are "civilized". We may believe we are a righteous, God-fearing nation. Or that we were at least founded as one. That we are a "Christian nation" or something along those lines. But what we've allowed is for countless lives to be sacrificed to 'gods' of war, greed and control on the 'pyramids' of foreign shores.

Leaders (or people behind them) with blackened hearts have worn the flag and the 'right' pins, supported some good causes, and spoken the 'right' words as a smokescreen to blind us to what they've been doing -- to blind us to the 'gods' they are actually serving. Perhaps some of them themselves do not know that they are serving these 'gods' in their hearts, but actually believe their rhetoric and rationalizations. Perhaps like the Aztecs, they believe the sacrifices --the people whose lives they are choosing to die-- somehow keep the world going and work for the benefit of all.

This is a difficult picture. I confess I don't like it. I don't like what's happened even more. I don't like what's happening. I don't like how my Christian brothers and sisters are blinded, manipulated, and deceived. I don't like how the deception is so deep that many brothers and sisters are clinging to it tenaciously -- that their faith is being put in their leaders and their actions instead of in Christ. I don't like how they're being taught from their church pulpits that they needn't look for truth and search the evidence for themselves -- that they can just trust the "godly" leader in office and people who support the "right" platforms and positions.

I weep in the Spirit as I write much of this.

I must confess that I added something to this picture. And it makes me cry in the Spirit even more. As I saw the picture originally, the cross part was not there, nor was the sun or scales. I put them there because I needed hope. I needed to put something redemptive in this picture. It was too heavy for me to look on, to gaze on, to put before you the reader. Lord, if I should've done it without that part, please forgive me. But I can't do without Your cross, Jesus!

I believe that He did guide me in the 'cross' part of this picture, though. Because the cross is a double-edged sword. Yes, it is our redemption. But judgment is also weighed according to the cross: If we do not choose mercy and grace, mercy and grace will not be what we are judged by.

We have professed the cross, professed Christ, but we don't know how terribly we've been deceived into allowing terrible things (which amount to human sacrifice) to happen. I believe God is calling us out of our slumber and drunkenness (on words that have sounded good to us and inflated our nationalistic pride) because He will not sit by and let this happen forever. Every nation has a "cup" that fills up when things like this happen. He won't endure it forever -- especially when people professing His Son's name are inadvertently aiding it.

The gospel of God's grace is our hope. Repentance is our hope. Speaking the truth no matter what -- that is our hope. Praying for our beloved brothers & sisters to see through the smokescreen, to see the truth and be deceived no longer -- that is our hope. To look to the cross -- that is our hope!

And for the world, for the countless "Malchus's" who have had their spiritual "ears" cut off to the gospel by our wielding of the sword in Christ's name -- to them our only hope of telling them the gospel is by our repentance and asking for their forgiveness. It is humbling. It is pride-killing. It will offend our flesh. But it will bring life!

Lord, I pray all these things in Jesus' name. Help us see, Lord! Remove the blinders from our eyes! Shine through the smokescreen! Give us a divine dissatisfaction with believing whatever our leaders or preachers say instead of investigating for ourselves, Lord. Teach us to see what You see, even if it such terrible horror as this. Give us a repentant humility to take intercessory responsibility, to stand in the gap and repent and ask for forgiveness, and to do the intercessory deed of proclaiming the truth no matter what the cost to our pride or friendships or social standing, Lord! In Jesus' name, I pray, I cry out! In Jesus' name, amen!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hating Politics Intelligently


If you're going to say that you "hate politics," then make sure that you hate politics for the right reasons. Do it intelligently...

You see, it's very popular to say "I hate politics" and "I hate politicians," but many people say these things and feel these ways who actually don't know very much about politics... Don't let the popularity of "hating politics" be a substitute for being unable to actually understand politics. If we don't understand something, then it's far better to refrain from passing judgment on it than to write it all off.

In 1992 and throughout the early Clinton years, my family and I hated Bill Clinton. Somehow he just seemed so fake. We didn't have any actual intelligent reason for hating him or thinking he was dishonest, but somehow he felt like the epitome of "dishonest politician" to us. We were average Americans with our minds, feelings and hearts back in the patriotic bliss of the Ronald Reagan years.

We supported the first Iraq War. I was enamoured with the military and remember watching each news update about the war (it's eerie to remember how the news updates began with dramatic timpani montages), and then visiting the national mall to see all the different types of helicopters on display (and a Harrier as well). We were determined to support the troops and veterans -- in a way, to make up for the lack of support (and even hostility) they received after the Vietnam war.

What I realize in looking back is that the patriotism we had during those years offered a very basic, black & white view of everything. To love America meant to support the troops. To support the troops meant to support the war. Like soldiers themselves, "politics" didn't come into it. We could easily identify with their honorable, sacrificial spirit, their laying down their own lives. Anyone who would argue against the war would thus be arguing against the troops, and how could anyone argue against their honorable sacrifice?

Service. Sacrifice. Soldiers of honor. Country. Patriotism. These were the things that spoke to our hearts, the things that seemed so incredibly un-political. They were moral issues, things of valor and virtue. And we hated "politics."

I mention this example of my family during the first Iraq war because these sentiments are still very common in the United States. It is still popular for people to support the nation's wars (and president) and yet believe that they "hate politics." The word "politics" is a conversation-stopper. Anyone who argues against an American war must simply be "political."

Yes, politics involves bending the truth and lying. But above all these things (rather, underneath) lies the fact that politics involves manipulation. The politician (left or right) always seeks to connect with the emotions of the listener. The politician has an "image" to craft and sustain. They choose their words carefully. They want to be seen as a "straight-talker", they want to be seen as "honest" and "honorable."

Why? Because Americans vote by image, by impression, by sight, and by "faith." Americans vote on "character," and yet that is the ONE THING that is the most easily manipulated by proper image-projection.

If the politician can say the "right" things, the emotions of the listeners will be moved. If the politician can tap into the right veins of the listeners, the sentiments, then he/she can completely divert the listeners' attention away from the facts. A recent example was the Biden-Palin debate, where Biden listed problems with the (2nd) Iraq war, the way it was planned and begun, and the difficulty of the situation there, and Palin responded by saying that Biden was "playing the blame game." With such a response, Palin taps into that American vein that "hates politics" and seems "unconstructive." But it was actually no answer to what Biden said. It was a diversion. Yet because of the way she said it, and because it taps into cultural sympathies, it sounds like an answer. Speaking something of substance is not as important as speaking something that sounds good. This goes for all sides involved.

What makes an audience cheer? What are the things you want to be said from the platform? Listen next time you see a rally or hear a speech on TV. And think about it. Take a step back and watch what's happening in front of you. Realize that there is more going on than meets the eye. Even if the politician is a "good person" underneath or believes in what he/she is saying or doing, it doesn't change the fact that an image is being presented, and that he/she is trying to tap into your veins to sway your feelings and capture your devotion.

If you don't understand politics enough to recognize how manipulation occurs and when it is occuring, you're going to be deceived by politicians.

Listen to me, please!

Even if you "hate politics"
and especially if you don't pay attention to politics --
even if you feel this way,
that does not make you immune to being deceived by politicians.


Because a political can and will come along who will not seem like "a politician." Someone will come along looking like a plain-talker, looking like an honest person, and talking like an every-man or every-woman.

People who say they "hate politics"
--but don't know how manipulation works--
are some of the first people to fall victim to manipulative politicians.


Smart politicians recognize that there are people who "hate politics," and they aim to get this group of people to support them. Why? Because there are a lot of common everyday people who "hate politics," but actually do not know very much about politics or how manipulation works. If the politician can present him/herself as being "un-political" or as being someone who him/herself "hates politics," then even the most politic-hating simple folk among us will get on board that politician's bandwagon.

No one wants to believe that his/her candidate is "political." Everyone wants to think that his/her candidate is "different" and an honest, straight-talker. We cite these kinds of reasons for supporting one person, and remain completely blinded to the fact that our own candidate is using the same type of image-making and manipulation to keep our support and gather more supporters.

I'm not saying "don't support anyone" and I'm not saying "don't vote." But I am saying that intelligent supporting and voting begins with understanding that the candidate you support is not everything they present themselves to be. You can support and vote for a candidate, but do so intelligently. Don't just "hate politics" and vote for the person that looks "less political." There is an image created and sold to you, and each candidate is staffed with image-making advisors, marketers and social analysts who try to tap into as many public sentiments as possible. To go into this fray intelligently, (and even to successfully stay out of the fray) you need to understand:

1) What my sentiments are - what moves me
2) Every politician (no matter how honest-looking) is going for my sentiments
3) "Hating politics" without understanding this makes you vulnerable to political manipulation
4) You're actually safer studying politics than hating them and being ignorant

Listen to people who are not merely trying to get your support, but rather listen to people who are trying to explain to you how things work. The person who is trying to educate you is offering you a service and a double-edged sword -- because you can still choose to not vote for that person! That person may be completely mistaken! And if you don't understand, don't go for the person who seems better or looks more honest! To do so is just to play into their image. To do so is to be a victim of politics.

If you don't want to be a victim of "politics," then learn about politics, understand yourself, your feelings, your motivations, and don't forget the image game that is going on on all sides. Vote intelligently knowing that this is what's going on, and that you've got to look further than the image. Not at "character" (that too is an image), but rather at the more important things the campaign is trying to accomplish -- retention (or capture) of power, policies to enrich lobbying supporters, etc.

And once you've uncovered one of these important things, don't stop there. Get a bigger perspective. Don't be a "one issue" voter. For example, a candidate (or party) might appear to refrain from stealing money at home, but they may be supporting trade agreements that impoverish and cheat people in the third world. Or a candidate may support the life of unborn children, but they may be sacrificing other lives for wars overseas. Be smart and look past the "one" issue. Look further if you're going to get into this stuff.

*****

For myself, personally I don't like politics mostly because of compromise. It's necessary to compromise, always. It is tough to be idealistic. It is tough to do the right thing. If you do the right thing, you will lose support and you will not get elected.

Listen, there's no escaping this: It has been the way of American politics since the very foundation of the country. Thomas Jefferson wanted to include a clause in the Declaration of Independence that would stop slavery in the new country. But it had to be removed in order to gain the support of all the colonies. Politics---even in America---has and always will involve compromising with evil. The tag-line for Steven Spielberg's film "Munich" told the truth about all politics,

"Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values."

The politician's job is to make you (the voter) believe that he/she is not compromising, but is being straight, honest, true, moral, "of character," un-wavering, resolute, steadfast, ...uncompromising.

But politics (left and right) are built on compromising. Understanding this is a beginning to understanding what's going on and casting your vote intelligently. So get past the idea that your candidate is uncompromising. No. Your candidate will be uncompromising until it is politically expedient for him/her to be otherwise.

I like to be idealistic. Some people would say this is foolish, that I am foolish, but it's my choice to live this way and be this way, so I'll do the best I can from where I am. But this is one reason I dislike politics. Yet more than I dislike politics, I dislike politicians masquerading as if they are "not political." I hate wolves in sheep's clothing. That's why I'm writing this.

*****

I should add something. I don't blame politicians for all of this stuff. The fact is that like the paparazzi, they do what they do because it is what we want and what we expect. Politicians give us an "image" because that's what we want. We want super-human people, not fallible humans. When Jimmy Carter once said that he occasionally had bad temptations, he got criticized... by Christians!! Chrisitans, the people who bear the message of "the gospel of grace", gave him no grace. When it comes to the way we look at politicians, we expect them to be perfect. So of course they polish their image to look as perfect as possible.

Somehow part of the unspoken "deal" between the public and politicians is that there is almost no mercy for mistakes, almost no room for apology, and almost no room for grace.

Politics is not the realm of grace. And the public--Christians included--do not want it that way, either. Politics is a place where everyone turns off "grace" mode and switches to almost a complete "law" mode.


You can't apologize in politics. Well, you can, but it will almost certainly kill your political career. The other side will accuse you of inconsistency, incompentancy, etc. And not just the other side, but the public and your own supporters will do it, too. They may even do it first. I confess that I would not want to be a politician! There are many politicians who go into the fray and, I think, really do try to do good and make a difference. But they have to learn to compromise their values, guard and "shape" their image. Simply because politics is the realm of ungrace.

So I don't completely blame "politicians". And while I get irritated when I see politicians being deceptive and manipulating the public, I also get irritated at the public for swallowing it so thoroughly most of the time! For not learning from the last time a politician pulled it on them. For buying into character attacks. For believing nice-sounding words. For being distracted by coy answers that dodge real issues. One reason I dislike "politics" is because we the public are so easily deceived by it. I don't like the "game" of politics that is played between politicians and the public. It takes two to tango, and you can't put all the blame on politicians. There would be no 'dance' if there were no 'partner'.

And I want to make this clear: a "true, honest politician" is not going to fix this situation. A true, completely honest and straightforward politician would never get voted for. Because not only is "politics" an anti-grace environment, the public itself is not prepared to give grace, either. The public radiates "law"-based expectations, judgment, unforgiveness, bitterness, and ungrace. The public is anti-grace. If a politician were completely straightforward and honest, he/she would be openly human, admitting mistakes, asking for pardon & forgiveness, and admitting he/she were still learning and trying to do their best. "We the people" would have no grace for such a person.

I think the only thing that can break the cycle is for us all to become grace-full. Perhaps it would be a witness enough --a testimony-- for a politician to go into office, be honest, transparent and vulnerable, and get shot down. Get heckled. Get removed from office by the public's unforgiveness. It would be a gospel-like testimony. See, we place emphasis on winning, on staying in office. (As one person quipped, "The goal of any first-term administration is always ...a second term"). Losing is out of the question. We would never think that losing might actually be a bigger victory than winning.

But that is the math of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What looks like "loss" can actually be victory. What looks like crucifixion turns out to be the defeat of evil. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Good defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

*****

Finally I must confess something obvious -- that I do not understand everything about these things. There is more that I do not understand than that I do understand. I don't hate the candidates---I don't know them personally well-enough to hate them. I can hate policies and tactics, but I should not hate the people themselves. I don't need to spend my time (or heart) reacting to their projected image, whether positively or negatively. I can't cast my vote and my heart based on the way candidates appear or sound. I owe it to the world to be more intelligent than that. As I am in another country now and have other things before me, I'm choosing not to get fully involved in the American election at this time.

And my heart is also given to Another, to Someone who rose from the dead. And I am concerned about people who bear His name and yet at the same time do not understand when they are being manipulated. I am filled with a zeal for Him and for them. I want them to be the intercessors He has called us to be. I want them to be salt in the world, to bear the message of His grace. We've been failing at this badly in the last decade, and I want to help --one person at a time-- change that.

God bless you!
In Jesus,
Ramone

Monday, October 06, 2008

Outsourcing the Truth


Understanding the New Covenant really makes such a difference when looking at world events, nations, Israel, and attempts to make a nation "righteous" through its laws and having "Christian" leaders. Many Christians in the United States (most perhaps, or at least the loudest voice of the Church in America) are pursuing a course for their nation---and the world---along the lines of the Old Covenant. They don't know the lesson of the Law (that it brought death and was not able to produce a righteous nation). It is leaving them severly blind to being manipulated by politicians who say "the right thing" (pun intended).

In short, the American Church is pursuing a neo-Old Covenant vision for itself while trying to claim Christ at the same time. I believe that through the crisis already coming upon the nation God is perhaps giving a wake-up call to Christians in America, saying, "Choose one or the other! Me, or the ways of death!" When church leaders get prophetic whiffs of this, they assume that the 'ways of death' being referred to are growing sympathy for liberal politics, sins in the nation, and separating church & state. In the same way the Pharisees might have blamed Judea's woes on the 'sinners' in the nation. The truth is that there are nations with much worse sins of pornography, abortion, homosexuality, etc. For such things judgment came upon ancient Israel (a nation uniquely covenanted to God under the old covenant). Because Church leaders & teachers in America do not understand the difference between the covenants, they preach a view of America that sees it as under similar conditions to ancient Israel.

You might simply summarize this by saying that we believe we are "God's nation".

In a word, no.

And neither is the state of Israel, for that matter.

God's nation is a faceless nation of believers united by the unseen Holy Spirit, transcending tribes, tongues and nations. God the Son said, "My Kingdom is not of this world." I think our loyalties have been divided. Not only have we been pursuing both covenants ---old (a theocratic nation) and new (Christ)-- but we've been confusing kingdoms. We've been giving honor and praise that belong to God alone to 'Caesar' (the United States).

Today as I stopped in the bookstore, I saw an interesting title, "The Assault on Reason", written by former Vice President Al Gore last year. Having just had two recent brushes with people online who assumed (like I used to before I met God) that faith was the opposite of reason, I opened up the book wondering if Gore would take a similar line (he didn't). The book was mainly about what's happened under the Bush administration.

I read most of one chapter entitled, "Convenient Untruths", and found a lot of information that I already knew -- that the Bush administration's own insiders testified that the administration wanted to go to war in Iraq from day one and was looking for an opportunity to do so; that when 9-11 happened, they searched for ways to link it to Iraq; that they flat-out deceived the nation into believing Saddam and Al Qaeda were connected; that they flat-out sought to make the nation afraid it was under the threat of imminent attack from Saddam & Al Qaeda; that they knowingly skewed intelligence to back up their claims and pressured/bullied anyone who disagreed; that even when their claims were found false, they did not own up to it but either denied their own words or simply didn't care but 'stayed the course' instead... and so on.

Gore put it together in a very straightforward way. I had known most of the information already (and more... I remember reading online months before the UN resolutions used as excuse to begin the war how the US government was already at that point handing out oil contracts for fields in Iraq). But seeing it put together so well by Gore, I don't know. It made me think again.

I don't want to sound "too political", but what this simply is... it is massive deception. How many lives (American and Iraqi and more) have been sacrificed by the deception? How many generations have been scarred? I thought, "Well, this isn't the first time the public's been deceived by any means." True. But as I thought of how many lives were lost, and how so many people in the nation were deceived... it then looks worse. And most shocking of all, the American church swallowed the deception hook, line and sinker. The American church preached it from the pulpit. I can't think of any other time in the American church's history when one deception was so widely and thoroughly embraced and sold from the pulpit as being "God's will". (The development of the American frontier ["manifest destiny"] may be a contender, though).

One of Gore's criticism's bears quoting:
"It has become common for President Bush to rely on special interests, like the one represented by Chalabi, for basic information about the policies important to these interests. ExxonMobil, for example, has apparently been his most trusted source of information about the climate crisis. Chemical companies are his most trusted sources on whether or not particular chemicals are hazardous to the environment. The major pharmaceutical companies are his most trusted advisers on the health risks of new drugs. Insurance companies are considered the most reliable sources of data on any policy that affects them. And so forth.

"And then, amazingly, the president seems to trust what these special interests tell him over and above objective information prepared for him by independent analysts who are charged with protecting the public interest... he actually prefers to rely on biased information prepared by sources of questionable reliability--like Chalabi--who have a private interest in a particular policy outcome. The president has, in effect, outsourced the truth."
That last phrase really catches me -- "outsourced the truth". Although Gore was talking about the way the Bush administration has done it, I think the phrase also hauntingly tells the truth about the church in the United States. The church has relied on the Republican party for truth. The church has supported whatever the party supports as if it were God's agenda -- gun rights, oil drilling, environmental exploitation policies, unfair trade agreements, expanding presidential powers, curtailing civil rights, capital punishment, indefinite imprisonment of 'enemy combatants' without trial, et cetera...

The church has outsourced the truth.

Instead of encouraging members to search for the truth in matters themselves, believers are told from the pulpit that a person in political office is good or bad simply because of their party affiliation (first) and faith profession (second). The politician's actual plans and policies are a very distant third, and the actual independent facts about the politician are even further behind. Yet from the pulpit Christians are told that such and such person is "God's man" (or woman) for the job, making further investigation unnecessary, and disagreement a stand against God & the church! Whatever "God's person" recommends is God's plan because of the person that recommends it. The "American way" is "God's way", and America's wars (nevermind the evidence) are "God's will". Instead of teaching people to discern by the Word and by the Spirit, truth has been outsourced to the Republican party.

A result of outsourcing the truth --putting truth in the hands of a political party instead of in the Word of God-- has been this war that has cost lives on all sides (and has greatly wounded many non-believers by cutting off their spiritual 'ears' with the sword of 'Christian' America). But more astounding and most frightening to me is that the American church remains deceived! Even with so much clear evidence out there about the war, the church continues to outsource the truth, continues to look to a political party for "truth" instead of to the Word and the Spirit. Indeed, the Word is bent to support the party. And the Spirit... well, the prophets are prophesying in accordance with the party. A few have stood up, but their voices are often drowned out amidst the roaring chorus of pro-party prophets. These are the 'days of Elijah'... when Ahab reigns with Jezebel and all of her prophets are in agreement.

It seems like the only places you can actually hear the truth about what's happening in the States (re: deception, etc.) are from non-Evangelical sources. From the left-wing, from liberals, from other countries, from unbelievers, from less-than-orthodox churches, from people of other faiths, even from atheists, etc.

The 'rocks' are crying out because the church is not.

Have we mishandled the Word of God in outsourcing the truth? I think so. As Hymenaeus and Alexander were "handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme" by the apostle Paul, is God going to hand over "Christian" America to crises in order to be taught not to blaspheme, not to outsource His truth and then claim His name?

It's heavy. I can only pray that God raises up prophets. There are a multitude of "prophets" in the church, but so very, very few prophets. There are 'rocks' outside of the church who are crying out, but they do not usually see it through God's eyes. Someone needs to declare to God's people (the church) her transgression, and sound the trumpet to call her to repentance.

In prayer and in Christ,
Ramone

Friday, October 03, 2008

Eternally Precious


Being sick sucks. I've had to take off four days of work this week, and haven't been able to even take advantage of the time at home to do some art (I did put the finishing touches on this piece, though, and did this piece quickly when I was feeling good).

I was just at the doctor's office for the second time this week. While waiting for the "doctor's note" to give to my boss, my dry throat started up some coughing and I got up to ask for some water. While drinking I looked at some of the pictures on the wall... you know, those kinds of things that you always see in doctors' offices: watercolor & pen prints of pictures of beaches or cafes or famous sights. I remembered something I had read in John Eldredge's book, The Journey of Desire,
Scripture tells us that God has "set eternity" in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11 NIV)...

The return of Spring brings such relief and joy and anticipation. Life has returned, and with it sunshine, warmth, color, and the long summer days of adventure together. We break out the lawn chairs and the barbecue grill. We tend the garden and drink in all the beauty. We head off for vacations. Isn't this what we most deeply long for? To leave the winter of the world behind, what Shakespeare called "the winter of our discontent," and find ourselves suddenly in the open meadows of summer?

I am standing in my hotel room, which looks like every other hotel room I've been in over the past ten years. When you travel for a living, the excitement of hotel stays wears off pretty quickly. There is a picture on the wall, a painting of a small harbor town. It appears to be somewhere in the Mediterranean, with its azure seas and whitwashed walls. I think of the Greek islands, perhaps Santorini. Sunlight fills the place, and small boats drift lazily in the bay. There are cafes, I am sure, filled with laughter. Along the plaza, lovers stroll hand in hand. The seas are warm and inviting. It evokes a longing, but not for vacation. Vacations end. The longing evoked by the painting is for a life that never ends.

- John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire
There's something peaceful in those paintings, which is precisely why doctors choose them for their offices. They set you at ease, even if you're not looking at them. And often when we go to the doctor we need to be set at ease, especially at dentists' offices!

"Artists" often find these kinds of pictures boring. I can understand that. My friends and I in university used to go to Laguna beach where the town is lined with art galleries, most often filled with these kinds of pictures. Pictures that don't "say anything", don't strive to "be original" or do something "different". They're unambitious, cliche, and yet represent everything that common people long for -- idyllic peace, finally being able to relax. A life better than vacation, one which does not end. Perhaps this is why they're so distasteful to more "enlightened" artists who have left beauty behind in order to strive for a different goal.

My eyes drifted over to another wall which had two famous Van Gogh paintings, one of them being the Café Terrace at Night --



Maybe that's why I like Van Gogh's art. He also longed for that "eternity" and painted pictures of its beauty in everyday life -- snapshots of everyday beauty that speak of eternity, of eternally precious things in us, in our lives, and how eternally precious we ourselves are.

I then heard a beautiful tune playing in the background that I recognized. It took me a minute to recall from where, but finally I realized it was Atlantic Starr's early 90's hit, "Masterpiece"! How interesting. How wonderful the timing. Thank You, God. The words of the chorus came back to me,
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you my love
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you
Isn't it God speaking to us? Yes, the song was written for male-female romantic love, but even our love speaks of a deeper longing, an eternal longing. Our romantic love is something precious, a foretaste of what's to come and what does not end.

As I came home and looked up the lyrics, I felt like "God, I could sing this to You!" The song could almost be the Bride (us) speaking to the Bridegroom (Christ), and then the Bridegroom replying back to us, in love with His masterpiece, His work of art, His treasured bride.

A simple touch of Your hand,
And everything is right.
The gentle way You look at me,
When You kiss me goodnight.
You've given me the freedom no other love has known
And now I thank you Lord, thank you Lord

The countless ways You've touched my heart
Is more than I can say
The beauty that You've shown to me
takes my breath away
A picture perfect painting, that's what Your love is
And yes I need You so, and now I know
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you My love
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you
Sometimes I wonder what I'd be
Had I not found You
A least and lonely soul this world
could show me nothing new

But now my life's a canvas
painted with Your love
And it will always be
And now I see

The gentle walks together
Through time will never pass
This fairy tale we shared
is real inside our hearts
It will be forever
You'll never let it end
this promise You have made
Heaven is what You gave
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you My love
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you
When I'm lost and insecure
You build me up and make me sure
that everything will be alright
My love
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you My love
Oh, I've found a masterpiece in you
a work of art it's true
And I treasure you
(This fairy tale we're sharing
is real inside our hearts
It will be forever
You'll never let it end)

- "Masterpiece" by Atlantic Starr, adapted by Ramone Romero