The Curse of Conformity

In 1983 I landed my first job in the computer industry. I applied for an open position, sent in my resume, endured a few interviews, and attended one final meeting.

In that meeting, my soon-to-be boss said, “I have chosen you for the position, but let me explain why:”

  • I didn’t choose you because of your education” (I had studied 17th Century European Intellectual History, not exactly Computer Science);
  • And I didn’t choose you because your grades were better” (when I say I “studied history” I don’t mean to imply I studied real hard);
  • And I didn’t choose you because of your great business experience” (three years of mission work didn’t qualify as a practical MBA).

His care for my self-esteem was underwhelming; I began to wonder if the job was really mine.

He continued, “I chose you because you answered my questions differently than I would have. I didn’t agree with every answer, but your answers gave me an outlook I hadn’t considered. I don’t need more people who think like me—I already think like me—I need people who offer different perspectives.” He concluded,

“The curse of the computer industry is conformity; never lose your non-conformity.”

Spiritual Judo

Hope for Our Suffering

I reached my fitness high water mark at the age of twenty-four. I ran thirty miles a week, sweated three hundred pushups a day, and I brawled each week in the local boxing club.

Spiritual Judo

Used with permission: www.judophotos.com

In the midst of my peak physical prowess (never mind its short duration), I met a man with a black belt in Judo. He was forty-ish, chubby, and he wheezed as he walked. I think his exercise routine consisted of lifting large bottles of beer rather than heavy barbells.

He was the first black belt of any kind I had ever met. He intrigued me. Could this chubby, middle-aged man really beat me in a friendly fight? The fool inside me challenged him to hand-to-hand combat.

Not since infancy have I spend so much time on the ground. The lawn and I became intimate allies. I huffed, puffed, wheezed, and groaned (and maybe cursed, but it’s still all a blur) as he repeatedly—and effortlessly—tossed me to the ground.

It didn’t matter what punch I threw. Each jab, hook, and uppercut finished with me staring at the sky, gasping for air, and wondering what had happened.

The Heart of Spiritual Warfare

Plato urges us: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” If you are breathing, you are under a spiritual assault. The question we face is not, “Are we under attack?” but, “What is the heart of the attack?” Let me tell a recent story of mine. See if you can recognize the field of battle for the spiritual warfare.

Uruk Hai r2

Two friends and I host a weekly podcast on various spiritual topics. Last Thursday we planned to discuss (I kid you not), How to Recognize Spiritual Assault in Our Lives. Schedule conflicts and illness had caused the cancellation of our two previous podcasts. We didn’t want to call off a third.

To complicate matters, one of my friends was still under the weather, the other was swamped with work, and I had a longstanding 6:00 pm dinner date with great, out-of-town friends. I planned to leave the dinner at 7:30 to make our 8:00 call.

That was the situation going in; this is the story that followed:

  • Late in the afternoon, my wife and I had a tense discussion. I missed much of my podcast planning time, leaving me irritated, distracted and unprepared.
  • Our dinner reservation was changed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, leaving me little time for conversation, and even less time for food.
  • The closest parking spot was half a dozen blocks from the restaurant, and I arrived five minutes late.
  • As I left the restaurant, a torrential downpour greeted me with open arms, and I splashed and waded the six blocks back to my car.
  • Three different traffic jams—three!—delayed me further. I arrived home with two minutes to spare, soaking wet and freezing.
  • I began the call in a frenzied, intense, and distracted state of mind.

Do you recognize the frontlines of the spiritual assault?

Should We Ever Wrestle with God?

In the movie The Princess Bride, the evil genius Vizzini repeatedly (and inappropriately) exclaims, “Inconceivable.” His partner Inigo Montoyo finally responds, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Like that criminal genius, Christians use religious jargon repeatedly and inappropriately. I often want to say, “I do not think it means what you think it means.

I struggle with the phrase, “wrestling with God.” arm_wrestlingChristians use it to describe an intentional long night of pleading with God for his help. The phrase refers to God wrestling with Jacob (Gen. 32:22-31), but we use it the wrong way; let’s “Stop saying that!”

I used to work in a ministry with a man who loved the phrase. If the finances were low, he’d demand an evening bout of wrestling with God. When members failed to follow his messages, he’d insist on an upper room experience of battling with God.

My friend used the phrase as though we needed to get God’s attention, as though we needed to place a shot across God’s bow. We’d argue with God, make our pitch, and try to persuade him of our plans. Maybe we’d fast.

It reminded me of the priests of Baal as they cut themselves on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). I wish I’d said to my friend, “I do not think it means what you think it means.

Our phrase may seem noble or heroic to us, but an African American preacher understood God better when he preached, “Your arm’s too short to box with God!”

The Cyber-Nature of Spiritual Attacks

My brother-in-law Dan Lohrmann is the State of Michigan’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Deputy Directory for Cybersecurity. His job is to protect the state from attack.*

What does this mean? Every day the State of Michigan experiences five-hundred thousand cyber-attacks. cyber-attackThat’s right, half a million attacks every day of the year, or about three-hundred and fifty attacks every minute.

It’s been attacked eighty-three times since you began to read this article.

These attacks encompass simple spam to browser-based, infiltration assaults. Their nature varies from planting a tiny virus on a laptop, to flooding servers with requests (and so grinding them to a halt), to cyber-theft of priceless, electronic information.

Every attack tries to infect the way computers think. From the cheapest laptop to the most sophisticated server, the attacks try to alter how the computers process and therefore how the computers operate.

And that’s exactly what spiritual attacks do to us.

Should We Ever Wrestle With God?

In The Princess Bride, the criminal genius Vizzini repeatedly and inappropriately exclaims, “Inconceivable.” His partner Inigo Montoyo finally reflects, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Like that criminal genius, Christians use religious jargon repeatedly and inappropriately. Sometimes I want to respond, “I do not think it means what you think it means.

I struggle with the phrase, “wrestling with God.” Christians use it to arm_wrestlingdescribe an intentional long night of interceding with God. The phrase refers to Jacob wrestling with God (Gen. 32:22-31). We use it the wrong way; I want to reply, “Stop saying that!”

I used to work in a ministry with a man who loved the phrase. If the finances were low, he’d demand an evening bout of wrestling with God. When the congregation failed to follow the message, he’d insist on an upper room experience battling with God.

My friend used the phrase as though we needed to get God’s attention, as though we needed to place a shot over God’s bow. We’d argue with God, make our pitch, and try to persuade him of our plans. Maybe we’d fast or lie prostrate.

It reminded me of the priests of Baal as they cut themselves on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). I wish I’d said to my friend, “I do not think it means what you think it means.

It may sound noble or heroic, but an African American preacher understood it better when he preached, “Your arm’s too short to box with God!”

Where Is The Battlefield in Spiritual Warfare?

I love having a new laptop but I hate getting a new laptop. It takes me a couple days to transfer my old data, reinstall the applications, and setup my preferences. It’s a hassle.

Three weeks ago I bought a new laptop. Over the next several days I transferred data, installed the apps, and set it up the way I like it. It was a pain.

Ten days ago, I began work on this Spiritual Warfare article. A day later my new laptop crashed. Argh!!!! I tried to breathe life into it and failed. So I wiped the computer clean, reinstalled the operating system, and started all over again. It was a major pain.

I shared my story with a friend. He thought that my laptop crash was probably due to spiritual warfare, and that I should pray against spirits that affect technology.

I thought I had been lazy.