Reacting or Choosing?
Yesterday the news was once again filled with images of carnage and chaos as people's attention was riveted to yet another 'terrorist' event, this time in Boston. Like many others, I found myself drawn into watching the media coverage of this event for some time, though I was deeply suspicious that there is much more going on here than what the media or government will ever allow to become public.
But what bothered me much more and made me quite sober this morning as I was waking up was how this has again affected my thinking processes and the kinds of things that swirl around in my imagination. After getting used to having my imagination more available for the Holy Spirit to share insights with me, most often in the early morning hours, today I found that my imagination seemed bizarre, illogical and erratic, though not necessarily connected to what happened yesterday. Each time I tried to rein it in and focus on seeking God's face as I usually do at that time of day, it would easily wander off again coming up with all sorts of random and unusual and even disconnected images.
What began to dawn on me (again) was the powerful effect that the world's system has to squeeze me into its mold, as J. B. Phillips worded Romans 12:2. This tactic of the enemy has enormous power to neutralize the transformation process that God is seeking to work within my heart and spirit by injecting principles of the kingdom of darkness deep into my psyche and disrupting the delicate work that the Holy Spirit is seeking to accomplish in changing the way I perceive reality.
As I pondered this more carefully I was reminded of verses that address this very issue. The world's systems are founded solidly on tactics of fear, threats and force. I have known this for some time and recently even taught this to a group of people seeking to know God's ways more clearly. Yet I am still very susceptible to this slippery scheme of the enemy and can still easily be sucked back into old patterns of fear-based thinking that inhibit my ability to trust my heavenly Father in everything.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:16-18)
This is not just religious jargon to memorize; this is extremely practical counsel that applies to everyday life and warns me against just such schemes that the enemy relies on to bind the whole world under his control. As I listened to the now worn-out expletives of the president intoning that whoever committed such heinous crimes will be 'brought to justice', and as I heard of other cities imposing what nearly amounts to martial law in reaction to this event, I realized that these scenarios are not likely accidental or random in nature but are carefully planned at some level, particularly from the supernatural perspective, in order to tighten the mold around every heart through the use of fear and threats of retaliation. All this is designed to instill fear as the primary if not only motive in every heart.
As John pointed out in his writings, fear and love are incompatible; perfect love casts out fear, but likewise when fear is entertained it edges out love quite effectively. What we are unavoidably caught up in is an escalating war between two antagonistic, incompatible principles vying for control over the human heart. The methods they use to seek dominance over our lives are very different despite the perversion that religion has brought to the picture. God's methods always work with the process of inner transformation while the kingdom of darkness works by squeezing us ever tighter into the mold of conformity through external threats and pressure.
What I am becoming aware of again today is how vulnerable I can be by exposure to the intentional squeezing of the enemy on my emotions and disposition through the spin of the media during such times as this. The world's media gives a certain spin to everything that happens and that spin is always in accordance with the principles of the kingdom based on the knowledge of good and evil. This is the most familiar way of interpreting reality for it is the way we have grown up with. Yet the kingdom of Jesus is not of this world and does not employ the logic or methods of this world as Jesus explicitly declared during some of His last comments before He was taken to a most unjust execution.
What I experienced yesterday was nothing short of an overdose of intentionally high injections of fear intended to conform me to what the powers of this world want for my thinking. These events are calculated to deeply embed handles into my mind and heart that can then be used to manipulate me along with all the masses thus inculcated in order to then control all of us to react to whatever the powers of darkness want to accomplish with calculated stimulations.
But as a growing child of Christ, I am not to allow such handles to become attached into my psyche no matter how strong the social pressure is to conform. While emotions run high in society after such events, people react strongly in sync with everyone else, while behind the scenes it is all choreographed to prepare the world for the final scenes of the great showdown between the two titanic systems. I am not to be squeezed into the world's mold by allowing this mob mentality to overtake my perceptions or control my interpretations of what is real or what is actually going on. Rather I need to be clinging ever closer to God, seeking His face intently, gaining His perspective, noticing what is actually transpiring behind the scenes and listening acutely for the quiet voice of the Spirit sent to guide me into all real truth even amidst all the chaos and distractions intended to drown out all access to that voice.
It is when spectacular events that grab the headlines are taking place that it is most important to pay close attention to what the Spirit is saying in the quiet sanctuary of the soul. This is not the time to be consumed by riveting emotional events that feed my addiction to having to know the latest news. These reports and reactions are designed to reinforce the false definitions and distorted meanings that have kept me so confused all of my life, and that God has been correcting in my understanding for some time now. What I must learn more than anything else is to especially guard the sensitivity of my heart by severely limiting how much the media is allowed to assault the delicate construction God has been constructing inside of me in preparation to function within His kingdom and connect in His body.
I was sobered by a reminder this morning of something God previously impressed deeply on me from His word about such allurements. How serious am I willing to be about letting God be the only authority in my life? Am I willing to give Him full control over what motivates me, what consumes my imagination, what is allowed to shape my perceptions of reality? The choices I make of what I allow into my mind and heart, just like the choices I make in what I eat that unavoidably becomes what constitutes my physical body, determine the direction of my growth and ultimately my eternal destiny.
Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil. (Isaiah 33:14-15)
Am I willing to listen to the clear conviction from the Word and choose to turn away from obsessing over news of bloodshed? This is not a side issue for a true Christian but according to this passage is at the core of that which determines whether or not I will be safe to be exposed to the overwhelmingly intense presence of God. It is not enough to just know this intellectually or teach it as the right interpretation about what will happen to everyone in hell. I must be willing to take this seriously now, to apply it to my own everyday decisions and to respond more obediently to the promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit as He keeps urging me to follow the example of my Savior all the way.
As incentive for choosing this way rather than taking the popular and compelling path of most of those around us, the rest of this passage makes clarifies how different the focus will be of all those who choose this road less traveled. Some of the language of this passage obviously had much more direct application to ancient people with different values and social priorities, but the underlying principles can still be discerned by those willing to listen to the right Spirit.
He will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock; his bread will be given him, his water will be sure. Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will behold a far-distant land.
Your heart will meditate on terror: "Where is he who counts? Where is he who weighs? Where is he who counts the towers?" You will no longer see a fierce people, a people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends, of a stammering tongue which no one understands.
Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, an undisturbed habitation, a tent which will not be folded; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its cords be torn apart.
But there the majestic One, the LORD, will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals on which no boat with oars will go, and on which no mighty ship will pass-- For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us-- (Isaiah 33:16-22)