Exploring the interplay between ortho-doxy (right belief) and ortho-praxy (right action)...

...and encouraging a life where these intertwined thoughts and deeds simply happen... by default.

25 March 2007

pure imagination (3-26-07)

I try to limit how often I quote individual bible-verses out of context, but this one is quite a hard one to twist into meaning something else...

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." -
Phillipians 4:8 NASB

Your imagination is under attack.

No, this is not some silly alarmism or 'boy that cried wolf' nonsense. It's true. If you live in a place where billboards, magazines, internet, shopping malls and television are the norm - in other words, if you are a Westerner - you are being influenced. You might as well be aware of it.

What we think about matters.

Now, most of us would agree without hesitation, but I wonder if we give much thought to it.

Whether we realise it or not, many decisions we make are the result of carefully planned attempts to 'capture our imagination'.(1) Advertising works hard to capture our imagination. One of the main ways it does this is to try to get you to identify with the product/service being advertised. Once this is accomplished, when it comes time to make a purchase, you are much more likely to buy their brand, etc.

What I'd like us to notice, however, is that there is a 'macro (large)' reality to the 'micro (small)' example I just gave. For Westerners, there are so many products being offerred to us, so much hi-jacking of our thoughts, that we get de-sensitised to it. I once knew a missionary couple that came back from years of service in a so-called 'developing country' (developing into what, may I ask?), and went to 'Wal-mart' to get groceries. Upon entering the beverage aisle, they were stopped in their tracks. There were so many drink choices in front of them, they quite literally didn't know what to do.

But we're used to it, aren't we?

The 'macro' reality for far too many of us is this: We are enslaved to a the Western standard of living.(2)
Like it or not, you are simply expected to 'have' what 'everyone else' has.(3) You are expected to be an average Westerner. Complain, argue or disagree with the system, and you'll get funny looks.

What I'm trying to suggest is simply that we are more influenced than we are ready to admit. I've been fond of saying - as I've heard from many others - that the best way to tell what you value is to look at your time/calendar and your money/spending. Another interesting value-indicator is this: what you talk about with your friends.

A friend recently vented to me how frustrated he was that basically ALL his conversations were about no more than 2 things. Everywhere I go, I over-hear conversations about TV shows, movies, video-games and fashion. Do we not have other things to talk about?

For crying out loud, I'm NOT saying these things are the devil incarnate. I am saying, however (with no hesitation at all), that they occupy too much of our time, money and discussions. They affect our imaginations!

Here's the point. Instead of making some ridiculous list of 'things' that are OK to think about or not, we are told to think about things that are good, pure, praise-worthy, etc. (above verse). We are instructed by Jesus Himself to pray for God's will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven." Unfortunately, we only think about that when we are at our churches.

Our imaginations are being sold to the highest bidder, and programmed to be more and more concerned with getting what we want in life. God's kingdom is about a different mindset than that. Philippians 2:4 (and the verses before and after it) is beautiful - '
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.'

This will not make you 'famous' or 'successful'. This is not entertaining or fashionable.

But it is God's will (a.k.a. His 'desire' - what He wants.).(4)

So, be aware of the attempts to capture your imagination. It's one of the most valuable things for you to protect.



1. I dare you to read "Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire" by Brian J Walsh and Sylvia C Keesmaat. It will scare you - in a good way.
'Enslaved' too strong a word? OK, then... Just try to stop living the Western lifestyle and see how easy it is.
3. Though the result is indeed, being clones of everyone else, the language advertisers use is that of 'diversity', 'choice' and 'uniqueness'.
4. Though time forbids me from fully explaining, the best catalyst for staying committed to God's will is community (true community) with others who want to do the same.


17 March 2007

feelings on theology (3-18-07)

Everyone is a theologian.

Theology is simply the 'logic' (thought, ideas, study) of 'theos' (god), and everyone does this. Even atheists, who claim to be quite certain that the idea of god is silly, spend much time, energy and thought trying to demonstrate this - and therefore, I suggest, they engage in theology.

Anyway, some people put theology on a spectrum with something else - like theology on one end and emotions on the other (as if the 'goal' was to stay in the safe 'middle-ground' between the two). This is making less and less sense to me. Are not emotions present in all that we do; and - is not even simple reflection about god at least some form of theology?

Emotions matter. Ideas about god matter. We don't need 50% of each - we need 100% of both.

Having said that, let me be quite clear: I am convinced that emotions (though we need them 100%) cannot be trusted. Sure, feelings are god-given and must not be rejected or disregarded, but were never meant to be relied upon. They are more a 'thermometer' to life than a road-map...

Now, the 'road-map' of theology can also be trusted too much. We can delude ourselves into thinking we have got it all sorted and sussed. If the apostle Paul can say that 'we know in part' (1 Cor. 13) then I think that goes for all of us. But there are certain things (assurance of salvation in Christ alone, the will[desire] of God, etc.) that we can know.

Just as God has given some people more sensitive emotions and feelings, he has given others more critical and thinking minds - and neither is more 'spiritual'! Both must continually strive to use these things for God's glory - because it all matters!

We get this messed up all the time. Some christian communities value feelings/emotions so much that critical thought and discernment goes out the window, while others value theology/'truth' so much that any sign of life or vibrancy is absent.

We must work hard to not be emotion-less or emotional-istic. And we must work hard at theology - because it matters. How we feel and what we think can cause us to do and believe some very interesting (and possibly tragic) things (i.e. - belief that national Israel has to go back into 'the land' and restore the 'temple' before Christ can return can result in indifference to the atrocious militant actions of the nation of Israel against Palestine that seem to clearly go aganst God's will[desire]).

Don't mock people whose emotions are more vibrant than yours. And - don't think for a moment that theology gets in the way of 'real' worship. Instead, love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength... together.