world + flesh + devil

The world, the flesh and the devil.

These three entities have been said to be the three sources of sin and temptation for Christians.  That is to say that when we get it wrong, we can point to the influential lure of culture (the world), the weakness of natural desire (the flesh), and the overarching conspiracy of evil (the devil).

I say ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ because I don’t see these three as mutually exclusive.  When a person does something wrong – let’s say: gossip at work – they can point to a) the culture of gossip at their work or in the ‘world’ generally, b) their own tendencies to want to stay ‘in the know’ about what’s going around the workplace, and c) a trans-historic, trans-cultural, quasi-personal gravity gently and subtly pulling people away from healthy and honest communication.

If we neatly point to just one of these three, we open the door to a) victim-hood (“Poor me, it’s so hard to be good in this world/workplace…”), b) shame (“Why am I such a horrible gossip?”) or c) blame (“It was an outright spiritual attack…”).

Acknowledging all three can help us to appreciate afresh the need to stand apart from culture (Romans 12:1-2), the need to acknowledge our culpability for our actions (1 John 1:9), and to be on guard against the old serpent up to its typical schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).

the power and fragility of the imagination

The effects and pervasiveness advertising is a good example of both the power and fragility of the imagination.

We are (almost always subconciously!) actually affected by some hyper-loud voice telling us something in the ad-breaks of whatever TV show we’re watching or by some image we see on a billboard, in a magazine, etc., etc. ad infinitum…  That is how fragile our imaginations are.

And we act, behave, decide, spend-time/money, choose, etc. ‘out of’ our imagination.  We buy ‘this’ or ‘that’ product based (often) on nothing but our imaginitive affection for it…  That is how powerful our imaginations are.

This is a double edged sword.  Great strides in medicine, architecture, physics, art, education, etc., etc. have been made because someone ‘imagined’ a different way.  Also great pain has been caused in marriages, families, communities and nations because one or more people ‘imagined’ that that woman, experience, possession, ideology or whatever would be desirable, fun, cool or powerful.

Take an affair for example.  They don’t just ‘happen’.  A man/woman must first enjoy the company of someone other than their spouse.  Imaginitive step after imaginitive step are taken.  And boom – there you have it – an affair.

This appreciation of (and respect for) the power and fragility of the imagination is what should drive all concerns about things like pornography, boobs-on-bikes parades and modesty, etc., etc.  Sooooo often, they are often driven by what seems like an assumption that if we could just get the laws sorted out to how we think they should be, people will behave like we think they ought…

…leaving the power and fragility of the imagination (the heart of the issue) untouched, un-dealt-with, un-appreciated… and not solving any problems whatsoever.

gambling during a recession?

This morning, a Breakfast programme discussed the less-than-commendable notion of borrowing funds to invest during a recession…

…and my wife just now walked in the door from a work-leaving do (for non-NZ readers, ‘do’ means ‘event’ or ‘party’), which involved walking through the Sky City building, and mentioned how surprised she was to see how busy the casino was.

Interesting.

buying rubbish

It’s ‘inorganic rubbish collection’ time in Northcote, Auckland, New Zealand.

Northcote street-sides are loaded down with previously-wanted, cheaply-made, briefly-enjoyed and hastily-discarded stuff.

Interestingly, a rather large percentage of the items you’ll see piled outside homes in the area can be seen in pre-broken, pre-rusted or pre-outdated condition in store advertising fliers like the “Outdoor Living ’08” catalogue from the Warehouse (the near-exact New Zealand equivalent of ‘Wal-Mart’ – that corporation-of-all-corporations emanating from the U.S.).

Yes, the American disease of paying far-too-little for far-too-much is migrating shopping mall by shopping mall to New Zealand. Continue reading “buying rubbish”

what’s the problem with porn?

There are a few, perhaps, who would answer this question with a casual (or insistent) “None. Get over it”, but most, I suspect, would agree: porn (obviously only for societies that have it) is a problem.

Some better questions would be ‘what kind of problem is it?’, ‘where does it come from?’ and ‘how do people deal with it?’

Jason Byassee has written an interesting article over at ‘First Things’ website. He refers to a book by Pamela Paul, ‘Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families’, whose Times article titled ‘The Porn Factor’ begins with this synopsis of a ‘Friends’ episode: Continue reading “what’s the problem with porn?”

the neurology of self-control

brain mapOf course, I’m not a neurologist. Heck, I haven’t even spent any considerable amount of time browsing Wikipedia entries on neurology…

I have been thinking, however, about life, our brains, choices and the like…

Without delving into how our brains might have developed or evolved into the state they are, I think it’s just fascinating how they work now. As we live life – as we see, hear, things, say things, do things, have things happen to us, touch things, are touched by things, etc., etc. – a correlating ‘network’ of associations, memories, etc. is continually being ‘built’ somehow, somewhere under our hair…

I’ve been thinking about this ‘networking’ process as it relates to the choices we make in life, and what we control and we can’t… Continue reading “the neurology of self-control”

choosing temptation?

The sign read…

Shirts. $15.

It’s safe to say that I’m not obsessed with fashion, but to say that I couldn’t care less about how I look wouldn’t exactly be true either!

At any rate, I like a good deal as I was walking past this particular clothing store, I almost popped in. I didn’t, though. I turned up my nose (in anti-materialism smugness) and strode past. I was quite proud of myself for not visiting the store… until my thoughts took me further.

Sure, I had chosen not to enter the store for some quite good reasons. One of those being that I have enough shirts that are wear-able, so I didn’t really need another one. But as I thought about my actions further, it became clear to me that the most motivating reason for my recent ‘financial carefulness’ was none other than the fact that I had realised my need to save money for my upcoming wedding, honeymoon and receptions!

It turned out that my choice wasn’t driven by the pious, super-spiritual, anti-commercial motivation that had made me feel like I was so much better than everyone else…

This got me thinking about temptation.

A popular church leader has rightly said that we can’t say we are faithful unless we’ve ever been tempted to be unfaithful. We can’t say that we have integrity unless we’ve ever had the opportunity to lie and resisted. We’ve no right to call ourselves patient unless we’ve gone through stressful circumstances, etc.

Don’t worry. I’m not saying that we should go looking for temptation.

I am saying, however, that temptation is a part of God’s plan.

Yep.

God Himself promises never to tempt us (see James 1:13), and we always have a way to ‘escape‘ when we are tempted – which sometimes means not allowing or ‘fleeing’ from even the opportunity to be tempted (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). However, He most certainly allows and uses temptation in our lives (see the entire book of Job). Actually, we are all tempted. So was Jesus (though He didn’t give in… see Hebrews 4:15)

I’ve been reminded that it’s really just prideful of me to be so proud of my little miniature ‘victories.’ Would I be so satisfied with my wardrobe if I had plenty of money in the checking account?
I’ve also been reminded that when we are careless with our choices (where we go, what we do, when we do it, what we view, who we spend time with, etc.), we shouldn’t be amazed that we often find ourselves giving in to temptation!!!

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12 (emphasis mine)