(Notes from a message given 19 Feb 2012, RAF Mildenhall, with credit to Rob Bell as well…but come on, anytime you can work The Matrix, The Ramones, and Clausewitz into a message…it’s got to be something, eh?)
Encase you were not familiar… the clip above is from Matrix…The term red pill and its opposite, blue pill, are now…pop culture terms that have become a common symbol for the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).
I think when we are/were saved was all chose the RED pill…Jesus offered us the TRUTH…and something MUCH more…now we should see things differently we are not in the dream world that perhaps our neighbors live in, in fact we see things… should see things so differently that we know there is a real GOOD and there is a real EVIL out there.
These concepts of good and evil are odd in that they are really not very popular are they?
Let me try to set this up: Like I have mentioned… when/if I am preaching on things… I am probably struggling with it… and I usually turn to the Bible of course… and a few different authors…
Rob Bell notes in his book Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith that..…Everybody follows somebody
As I ponder this… as a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around a particular kind of way…. The kind of way that Jesus taught was possible. And I think that the way of Jesus in the BEST possible way to live…I further believe this is simply the GOOD in the good and EVIL equation…
This isn’t irrational… or primitive… or closed minded….or blind faith… it is merely being honest that we are living “a way”
I’m convinced being generous is a better way to live<
I’m convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live
I’m convinced having compassion is a better way to live
I’m convinced pursuing peace in every situation in a better way to live
I’m convinced listening to the wisdom of others in a better way to live
I’m convinced that being honest with people is a better way to live
This way of thinking isn’t weird or strange; it is simply acknowledging that everybody follows somebody, and I’m TRYING to follow Jesus…Jesus represents GOOD
Okay…work with me here…
Over time when you purposely try to live the way of Jesus (GOOD), you start to notice something deeper going on. You begin to realize the reason this is the best way to live…. It is rooted in the profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more and more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels.
Jesus’ intention was, and is, to call people to live in tune with reality. He said at one point in John 14:6/7, that if you had seen him, you had seen the Father. He claimed to be showing us what God is like. In his compassion, peace, truth telling, and generosity, He was showing us God…
So… the way of Jesus is not about religion… it is about reality… so what does this have to do with evil?
Well… there are two realms….If we choose to follow the WAY of Jesus, the GOOD…and we can choose to pursue that… then there is also another way.
A way that is out of sync with how God created us to live. The word for this is HELL… That’s a pretty loaded word… but its a place, a way, a realm absent from how God desires things to be… I do have to note…that God is indeed in there…in the chaos….but…we can bring Heaven to earth… and we can bring Hell to earth.
The word Hell is found 14 times in the Bible, 12 of those are found in the teachings of Jesus… The word HELL in English is the word gehenna in Greek. Gehenna is a reference to the valley of Hinnim, a ravine on the south side of Jerusalem. This valley was the site over the years of many violent and horrible deaths, and it came to be viewed as cursed. By Jesus’ day it had become the town dump. Garbage, trash, wild animals fighting over scraps of food, fires burning—a place of waste and destruction. Some referred to it as the place with the gnashing of teeth where the fire never dies. So when Jesus uses Gehenna, it is loaded with meaning and visual power—everybody knew what he was talking about.
For Jesus Heaven and Hell were present realities. Ways of living we can enter into here and now. He talked very little of the life beyond this one because he understood that life beyond this one is a continuation of the kinds of choices we make here and now.
Okay… back to work…
On my last deployment… I did get to go to Kabul in Afghanistan, several times…where the Air base and the Headquarters are separated and one has to go via convoy from the base to the HQ. We traveled in armored vehicles, weapons locked and loaded, full Class 4 body armor… and as we drove through Kabul to ISAF HQ you know what I saw? People, just like you and me… but the enemy was there…lurking amongst the crowd, timing the vehicles, looking at the size of the convoy, watching the routes, waiting to strike… and strike they did…
If you read anything on Iraq or Afghanistan… Somalia, Rwanda, Libya, Syria… the list goes on… the word you read most often used to describe it is hell…
When folks use the word hell…what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be…Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter—they are all hell on earth….
This is about pure good and what is PURE EVIL…in its truest sense…
So what does evil look like?
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
… if it were only that simple…
Evil is nothing as obvious….Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his book, The Gulag Archipelago: says…. “If only it were all so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his [or her] own heart?”
English poet, W. H. Auden, put it simply: “Evil is unspectacular and always human. And shares our bed and eats at our own table.”
I would tell you this is what evil looks like: (picture of Chief and baby)
This is… I am not sure… but lets call this beautiful baby Rebecca… and Becky was playing outside of her house one day when a group of “insurgents” came up and executed her entire family…Mom and Dad, brothers and sister, executed….right in front of her… Her dad (perhaps) did not like what the insurgents stood for, perhaps he was interested in joining the Iraqi police department to protect his neighbors, friends and family…Becky was shot by the insurgents… right in the head… if you look at this baby, you can see the stitches in her scalp…she was left for dead, until some US troops happened by and found her and rushed her to the hospital.
She received treatment from US service men and women at Balad….but she cries and moans often….and according to the nurses there Chief, yes, crusty old Chief Master Sergeant Gebhardt is the only one who can calm her down… he would sleep every night in a chair with Rebecca just to get her to sleep, holding her while they both tried to sleep.
RED PILL/BLUE PILL: These insurgents…that did this… are pure evil my friends nothing more…nothing less, BLUE PILL Existence might tell us perhaps we just don’t understand, we just need to be more sensitive to what these insurgents feel…NO… it is that they are willing to execute families and little Rebeccas to strike fear into people so they may have their way. RED PILL: We can see this is a way, a realm absent from how God desires things to be
Okay… that just gets me guys…and I kept this photo with me the whole time I was deployed…and just encase I ever wondered why I was there, I could look at Rebecca, heck… I don’t even know if that is her name, but that is who she is to me…
As a Christian I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth…poverty, injustice, suffering—they are all hells on earth, and as Christians we oppose them with all our energies…. Jesus told us to…
You know in the military when we decide to take up arms against an enemy we spend a great deal of time in war planning and war gaming (well…maybe we should spend a little more time in planning… but that is a message for another time). I wanted to walk you through this just for a moment. If you know me… I am always talking about strategy and so how does this apply
The Bible tells us to get suited up for battle… and our battle is against the devil, evil, Satan, I don’t care what phase you want to use…evil.
Are you ready for this battle, this war? WE are in it right now… you chose the RED Pill…right?
1 Peter 5:8
I would tell you the key to strategic planning… is first to look at the enemy Centers or Gravity, that is what you want to attack to disable the enemy in the quickest way possible….while at the same time identifying the friendly (your) center of gravity and protecting it.
A CoG are those characteristics, capabilities, or locations from which a military force derives its freedom of action, physical strength, or will to fight.”
Thus, the center of gravity is usually seen as the “source of strength”. We consider a “friendly” CoG as that element, a characteristic, capability, or locality—that enables one’s own forces to accomplish their objectives. Conversely, an opponent’s CoG is that element that prevents friendly forces from accomplishing their objectives.
I think the COG in this spiritual realm, is much like the COG we are working in Syria, Libya, or Afghanistan…funny… we are talking evil in a Biblical sense while at the same time this is the truest center of gravity in an on-going war.
That is the hearts and minds of the people… that is what Satan wants from us… our heart and our mind…that is what we would like to give to God… that is what God wants from us…
Paul recognized this as true for him as it is for most of us: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19)
We also need to examine at length the enemies’ most likely plan and the most dangerous plan and prepare for both.
What CoG was Jesus looking for…hearts and minds? Think about this…He discipled 12 men that changed the world… TOTAL focus on 12 men…on their hearts and minds….
What are we going to do about it? I might ruffle some feathers here… but there are stats that Promise Keepers puts out on people “coming to Christ” and I could not find them, but I heard them when I was at a PK event in Atlanta… if a woman comes to Christ there is like a 20% chance that her family will follow, if a male teen comes to Christ…there is something like a 30% chance the family will follow…when a man comes to Christ…. There is like a 90% chance his family will follow… so if our CoG is the hearts and minds of humans… I would say the Center of gravity in that center is family men… what do you think? Maybe?
Understand…really I am a surfer at heart… this military gig just pays the bills…I used to listen to alternative music when it was…alternative… Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Ramones? I understood music and surfing to be raw art that comes from your guts…same with my idea of ministry I guess
Do it yourself
Strip it down
Take away all fluff and hype…
Strip everything away and get down to the most basic elements… a group of folks desperate to experience God….
The more honest, the more raw… the more stripped down.. the more I think we get out of it…
Just trying to teach and live the way of Jesus…It is all we should care about…as Christians we do see things differently…the RED PILL has allowed us to see God’s Wonderland for all it is…all the Blessings and at times we know we have to confront the evil in it as well.
Just a thought as I was writing this…You know… Christian is a great noun…but a lousy adjective…
anyhow… ponder that for a second….
Back on message…
So what are the weapons?
The Church… is the mother of all weapons…(MOAW?) Us, those here, now…the body of people…
God chooses people to be used to bless OTHER people… look at the Chief! (I promise I will get back there)….
So what is a group of people living this way called? That’s the church…the church does not exist for itself… it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses heart…. This is especially true today… in the world we live in where so many people are hostile to the church…
I would say many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of the church are ever going to change…. hearts and minds…right? This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket, boycott and complain about how bad the world is….Why blame the dark for being dark? Evil for being evil? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be….
One night when Robert Louis Stevenson was a young child, his nanny just couldn’t get him to sleep. Young Robert just kept staring out the window, oblivious to her talking to him. Finally, she said, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” As she pulled back the curtain, she realized he was watching the lamplighter making his way down the street, lighting one street lamp after another. Young Robert Louis Stevenson saw something more. He said, “Look at that man, Nanna! He’s punching holes in the darkness! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”
Rev. Sykes worked for Dr Martin Luther King Jr… he mentioned that the hate that killed Dr. King was just one example of the spiritual darkness that exists all around us. And that he had decided long ago to commit himself to punching holes in that darkness by letting God’s love shine through him. Sometimes the holes he punched were small, such as when he showed up with joy on his face instead of gloom. Other times the holes were bigger−like when he helped someone who was struggling. The holes that Dr. King had punched, on the other hand, were HUGE and were in fact still growing as more people read his words or honored his memory.
So let’s go back to Rebecca…I don’t think I have shed so many tears as what I have just over this picture…What was the Chief…just a man, a man that comforted this baby to the point where she could rest… now I don’t know what ever happened to Rebecca, I like to think the Chief took her home and now she is safely living here in the States with a family…but I am not sure, but for this moment in time…this one man, on a tactial level struck a blow to the enemy, because Rebecca saw Jesus in Chief Gebhardt…(Matt 5:16) In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
PRAYER: Lord my prayer is short… and simple…we don’t want to “just wake up in bed and believe whatever we want to believe.” We took the red pill, staying in your Wonderland “and knowing you will show us how deep the rabbit hole goes” WE know you offer us the Truth… we know that You are indeed in the Chaos and we know that indeed…Friday gives way to Sunday…help us to see what it is…that you would have us do… I love you Jesus.. Amen…