July 27, 2016

Managing Stress

Happy Hump Day! Yes, it is Wednesday (another Wednesday), and I am feeling a bit sour today. I am not sure why because I did sleep well. At the least, I think I did. I had dreams (again), but for the most part, I slept soundly between 10:00 p.m. and when I awoke at 7:00 a.m. this morning. I am feeling a bit winded, sort of out of breath, but I think that can be attributed to our higher ozone level for today.

Furthermore, I am suffering with some sinus pain and pressure, and I am not sure whether it is seasonal allergies or still part of the ketone-funk I am in. Speaking of ketones, I blew my Atkins diet yesterday. It is really difficult for me to stick to strict induction with my Mom in the house. Mom loves carbs so she will say "Let's have [...]" and will suggest something really heavy like pizza or pasta. I try to suggest protein/veggie combos, but nope, she wants high carbs. I had one slice of pizza last night for dinner, and while it knocked my carb count out of line, we will see today if I am out of ketosis or not. I am thinking of purchasing Ketostiks just so I can test to see if I am in ketosis. I think I am, but it would be nice to know for certain. I am feeling very metabolic resistant now, and testing my urine for ketones could give me that little boost of confidence to know that I am indeed burning fat stores rather than glucose. Oh well...

One thing is for sure, my stress level is relatively low right now, but I am feeling the "burn" of my bank account dropping way below minimal function. There is nothing I can do about it as I am waiting to be "paid" for my time at OCU. I really wish I would have kept that 8 week summer class at GCU, but with only two students enrolled, there was no way the school was going to pay me to teach. Still, the extra money would have been a blessing right about now. Yes, it would have been so nice to see a chunk of change drop into my accounts during the hot and weary summer months. But, as I said, I am in this position because I teach school, and without a year-round job, this is my life, so to speak. I am praying that the next year (next summer) will be better, though I am not sure how that will be unless I move to some rural area where I can live really, really cheaply OR I win the Powerball Lottery (LOL!) Perhaps both will come to pass, ha! That would be so sweet, for sure!



Reeling From The Sting

I am not very political. In fact, I would say that I am apolitical for the most part. I am conservative in my views, but not necessarily a Republican. I am more independent and libertarian in some regards, yet I tend to vote conservative simply because conservatives hold views that align with my religious and moral belief systems. But, at times, I simply cannot tolerate the political rhetoric from my side of the political system. I find the whole candidate bashing -- swinging and hitting -- simply annoying and even, disturbing. More so, I cannot stand the fact that people I know, family members, are so enamored with their choice for president. I mean whether they are a Sanders or Clinton or Trump supporter really is neither here nor there. But, it is the way they speak, the way they post to social media, the way they criticize and castigate the other side, other views, other family members -- well -- that just cuts me to the core. I barely can stand social media at all. I am finding that I have to stay off Facebook (especially) and Twitter simply to avoid the pandimonium of our current political races. Last night was especially difficult. I am not even watching the DNC on television. I didn't watch the RNC either, just to be fair, but the reports to social media scandalizing every single word spoken is taking its toll on me. And this is from someone who loves the study of rhetoric. I just cannot take it anymore. I want to run away, hide, and go live someplace where this type of over-the-top performance is non-existent. Even though I know that no such place exists in the USA in 2016, I am finding it more and more difficult to tolerate the heated debates, the name calling, and the general nastiness that I see coming from the left, center, and right political views that many of my friends and family maintain. It isn't right. It just isn't right.

All of this is to say that I believe Paul's prophecy as written to Timothy is coming to pass. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 (NIV), we read:
But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these! They are the kind who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. They are depraved in mind and disqualified from the faith. But they will not advance much further.  
Paul gives strong warning to Timothy, even saying "turn away from such as these," in order to help him understand what is to come (and by extension, so that we could recognize what is to come). Yes, Paul recommends that we walk away from anyone who displays these characteristics. Yet, is this what we do? No, we succumb, we settle, and yes, we sit with people who are "weighed down with sins" and who are "led away by various passions." Although Paul is speaking of weak-minded women, in particular, I think the warning is well-heeded by all who are behaving like this, behaving as if they have a depraved of mind.

The dictionary defines "depraved" as being "morally corrupt [or] wicked" (Dictionary.com). Merriam-Webster clarifies by saying that depraved means "very evil" or "having or showing an evil and immoral character." It is interesting to note that in modern times, in 2016, we don't like to use the words "evil," "immoral," or even "depraved," yet the Bible uses these terms all the time. In fact, the KJV of the Bible uses the word, "evil," 613 times. The word, "wicked," is mentioned 344 times, so clearly these two concepts are central to biblical teaching. Therefore, how is it that since the Bible was written we have come to the point where we dare speak these words in respect to the character, the tenor, and the actions of the world we see around us?

Political Correctness and Its Effect

Well, I think political correctness has a lot to do with it. Yes, "PC" has taken such a strong root in our society that as a people, we are in fear of saying anything that could be taken as an offense. Dictionary.com says that political correctness begins when we avoid certain words that "taken to extremes...are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against." These expressions or phrases are part of a socially unwritten code that prevents individuals from saying anything that could be construed as an insult toward another person or people group. In theory, political correctness is a social overreach designed to prevent libel and slander in the public forum. Yet, we see slander and libel all the time, and no one seems to call the people who are at fault to account. And, why is this? Here in the USA, most speech is protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech simply is the "right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship" (Wikipedia). Of course, the whole concept of freedom of speech, which was one of the singularly important aspects of our constitution, has been taken out of context in modern times, and now is used to bully people who do not agree with the political majority. Yes, if you speak your mind freely, but say something others disagree with, you open yourself to public condemnation and ridicule. Thus, political correctness has made the entire point of free speech mute. So much so that rather than being free to express your opinions and ideas; these days, it seems that speech that runs contrary to current liberal idealism or nay, socialism, is considered hate speech. In such matters, the person of good conscience is silenced in fear, while the immoral, unethical, and yes, even the depraved are given free reign to speak and act as they please. And, all under the protective watch of the first amendment. Sigh!

PC is rampant, and we find that our speech is being censored daily. Entertain religious speak, and watch your step carefully because you will be quickly labeled an instigator or at worst, a hateful person. Yet, is this true? When we speak the truth in love, are we speaking hate toward the very people God's desires to save? I think not. Yet, many false teachers and prophets run viral, using multimedia, social media, and other media platforms to create legions of followers. These false preachers and teachers prick the ears of the weak-minded, the depraved, and lead many people astray.

False Teaching

Just last night, I was having a discussion with my good friend. He mentioned a certain person who is well-known among Christian women. This person has been associated with a pastor who clearly is preaching false doctrine. Thus, our conversation turned toward this subject, and posited the question of how the church needs to respond to preachers, teachers, and religious writers/bloggers who preach and teach error.

The subject of false teachers is not new to the Bible. Jesus spoke on this matter as did Paul and Peter. The Word is clear -- as Christ followers -- we must be aware of false teachers, and we must know how to recognize their words and their actions. The Apostle Peter writes about false teachers and says this in 2 Peter 2:2 (NIV): "Many will follow in their depravity, and because of them the way of the truth will be defamed." While he is writing about people who follow false prophets, clearly there is a parallel with our current political and social climate that demonstrates the validity of this point. Many people are being led astray due to the nature of our social commentary, to the ease with with individuals have access to a public forum so as to speak whatever they believe freely. Whether religious teaching or social or ethical teaching -- with social platforms that give every person the freedom to express one's opinion -- the variety of "teaching" that exists online is staggering. It is critical, nay, implicit that Christians, in particular, be educated; they must be informed and they must be wary of what they read or listen to online. Yes, Christ-followers must be aware of the dynamic speaking platforms, the persuasive and charismatic leaders, who champion everything besides Christ Jesus. Christians, thus, must know the TRUTH, and they must be able to discern the difference between truth and error.

Who is a false teacher or false prophet? In a strict Biblical context, "A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be" (Idleman, 2015, para. 1). According to Idelman, writing in a blog post entitled, "Seven Traits of False Prophets" (Charisma News), false prophets are individuals who "bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often, by telling people what they want to hear (cf. Jer. 23)" (para. 1). False prophets or false teachers are known by the fact that instead of teaching the truth from God's Word, instead they teach what the people want to hear. He asserts, "They provide layers of truth mixed with error" (para. 1).

Jesus, Himself, warned against false prophets. He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:15-16b). Their fruits or deeds would be evident, said the Lord. Thus, it should be easy to spot a false teacher or prophet at the "get go" or as soon as they open their mouths to speak. Often, however, they are blinded by the doctrinal spin, the subtle way they spin error into the truth. More so, because of the wickedness of many people's hearts, what they want the preacher or teacher to say to them is a watered down, "feel good" version of God's Word. Yes, what most people want to hear is that they are "good just as they are," and that a loving God would never expect them to be "holy" as He is holy. They want to believe in a human Jesus, a Jesus who was just as flawed and sinful as they are. In this way, they can make their own way to heaven based on their "good works," and not on righteousness or God's standard of justice. In short, most people want to be told that they are "good" and that God accepts them without any need for repentance, contrition or dependency upon Him. The problem with this view is that it presumes man is inherently good, and as such, doesn't need a savior.

If Christians are going to spot the error mixed in with the truth, they are going to have to depend -- to know, to understand, and to comprehend -- the Bible, in it's entirety. They need to place a higher emphasis on Bible reading and study in order to know what is true and what is false. The Bible, therefore, should play a pivotal role in the LIFE of the Christ follower. The Bible should form the foundation for all knowledge and behavior. Without God's plumb-line, without His authoritative position, it is impossible to know what is really true at all. This is why GotQuestions.org says the best way to avoid false teaching is "know the truth" of God's word. The way to spot error or falsehood, according to these writers, is to go to the source of all TRUTH in order to study and to learn directly what God says. They write, "To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who 'correctly handles the word of truth' (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine."

So why then are so many good people, Christian people, deceived by false doctrine? I think it is simply that they do not know God's word. They do not understand doctrine and theology. You may be thinking that most Christians read God's word, so of course, they know it well. Well, not according to the American Bible Society and one of their newer surveys. Caleb Bell (2013), writing for Religion News Service, reports that "More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline" (para. 1), and that "only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis" (para. 1). This suggests that daily Bible reading and Bible study has fallen by the wayside for most Americans. In fact, most Americans and most Christians suffer from what Al Mohler says is "biblical illiteracy," specifically within the church today. Mohler, writing for Christianity.com, says "While America's evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview's rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home--biblical illiteracy in the church" (para. 1). Furthermore, Mohler, citing researchers Gallop and Castelli, says "Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates" (para. 2). The problem, thus, rests with a church that is filled with biblically illiterate people. In sum, with the proliferation of false teachers and prophets and the inability of most Christians to recognize them, the problem rests with turning God's people back to His holy WORD. In many ways, America in 2016 is eerily similar to Israel during the age of the prophets. God sent His messengers into the midst of His people to urge them to return to His precepts, His commands, and to repent and turn their lives away from sinfulness and back to God's righteousness. 

Now, more than ever, we need men and women of God to preach the truth of God's word. We need to be teaching truth in our churches, and we need to be people of faith, people who believe in the inerrancy of scripture. We need to read and study God's word more than we realize it. We need to stop and consider our attitude toward reading the word. We need to ask ourselves why we are spending so much time on other pursuits and forsaking time in the word? What is our purpose in reading scripture? Do we read for ministry or for personal edification? Do we read for knowledge or simply to check it off our "to do" list each day? Do we read to develop our relationship with God, to deepen our devotion to Him and to His will and purpose? Do we read the word to nurture, to develop, and to champion our own faith in Jesus Christ, AND to build our defenses against the enemy at large (spiritual)? My hope is that the answer to all of these questions would be a resounding "yes!" 

There is power in studying the scriptures, and in making daily Bible reading a priority. What is more is the fact that by today's standard we have access to more versions of the Bible than ever before. We have access to study tools, devotional materials, and helps that are offered freely to anyone and everyone over the Internet. There is no reason why the Christ follower today shouldn't be reading their Bible every single day. In fact, there is no reason why the Christian shouldn't be reading their Bible throughout the day.


In Closing

As I write this blog post, I am convicted in my own heart and mind today. I have been a diligent Bible reader for the past ten years. In fact, I probably have spent more time reading the Bible on a daily basis than most people I know. But, lately, especially with graduate school and doctoral study, I have been hit or miss when it comes to a deep and thorough explication of the Bible. Yes, I am guilty of placing emphasis on other things rather than on spending time in God's word. More so, I have been convicted of sensing the presence of false doctrine and teaching as I read through articles on the Internet, browse blog posts, and follow people on social media. My mind has become dull, and my sense of "error and truth," less sharp then it has been in the past. Thus, I feel the need, no the prod, by the precious Holy Spirit to do something about it, about my dulling senses. I am feeling the push to return to an intensive study of God's word -- simply to prepare me -- for the ministry work He has in store for me.

Yes, it is back to the basics for this girl. I am ready to obey, and I am ready to begin a systematic study of God's word in order to prepare, to train, and to equip me for the next phase of my life. May God be praised, and may He receive all praise, all honor, and all glory. To His holy Name, and with a cheerful and grateful heart, I lift my voice today. May He be worshiped and praised this good, good day. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!




References

Bell, C. (2013, April 3). Poll: Americans love the Bible but don’t read it much | Religion News Service. Retrieved from http://religionnews.com/2013/04/04/poll-americans-love-the-bible-but-dont-read-it-much/

How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/false-teachers.html

Idelman, S. (2015, May 14). 7 Traits of False Prophets in Sheep's Clothing — Charisma News. Retrieved from http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/49627-7-traits-of-false-prophets-in-sheep-s-clothing

Mohler, A. (2016). Christianity - Faith in God, Jesus Christ - Christian Living, Trivia. Retrieved from http://www.christianity.com/1270946/

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