Marked by the beast: Where Christ-less economics has led us, and what we can do about it.

Corporate Worship 2

 

I had no idea that someone could be so excited about describing a phone charger, but there she was, just beaming as she went along.

She glowed with pride and was as warm and friendly as can be while kindly and thoughtfully walking me through brief presentations on about a half dozen options in response to my request. What had begun with a simple, “Do y’all sell phone chargers?” had quickly – and quite unexpectedly – blossomed into something, well…beautiful.

I know it sounds like I’m pouring it on thick here, but, really and truly, from the beginning of my conversation with this particular gas station cashier, I was struck and knew that I was getting a glimpse at something very good, very important, very valuable, and, sadly, increasingly rare.

About thirty seconds into our conversation, the cashier explained that she and her husband had recently bought the gas station and that their whole family had just finished renovating it. When I then commented that the place looked really good (and it did – it was very clean and very well organized), she exuded gratitude to the point that I thought she just might explode with glee right then and there.

And while I sure didn’t want that to literally happen, it was still very cool to see, hear and briefly experience such enthusiasm and passion for work, in the best (and biblical) sense. This woman, her husband and their family were pursuing something special. They were doing something important, and, however much or little anyone else might be noticing, they were doing these things in a way that brought glory to God.

In doing so, they had brought order and beauty to…a gas station.

How cool is that?

It is very cool, and it is very cool first and foremost because it is utterly, completely, and beautifully biblical.

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Darkness as an Opportunity for Light

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While I do not know much in the way of detail where this delighted cashier’s or her beloved gas station’s stories are concerned (Buried in debt? Debt free? No idea.), I do know that what I was able to see and what she was able to share on that day was inspiring in the best sense because it conformed to the revealed will of God in the realms of business and work ethics.

The joy of work, the proper pride in attaining and maintaining the highest of standards, and the sharing of these things with the world with a spirit of happiness, gratitude, and thanksgiving – these are all beautiful biblical principles for life. These biblical principles are the necessary foundation for any enduring and truly good civilization. And it was these biblical principles that were on display.

Whether or not the happily hard working woman behind the cash register at that particular gas station on that particular day understood this to be so does not change the fact that it is so. Everything in God’s creation is subject to His truth and law as revealed in His Word…including you, me, the cashier at the gas station, and the gas station itself.

Insofar as things like “The American Dream” are built upon the foundation for economics, business, and work presented in Scripture, then that Dream will be a very good thing. It is just as true that insofar as The American Dream (or any other) rejects the Word in favor of the world, it will become anything but good and will inevitably devolve into The American Nightmare.

The point is that America, The American Dream, “a good work ethic”, or any other good sounding thing is incapable of serving as the point of origin or true foundation of economic pursuits. The only true foundation capable of producing persistent, pervasive economic blessing is the Word of God. When that Word is set aside as the source and authority in any ream of life, certainly including the economic, darkness inevitably comes. There is no amount of “good work ethic” or “American dreaming” that can compensate for rebellion against the Word of God when it comes to economics…and a state of long-term open rebellion against the most basic, clear biblical principles of economics is precisely where we find ourselves.

For generations now, we have been purposefully driven headlong down an increasingly dark path, though for the first stretch it seemed to stay sunny and sweet. While for decades the malignant rot was under the surface and vibrant illusions of prosperity enabled most to quite happily pretend to “see no evil” and enjoy the ride, that long winding road of willful delusion and indulgence has come to an end. We are now beginning to see straight in front of us the disconcerting truths that we chose to ignore so long as they stayed out there on the edge of our peripheral vision. We are now not only beginning to see the dragon standing in our path, we are also feeling the wheels come off of our self-serving ways under the weight of God’s unbreakable truth. Our “coasting time” is over and judgment has come.

This present reality can and should be both terrifying and exhilarating all at once. It should terrify those who even now unrepentantly cling to lives and worldviews built upon the lies at the foundation of our culture; yet, at the same time, it should exhilarate and excite those whose hope, world, and worldview are not built upon the ways of this world, but are instead rooted in the eternal perfection of Christ. The scores of social and economic crises that are now rolling like tsunamis over and through the cultural landscape represent incredible opportunity for those who are, by His grace, faithful to Him.

Even the phrase “rooted in the perfection of Christ”, while it might sound good to some, seems to be such a willfully avoided mystery in this culture. What does “rooted in Christ” even mean? What difference does such a root make, practically speaking? What is the application right here and right now?

These are some thoughts that the sweet little middle Tennessee gas station rekindled, and I will get into some detail as to the answers in a moment. But first I would like for those who are rooted in Him to savor the incredible opportunity that He has given us.

As a man in the prime of life with a loving wife, an adorable one-year-old daughter, and a second baby on the way, I marvel at the time and place in which our Lord has placed us.

We are truly living in historically convulsive and significant times, and yes, much of the convulsing has, at the moment, presented a very dark present state of affairs.

While once, long ago, this was a land in which Christians could work hard and have the reasonable expectation of certain blessings and benefits, we now see before our eyes – if we will simply open them and be honest – a land that has been fundamentally economically corrupted on many levels, each of which uniquely punish and persecute those who would most clearly proclaim fidelity to Christ in word and, more significantly, in deed.

Where once Christians assumed that self-proclaimed “the land of the free” would be just that, we now see with great clarity what “freedom” becomes when it is severed from the vital, detailed, life- (and freedom-) preserving truth of the Word of God as the final authority and ultimate standard for understanding true freedom. With every cracking American man-centered cultural cornerstone that crumbles under the weight of God’s judgment, we see with increasing clarity how ridiculous it is to even profess to understand, much less implement or defend, true freedom apart from subjugation to Scripture.

Where once hard work, determination, and the joyful pursuit of family, home, ad business building was not only attainable but encouraged by the culture at large, we now have endured multi-generational surrender of biblical truth to conquering secularism ever so often in the name of pragmatism and, where economics are concerned, in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Where once this culture was largely rooted in the notion that all things in this life – certainly including business and economics – must be first pursued to the glory of God, now the thought of placing the glory of God ahead of bottom-line financial gain or profit is flat out laughable…to Christians. So thoroughly has the Rush Limbaugh school of worldviews come to define professing evangelicals in America that most of them now in practice place their faith not in the Word as the guide to all things, including business and economics, but in “conservative values” and “principles” laced with sometimes Christian sounding lingo and platitudes, but utterly devoid of submission to the Word in the many areas in which it clearly corrects and condemns the “profit first; God’s glory later” spirit that has come to captivate us.

Now as we see the fruits of this rebellion rain down upon us, we are confronted with reality. Many realities, actually.

First and foremost, the overarching reality under which all others exist: God’s Word rules all of His creation.

It rules in every realm and at every time. It is unbreakable.

Secondly, we are now seeing and experiencing practical consequences that are painting a wildly different and infinitely more hostile environment for Christians in America than we would have ever imagined being possible just a generation ago.

Where once Christians were basically free and welcomed to work, compete, live, and build in America, now – right now – we are in a very different place.

Earlier this week The Washington Times published an article titled, In God we trust…but employers don’t; job-hunters hurt by admitting faith on resume. The piece chronicled the cost of “admitting one’s faith on a resume” in today’s American culture.

The article described the significant consequences of simply admitting one’s faith where employment opportunities in America are concerned. By simply identifying in any noticeable way as a Christian in America in 2014, one is negatively impacted in a significant manner where work prospects are concerned. Corporate culture in America has become overwhelmingly and overtly hostile to a Christian worldview, so it should come as no surprise whatsoever that actual professing Christians are now being openly persecuted and punished.

As just one example of this practically impactful conflict of worldviews, the great majority of large American corporations are all aboard the “gay rights” and “gay marriage” bandwagons. This much has been so well chronicled and should be so obvious at this point that to even argue against this contention would demonstrate such a fundamental disconnect from reality that rational, coherent contemplation of the issue would seem to be impossible. Put another way, if you don’t know that corporate America is mostly at war with Christ on the major fronts defining the culture war in which America currently burns, you are at this point either a literal moron or willfully blind.

So, with this reality of corporate America in mind, and with our eyes and minds open and engaged, why on earth (or anywhere else) would anyone be surprised that actual, professing Christians are being persecuted when it comes to their economic prospects and job opportunities? This should be one of the most obvious, no-brainer, non-surprising developments imaginable, yet…we are surprised.

We are surprised because we are in denial.

We are in denial because we have been inspired and led to believe that corporations, profits, economics, and business pursuits are somehow, some way, able to be separated from the nature of God as revealed in His Word without catastrophic consequences.

This willful self-delusion is most often enabled by our personal comfort. So long as we are doing okay, we tend not to notice (or at least notice less) the plight of those who are experiencing the inevitable consequences of an economic culture at war with God.

It is only natural that any thing “at war withy God” would actively seek to wage that war on His people, so it cannot be surprising that Christians are right now in America actively, persistently penalized in significant ways for their allegiance to Christ.

And remember: The “In God We Trust” article is just talking about folks being dismissed for “admitting their faith” in some general, vague sense.

If this is so for those who “admit” or identify their faith in some watery, relatively benign manner, then what of those who take clear, bold, biblical stands?

Fuhgeddaboutit.

D.O.A.

No chance.

Don’t call us…and we won’t call you.

That’s the present reality right here and right now in much of “the land of the free” and the self-proclaimed “Christian nation” of America.

And that, dear reader, is evil.

It is evil that impacts and will increasingly impact Christians in the most practical, every-day ways until and unless God graces this land with true repentance and reformation…beginning with His people, the Church.

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America’s Looming Mark of the Beast

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The economic realities for American Christians right now – particularly those without a strong financial base from which to live – are in a bad place and are rocketing from that point into a much darker direction. We are no longer mere decades away from disaster; the looming bleakness that has seemed to be “on the horizon” for so long is almost here. We used to be able to pretend and ignore, but now almost everyone feels it.

With masses of Americans, including its Christian population, actively driven to dependence by a combination of governmental/corporate systems and an apathetic, disengaged “Christian subculture”, the stage has been intricately set and well developed for the coming purposeful implosion of the culture and open, physical persecution of Christians.

Back in August, I posted an article titled A Mark of the Beast, which was aimed at addressing the concept of Christian persecution through economics as it relates to the well known and oft debated passage in Revelation 13. I recommend checking that post out to get a more detailed explanation of why it is that what we are seeing here in America right now is the purposeful, systematic embrace and implementation of a mark of the beast.

I do not use these phrases or invoke these passages lightly. I hate going there, actually, at least in the sense that I am weak and I would very much like to pretend like others that this just isn’t really happening. But it is, and not only would my pretending be destructive to my self, my family, and my culture, but, more importantly, it would be dishonoring to my Lord and would cheat me of the incredible opportunity to lean on Him fully so that I might, by His grace, do three vital things:

  1. Face reality. No denial. No pretend. No lies.
  2. Repent. No excuses. No delay. Seek to submit to Him, admit to my many past and present failings as He gives me light to see them, and actively, actually repent of those wrong views and actions.
  3. Stand in and for Him right here, right now, and on into the future that He has given me. In other words, act in accordance with His Word and seize the opportunity to do that supernaturally cool and powerful thing in this time of great tumult and challenge.

These three steps are essential, and they are impossible apart from Him. Without Christ, I am positive that I would deny, pretend, and apathetically laze along as much or more than anyone else…but with Him…with Him and through Him His people can and will face these realities, stand firmly on His Word, proclaim His name in deed, and conquer the enemy, “tearing down strongholds”, “making disciples of the nations”, and striving ever more toward “His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Now that is exciting!

That is cool!

And that is life-defining reality…for each and every one of His people.

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Biblical Work and Business Ethics

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In another cultural implosion chronicling piece posted at The Daily Caller on Thursday and entitled ‘Lost’ Emails Should Mean The End of IRS, one stands for danger, the other for opportunity.” Kennedy’s observation of this rather intriguing Chinese approach to the word and concept of crisis is presented in the context of the great danger that we are in as a result of the current IRS scandal(s). While the IRS issues are telling and important in many ways, they are merely symptoms of the sickness that is killing our culture before our eyes.

The root disease and sickness is not “liberalism” or “progressivism” or “Darwinism” or any of the other “isms” cited and hated by this or that group. The root cause of our present plunge into death spiral mode is sin – rebellion against the nature of God.

That’s the really bad news.

Now here’s the really, really good news:

We, as believers, have the one and only supernatural cure for this very sickness.

See? Once again, a reason for excitement and hope.

We have been given the supernatural Gospel of Christ, which calls men to repent, believe and be saved. We have been given the mission to take this supernatural cure for man’s born-dead condition to all nations so that, by God’s grace, men might be saved and then, for the first time ever, might desire and be able to truthfully pursue goodness, righteousness, and holiness in all things…including work, business, and economics.

With the supernatural Gospel of Christ as our weapon, there is no victory that is out of reach and no cultural nightmare scenario that is beyond repair. With this tool, and no other, we can, by God’s grace, see repentance, reformation, and restoration come to our land, and all others.

That is the power and mission that we have been given by Him in this hour…and once again I am compelled to say in light of this reality: How cool! How awesome!

While we are certainly to maintain an eternal perspective and not place  undue focus on the temporal, we are certainly and clearly called to actively apply and enjoy His word right here and now in ways that not only touch but actively shape each and every realm of life on this earth.

Do you love the thought of working hard and building something for your family? A business? A book store? A gas station, perhaps?

Do you love the thought of using your talents freely to the glory of God and, thereafter, the benefit of you, yours, and the greater culture as well?

Do you cherish the thought of your children being blessed with the opportunity to build upon what you have been blessed to build first here on earth to God’s glory and His people’s benefit?

These impulses and hopes are the natural expression of a coherent biblical worldview in the hearts and lives of Christians, and, believe it or not, we can again one day craft an environment in which these Christ-centered ideals are not only freed from persecution and suppression, but openly embraced and encouraged to take full flight throughout families, business, cultures and nations.

That is the fruit of the faithful proclamation and application of the supernatural Gospel of Christ, and that is the mission we have been given here and now.

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The Mission and Mark of Christ

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As I roll along toward completing the first draft of Fiat Slavery: The Economics of Hell, I have been astounded by the rank perversion of economics, business, and work that has come to define our culture. With the Word set aside in favor of worldly, man-centered “wisdom”, we have been purposefully, systematically led into a very real form of slavery that is about to turn the corner, right on schedule, into an overt tyranny the likes of which we can scarcely imagine. And yet, as I see these things with more clarity and aim to share them with others, the most important thing I have and hope to share is optimism.

I am optimistic, and all Christians ought to be optimistic, because our faith and our hope is rooted in Him.

Before you get the idea that you’ve just read another nice little toothless Christian platitude or mantra, my favorite part about this hope that is rooted in Him is that it actually has practical application right here and now and its application will supernaturally transform people, families, businesses, and cultures, right here and right now.

We are not to be exclusively about the business of whining or complaining or bemoaning…our corrections and criticisms are to be tethered to the Gospel – the loving command to repent and the supernatural cure for the disease of sinful rebellion. This is how light, life, and hope can and will, by God’s grace through His people, be brought to a land covered in darkness, death, and despair.

Much of the Fiat Slavery book will center on this beautiful hope and mission of ours, and it is in that spirit that I would like to touch on a handful of practical suggestions for applying the truth of the Gospel to our lives:

  1. Test all things in light of Scripture. We must each acknowledge that we have sinned, been deceived (often self-deceived), and bought into flagrantly unbiblical notions of great consequence – particularly where work, business, and economics are concerned. We must pray for a Spirit of repentance and submit to its leading. Our idols will not tolerate the light of Truth, and without the Spirit leading us to to that which is not only unnatural but utterly hostile to our flesh, we will never go there. So it is that we must pray that the Lord might grace us with the will to do that which we would never do in our flesh, and actively seek to submit every cherished thing – including our ideas of America, business, and even patriotism -to the perfect light of His Word.
  2. If you have a talent (and you do), strive to cultivate it in an explicitly God-honoring, Christ-centered manner and direction. If you draw, write, build, farm, knit, paint, or bake, strive to pursue and cultivate this talent in a manner that consciously strives to maintain a focus on the Lord and exalt His name and nature. This will inspire the pursuit of excellence as nothing else can. It will, at least in present day America, also inspire persecution as nothing else can, but even that is an honor and a blessing being purposefully used to mold you and glorify Him…and…with that said and that beautiful truth held firmly in hand, also remember that if and when the Lord moves His people in such a way that the culture is brought toward Him, your faithful obedience when times were darkest will serve as inspiration and encouragement to those fighting the good fight so that there might actually be a better place here for your children and grandchildren.
  3. Strive for personal independence of unbiblical systems. Complete independence of and separation from all unbiblical systems in which the present American culture has been purposefully ensnared may seem impossible, but, one Christ-centered step at a time, we must each strive to free ourselves of any and all unbiblical dependence and entanglements. For example, the forced redistribution of wealth and resources is the antithesis of Christian charity, and we ought to strive to free ourselves and encourage others in a direction that would see those systems abandoned to the point that they eventually die. Cultivating as many practical skills as possible is a positive way to approach this point. If we are each able to farm enough to feed ourselves, either as families or Church communities, we will have taken a great step towards biblical responsibility, proper adulthood and independence, and inoculated ourselves from many of the systems designed to ensnare those who have been purposefully “educated” to be ignorant and helpless when it comes to  feeding, clothing, and otherwise maintaining themselves. It is at least very reasonable to suppose that the single most feared thing by this present system is an independent, Christ-centered family…so let’s strive to build more of them, okay?
  4. If you have been blessed richly with resources, strive to use them in a biblically coherent manner. While subjects like boycotts of “evil” corporations or businesses can be touchy and hard to tackle in many ways, I would encourage each and every Christian to at least prayerfully examine and consider what they are doing (or not doing) now along the lines of investment and support of businesses, and then, wherever they are now, make the effort to move “one notch” in a more actively, clearly Christ-honoring direction. Two fine examples of overt corporate warfare on Christ that we’ve already touched on here are the perpetuation of the “gay agenda” and the economic persecution of openly professing Christians. Most of the most actively anti-Christian corporations are owned by stock holders, so, it is not much of a stretch to point out that we might want to at least consider whose war efforts we are financially supporting (and personally benefitting from) and whether we ought to continue to do so. Some positive approaches to this point would be to actively seek out not only Christian businesses to support, but also, for those who are able, Christian ministries and families. There are few things more impactful than a biblically rooted and blooming Christian family, and we ought to strive to do whatever we are able to both A) Cut off support from the numerous forces aiming to persecute and destroy such families, and B) actively support the growth and development of self-sufficient, biblically grounded, hard working Christian families and businesses.
  5. Strive for constant personal reformation. We should each be in the Word routinely, actively seeking to reform whatever our current understanding might be so that it might be ever more conformed to the perfect wisdom and nature of the Lord. This might sound like another platitude or hollow slogan, but it is in fact an essential component of the Christian life in practice. We have to “get over ourselves”, resist the ever present temptation to think we “have arrived”, and embrace the Semper Reformanda slogan of the reformation, not just as a slogan, but as a way of life. As we pursue this path and apply it to our understanding of work, business, and economics, we will flourish and prosper in ways that we cannot at present even begin to grasp.

I hope and pray that these suggestions are helpful and, as always, I encourage every reader to test anything said here in the perfect light of Scripture.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…”

If we actually do that loving, beautiful thing, every other good thing becomes possible right here and now…and until we do that loving, beautiful thing, nothing truly good and lasting will ever be possible here.

By the grace of God, great victories are just waiting to be won…if only we will have faith, believe in Him, and act.

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© 2014 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.

For more blog posts, book excerpts, and other (hopefully) cool things, head on over to www.FireBreathingChristians.com.

Thank you!

 

 

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