Category Archives: Christianity

Designer Faith

I thought I was done with the Barna survey, but it seems I am not. Because in thinking about the last two bits of information, in addition to something else I came across yesterday, I find I’m being led to do at least one more post on this subject.

I was initially surprised to learn that the Barna Group’s numbers indicated that more than half of self-identified born again believers and almost three quarters of American adults don’t believe Satan is real,   then not so surprised upon learning how very few Americans — even among the born again Christians — hold to a Biblical worldview any more. The lack of a Biblical worldview in part explains the disbelief in Satan… but how is it that so many of our countrymen lack one?

The other thing I came across yesterday was an opinion regarding the controversy over whether the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively, and that kind of clarified things for me, especially taken in combination with one last bit from the Barna Group’s research.

The writer of the opinion did not believe that basic Bible stories were to be taken as literal, real, historical events but were merely instructional tales. Or at least some were. Others might not be. In any case, the individual defended this viewpoint with the claim that there are many things that can’t be known and thus chose not to question everything and demand that all be defined.

This was not the first time I’ve encountered the opinion that spiritual things are not to be questioned too closely, nor defined in too much detail. It always sounds lofty and somehow more spiritual than the mundane, prosaic activity of trying to make everything fit.

But yesterday, it finally  dawned on me that a person with this viewpoint is primarily concerned with what they believe the Bible says, not what it actually says. And by choosing not to question or seek to define their terms, they pretty much cut off all chance of finding out what it really says.

Imagine  if a scientist did that!  

— Oops!  I forgot! Some of them do!

Okay but they’re not supposed to, and many of them don’t. The whole point of science is to find out about our world, and the way to do that has always been to question and define. The way to understand anything is to do that, even the word of God.

Especially the word of God, I would say.

Which is why I advocate learning from a pastor who has been rigorously prepared in the original languages, the historical settings at the times of writing, and the various categories of doctrines as they are found and/or developed throughout the Bible. You can’t just sit down and read it for yourself without knowing any of these other things and expect to really understand it in depth. Yet that is what many do.

Or so I had thought. In fact, it would appear that most don’t really read it at all…

Last year, an article in USA Today last year called Designer Faith  reported on another Barna Group survey which found that “people no longer look to denominations or churches”  for their theological edification but have made of it a do-it-yourself project. Or, as the article was subtitled, “are tailoring religion to fit their needs.”

“By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.” 

When it comes to the born again Christians, the number decreases, but not by much and still makes the majority for  61% of them favor an “a la carte” approach to the development of their theological beliefs. 

Worse of all, “leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.”

As George Barna said, “America is headed toward being a country of 310 million people with 310 million religions.”

It’s kind of amazing and at the same time creepy to see things playing out as the Bible warns.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires… ”    ~ 2 Ti 4:3

More From Barna: Biblical Worldview

Yesterday I posted the stats about the surprising number of people in the United States who do not believe Satan is a “real force” (let alone a real “person”). Even among self-identified born again Christians, he is only believed to be real by less than half of them.

The same Barna survey  I quoted from also provides some explanation as to how and why this situation has come to be.

In the survey investigating Changes in Worldview Among Christians, the Barna Group identified 6 salient points of belief necessary for one to qualify as having  a “biblical worldview.” These were believing…

    • that absolute moral truth exists;
    • that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches;
    • that Satan is a real being or force;
    • that no one can earn their way into Heaven through good works;
    • that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;
    • and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview. The results?

Only 9% of American adults  were found to have a Biblical Worldview. Nine per cent of Americans!

Even more surprising, out of those who self-identified as “born again”  Christians,* only 19% were found to agree with all  six  of the points constituting the survey’s “Biblical Worldview”  listed above. That’s less than a quarter of those who call themselves “born again!”

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some (believers) will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…”  ~ I Ti 4:1

*For the survey, “born again Christians” were defined as “those who said they have made a personal to commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.”

I have to say, however, that I would not have qualified as born again in their survey since I take issue with the insertion of a making “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” having certain knowledge of eternal salvation, or confessing one’s sins for salvation.  

My definition of a born again Christian is anyone who has believed in the atoning work of Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross for eternal life. And that’s it.

Or, as Acts 16:31 puts it:  

 “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved…”

Barna: Minority Believe Satan is Real

Yesterday I posted a bit about my thoughts regarding the depravity of man, and touched on some insights given by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book Satan, regarding the latter’s motivations and methods of operation, motivations which did not include trying to get men to commit gross sins like cannibalism and tortuous serial murders, but if anything would be trying to keep them from doing so. His primary goal is to take God’s place by acquiring the worship of God’s creatures, and proving that he can do just as good a job as God can. In fact, a better job.

In order to accomplish that, he has been willing, as Chafer pointed out, “to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality… an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell,” a metaphor, as it were, for “all that is cruel and vile.”

I have observed that he has had success in this area amongst the general run of people.  In fact, I noted in my post on What the Night Knows, this very fact was addressed by Koontz himself through the words of one of his characters. This character, a priest to whom the novel’s protagonist goes for help, informs us that the idea of demons and such is merely part of the silly superstitions of the past, that they do not exist, and that, in a world “of nuclear weapons, we don’t need Hell and demons, succubi and incubi and hungry vampires on the doorstep. We need food banks…thrift shops, homeless shelters and the courage to express our faith in social action.”

Indeed, we do live in the age of science where the immaterial and spiritual is supposedly not allowed to intrude on our rigorous scientific experiments. Only physical and material evidence will be accepted as proof of the True and the Real. Which in itself is clearly the handiwork of Satan. Because even if that view means he has to work in the shadows, disallowed as the powerful and brilliant creature that he is, it also means his nemesis — The One True God — is disallowed.

Thus I should not have been surprised by the results of a survey on worldview among Christians done by The Barna Group in 2009. Barna is  one of the leading research organizations investigating trends in Christianity and religion in the United States today, and their survey revealed that “just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force.” 

Okay, but that includes unbelievers, who have been blinded by the very creature they’re being asked about, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. But among born-again Christians it would be a different matter, right?

Sadly, no.

Despite much clear scriptural evidence for the existence of this greatest of all creatures to come from the hand of God, this one who rebelled against Him, and took at least a third of his fellow angels into rebellion with him,  less than half of self-identified “born-again Christians” believe he is real.

 A mere 40% of them.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  ~2 Co 4:3,4

We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.   ~I John 5;19

TAW – Basic Principles

I continue to be amazed and excited by the way God is using the material in The Artist’s Way to stimulate thinking and encourage me in operating more freely in the creative part of my soul. The way He’s leading me through this, drawing my attention to parallels between what’s in the book and what’s in the Christian life, then providing confirmation, sometimes almost word for word in Bible class is really exciting.

Today (Sunday) I begin Week 2, which is called Recovering a Sense of Identity.   (Week 1 was Recovering a Sense of Safety).  Week 2 focuses on the things which will come in to attack and hinder the concepts taught and gains made in Week 1. One of the tasks for this week is to read through daily the “Basic Principles” that were listed on page 3.

One of the things I’ve been doing as I move through the course is to make it mine. When I first got the book, brand new from Amazon, I was reading it at the dining room table and drinking iced coffee. Barely had I started when I set the glass down wrong and it fell over, the entire contents flooding the book. After picking off the ice cubes, I mopped up the mess and spent a good amount of time sliding pieces of paper towel between all the pages. Yes. ALL the pages. There is not a single page untouched by coffee and some have a delightful, distressed look about them. At first I was dismayed and asked the Lord if this was some kind of sign. Was I not to read it after all? Instead, I got a laughing sort of thought: “Now it’s no longer ‘precious’ and you can feel free to write in it.”

Ahhh!  Very true. So I have done exactly that — underlined, highlighted, circled, starred, commented in the margins, crossed stuff out and replaced it with other stuff. Thus, I have amended the Basic Principles to my own liking, (You can find the original HERE) and I share them with you now:

Basic Principles

1. Creativity is a God-given part of the soul, bestowed for our blessing and benefit.

2. The Bible is full of songs, poetry, imagery. The book of Job was originally performed as a play. Jesus told stories in his teachings – the parables. Both David and Moses composed melodies and songs. David danced in the street as he worshiped the Lord. We are commanded to sing praises to the Lord, to “make” melodies. Angels sang for joy when God made the universe. God is the one who made flowers, birds, sunsets, the sea, clouds, mountains, lakes, trees.

3. God is the only one who creates out of nothing, but we echo His creative aspect in creating new things out of the materials He’s placed around and in us.

4. He has made each of us unique, with unique and specific creative gifts that come with the desire to use them. Sin, lies and distortions stop us.

5. He has a specific will and destiny for every person – for the unbeliever to be saved, for the believer, a specific journey or calling in which to glorify Him, a calling which no one else can fulfill.

6. He has given me creative gifts to be used for His glory and my blessing.

7. Part of using those gifts involves nurturing and encouraging them through filling the well with imagery and experience, and giving them time to be practiced.

8. Refusal to encourage my creativity and provide material for it to play with is a refusal to walk through the open door of operating in the gifts He’s given me.

9. When I open myself to exploring the creative part of my soul, I open myself to discovering and living in the full person God has made me to be, and to learning more about Him. He is the Great Creator and He is in me.

10. Functioning in and nurturing the creative side of my nature is as important as functioning in the logical, orderly side.

11. Why wouldn’t I want to open myself to His leading me into increasing creativity?

12. We must love ourselves before we can love others and in loving ourselves we must know who we are. As part of tending our own vineyard we nurture our creativity, for it is a vehicle by which we glorify Christ, as much through the process of living in it and enjoying it, as through whatever it produces.

13. Special word from Bible Class today (the day I typed this up for the first time): Some people who would never walk into a church or listen to a message will read one of my books. Or read my blog. And I am able to continue to witness to others through the art of card making.

Foreign Service

One of the premises for my work in progress, The Other Side of the Sky is that the setting will include a loose analogy to Christians as citizens of the Holy City and ambassadors of that city to the world. With that in mind I’ve been reading a book called From Inside a US Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America where I came across the following descriptions. I thought they were especially interesting when considered in light of our spiritual calling as Believers in Christ:

“The Foreign Service is a career like no other. It is much more than a job; it is a uniquely demanding and rewarding way of life. As representatives of the United States (Ed: or the kingdom of God?) to foreign governments, Foreign Service members have a direct impact on people’s lives and witness history in the making. They work alongside highly talented colleagues and face the unexpected every day, in situations that push their ingenuity and creativity to the limit.

“But a Foreign Service career also imposes significant demands. Typically, Foreign Service members spend two-thirds of their careers overseas, sometimes in unhealthy or isolated locations. They live for extended periods of time far from parents, siblings, and old friends, and sometimes without familiar amenities or modern medical facilities. Due to increasing international terrorism, [they] face physical danger and may be required to serve an ‘unaccompanied’ tour or to remain at their duty posts in harm’s way after their families are evacuated.”

Is Koran Burning UnChristian?

After last week’s post on the guy in Florida who was going to burn the Koran, I was asked by several people what I think about a Christian burning a Koran in order to deliberately provoke the Muslim world — isn’t that unChristian? I’ve thought about it all weekend and can’t come up with a definitive answer, though I’m probably closer to “how silly” than “ooh! That’s bad!” And at the same time very aware of the fact that God can use silly, sinful and even evil acts of man, including Christians, to fulfill His plan and bring glory to Himself.

There is no verse that says “Thou shalt not burn a Koran.” Nor is there one that says, “Thou shalt respect all other religions.” Yes, we are to be at peace with all men – so far as it depends on us. And yes, sometimes we are to operate in the law of love and sacrifice, giving up what we are free before God to do, but over which the person we are with will stumble. We’re not supposed to deliberately make people sin.

On the other hand, Jesus deliberately cracked corn in front of the Pharisees on the Sabbath (which you weren’t supposed to do), He healed people on the Temple steps on the Sabbath (no healing allowed either), told a guy He healed on a Sabbath to pick up his bed and go report to the Pharisees (aren’t supposed to pick and carry things like a bed) and in every case provoked the Pharisees to anger, judging and outrage. Of course they were already angry and judgmental and looking for ways to discredit Him, so I’m not sure He actually provoked them, so much as brought their inner true motivations to light.

In any case, I can’t say categorically that to burn a Koran to provoke a reaction (or prove that you are not going to be intimidated by the threats of fanatical and violent devotees of an evil religion?) is “unChristian.”

As for the idea that burning a Koran will not bring Muslims to the Gospel, but rather drive them away — How do we know that?  Yes, absolutely such an act is not going to bring a diehard believer in the Prophet to Christianity, but neither is anything else. But what about those with doubts? Might they actually be swayed — inspired even — by the sight of someone daring to “insult” the book that is supposedly the word of a god so thin-skinned and impotent he has to rely on people to defend him?  In some ways you can look at burning a Koran as a defiance of a false god — one that shows the tyranny of one religion and the freedom and mercy of another.

I also don’t think we are supposed to “respect” Islam as a religion. It’s a compendium of evil and lies, it’s tyrannical, it blasphemes God, insults the Lord Jesus Christ. I can respect someone’s right to believe it and will leave them to do so, but I don’t respect “Islam” at all.

At the same time, I’m not comfortable with the whole activism scene. I don’t think that’s really the way Christians bring change to a nation, so personally I would not be out burning Korans to make a statement. I can’t see any need to incite Muslims, since if you noticed my update to the Koran burning post last week about Michelle Malkin’s column The Eternal Flame of Muslim Outrage, it doesn’t take much to incite them: Underwear, sneakers, fast food packaging, teddy bears…

Still, I have to say in the end, there’s just something creepy about someone believing a book can be insulted, and that it’s their duty to make sure no one insults it anywhere in all the world, threatening to kill those who even suggest they might. It’s the bullying I don’t like. And the tiptoeing and hand-wringing from our leaders that I like even less.

Inventing Moderate Islam

I seem to be on a run of posting about Islam this week. It was not intentional, I  just keep stumbling across new and interesting tidbits. I think I’ve alluded to the fact in my first post about The Last Patriot, that I don’t think there can ever really be a “reformed” or moderate Islam. I guess the primary reason for that is that it’s not based on grace the way Christianity and even true Judaism (two sides of the same coin; or maybe two stages in the same continuum) are. Both Christianity and Judaism are based on the fact that man is depraved and can never do anything to achieve a relationship with God on his own. The Law was not given to man so he could follow it and be saved, but to demonstrate the fact that he couldn’t follow it and needed a savior.

There is no savior who died for all in Islam, only a bunch of rules for men to follow to please Allah – a lifting and corrupting of elements of both Christianity and Judaism (probably more of the latter than the former). In a sense it’s more an extension of what the Pharisees thought the Law was about than what the Bible says it was.

There is no  “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of works lest any man should boast.” It’s all about following the rules. Being obedient. Punishing those who don’t comply. Everyone should get what they deserve, and if there is any mercy, it is thin, indeed.

Islam is a perfect, clear example of religion. And religion  is a system of bondage whereby men can be controlled, ostensibly by other men, but in reality by the unseen “rulers” and “powers” and “world forces of darkness.”  (True Christianity is not a religion, as I’ve said before, but a relationship). Religion is a system whereby men seek to impress or please God by their own good deeds and personal “righteousness”. It is a system that promotes creature credit rather than God-credit. 

Kill the Infidel, go to heaven. Question Islam, be executed and go to eternal damnation…

In addition to this, as with those elements of the Mosaic Law given to the Jews as a nation to guide them in how a nation should be run, the tenets of Islam are intertwined with matters of state. So on the one hand Islam is a system of worship and on the other hand a system of law/legislation.

There is no “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” in the Koran. Mohammed’s kingdom was very much of this earth, as were the kingdoms of the sultans who followed him, and followers were required by their faith to render unto them. Nor are there commands like “Do not speak evil of your rulers,” the latter written at the time when the evil, heathenish  Nero ruled over Rome. Rather there is Sharia, which would like to kill the evil, Satanic Infidel George Bush. Sharia is supposed to be Allah’s guidance and injunctions regarding matters of state and public affairs, and if it’s straight from Allah, how can it be ignored or “reformed?”

 I’m sure there are muslims who choose from the religion what they like and discard the parts they don’t, just as there are Christians who do the same with the Bible. And there are no doubt many who would like to do away with some of the more restrictive and draconian elements of the muslim faith. But for true and fundamental reform among those who take their faith seriously… I just don’t see it as realistic. As I said in a previous post, why would Allah change his mind after having set down the only true, proper and pure way to do things?

I’m not alone in my questioning whether there can truly be a “moderate” Islam. Recently National Review Online  published an article by Andrew McCarthy called Inventing Moderate Islam (It can’t be done without confronting mainstream Islam and its sharia agenda)”  The piece starts thus:

“Secularism can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society.” The writer was not one of those sulfurous Islamophobes decried by CAIR and the professional Left. Quite the opposite: It was Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family. He made this assertion in his book, How the Imported Solutions Disastrously Affected Our Ummah, an excerpt of which was published by the Saudi Gazette just a couple of months ago.

[snip]

It is also worth understanding why Qaradawi says Islam and secularism cannot co-exist. The excerpt from his book continues:

“As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. It is indeed a false claim that Shari’ah is not proper to the requirements of the present age. The acceptance of a legislation formulated by humans means a preference of the humans’ limited knowledge and experiences to the divine guidance: “Say! Do you know better than Allah?” (Qur’an, 2:140) For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of Shari’ah is downright apostasy.

And apostasy, says Mr. McCarthy, is a dire accusation since the punishment for apostates is death. As long as there remain a substantial number of people in power who believe in the rightness of Sharia and are ready and willing to exterminate any apostates who seek to modify it, whatever moderate muslims there may be out there will remain hesitant to express that apostasy.  Thus, as McCarthy concludes,

When you capitulate to the authority and influence of Qaradawi and [Ground Zero mosque project imam Feisal] Rauf, you kill meaningful Islamic reform.

There is no moderate Islam in the mainstream of Muslim life, not in the doctrinal sense. There are millions of moderate Muslims who crave reform. Yet the fact that they seek real reform, rather than what Georgetown [University] is content to call reform, means they are trying to invent something that does not currently exist.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Sharia or the Constitution?

Under Muslim Sharia law, one cannot proselytize to a Muslim, nor is a Muslim allowed to leave the faith. Recently the Associated Press reported that  4 Christian evangelists were arrested in heavily Arab Dearborn, Michigan, for passing out copies of the Gospel of John (translated into Arabic) at  an entrance/exit to an Arab Cultural festival. (In the video below it appears to be more like a county fair or carnival, a ferris wheel looming in the background). 

The head evangelist George Saieg, only the day before had received a favorable ruling in his behalf, overturning a lower courts findings and allowing him to distribute the books on the festival’s perimeter.

But since the festival typically draws several hundred thousand attendees, police made the arrests to preserve the peace.

I suppose they would get in trouble if they couldn’t keep people from rioting, nevertheless, if people are not able to peacefully distribute Gospel literature (or even Watchtowers, for that matter) in public places for fear of some religious group rioting… that is not good. That means, essentially,  that it’s Sharia law that is in force and not the United States Constitution, which most certainly does allow proselytizing and other freedoms of speech. 

Here’s the video they made of it, just to let other people know what sorts of things are starting to happen right here on American soil (much like the recent  incident with the students who were sent home for wearing American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo because many of the hispanic students at the school were offended and school officials feared a riot might start…) 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Smw9QuH1xkA&feature=player_embedded]

Flestered

We started watching the first season of NCIS last Saturday and in the first episode, Gibbs is in the corridor of Air Force One with his gun aimed at the back of a terrorist whom he has told to freeze. Instead, the terrorist turns slowly toward him maintaining his pretense that he’s here to help as he asks what is going on and didn’t someone call for a doctor?  Except that as he comes around he raises the automatic weapon he’s just pilfered from the plane’s armory and begins to fire, spraying bullets up the corridor Gibbs’ way. Gibbs doesn’t blink, doesn’t falter, doesn’t waver. He fires two quick rounds and the guy drops. He never loses his focus.

I loved that scene so much I had to watch it again.  What a wonderful illustration of poise in time of pressure.

Today it has become especially useful. My life has devolved once more into chaos. There are all these things I “should” do, and all these things I want to do, as well, but seemingly have no time for.

The things I “should” do?  Finish getting the new website set up, get the blog address corrected on the old one, contribute to the Amazon Author site that’s been set up… I was advised by the BHP marketing department to make a video trailer. I have a blog post to do, since I missed doing one yesterday. My office is a cluttered mess and I want to get a special picture I bought for my birthday hung up before the rapture comes. I need to start the next book, declutter my files, and do some research reading. I have miscellaneous requests from friends, to talk, go to lunch, etc. I have doctor appointments to set up for myself and to take my mother to.

Then there’s the regular stuff around the house, which I’ve not been doing, because events have impacted my sleep – late hours combined with sunrise at 5am… Yesterday after driving half an hour across town to see the rheumatologist about my hand, and back again, I was exhausted. Without motivation. Yet those “should,” and “need to” and “must” voices in my head continued to hammer me.

Plus it turns out I have an ailment – a “syndrome” – once known by the acronym CREST, now just referred to as “limited cutaneous scleroderma.” They don’t understand the cause, except that it seems to be auto-immune generated, and they don’t have treatments. This is an annoyance but nothing life threatening. You have it if you have three of the five symptoms laid out in the acronym. I have Raynaud’s syndrome, which is the R: when it’s cold, your extremities turn white or blue and get very cold. My left big toe turns white and gets numb. And in the winter, as I work at the computer, my left hand has oddly become very cold whereas my right remains normal. Now I realize it’s part of Raynaud’s.

E is esophageal dysfunction.  “Do you have trouble swallowing?” he asked. I laughed because my husband and I joke that I’m probably going to die from choking on my food. Yes, I have trouble swallowing. A few years ago I could no longer swallow the calcium caplets I was taking and had to go to chewables. I cannot choke down a Nyquil to save my life. I thought it was just getting old, but no. Part of the syndrome.

The last symptom I have is Sclerodactyly, which means the skin on my fingers has tightened and stiffened. How weird is that? It’s worse on my right hand than on my left and I’m not sure how the trigger finger is related, if it is. It might be something that began on its own, or something caused by this other thing. Anyway, there’s nothing I can do but live with it. And since there can be other more serious elements to this condition (pulmonary hypertension) I will have to go get a couple of tests. Which means more doctor’s appointments.

So there’s all that.  And the rheumatologist thinks my toe is broken because of how swollen it still is two weeks after injuring it. Not that there’s anything I can do about that, either, but it does make wearing shoes painful and walking Quigley a new challenge.

So when I take Quigley and he pulls and jerks and I have to resist or deal with it, my toe is not happy. Nor is my back. So I think, what I really need to do is just commit to several hours a day for the next five weeks and work with him… He’s never officially been trained to heel… 

In addition to all that, which is nowhere near my complete list, when I do start tackling things, they always seem to snarl into complications. I try to answer reader mail, but run out of labels to autograph and can’t print new ones until I go to the store for ink…

I go out to Office Max to buy ink and a new fluorescent bulb for my desk light and they don’t sell the bulbs (even though that’s where I bought the desk and the light). So I have to go online and the bulb only costs $6. The postage would be more. What to do? Get two bulbs? Will it still work by the time I need a new one? Will I even remember where I put it?

I start to work at the computer, but my carpal tunnel flares up.  Or I bang my poor swollen toe into a chair and have to go sit down with the ice bag again. These are small things, but when you have entire days of them, it gets old. And frustrating.

Then of course there is the next book that I had – ahem — planned to start yesterday, except I lay around and dozed instead.

What does all this have to do with that NCIS scene I mentioned earlier? All these things are like bullets spraying around me. They demand my attention and if I try to give it to them I just get flestered (yes, flestered. It was a typo, but I like it.  It not only melds flesh and flustered, it looks like festered… the perfect word for the state I’m trying to describe!) These are little things, but it’s a constant stream. You can’t deal with them in any kind of logical way, because there’s too many of them and they’re coming too fast and each is hitting on an almost subconscious level. Or at least, a peripheral level, where you’re aware of them, but not how they’re fragementing your thinking and emotions.

Instead, my thoughts should be focused on only one thing: the target. The goal:

“The self-motivated believer has identified his primary objective in life: spiritual maturity, which glorifies Christ. This objective becomes the criterion for interpreting any situation that may arise. Every decision and every course of action supports this chosen objective. [The application of] Bible doctrine takes first priority… you build your life on [it].” ~ From Christian Integrity by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr.

Living in a state of being flestered is not part of spiritual maturity, nor will it lead to that. Neither are guilt, condemnation and anxiety. Moreover, if I write down all the things I “have” to do or want to do in an attempt to sort through them all (focusing on the problem, trying to take control and figure out the solution for myself) I only increase my flestered state and move into paralysis. So I have to step back and recall: there’s a reason things are the way they are. God’s ordained every detail in my life for my highest and best and most of them, I’m learning, are forms of affliction. Light affliction – maybe even VERY light affliction – but affliction nonetheless. Here for my blessing. To root out false thinking and make me stronger.

Okay, Lord, I’m letting go of my lists and my flestered state. Again. What do you want me to do?

 Hmm. Well, for one, it appears He wanted me to write this blog post because… ta da! … Here it is. When I had no intention of writing it. When I only sat down to work through my flestered state.

Christian Worldview in my Fiction

In the process of moving to WordPress and trying to figure out how everything works, I’ve not only visited Amazon, I’ve also been making brief forays out to read other peoples’ blogs, a practice I gave up after the chaos of trying to get Return of the Guardian-King written, and maintained throughout the chaos of writing The Enclave.

When Becky Miller commented here last week, she drew me over to her blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction where she was once again discussing… well, a Christian worldview of fiction. Given the title of her blog, this is hardly surprising, nor the first time she has posted on this subject. But while I’ve read her past posts with interest, and thought I  should have something to say on the matter, I could never seem to put my thoughts on the subject into any kind of coherent discourse.

This time however, she revealed that the whole discussion of a Christian worldview began when World magazine ran a contest asking for stories from a Christian worldview and the email group she was on at the time began discussing what exactly the editors meant by “a Christian worldview.” A discussion, she said,  that was essentially an exploration of “how our Christianity plays out in our fiction.”

And, upon reading that phrase, I suddenly found myself with something to say. I don’t know that I would want to define what specific qualities might be included in a book for it to be considered written from a Christian worldview, but I do know how my Christianity plays out in my fiction.

Anyone who does much reading at all about how to write will soon encounter the oft-given advice to write what you know, write what you care deeply about, what you enjoy, and what you struggle with. Don’t be afraid to be honest in your portrayals, to lay out what you know and believe whether you think readers will like it or not.

So what I know, what I care deeply about, what I enjoy and struggle with is my Christianity. God, the truths of God’s word, the application of it. The failure in it. The recovery and continuing onward. My relationship with Him; with His Son… Those are what I write about.

Growing up as an unbeliever I always had the idea that going to church was about going to some special building, singing special songs, listening to someone in a robe drone on about things that had no relevance, and following a bunch of rules. There was never a personal relationship with God involved. There were rules to follow (which I’m discovering has been a much greater part of my life than I ever imagined, even as an unbeliever). People felt good about themselves, felt they were pleasing to God when they followed the rules. In fact, if you followed the rules you went to heaven; if you didn’t, you went to hell.

I didn’t buy it. I remember as a teenager commenting in a discussion about religion that no one was perfect. I didn’t see how anyone could be bad enough to deserve eternal hell, but I also didn’t see how anyone could be good enough to go to heaven. So I opted for reincarnation.  The perfect solution. (Well, I was only 15 and this is what my mother had come to believe at the time.) 

When I actually believed in Christ and began to learn what the Bible had to say and what the Christian way of life was really all about,  it was so rich, so alive, so full that I was bursting with enthusiasm to show the world what it really was, not the stale, dead thing I’d thought. I was so jazzed. It was  cooler than the coolest transformation to hero story you could come up with. And still is.

That desire’s never really changed. I want to depict in my fiction the wonderful ways of God, His character, His amazing plan, the incredible relationship we can have with Him, how it all makes sense now, when previously it really didn’t. How much more marvelous it is than the dreary unending toil of being reborn again and again as in each lifetime you struggle to make yourself better and better until finally you can be absorbed into some impersonal cosmic consciousness!  Or something. I’m not sure I ever get beyond the endless rebirths when I was 15.

 We live in a time when it’s not “cool” to act like you have answers. Postmodernism says there aren’t any answers. Or that each person’s answers are specific to them and no one dare intimate there might be a set of universal truths that apply to everyone. But I feel like I do have answers. So many of the most important, most disturbing questions I’d had in my 21 years as an unbeliever have been answered in God’s word. So many of the conundrums other people shake their heads over, are answered in the pages of Scripture. If only they could see it.

The Bible isn’t a bunch of contradictions or moldy myths, set down for us to pick and choose from like the offerings in a cafeteria. It’s an amazingly coherent document that’s also alive. It’s real. And so is the God who wrote it. And anyone who really wants to know Him and is willing to put in the time to seek for Him can know Him.

That’s what drives me to write. That and the fact that God’s called me to do it and put the burning for that task inside me.