“Behold! Watch me pull a resentment out of my high hat!”.

 

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter you are well aware that people hold grudges – election result grudges, offense taken grudges and reply grudges generated when someone disagrees with your entrenched point of view. The ‘magic’ of holding grudges is that one can take offense out of thin air and then present the illusion of an injustice done to them for all to see

Holding a grudge has become a national pastime. On Twitter there seems to be a reply thread competition to see who can hold the bigger grudge and hold it the longest. With such carrying on, I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t a National Offense Taken Day. In the meantime, though, one can watch The Real Housewives of Bitter End County to get their fill of outrage. Week after week resentments are pulled out of thin air and viewers keep coming back for more high-hat hocus-pocus. There is even a show about the shows to summarize offenses taken.

I sense that behind all of the chicanery is a hot bed of unresolved anger. One person cannot forgive their parent for perceived wrongs. Another cannot forgive a friend who said something to someone about something. A parishioner cannot let go of her hurt and so she talks to others. Many others, as it seems to go. Soon a flock of resentful sheep head out the gate, creating a schism in the church. One national group decides that it must be the angry #Resistance against another national group who they feel is not like them and therefore does not give them pleasure. Such fuming unresolved anger is given new firewood to burn by social media, the place to disengage the “other” at will and without personal cost. Where does all this unresolved anger come from? It is the internalized desire to be justified.

“Where do wars come from? Why do people among you fight? It all comes from within, doesn’t it – from your desires for pleasure which make war in your members.” James 4:1

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Those entrenched and warring members of your soul do not stay entrenched. They are brought out to the light of day in pursuit of validation. Remember the illustrative story Jesus told his disciples about the tax collector and the Pharisee?

He told this next parable against those who trusted in their own righteous standing and despised others

“Two men,” he said. “went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee; the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed in this way to himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the other people – greedy, unjust, immoral or even like this tax collector. I fast twice week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood a long way off and didn’t even want to raise his eyes to heaven. He beat his breast and said, ‘God be merciful to me, sinner that I am.’ Let me tell you, he was the one who went back to his house vindicated by God, not the other. Don’t you see? People who exalt themselves will be humbled, and people who humble themselves will be exalted.”  – Jesus, Luke’s Gospel record 18: 9-14

 

The Pharisee, in trying to justify himself before God, pulled a resentment out of his high hat: God, I thank you that I am not like the other people – greedy, unjust, immoral or even like this tax collector.

The Pharisee gave himself and his audience the illusion of being justified before God. But his self-justification was not validated by the Lord. And, that is the heart of this parable: you cannot justify yourself to the Lord. You must come humbly before the Lord for his assessment of your motives and your behavior. His light must reveal your heart and motives. Trusting in your inner ‘light’ or your sincerity is self-deceiving artifice.

Now, I have seen this parable used on Twitter to decry looking down one’s nose and judging others. In that context, a Jesuit projected condemnation onto conservatives, implying that they judge sinners and that, by contrast, Progressives love the sinner and do not judge. Yet, this application of Jesus’ parable is exactly what Jesus is teaching against: self-justification.

It seems to me that we learn to self-justify. We learn early on to measure ourselves by the perceived good or bad of others. We always find someone who we feel is beneath us. I would suggest that since the Enlightenment, though it brought about many good things, there are some self-justifying folks using mis-guided reason as a measuring stick. They see themselves as “too good, too smart” to believe in a Creator God or the concept of sin. They resent anyone telling them that there is a God and that one day we are held accountable. They belittle you If you say so.

Self-justifying resentment is used to disengage and distance oneself from the “other”, as seen in the case of the Pharisee. This disengagement, in my thinking, is also the origin of malignant use of power over others. Resentments are employing the troops of warring desires to destroy the “other”. Resentments use the force of self-justifying power to isolate and then crush the enemy – the “other”. Holding a grudge is the use of self-justification to disparage the “other” and then abandon them on the field to bleed out.

Resentment, and its unresolved warring desire to be justified at all costs, excludes the “other” who does not validate them. The person holding resentment begrudges others. This state of heart, left unchecked, can lead to violent revenge. And self-justifying exclusion of the “other” leads, not to love but to fear and hate and, even murder. When resentment is deployed on a national level there are wars and genocide.

 

Every time you pull resentment out of your high-hat to feign offense its root of bitterness is exposed. The audience can see it even if you do not. You fool no one. Before another self-justifying ‘illusion’ cut that root off, curse it and throw into the fires of hell. Though you once provided a showy diversion for your audience you provided nothing of substance. (See the Gospel of Mark 11:12-14)

If you do not deal with that root, it will continue to grow until it chokes the life out of you and others before too long.

 

 

 

Coming up: Forgiveness is Never Optional

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Two-minutes of hate can turn into fifteen minutes of murderous infamy:

 

“A 38-year-old woman who was angry at YouTube and believed the company was discriminating against her videos, causing her to lose money and views, opened fire with a handgun at the video-sharing website’s California headquarters Tuesday, wounding three people before fatally shooting herself…

“Nasim the Persian Azeri female vegan bodybuilder, also animal rights activist promoting healthy and humane living.”

Nasim Aghdam: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

 

Aghdam shot three victims in the courtyard of the YouTube campus in San Bruno on Tuesday. Police say she then killed herself. Law enforcement officials say they believe that the motive behind the shooting is a domestic-related dispute.

Suspect in YouTube Shooting Posted Rants About the Company Online

When We All Get to (New) Heaven (and New Earth)

 

Just the other day I saw this picture, a billboard remembrance of Billy Graham, posted in a Tweet.

“Gone home” brought back memories of the spurious teaching and preaching I have been under for many years regarding the end of one’s life. If we say “home is where the heart is” then yes, Billy Graham went home. If we say Heaven is our final destination, as I have heard so often in sermons and songs then no, Billy Graham did not go home.

Am I being picayune? I will tell you why I do not think so. Like with the constant preaching of “ministry, ministry, ministry”, so much of my life in attendance in a Bible church setting has been under the preaching and teaching that someday we will all be taken up and away from this ‘God-forsaken’ mess. We will either be ‘raptured’ or die. Either way, as the sermon goes, we will be taken up to our final resting place in heaven. As far as I am concerned that preaching is dead wrong for at least a couple of reasons.

First, the “rapture” is a fantasy imposed onto Scripture. We should see the Scripture in the context it was written and not add fantasy notions to it. The Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, gave us the imagery of Christ returning in power. In 1 Thessalonians 4.15-16 the Apostle “Paul is casting a vision of Christ’s return wrapped in political overturns (he actually does this a lot!)”. There will be no “rapture”. “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the “Left Behind” series of ‘end times’ books are also fantasies imposed on Scripture. These books are not worth your time.

Second, when we die we do go to heaven – the place where Jesus is. And where Jesus goes, we go too. He will be returning to the worlds that are created for him.

You see, “heaven” is just a way station, an intermediate stopping place. Heaven can be thought of as a station set between principal stations on a line of travel. Think railroad. Heaven is not our final destination. Heaven is a way station along the way.

As such, heaven is not a retirement community, as has been implied by so much preaching and teaching and by popular songs and hymnody. I remember singing “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through” and wondering, “Is that all there is? If we’re just passing through what was the point of all this? Is heaven some hyper-imaginary place where I put my feet up after a life of work? There are many more escapist songs just like “This World…”.

I remember singing “When we all get to heaven…” and “I’ll fly away” and “When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there”.

 

Now, why would God create a new heaven and a new earth if “heaven” was your final destination?

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God, prepared like a bride dressed up for her husband. I heard a voice from the throne, and this is what it said: “Look! God has come to dwell with humans! He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or weeping or pain anymore, since the fist things have passed away.

The one who sat on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new….” Revelation 21: 1-5

Compare Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22. Creation was meant to be a place where God dwells with his creation. Creation is the temple designed by God where He is to dwell among his people. Consider the Garden of Eden, Consider the tabernacle, the Temple, and now the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us who are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Consider the new heavens and new earth where God dwells with his people. The work of Jesus on the cross is a work of creation’s redemption, of restoring Genesis in Revelation. The life of Jesus and his death on the cross is for the reunification of heaven and earth. You and I, after passing through the way station of heaven will return and take up roles in the new created order.

Jesus, in fact, will be returning with Billy and all those who have gone on before. Jesus is not giving up on his creation. Jesus will be returning to put things right and he will use us to do so, since when we see him we will become like him. In the context of current church life, Paul writes:

“Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you really incompetent to try smaller matters? Don’t you know that we shall be judging angels?” 1 Cor. 6:3

The reason I write this post is to get instill the reader with spiritual momentum that will push one past the grave and past the “final resting place” thinking and towards the dynamic of the Kingdom of God on earth. With your death you are not being put out to pasture. Rather, you are being resurrected and repurposed to do the work of the Kingdom of God on earth where God will dwell with you. Lay up for yourselves those ‘retirement fund’ thoughts now.

Groans are Many, Hearts are Faint

 

The recent tragic events in Florida have elicited cries for action to be taken by those in government. But is government involvement the answer? And who is to blame for what happened? Are we corporately responsible for what an individual does?

Let’s start with my estimation of what our U.S. government’s interface with us should entail before immediate demands are made on it. The secular state, otherwise known as government, should be limited in size and scope of power. It should provide order, transportation infrastructure, protection from foreign enemies, border protection, and enforce contracts. Beyond that a secular state should not have duties including any onus to hand out subjective rights that benefit only certain groups and health care. The secular state, by its very impersonal nature, is not to decide who is more equal than others nor to be given charge of care for others or to become a brother’s keeper.

The people of a secular state should look to government as the enforcer of order. Yet, its powers are limited and rightfully so in our free society. In the matter before us, the FBI, a law enforcement agency, knew about Nick Cruz’s online behavior. But what could the FBI do about such knowledge except to keep an eye on Nick from a distance? Free speech allowed Nick to post what he wanted on YouTube. In fact, Nick’s freedom, our freedom, was what allowed him to do evil.

There are earnest protestors demanding more gun control laws from the government. They are sincere in their demands for a response. Some protestors, though and as we have witnessed before, are likely paid-for protestors from out of town. There are those with money (e.g., Bloomberg and Soros) who want to rile up protestors to get their way inculcated into our laws. Their way involves restricting even more freedoms but does not address the underlying problem. The real problem is evil.

Many today focus their laser sights on government since government and politics have dominated our national focus from the very start of our nation. They want government to shepherd us and use its ‘rod and staff’ to comfort us and to bonk any discomfort away. They want government to lead us beside still waters and into green pastures. But government is not a shepherd unless you are a sheep.

At the beginning of our nation it was understood by those involved that “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” (Alexis de Tocqueville) But today, we as a nation have since walked away from morality and a faith in God’s sovereignty. We have instead put our trust and faith in collective sovereignty – “We the people” government. In this milieu we expect government to be omniscient and omnipotent and controlling with respect to others but not with respect to ourselves.

Where should our focus be? Should we focus on increasing the size of government until all freedoms once taken from your neighbor are repurposed and are now taken from you? How do we address things beyond our control and outside a limited control of government?

Now, I am not suggesting that a secular government should not mandate Christianity. The state, rather, should coexist with Christianity and seek Christianity’s guidance and blessing. But the two should not become one. I am suggesting that we realign our focus off of government and onto the One who is good. I am suggesting that the answer to what is beyond our control is not to increase government control. Rather, the answer is to increase the good we have control of.

If evil in society is the absence of good in society, then good must return in full force. Christians are exhorted in Scripture (Romans 12: 21) “Don’t let evil conquer you. Rather conquer evil with good.”

Now, who is to blame for what happened? Are we corporately responsible for what an individual does? I certainly do not agree with Hillary Clinton that “It takes a village to raise a child”. We are not corporately responsible for what happened in Florida. As a gun owner I am not individually responsible for what happened in Florida. Just the other day, as I was discussing these matters on Twitter, a woman replied that I was “owned by the NRA”. She didn’t like my questioning the narrative she was positing. The NRA is not responsible for what happened.

Only Nick Cruz is responsible for what he did. And, he admitted to the guilt of his crime in court. Only Nick Cruz is responsible. Though personal rights are en vogue, personal responsibility is not. The collective thinking says society caused the problem and now government must fix my problem – “I am not the problem”.

Is what I am positing above a simplistic and pedantic answer? No, I don’t think so. Actually, throwing more gun control laws on the books is as simplistic as it gets. It is using “the rod and staff” of ‘good shepherd’ government to bash other sheep into submission. But the problem of evil lurks in the bushes ready to leap. So, how do we address evil in our land?

Prayer. Yes, prayer. I know, there are some who think prayer is not taking action. I have debated those people on Twitter, as well. There are Progressive Catholics who see social justice action as the epitome of Catholicism (along with bits of Contemplation). Prayer is not weakness, or inaction. Prayer taps into the resurrection power of God, the power that destroyed evil’s power over us forever. 

Do you want to restrain evil in this world? If so, then pray. When we pray we invoke our faith and trust in God’s sovereignty. In fact, the only way to deal with the horror and confusion of evil is to turn to God. The only way. And when we pray as Followers of the Way in the Kingdom of God on earth we stand between heaven and earth pleading and groaning with all creation. We bring to God the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, and the deepest longings of the world. The Searcher of Hearts knows the mind of God and knows our hearts. The Searcher lifts our prayers to the Father who then acts in accordance with His goodness.

 

On a related matter, I will say more in a future post about how we should love and care for our physical neighbors and not do so vicariously through government programs. It takes you to be a neighbor. Neighbors understand brokenness more so than evil. Nikolas Cruz was, by several accounts, a troubled and depressed young man before he acted. The mother who adopted Nikolas died of pneumonia Nov. 1, leaving him without parents. He stayed briefly with a family friend but wanted to move on. For now, though, I will share with you how I am praying against evil and for the good of my neighbors.

Not long ago I found out that down the street from where I live a man was robbed of his wallet at gunpoint. This occurred in the parking lot of a Section 8 apartment housing complex. I also learned that heroin deals we going down in that same government housing project. Drug use might explain the recent armed robberies of banks also down the street from me. I am praying that God would restrain the evil from taking hold in my community. I am praying that no one will be robbed or accosted by druggies. I am praying that law enforcement will be able to monitor the situation and catch evil in the act. I am praying for LE’s safety. I am praying that those involved in crime and those around crime will, by the Holy Spirit, be convicted of sin, of righteousness and judgment. The ruler of this world is judged already and I am enforcing that verdict. (see John 16: 8-11)

 

There is too much to say in this one post. There are too many threads I could pull on. But I hope I asked questions to spur your thinking as to how to relate to the problem of evil. Evil is all around us, even on days where there are no monstrous crimes committed. As Followers of Jesus we must appropriate God’s good through prayer and conquer evil as it lurks waiting to pounce. The world will turn to more and more government to please itself and to protect itself. But, regarding evil and all else, the Church must turn to God in prayer. God’s vantage point is needed, along with full body armor.

“What else is there to say? Just this: be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his power. Put on God’s complete armor. Then you’ll be able to stand firm against the devil’s trickery. The warfare we are engaged in, you see, isn’t against flesh and blood. It’s against the leaders, against the authorities, against the powers that rule the world in this dark age, against the wicked spiritual elements in the heavenly places.” The Apostle Paul writing to the churches in Ephesus, 6: 10-12

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Added 2/19/2018. Here‘s a partial solution – Gun-violence restraining orders (GVROs) – to guns used for violent means. The solution supports what I said about “neighbor” involvement above and due process:

A Gun-Control Measure Conservatives Should Consider

When those put in positions of authority do nothing, added 2/23/2018:

3 Broward County Police Officers Made No Attempt to Enter the School and Stop Nikolas Cruz

Added 2/24/2018:

Caller told FBI Florida shooting suspect ‘going to explode’

The Associated Press on Friday obtained a transcript of the Jan. 5 tip to the FBI’s call center. The FBI acknowledged it failed to investigate the tip about 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, but the transcript provides the fullest glimpse yet into the seriousness of the woman’s concerns.
“I know he’s going to explode,” she told the call-taker.
The FBI briefed congressional staff Friday about its failure to act on the alarming tip, as well as why it did not delve into a September 2017 YouTube comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” that said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”