The Nightmare of Imperious

I’ve taken the liberty of treating the adjective imperious as if it were a noun because for some reason it reminded me of the word Aquarius. That brought to mind the Age of Aquarius song. Imperious means assuming power or authority without justification, which reminded me of you-know-who.

When a reality star acquires power
‘Cause people wanted a savior
Greed guides their new oppressor
And his rage fuels vile behavior
This is the Nightmare of Imperious
The Nightmare of Imperious
Imperious
Imperious

Division and discord abounding
Hostility and fear resounding
Bald-faced lies and aspersions
Malignant narcissist delusions
The audacious authoritarian rises
And the whole world he surprises
Imperious
Imperious

Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win
Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win
Let the truth win, let the truth win, let sanity win

Oh, it’s let Mueller time, c’mon
Now all who love truth sing along
Truth and justice will march on
Speak truth to power and watch truth march on
When you’re discouraged, let truth march on
We’ll wake from this bad dream and truth’ll march on
And when you feel like you’ve been lied to
When the arc of the moral universe seems too long
Just remember it bends to justice, and let the truth march on

****

Daily word prompt: imperious

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/your-daily-word-prompt-imperious-December-8-2018/

In Defense of Truth

Five years ago, I wrote an essay In Defense of Truth. I decided to revisit and update it a bit in preparation for my blog series, Testify to the Truth.

One of my nephews once wrote that Buddhism “teachings are far more modern and applicable to life than any other religion” and that it isn’t fair to have to choose a religion “because most religions are fragments of stories and ideas passed down from other cultures anyway.” I did not comment on his statements for a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t have a defense of my own religious beliefs ready. Two, I tend to worry too much about offending when I should have the courage to stand in my truth.

Relative Truth

My nephew’s thinking reflects the ideas of Postmodernism, a philosophy based on the idea that truth is subjective, a matter of personal preference or point of view. Postmodernists believe that there is no objective reality. They believe that our sense of morality is shaped by our culture, thus the casual dismissal of Biblical teachings passed down for thousands of years.

The Postmodern religious philosophy trivializes the distinctions between religions. Choosing a religion is not like choosing a flavor of ice cream. Jesus Christ is very different from Buddha, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Mohamed, and the leader of every other religion.

To the postmodernist, the individual defines his or her reality. This a dangerous way to think. Not everything is a matter of personal interpretation. It is important to be able to discern what is real and true based on objective fact.

Objective Truth

What is truth? If a statement is true, it conforms to fact or reality. Because truth is based on facts, evidence and reality, it is objective. It is not dependent on personal feelings and opinions. Truth exists outside the self; it is independent of the human mind. 

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams

We can resist facing the truth. We can deny the truth. We can suppress the truth. We can hide the truth. We can bend and distort the truth. But truth is immutable. We cannot change facts to suit our own desires. 

Objective truth matters. Truth holds humanity accountable to facts, to reality, to the consequences of our words and our actions.

Trust

Not all truths are knowable with the same degree of certainty and not all truths are provable. Sometimes a personal relationship is enough to give you confidence that what someone tells you is true. You believe what they say even it you can’t prove it to be true. This is the trust I have in my friend Jesus.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV)

I know that the teachings of Jesus Christ are right and true because I’ve tested and tried them. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be merciful. Forgive. Focus on your own sins and let God be the judge of others. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Jesus made extraordinary claims about himself that I cannot prove. He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He claimed to be able to forgive sins and promised everlasting life to those who believed in Him. He equated himself with God yet lived humbly as a servant.

Prophets predicted the life and death of the Messiah. I take as “gospel truth” the testimonies of his life and resurrection from those who were there even though I can not prove the veracity of their accounts. Yes, the stories were written and passed down long ago, but truth stands the test of time.

The Law of Noncontradiction

Aristotle’s law of noncontradiction is a principle used in logic that means that a statement cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same context. Truth cannot contradict itself.

C.S. Lewis and others have made the “trilemma” argument that Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, or the Lord.  Jesus was either telling the truth when he said he was the son of God or he was a liar or he was insane. 

Jesus could not be the good, moral teacher he was shown to be and at the same time be the greatest conman of all time. He spoke this truth: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 

Truth is on trial

When Jesus stood trial before Pilate, he said “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Truth is on trial, standing firmly against the dark side of deception. It may not seem fair to have to choose which side you are on but you do have to choose.  If you choose to stand on the side of truth, be prepared to stand your ground with the full armor of God. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NIV)

 

Worship in the Spirit and in Truth

The inspiration for my blog title, Innermost Being, was Psalm 51:6 (NASB):  Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. I am naturally inclined to self-reflection; my innermost being is my comfort zone. I believe that I grow spiritually by being honest with myself about my sinfulness and by seeking God’s wisdom. Truth is more important to me now than it ever has been. Truth isn’t just a quality I desire in myself; I seek God’s truth and truth is the lens through which I see and evaluate the world around me.

My small group has just started to study The Truth Project, a Focus on the Family study led by Del Tackett. As the only progressive Christian in my group, I see the world differently than everyone else. I am not interested in engaging in the culture wars of our time. I have seen the casualties of this war – wounded souls who miss out on the grace of God because too many Christians put moral law above God’s grace.

Instead, I am interested in holding to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Del Tackett says that Truth is at the heart of the Cosmic Battle – the battle between God’s truth and the lies of the world. I have long sensed that there is a cosmic battle between good and evil. Truth is good; lies are evil. I believe that God is the Father of Truth and Satan is the father of lies.

In the first lesson of The Truth Project, the intriguing question Tackett asked was this: why did Jesus come into the world? Most of us think that he came to the world to save it, which is true. But when he appeared before Pilate he said, “the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37).” 

As I dive into this study, I am on guard against being pulled into a culture war. That sort of battle allows a bitter root to grow in the inmost being. But my mind and heart are open to the Word of God, to the Spirit of Truth. I will listen to Jesus and hold to his teaching.

There is no better time than now to seek Truth. The world distorts truth. The world rejects the truth. The world exchanges truth for a lie. The time has come for true worshipers to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  – John 4:23

A Man of Lawlessness Revealed

Several weeks ago when I read 2 Thessalonians, the words hit me like an omen. At the time the apostle Paul wrote this letter, around A.D. 51, many people in the church thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent. Paul wrote telling them not to be too unsettled or alarmed. The second coming would not happen, he wrote, “until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” Since I last read this letter, I have seen a man of lawlessness revealed and I have to admit it is unsettling.

Paul said that the man of lawlessness “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” While I have not literally seen this man set himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God, I have seen the power he has over the so-called church. His support among the religious is astonishing because he is the antithesis of Jesus. When 80% of self-identified “evangelicals” voted for him, it became clear that an evangelical is no longer one who spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have witnessed the rise of a man who exalts himself over all others, either by shamelessly bragging about himself or by mercilessly tearing others down. He is known for his out-sized ego, by a malignant form of narcissism. He doesn’t even have the humility to recognize the sovereignty of God and to ask God for forgiveness. Why should he? He is a god unto himself.

I do not seek signs of the second coming of Christ. Jesus said that no one knows when that day will come except the Father. But Jesus also warned his disciples to watch out for deceivers. I have been on guard against this one from the beginning.

When I read Paul’s description of the coming of the lawless one, also called the man of iniquity or the man of sin in other translations, it felt like déjà vu. Here’s the NIV translation of 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12:

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

The lawless one will use all the ways that wickedness deceives. A man of iniquity uses slander and propaganda and conspiracy theories to fool his supporters. He tells lies that are easily proven to be untrue. He wages a battle against truth by calling those who expose his lies “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” In reality, he hates the free press because it does not serve the lie.

According to Paul, the lawless one will use signs and wonders, portents of falsehood, that serve the lie. A man of iniquity plays on the fears and vulnerabilities and prejudices of his followers. He claims to be the only one who can solve their problems. He tells his followers that they are victims of the enemy. He makes them fear and resent foreigners and people who practice other religions. He even preys on their sense of patriotism even as he betrays his country.

I have seen a man of iniquity revealed. He opposes the Jesus creed: the command to love the Lord your God with your whole being and to love your neighbor as yourself. This lawless one is the enemy of civility, common decency, kindness, gentleness, and peacefulness. In him, I see clearly the working of Satan with all his powers of darkness: racism, xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny. He is Satan’s little-handed helper.

I was absolutely gobsmacked after the election. How did an amoral man manage to deceive millions of people when his lies are so patently obvious? According to Paul, people will be deceived by the lawless one because they don’t love the truth. They have no place in their hearts for truth. Like the lawless one, they delight in wickedness. They are the kind of people John wrote about.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. – John 3: 19-20

It is difficult for me to read that God sends a powerful delusion so that the people will believe what is false. So I have to look beyond what I can see and put my trust in God’s greater purpose.

The unlikely rise to power of a lawless reality star turned politician may or may not be the fulfillment of prophesy. But it is an invitation to a dress rehearsal for the coming of the Lord. Put on the full armor of God and take a stand against evil.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-18

For those of us who have been called to follow Jesus, the message of 2 Thessalonians 2 is to be prepared. Be steadfast in your faith. The Lord is to be trusted. He will strengthen you and protect you from evil.

 

Look Beyond What You Can See

My church recently studied the First Epistle of John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor handed out a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith. Step four on his list is “Pray and look beyond what you can see to the deeper realities of God’s work.”

Look beyond what you can see

I have presbyopia. My old eyes need help seeing things that are far away. It is much easier for me to focus on close objects. My mind’s eye also has trouble imagining the future. When my mind is not occupied with work or ordinary daily activities, I tend to worry about the crisis or scandal of the moment. I get discouraged because it feels like evil is winning.

I am limited by what my eyes can see and by what my mind can conceive. How can I look beyond the chaos I see to the deeper reality of God’s work? My pastor said, pray and look beyond. Pray for insight. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Pray for hope.

According to 1 Corinthians 2, God’s wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals deeper spiritual realities to those who love him. The Spirit explains spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. Not everyone can accept these words. Not everyone can understand these words. But the person who has the Spirit understands spiritual truths because he has been shown the mind of Christ.

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The deeper reality of God’s work

The prophet Jeremiah wrote that the Lord has plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. But even though God promises to make all things work out for the good of those who love him, he doesn’t promise that there will be no trials and tribulations along the way. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance builds character, and character produces hope.

Now I see things imperfectly. Someday I will see everything with perfect clarity.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Mahatma Ghandi had the right perspective: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.”

Ghandi looked beyond what he could see to the invincibility of truth and love. This is the deeper reality of God’s work. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When I despair, Lord help me to remember that love never fails. Love always prevails.  Always.

Reading List:
Jeremiah 29:11
John 8:32; 10:10
Romans 5:1-21; 9:16
1 Corinthians 3:19
2 Corinthians 5:15
Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:24
Philippians 4:13
1 John 3:19-24