Deal in extremes

It wouldn’t be helpful to anyone involved to go into all the details of where the content of these posts originated and how they came to us.  In rough sketch, they were intercepted on the dark web.  If it wasn’t for a friend who works in cyber security, we probably would’ve never stumbled upon them.

Our friend felt that these posts were important enough, even potentially helpful, for us to be aware of that he passed them on…

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Roy Moran
roymoran.com

Marcus Constantine
livingtruth2.wordpress.com

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.”

~Clive Staples Lewis, Screwtape Letters



To Whom It May Concern:

As I currently find myself on a leave of absence of unspecified length, I have chosen to make the most productive use of my time by typing and circulating my thoughts.  

I post this open letter in hopes that I will increase the girth of not just my waistline but my influence, during this strategic season of my career.  

Through many decades of practicing my profession, I have learned quite a few tips and tricks of the trade.  I trust these principles will prove invaluable to those less experienced and less effective than I at shepherding souls toward the greater light—which some have so ignorantly called the darkness

Out with the old in with the new

An important update that I feel impressed to announce is that our organization has ceased use of the term “patient” and instead has replaced it with the more desirable designation “client.”  

After all, who would feel honored to know she is referred to as a patient?

It brings to mind the poking, prodding, and all manner of procedures that often accompany unpleasant medical tests.  Of course, while you and I may think fondly of such torturous treatments, most of our clients do not.

Photo by Anna Shvets

In a very real sense, we are here to please.  And so we must update our language as the higher-ups deem compulsory.  This serves both to address the changing tide of societal norms and to shift the sands of popular opinion in our favor.  

We do have a responsibility to do both after all.

We influence environmental conditions, inspire value systems, and establish human partners, which will instigate people movements toward our liking.  We also respond gleefully at times to the downward trends that the mass of humanity chooses entirely for themselves.

People do so often make deliciously destructive choices that propel them in our direction like swine over a cliff.

Photo by Leah Kelley

Tangentially, another deterrent of the word “patient” is its similarity to the term “patience.”  Though for different reasons, “patience” too is quite loathsome—both by virtue of its inherent power and how often it is asked of our Enemy, as in:

“I pray for more patience…”

How perverse!

Instead, our organization has wisely opted for the term “client.”  A memo has gone out to all high-ranking supervisors, which prominent department heads like myself had clearance to access.  And we have been charged to instruct our subordinates—those of lower rank such as I assume yourself—to amend our language immediately.

Lest you stumble over our specific choice of words, you will do well to observe that our work is as much art as it is science.

Photo by Pixabay


We do tend to deal in extremes.  Here is what I mean in 4 bite-sized points

Lest you stumble over our specific choice of words, you will do well to observe that our work is as much art as it is science.

1. Of course, it is useful to encourage a client toward viewing the world amorphously (think: The Blob).  


The less aware they are of a grander story, purpose, and connection in their lives, the more likely they will tend toward hopelessness, depression, and the insatiable pursuit of that which temporarily quiets their inner pangs for greater meaning.

2. If you cannot inspire a client toward viewing the world in extreme shades of gray, absolute black-and-white thinking can serve our purposes just as well.


Ensure your client is unable to see from another’s point of view and is fully entrenched in opinions he has held for as long as he can remember.  This will near guarantee his inability to learn, grow, or discover so-called truths that might pull him toward maturity and out of your tender, loving grasp.

3. Whether a client has an excessively fluid or intensely rigid view of the world, their denial of the tensions between most truths in life will lead them to a discomfort with themselves, others, and ultimately with the Enemy.

This will leave them no choice but to pursue numbing activities to lessen their perception of pain and the inevitable approach of their impending death—which cannot come soon enough from our perspective.

Sometimes their self-medicating will take the form of addictive behaviors that you are well aware of, such as substance abuse, sexual extremes, or overeating—to name a few.  However, equally powerful can be more subtle workaholic tendencies, religious extremism, or compulsion toward a certain brand of do-gooding.

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas

4. If there is a road to be driven on, ensure your client falls into the ditch on one side or the other.  

This will keep her from safely arriving at a destination dangerously nearer the Enemy and the values of his realm.

Ensure your client either is so busy with what he deems important pursuits that he has no time for rest and quickly wears out like a threadbare garment.  Or conversely, that he so gives himself to leisurely pursuits that he slowly eats, drinks, amuses, and sleeps himself to an early death.

If there is a road to be driven on, ensure your client falls into the ditch on one side or the other. 

For those already given to religion…

Now, I will address those working with clients who are already religious.  

Ensure traditional and sacramental types are so off put by the evangelical claim to have a personal knowledge of God that they give themselves all the more fully to the ornamental and superficial.  

Ensure the self-proclaimed evangelical so emphasizes his “personal relationship” with the Enemy that he neglects meaningful connection with others and becomes all but deaf to the cries of the world around him.

Keep them all focused on buildings and budgets, dollars and donors, nickels and noses.

Photo by Viktor Mogilat

Ensure neither camp opens the Enemy’s dastardly Book.

If by chance you fail in this regard, and they are somehow exposed to its words, ensure they glance at it only ritually or out of obligation.  Discourage any sense of expectation to hear from the Enemy, or perhaps worse, to apply what is read in their daily lives.

The more lifeless the Book can appear to them the better.  The collection of copies upon copies in various versions and styles will be just fine, as long as they all remain largely untouched, unread, and dusty on some high, hard-to-reach shelf.  Even an occasional display copy on the coffee table is just fine, as long as it goes unnoticed like a forgotten carving in the woodwork.

Discourage any sense of expectation to hear from the Enemy, or perhaps worse, to apply what is read in their daily lives.

The dustier this Book remains the better.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood


It goes without saying that electronic versions are permissible, as long as they remain unread and forgotten once downloaded.  Ensure they don’t discover the ease of accessing the Book on mobile devices.  If by chance they do, ensure alerts pull their attention to other pursuits, which I like to call delectable distractions.

Abounding busyness is sure to set in again soon.

In short, keep your clients blissfully unaware, as they slowly lull themselves to sleep with the hum and whir of their many machines.

Ever Yours, a True Expert,

Preptor Sophresh,

Distinguished Former Department Head, Messenger of Light Inc.

(Currently furloughed. Seeking contract work. References available upon request.)

Photo by Sergei Akulich on Pexels.com

Keep your clients blissfully unaware, as they slowly lull themselves to sleep with the hum and whir of their many machines.

Losing teeth, gaining wisdom

I sit here writing this morning with a dull ache in my mouth. When sharp pain woke me a couple hours before my alarm, I figured it was an early wake up call to write. I had an unexpected surgical procedure two days ago that I’m feeling this morning.
I’d been having tooth pain for a few months. Finally this week, discomfort made it difficult to chew on the left side of my mouth. I visited a dentist who specialized in wisdom teeth consultations and made an appointment this past Tuesday. The doctor recommended I have all four wisdom teeth removed, as my mouth didn’t have space for them. No room in the proverbial inn. He explained his calendar was booked till August.
A hygienist peeked into the room, smiled, and said, “Well, Doctor, you did have one cancellation tomorrow morning at 9.” A way had been made, and I was penciled in to have my four teeth extracted.
My mind was racing, and I asked as many questions as I could, before agreeing to make the appointment. I like to research. I like to understand. I like to ask questions. The dentist and hygienist answered as best they could. How long would recovery take? What would I be able to eat? Because the whole thing happened so quickly, there were several questions I didn’t think to ask until it was too late.  My mouth was quickly propped open with a piece of rubber and gloved hands were sticking metal utensils into it. Of course, new questions arose once I’d been stuffed full of gauze, and I had four less teeth.
The night before the surgery, I was scared. My fear was uncovered by getting my wisdom teeth out, but more broadly it was fear of the future and fear of the unknown. What would the pain be like? What complications could arise? What side effects could the medications cause?
My lack of knowledge was the fuel for my fear. I didn’t know what the procedure would be like. I hadn’t experienced it before. I wasn’t told very much, and I didn’t have time to do substantial research. I even wondered at one point if I might contract an infection that could prove to be fatal. The dentist had a strong Jamaican accent. I wondered what would happen if I couldn’t understand his instructions during the surgery.
Knowledge dispels fear. I had imagined the pain would be much worse than it actually was. The most discomfort of the procedure came from the pricks of the initial Novocaine shots. I squeezed the chair’s armrests firmly, and the worst was soon behind me. During the actual extractions, I didn’t feel much of anything.
Fear is false evidence appearing real. When the truth was brought to bear in my situation, my fear was dispelled and I renewed my trust in Jesus. Beforehand, people shared Scripture with me: “God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.” Driving to the dentist, my mom said, “The Lord is your Helper whom shall you fear? What can man do to you?” I thought silently, “He can rip my teeth out!”
When I experienced the truth of the situation and my perspective became realistic, my fear was crippled. People wrestle with fears of rejection, failure, abandonment, and both physical and emotional death. My fear of the future extended beyond my wisdom teeth extractions. It was at heart a fear of rejection.
I thought I would be unable to talk for several days after the extractions. This fear of being unheard was strongest of all. I was intensely unwillingly to give up my voice. I imagined no one would listen to me. Being willing to surrender my tongue was both humbling and healing. I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, and I didn’t need to. The day of the surgery, after two hours of stuffing my mouth with gauze, I was not only talking but also singing praise to my Lord Jesus. Family members went the extra mile to help me.
I just graduated from Moody, and I got two jobs. I’ll be writing with New Life Community Church and working in the kitchen at a restaurant downtown. Again, the devil tries to paralyze me with fear of what people think. I’ve been asked things like: “Oh, you got a B.A. in communication and pastoral ministry to work in the kitchen?”
I don’t know what my future holds. But I do know the One who holds me. Though the details of my future are unknown, and people may outright reject me. I am known, and I am forever accepted by my Father and my Savior, who will never let me go (1 Cor. 13:12; Jn. 10:28-29). God wrapped Himself in human flesh in the Person of Jesus to free us from bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Knowing His truth, makes one free – free indeed (Jn. 8:32, 36).


Also posted on Thrive80: http://www.thrive80.com/2011/06/losing-teeth-gaining-wisdom/

The end

A few days ago, I went to the bank and added a beneficiary, payable on death, to my accounts.

I sat across the desk from the banker, who was dressed in her business suit and blue collared shirt. In my sweater and jeans, I supplied my information and signed the paperwork. The banker seemed strangely nervous. Suddenly, it struck me: I wonder if she thinks I’m planning to end my life.

 
After all, she knew my address was Moody Bible Institute. Why would a young college student want to add a payable on death to his accounts? I looked into the banker’s eyes and decided to clear things up.
 
“I’m graduating this semester and thinking about endings,” I chuckled. “I’m not planning on dying anytime soon.” Right then, it hit me. Who does? Today could very well be our last day. I saw an opportunity to share about life and death.
 
“But I know I won’t live forever,” I clarified. A slight misstep. “At least, not here on earth. When I die, I’ll live in Heaven because of what Jesus has done.” The banker nodded as she ushered me toward the door. When I asked about her spiritual background, she mumbled about being Baptist and said she’d received a million-dollar gospel tract before. 
 
Encounters like that move me to pray about the end. As I answer questions about future plans and listen to the Holy Spirit for next steps, I’m reminded of Ephesians 5:16-17. Time passes so quickly. You can become either disheartened and immobilized or reminded and energized. Redeem the time. Make the most of every opportunity, for the days are evil. Consider it a challenge. If you follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s power is available to you.
 
If we’re to live this abundant life that Jesus lived, died, and rose to provide, we must become skilled in a few key areas (Jn. 10:10). We’ve got to realize that our days are numbered and our time on earth is short so that our hearts may overflow with wisdom (Ps. 90:12; 23:5).
 
Get in the habit of listening prayer. Spend time quietly waiting before the Lord Jesus. Keep a pen and paper nearby. As you’re learning to hear the Spirit’s voice, test what you hear according to the Bible (Acts 17:11). Your discernment will grow with practice (Heb. 5:14). We must be filled with the Holy Spirit that we might discern His will (Eph. 5:17-18).
 
Learn to say “no” to things outside His will. Throw off sin and anything that hinders (Heb. 12:1). Over committing will kill you. Refine your schedule and eliminate activities that don’t contribute to expanding Christ’s Kingdom, your spiritual growth, or your rest. What monkeys have you taken on your back that you need to surrender to the LORD?
 
Also, learn to say “yes.” As you grow to know Jesus more intimately, you’ll learn more about yourself. How has He gifted you? What do you love doing? As you discern His will and calling for your life, seek confirmation from mature believers. We learn His will from His Word, His church, and His Spirit. When we ignore the good we ought to do, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Jm. 4:17; Eph. 4:30). Adrian Rogers said, “Procrastination and disobedience are just different shades of the same sin.”
 
The Father may call you to bold new territory. In fact, He will always nudge you out of your comfort zone, so you learn to trust Him. Take holy risks. Love boldly. Make it your practice to step out in faith. I never expected I’d preach the Gospel in the open air. It’s one of my ministries that thrills and stretches me most. Join me! After all, our lives are rapidly coming to an end. The question is: will yours be a glorious one?

 

letters on yellow tiles forming the end text

Unintended curriculum

The speaker shuffled his notes and feet uneasily. Impressionable young eyes stared back at him—some clouded with pain, others glowing with life.


He cleared his throat and told a “funny” story from his youth of a time he’d been intoxicated. The speaker went on to present a well-polished sermon. At the end of this youth meeting, a gray-haired woman waited patiently to address the speaker.

When her turn arrived, she gently questioned, “Were you trying to teach the kids that being drunk is fun?”

“No!” he snapped. “I was teaching from the Book of James.”

Shaking her head sadly, she sighed, “What about your opening? You had ‘em laughing intensely about being drunk.”

“That was just my opening illustration! It was meant to be funny. Didn’t you hear me qualify afterward that being drunk is a sin?”

“Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should hide the fact that you’ve been drunk before, but that story was merely intended to make the kids laugh. It made light of a serious issue in the lives of those learners.”

The true rarity in the story above is the woman’s wise, gentle rebuke. Thoughtlessness on the part of speakers is widespread and can be deadly. 

As a young student, leading the Bible club at my public high school, I read an article on unintended curriculum that confronted my attitude toward using my words. The article questioned, what do you teach without meaning to? What do you lead hearers to infer and what conclusions do they draw from your words? Our curriculum includes both our content and our attitude.

To avoid any unintended curriculum here, let me clarify. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share stories of past sin or present struggles. Growing to be wise and confident in self-disclosure is actually a mark of Christ-like maturity. However, always avoid speaking with an attitude that glorifies sin, sickness, or Satan. The shifty, shiny speaker in the story above neglected this for the sake of humor. As a result, his hearers were fed attitudes that may have led them into temptation and the very lap of evil. 

I have liberty to tell stories and to answer any sort of question. It’s a matter of what I say and how I say it. I often ask myself, “What will listeners hear and learn from what I speak out?” In group settings, I tell stories that lift up Jesus and speak truth clearly. In one-to-one conversations, I aim to communicate with a respectful spirit.

Afterward, I ask the Holy Spirit to convict me of any sin. He is faithful to do so. That’s part of His mission (Jn. 16:7-11). And I’m grateful for it. In fulfilling His mission, the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill our great commission. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for convicting and holding us accountable. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for sending Your Spirit in power. 

The Lord judges teachers more strictly, because our words hold the power of life and death for listeners (Jm. 3:1; Prov. 18:21). Oh, let us speak boldly and wisely. Whether an aged saint is present to confront us or not, every time we speak, let us do so with knowledge that we are held accountable for what we teach both intentionally and unintentionally.