Here’s a “What If” for You!

I’ve been on a quest for many years to understand why some people believe in God and others do not; it has been an interesting journey. And it has caused me to examine my beliefs and the various beliefs of others.
One understanding I finally arrived at a few years ago was this: 

Most of our decisions about “faith” are based on emotions more than reason.

Of course, that’s offensive to many folks, both believers and unbelievers. All of us want to have really sound reasons why we believe what we believe. But I’ve examined those who reason FOR faith in God, and those who reason for LACK of faith in God, and found that really smart people with very clever ideas can be found in BOTH camps. What seems to sway a person is personal experience(s) that ignite certain emotions.

That’s not to say that reason is unimportant; I think it is most important. It’s just that most of us operate on an emotional plane more than an intellectual one. We tend to want to see the world as we’d like to see it, no matter the facts. Virtually no one is exempt from this. And to save face we assemble facts around our beliefs to substantiate our position. Religious people do this, and non-religious people do this.

So, it’s not about intelligence; there’s plenty of that on both sides of the argument. What would hamper an honest inquirer in his/her quest to decide about faith in a Deity? I mean, besides an experience that alienates someone, angers or repels them in their pursuit of the truth . . . what is there to sway them?

Well, here’s a “what if.” What if the Biblical notion of mankind’s rebellion against God (think Adam and Eve in the garden here) is really true. That there is a temper (think of a snake if that helps you) who enticed us from the beginning to establish OUR OWN authority in opposition to The Creator’s authority. That each of us is driven by the underlying compulsion to be in charge and live as we want to live with only the boundaries we set for ourselves, i.e. to be our own god?

What if the honest inquirer is hampered in his/her pursuit of faith by an innate nature of dis – honesty?

And in our rebellion we seek to justify ourselves and disprove the very thing we say we are seeking to discover. Is there a proverbial Trojan Horse inside of each man and woman that derails us in our decisions about faith? And if so, how could ANYONE ever come to faith in God and submit to His authority? What would prompt such an unnatural decision?

Desperation? Twelve-steppers would say it is learning to live “life on life’s terms,” I suppose. What is it that softens a person’s heart and makes them willing to submit, yield, and surrender to a Higher Power? For if this underlying problem is IN US ALL . . . why we would ANYONE ever relinquish control and give up control of his/her individual kingdom of self?

When life is not working out as we’d hoped, when all is in shambles, when tragedy and disaster have left us undone, when we find ourselves powerless over an addiction, when our most valued relationships are broken, when we are at the end of our rope . . . namely, when our reasons to live life as if we were our own god have produced doubts and fears heretofore exceeding our experience . . . we become emotionally and intellectually malleable.

If this is true we should EXPECT great resistance to Christian faith, shouldn’t we?

Ancient Christian writings clearly state REASONS and/or provide FAITH STORIES intended to produce faith in the reader (e.g. John 20:30-31). But what of the emotional . . . or dare I say innate “spiritual” resistance encountered in the reader or hearer? The Apostle Paul mentions that some are “dull” to Christian truth, (2 Corinthians 3:14-16); still others have been “blinded,” not by their own decision, but from another source, i.e. “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So, this is not a modern phenomenon.

In light of, and in spite of this Paul says, ” . . . we do not lose heart . . . we refuse to use deception . . . we refuse to distort our message . . . and we persist in commending ourselves to every man’s conscience . . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). Further, we find our new identity, i.e. we are “ambassadors” of “reconciliation” to the world, carrying the message of grace (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), and no longer regarding anyone from a “worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). That is, we learn to see the “spirit” of an individual man or woman, that central part that exists underneath the physical. And we are not put off by the ostensible resistance to faith that may parade around as intellectual enlightenment.

Whether those outside the faith are aware of it or not . . . WE are keenly aware there is a spiritual battle raging in the cosmos (Ephesians 6:10-12), and each individual has a target on his or her back. So, we expect to encounter resistance in our efforts. As Jude said in the long ago:

“Be merciful to those who doubt”

Jude 22

As I have often stated, it is not time for Christians to draw lines in the sand so much as it is time to reopen an honest dialogue with unbelievers; we must, however, realize deep in our hearts that the battle we wage is not ALL wrapped up in the cogency of our apologetics; rather, it is to come face to face with the innate spiritual rebellion that exists in every person who has breath.

So . . . we reason (yes), but we also pray, and we show understanding and mercy in the presence of unbelief. For we do not know what will disarm and render malleable the spirit of a man or woman. God must reach the heart before the mind embraces the truth.

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Good Vibes

When the Beach Boys released “Good Vibrations” in October 1966 after over 90 hours of recording time, work in multiple studios, the use of innovative sounds, and costing over $50,000 to produce, the result was a super pop hit that still ranks today as one of the greatest of the greats.

Brian Wilson’s mother is credited with teaching her son the notion that some people give off BAD vibes, and from that idea Brian and his co-writer, Mike Love, produced a love song that assumes people can also give off GOOD vibes, i.e. good vibrations.

It is said that the earth vibrates at a rate of 7.83 Hz, and standing human beings at a rate of 7.5 HZ. The “hum” (some call it “heartbeat”) of the earth is close to the musical note B, two octaves below the lowest note on a piano. The Schumann scale (the earth’s electromagnetic scale) is an arpeggio made up of two four note chords (B13 and Cdim7) spanning two octaves B, A, D#, G#, then C, D#, F#, and B. Scientists say that all of matter is vibrating energy, atoms made up of vibrating particles.

All of this quickly goes way beyond my ability to comprehend it, but I find it fascinating, don’t you?

Human anger produces a high level of vibrations it is said, and this can have detrimental effects. Just as an earthquake exhibits an increase in vibrations in the earth, negative emotions can produce “bad” vibrations in humans. But all this has gotten me to thinking about the prevalence of an oft repeated request that people make when they are in a distressing situation: “Send good vibes!”

And it makes me wonder if good vibes can be sent from a distance, or are they limited to words of encouragement to be read, or physical proximity to someone with whom you can either share a hug, or make eye contact? For some, prayer is another name for good vibes? Or is it?

This talk of VIBRATIONS reminds me of the following citations from ancient times:

“At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'” (Hebrews 12:26 NIV referring to Exodus 19:18)

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10 NIV)

“. . . the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29b NIV)

“When he (God) is angry, the earth trembles . . . .” (Jeremiah 10:10 NIV)

“The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the desert of Kadesh.” (Psalm 29:8 NIV)

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2 NIV)

It is not readily noticeable here, but the Hebrew word translated “hovering” is a word that sometimes implies a tremulous hovering or a quivering (like an eagle stirring up its nest as it hovers over its young, as in Deuteronomy 32:11). Present even at creation.

According to scientists the whole universe vibrates. And it is interesting that even those who are not convinced there is a Supreme Being often ascribe divine-like qualities to THE UNIVERSE. It is very much like the western concept of karma: it rewards and punishes based upon an individual’s actions. When one is in concert with the universe, good things happen for them; when they are not in concert with the universe, bad things happen.

It seems to me that what many nonbelievers have chosen to do is embrace an impersonal god (the Universe), rather than a personal God. They serve your purposes in a similar way: they both reward and punish, thereby affirming the existence of good and evil. But the Universe doesn’t require you to believe in anything, or trust in anyone, and it doesn’t require you to explain very much about the reason for pain and suffering, (i.e. its origin), or any of the alleged fantastical claims of Christianity (e.g. the resurrection).

I find it to be a neat, tidy, and convenient way to function in this world, giving credence to the latest scientific discoveries while simultaneously holding to the appearance of a quasi-spiritual, enlightened persona.

Am I giving off a bad vibe here? I do not mean to do so. But I am concerned that we might be ignoring THE SOURCE of all vibrations, THE ONE who set all this vibration in motion, and WHO will one day bring it all to an END.

When I started this blog in April 2013, ten years ago, I wrote about the concept of “Aweism,” i.e. the notion that one can enjoy and be awed by the universe without having to establish how it came into existence (see In my opinion that is an easy out; we don’t seem to embrace that approach with much of anything else we attempt to understand in the universe. No, we tend to pursue, learn, experiment, and test until we arrive at a satisfactory explanation that deals with all the information at hand.

But for some reason . . . when it comes to the forces behind our current understanding of cosmology . . . we do not even consider a Creator; that approach is anathema. And anyone who suggests it is uninformed and hates science. Some physicists even claim they can show how something can come from nothing in the beginning of the universe. Good luck with that! Every logical explanation begins with some substance, no matter how crude.

Maybe the truth is that as believers we have not done a good enough job translating the Christian message in words with which nonbelievers can identify. We have been drawing lines in the proverbial sand (politically, socially, even scientifically) that don’t need to be there. And the religious sand castles we have labored to protect have gotten washed away by the ocean waves of new evidence, and rightly so.

How about an honest dialogue with the world? It can’t hurt. Now it won’t cause everyone to turn into a believer, but for some it will be the door they’ve been hoping would open a bit wider; maybe there’s a way for honest inquirers to be educated and have faith at the same time. You think so?

So what about the vibrations? It seems that our universe HUMS and VIBRATES, and everything in it does, too. It must have been made that way, huh? My quest is to hum a good tune until such a time as the One who first started the tune brings it to its finale.

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The Bible: Is it History, or Parable?

When I was a young boy growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee I had a favorite place to go by myself. It was in back of the Marks’s house just a block away from our house; it was a seemingly secluded, wooded area. And when I went there I enjoyed the feeling of being on an unpredictable adventure; the possibilities were endless. The woods were level in some places with hardwoods like oak, etc., then I could climb a small hill and enter a whole field of pines that reminded me of small Christmas trees.

Always enamored with all things “American Civil War” I found large holes dug into the ground that I assumed were foxholes almost a century old; in truth, I have no idea what they really were, but they intrigued me to no end. At times I was afraid in the woods, and other times it was my personal haven. If you go there today you will see nothing there but house after house; the area is totally built up and inhabited as if there was never any wilderness at all.

A friend wrote me the other day, and asked that I write about the topic titled above. He posed the question: “Is the Bible a history book, or a collection of parables? If a person believes it is historical fact they would need to reconcile countless anomalies throughout the Bible.”

What a great question! And, of course, it is one that has been asked generation after generation for centuries. Will I finally provide the definitive answer in this blog, an answer that will once and for all settle the query for all time?

Nope! But I do hope to present a viable point of view that will at least make sense to the honest inquirer.

You don’t have to be Biblical scholar to know that the writings commonly referred to as “the Bible” (lit. the BOOK) are a collection of documents from different authors, in different time periods, with different agendas, different literary styles, and different languages. It is a beautiful thing to hold such a handy volume in our hands, translated into a language we can read, isn’t it? But make no mistake, you may recognize the words you are reading, but you may, in fact, have no idea of the context, the writer’s purpose, or the literary style being employed.

And lacking those things . . . you may not understand the writings at all! The onus is on the modern reader, as it has been in every generation; there is no escape, no easy way to grasp the meanings. Even if you believe it to be “from God” you do not escape the question, “How do I understand what I’m reading?”

Simply put, the Bible is made up of a potpourri of ancient documents that were scrutinized by the Hebrews, and then by the early Christians, voted “in” or “out” of the canon according to the belief in their authenticity, and then interpreted in about as many ways as you can imagine. Some saw literal meanings, some saw symbolism, some saw parable, some saw mysticism.

Is there a correct way to interpret Scripture? Yes, indeed there is! You evaluate each writing based on linguistic, stylistic, contextual and occasional facts. Wow! That demands a great deal. Yes, it does. And thankfully, part of the job has been done by scholars who dug into these things and then attempted to put what they learned into words you could understand. But that is only part of the solution.

As has been pointed out ad nauseam, the English words to “Ring Around the Rosie” are easy to define by virtually ANY student of English. But to truly understand what the words really refer to requires a good bit more information, doesn’t it? Thus it is with the Bible writings.

I’ve often thought we would do well to separate the 66 accepted books of the Bible into individual volumes to help us stop trying to constantly harmonize the ideas in them, and see them as stand-alone works in their own right. Then having done that, we might find certain harmonies between them, or threads that run through them.

For instance, the two distinct creation stories in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-7. Were they from two different sources? We will never know, but I’d say it’s a very likely. Clearly, the compiler(s) had no problem putting the stories side by side; it was certainly no accident that was overlooked. As with many stories about crucial events there are various tales that circulate. Were these stories meant to be literal? Personally, I doubt it. But far more important than whether it is literal or not is the truth it presents. The concept of “light” existing before the sun and moon were created (Genesis 1:3-5) has been affirmed by physicists for years, but appears as a contradiction on the surface. But does that even matter?

The stark contrast between the Hebrew creation stories and other ancient cosmogonies is noteworthy. But nowhere is there any indication that the stories in Genesis purport to be scientific (in an age before science); they can, however, be true even if they are not literal.

“A truth is not governed by literality.”

Ivan Benson

The first eleven chapters of Genesis attempt to tell the reader how things got to be the way they are. They are unparalleled in that regard in the ancient world.

If each writing in the Bible is viewed in its own right we find obvious symbolism being promoted in Revelation, erotic poetry in Song of Solomon, epistolary style in the letters of Paul, songs of hyperbole in the Psalms, historical narratives in 1&2 Samuel, Jesus stories in the gospels, personal correspondence in Philemon, diatribes in the Gospel of John, actual parables in the Synoptic Gospels, cosmoganies and stories of origin in Genesis, prophetic visions in Ezekiel, etc.

So, is the Bible history, or parable? YES! It is ALL of that and more. And it behooves the reader to decide which. That doesn’t mean that whatever each person decides is correct, however. But it does set the bar a bit high. Such is the challenge of understanding ancient documents.

Here is the bottom line. The body of ancient documents we refer to as “the Bible” exists. It is by far the most studied, examined, scrutinized and opinion-eliciting writing of all time. It is not going away. Its longevity and historical corroboration as well as its attestation by unsympathetic ancient authors makes it the most important collection of ancient documents for all time.

Understanding it may not be easy. But nothing worthwhile is.

You see, the Bible is a lot like the woods behind the Marks’s house in Chattanooga. A variety of terrains, a variety of flora; areas of mystery and intrigue, and some areas that seem quite straightforward and obvious. And like the woods of my childhood, many have built upon that site in such a way that what was once truly there is obfuscated and rendered unintelligible by modern thought. You might never guess what it once meant! Unless you continue to dig deeper.

And that’s the significance of this question, and the answer you give to it.

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Demolition Prayer

I shall never forget the summer visit in Chattanooga when my cousin John and I literally demolished a wooden go kart in his basement.

It had injured me first; I lost control of it going down the steep road in front of John’s house, hitting loose gravel at the bottom of the hill where another street intersected, spinning out of control (all we had to steer it was a rope) and skidding, leg skin first, before coming to a complete painful stop.

I won’t describe the wounds, but . . . they oozed for days.

John’s parents reacted by forbidding us to ride the go kart down that hill ever again . And we didn’t! We simply moved to the steep hill in back of his house (as you may recall it was not explicitly forbidden). Of course, I was in no condition to ride the deadly go kart anymore, and would have chosen not to anyway, but I shouted words of encouragement to John as he rode it. Then . . . the unthinkable (but likely) thing happened: he lost control, spun out onto gravel on that street, and ended up with pieces of rock in his hand along with two badly scraped legs. It was a sad day indeed.

But then . . . his parents issued the decree: “Destroy that horrible, dangerous go kart!”

So, we did!

We demolished it! We hung it up, suspended from the ceiling, and like a piñata we beat the daylights out of it with 2x4s. It was FUN! We both had reason to hate the go kart, of course; it had been responsible for personal injury to us both. So, it deserved to die. And the parental directive to destroy it was the proverbial “icing” of permission “on the cake.”

Just days ago I was reading 2 Corinthians with my wife when an often read passage struck me, and intrigued me.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NIV

In context, Paul is defending himself against his opponents in Corinth, reminding the church members there that his authority comes from Jesus himself, and his ostensibly “meek,” “gentle,” and “timid” demeanor (see 10:1) has a corresponding BOLD side as well (see 10:2). It is in this context that he informs them about the nature of the “weapons” he fights with (see 10:3-4); they are mighty.

These “weapons” (Greek όπλα) have “divine power to destroy strongholds.” These strongholds (a word used of castle fortifications, prisons, etc.) in Corinth seem to have to do with the arguments and thoughts of Paul’s opponents. Is this divine power to demolish available only to Paul?

It is common in religious circles to use verses out of context, and to extrapolate from them lessons that are both inspiring to the adherent as well as challenging. I don’t want to make that mistake here. For it is quite possible that Paul is describing access to a divine power that only he and a few others possessed in the 1st century A.D. So, maybe Christians in general did not, and do not, “wage war” in the same way as Paul.

But it is noteworthy that the word translated “weapons” here is sometimes translated “tools” (in ancient Greek as well as in Romans 6:13), and is even equated with “armor” in several ancient sources. It’s use to depict “weapons” in a symbolic sense is common (2 Cor. 6:7; Romans 13:12); Peter uses the verb form of the word to encourage Christians to “arm” themselves in preparation for their battle with suffering (1 Pet. 4:1). And interestingly enough, the word is sometimes used in contrast to the words “in the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:2-4 where NIV translates it as “(in/as) the world”; 1 Pet. 4:1-2 where NIV says “the body” and “human desires”).

The upshot of all this is that whether or not Paul (in 2 Cor. 10) is describing a power he alone has access to or not, the clear message from Paul himself (in other contexts), as well as other Christian writers in the 1st century, is that believers have access to divine power. For instance:

  • Ephesians 1:19-21 “. . . his incomparably great power for us who believe . . . which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead . . . “
  • Ephesians 6:10-18 “. . . be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power . . . so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes . . . that you may be able to stand your ground . . . you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
  • Colossians 1:11 “. . . being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience . . .”
  • 1 Peter 4:11; 5:10 “. . . with the strength God provides . . . will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast . . .”
  • 2 Peter 1:3 “. . . his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness . . .”

If you are a follower of Jesus you have access to the power to do demolition work. That might take various forms. It could be that the demolition work you do is with prayer. Strongholds and prisons abound. And lest I be guilty of the kind of religious extrapolation I bemoaned earlier, let me hasten to remind us that if the power of God is not up to the task of demolishing the strongholds of addiction, social injustice, the prevalence of modern day depression and the like, then it is not the divine power I read about in the New Testament.

Are your prayers just wishful thinking? Often, mine are. I regularly slip into the canyon of disbelief, and I question even the power of a God who could raise someone from the dead. Sound unbelievable? It’s true.

When you pray for your loved ones (as I have most recently in the stillbirth of my grandson this past Sept.) and their emotional/spiritual peace or relief, do you do so recognizing that the weapon you are wielding is one spirited by divine power? When you pray for government officials or those in pivotal political positions (as Christians are asked to do), do you do so recognizing that the power you are accessing is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead?

If you’re like me, you are reluctant to trust that that kind of power is available to you. You do not pray boldly; you pray timidly. You do not demolish anything; rather, you simply wish it would change on its own so you could be glad.

I want to start praying regularly with the knowledge that I have resurrection power in my hands. Not my power, mind you! But power I can access.

I want to grow in such a way that my prayers demolish the strongholds, the prisons in people’s lives (including my own), and that I become accustomed to beating the daylights out of the devil’s piñata. All with the divine power of God. I have had enough with my agnostic prayers, my wishful thinking, and my hopeful (but doubtful) demeanor.

What about you? Ready to truly wage war? Because you are either in the battle WITHOUT A WEAPON . . . or in the battle ARMED TO THE TEETH.

Bring me a go kart.

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The Zombie Apocalypse: Is it Real?

Guess what? The Zombie Apocalypse IS REAL!

No, no, no! Not The Walking Dead kind of zombie apocalypse! Of course not!

But one that is just as striking, just as sensational, just as mind blowing. Yet real. And by the way . . . this one is one you WANT to be a part of; it’s not to be avoided.

But first, let me ask you a question. How effective would your pastor’s sermon be next Sunday if he were to say this:

“I want each of you to stand, then make your way to the front of the auditorium, and one by one … each of you is going to die, today! Now who wants to be first?”

a Pastor’s Last sermon

I suspect if you are not frozen in your seat in total dismay you might be exiting the building just as fast as you can. And if you have an operations team where someone is armed with some kind of weapon to stop would-be intruders, you’re probably be hoping a shot will ring out; or at the very least that someone(s) will tackle that minister before anyone is harmed. Right?

But if that preacher were Jesus himself . . . would that make it different for you?

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25 NIV

Yeah, yeah, metaphor and all that. But when you look more closely the realism begins to emerge. For example, when Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Then he adds more substance (Romans 6:6-7) when he says, ” . . . our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

In addition, he states (Colossians 3:3), “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Sometimes our tendency to think concretely occludes the gravity of the reality that metaphor is attempting to illuminate.

Complete life change is a thread runs throughout the New Testament writings. And it is commonly referred to as (you guessed it) . . . DEATH. The invitation is to come and die: die to self, die to sin, die to the law, etc. But what is most interesting to me is this: if you are dead no one can take from you the most precious and priceless thing you possess, namely, your life.

Think of it, if you will! Financial ruin is meaningless to someone who has died. The loss of possessions has absolutely no effect on the dead. Political outcomes are moot. Health issues are totally unimportant. Familial and relational struggles, all important at one time perhaps, are of no concern. Social status, global economy, pandemics, wars, intellectual debates, scientific discoveries, even simply “putting food on the” proverbial “table” no longer has any significance to the dead.

Maybe that’s why Paul would say, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

What caused the early Christians to gladly go to martyrdom? Was it not the fundamental understanding that (as Jesus put it) there is no need to “fear” those who “kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4)? Yet deeper still is the fundamental spiritual understanding that anyone who is “in Christ” is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and “fixing our eyes on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18), we are able to confidently engage this world, without fear, without hesitation, and with a measure of strength that is humanly impossible. We do, in fact, carry “the message of reconciliation” on behalf of The Creator himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). And that “ain’t no small thang“!

So, the question is not whether or not there is, or will be, a zombie apocalypse; the question is whether or not you ARE, or WILL BE, a part of it! For almost 2,000 years now dead persons have been walking around in the world, proudly wearing the name of Jesus the Christ, motioning with bony fingers and the skeletal remains of their former life, calling out to others with the voices of disembodied spirits:

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

revelation 22:17
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I’ll never forget Gene Brown’s sermon on Job, preached on a Sunday morning in Cheap Hill, TN about 30 years ago. He ended it with a question I had never considered before. He said:

“Have you ever thought that God and Satan might have had a discussion about YOU?”

Gene Brown

Frankly, I never had. My life had not been filled with tragedy, at least not in as large a proportion as Job. And being in my 30s at the time, with a lovely wife and two lovely daughters, the biggest struggles I had faced were insufficient employment and the loss of a pet. My parents and my brother were still both living, and I was in very good health. I know I had struggles which seemed large to me, but . . . I’d never imagined anything truly catastrophic.

In the history of the world there have been many disasters: volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, genocide, diseases and plagues, etc. Our own recent battle with COVID-19 has once again reminded us of the devastation possible in this world. But when the disaster hits close to home, hits your family, your loved ones . . . the experience becomes most real.

This was made crushingly clear to me just days ago when my oldest daughter gave birth to a 8 lbs., 4 oz. stillborn little boy, who lost his life mid-morning the previous day, the cause undetermined. Words cannot convey the horror, the disappointment, the devastation and apparent pointlessness of this event. This will never make the history books of the world, but . . . it will indeed be an important chapter in the history book of our family. For generations.

Just before Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray, be betrayed, tried and crucified, he met with his disciples for one last dinner together (Luke 22). Part way through the meal, after instructing them about true “greatness” he said to Simon Peter and them all:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31 NIV

It is clear from the original language that the “you” to be sifted by Satan is plural (meaning all the disciples), but it is equally clear that Peter had a unique and individual role to play with regard to his “brothers.” The word picture Jesus uses is unmistakable. Sifting.

We’re not so familiar with sifting nowadays; we generally prefer to buy things pre-sifted. Ancient people were no different; when it came to the metaphoric “sifting” of Satan they preferred pre-sifting as well. They would much rather be handed the benefit of an experience than go through the threshing experience themselves. Because separating spiritual grain and chaff is as painful as it gets. And it prompts me to ask Gene’s old question with a New Testament twist:

“Do you think Satan has ever asked to sift you like wheat?”

My heart attack six years ago was probably the most “sifting” experience of my life, but . . . there are a string of others I could recount. I’m sure you have many, too. Deaths, disappointments, health concerns, financial setbacks, consequences of poor decisions, etc. Some of these we bring on ourselves; others seem to come from a source outside ourselves, as was the case of the loss of our grandson days ago, the loss of my daughter’s long-awaited natural born son.

Innate within the human spirit is the desire, even the compulsion, to make “sense” of this world in which we live (Ecclesiastes 8:17). We don’t have to try to do this, it just happens automatically. And when we achieve a modicum of sensibleness in a given tragedy we may remain devastated beyond words, but on another level we begin to approach a sense of peace, and acceptance.

On the other hand, when there is no sensibleness to be found, no righting of any wrongs, no rhyme or reason, no apparent purpose, no shrouded shred of justice or benefit to anyone . . . our perplexity meanders from denial, to anger, to sobbing, to bargaining, to . . . the gamut of emotions. Solomon said, “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Is this what Job felt? Loss of property, loss of family, loss of health, etc.

Nevertheless, as Job said in the midst of his anguish:

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”

Job 19:25-26 NIV

Or as a variant translation reads: “I know that my Defender lives, and that in the end he will stand upon my grave. And after I awake, though this body has been destroyed, then apart from my flesh I will see God.”

What concerns most of us is the here and now. And sometimes the here and now is brutally painful and confusing. What seemed to concern Job was both the “here and now” AND “the end.”

The full picture.



Observable in its Entirety.

Signed by The Author in the bottom right hand corner.

Where it may all finally make sense.

“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”

fyodor dostoevsky, the brothers karamazov

Or, to put in the succinct words attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien: “The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that one day everything sad will come untrue.”

I am longing for that framed picture. Autographed. In the meantime . . . there may be some sifting.

Knowledge will only take you so far in the face of tragedy; wisdom may aid you somewhat in the long journey out of grief. Comfort from others may serve as a salve of sorts, and distraction can sometimes give a temporary reprieve. But in the end nothing can take the deep pain away; you must come to terms with it, carry it, and embrace it until it becomes a part of your story as indispensable as your moments of greatest joy.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”

Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

As Job responded to his frustrated wife: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) Nevertheless, there will come a day when death, mourning, tears and pain will all be in the past (Revelation 21:4), because the One on the throne says, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5).

In that moment, with the sounds of the river of life in our ears (Revelation 22:1), and the sight of the tree of life bearing fruit beside it (Revelation 22:2) . . . we will “see His face” (Revelation 22:4). And that . . . will be enough.

I am longing for that day. No amount of sifting can rob me of that joyful reunion.

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The Cloud

I don’t know very much about the internet. I mean, I know it’s called a “super highway” and I can look up a variety of things on it, but . . . I don’t understand it, not really. So the idea of my writings, correspondence, and pictures being stored in “the cloud” . . . well, let’s just say it seems a bit like the proverbial “pie in the sky” to me.

Nevertheless, the notion that emerges from the expression “the cloud” intrigues me to no end. And it got me to thinking this past weekend about clouds. I was a child of the 1950s, so cloud songs from the 1960s pop into my head automatically: Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” comes to mind, but she concludes clouds are just illusions. Simon and Garfunkel sang about clouds, but they concluded they’re like a metaphor for the confusion of life. And the Rolling Stones? Well, they just wanted me to “get off of” their cloud. So, these songs (which are among a host of others) aren’t really helpful to me.

If you want to study something intriguing ask yourself why the Creator of the Universe chose for a time to show His Presence to ancient Israel in the form of a cloud (Exodus 13:21), why He rides on clouds (Isaiah 19:1; Psalm 104:3), and the significance of his return to earth with clouds (Luke 21:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”

Revelation 1:7a NIV

Clouds can be quite arresting, can’t they? Ten years ago this month my mother died. And we remarked at the time that the beauty of the clouds in Georgia during that time was astounding. The shapes, the lighting, the shades and contrasting textures were almost intoxicating. And I felt the same way this past weekend; the clouds were absolutely amazing.

I am not certain what The Cloud that guided the Israelites looked like. but I suspect the “smoke” that filled the temple Isaiah was in when he was commissioned was just like it (Isaiah 6:4). It seemed to be instrumental in creating the “holy” atmosphere he experienced that day.

I won’t begin to explain all the details I was thinking about this past Saturday as I traversed a portion of Georgia alone in my car. Let it suffice to say I had an encounter of my own with God that evening; it was an encounter ushered in by clouds of great majesty and beauty. And immediately my mind went to the 12th chapter of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . consider him . . . endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons . . . therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”

Hebrews 12:1-2A, 3A, 7A, 12A

The clouds (Ancient Greek, νέφος) in the sky, and the cloud of witnesses reminded me not only of the heroes of Hebrews 11 that precede these verses, but also the cloud of witnesses in my own family, many of whom have already departed and received their reward: both my parents, and my wife’s parents (and many other friends and family). We have often asked the question about these loved ones in our home, “What do they see, what do they know? Do they know how I’m doing, or what I’m struggling with?”

But until I remembered these verses, prompted by the presence of such astoundingly beautiful clouds in the sky this past Saturday, I had no definitive answer. Now . . . I think I do.

If the writer of Hebrews is encouraging me to take courage from the Abels, Enochs, Noahs, Abrahams, Isaacs, Jacobs, Josephs, Moses’s, Rahabs, Gideons, Baraks, Samsons, Jephthahs, Davids, Samuels and others who have gone on before me . . . the 2022 updated list would also include many many loved ones since that time, wouldn’t it? Certainly it would!

The Judds sang a song that came to me as we discussed this last Saturday night. Some of the lyrics are:

“A hundred year old photograph stares out from a frame, and if you look real close you’ll see our eyes are just the same . . . their my guardian angels and I know they can see every step I take, they are watching over me. I might not know where I’m goin’ but I’m sure where I come from . . . .”

“Guardian Angel” The Judds

Guardian angels are not talked about a great detail in Scripture, but they certainly exist in some form (Hebrews 1:14). Whether or not you think the above song captures the exact truth about guardian angels or not, the sentiment is one I can agree with. The encouragement of faith I derive from the heroes of faith in Scripture I can derive from the heroes of faith in my family and in my church today; they are one-in-the-same.

I remain confused about “the cloud” we reference with our computers. But I am a bit clearer about the clouds that encourage me in my life. Unlike the Stones, I encourage you to get “on” and “in” this cloud. There will come a day when Jesus will return in the clouds. Until that time, and with that time in mind, I think I will continue to make a habit of looking up at the clouds for encouragement.

I guess the Lord still guides with clouds after all.

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Total Immersion

I was raised in a church that believed “baptism was” total immersion. Sprinkling didn’t count, pouring didn’t count, and dipping didn’t even count unless the one being dipped was totally immersed. There was ample reasoning for this notion, too. The original Greek word transliterated as “baptism” came from βαπτιζω, which meant to “dip, plunge, or immerse”. As I mentioned, it was transliterated, not fully translated, thus creating some ambiguity for Christians to argue over for centuries to come. Sadly, in addition, it became a word used only in religious circles, making it even more obscure.

In our church the definition of “baptism” was a crucial point, and we fought for the original meaning as if our lives depended upon it (which, of course, we believed they did). The emphasis on the original language of the Scriptures, and the historical background into which that language fit, was of paramount importance to us – on certain issues.

On some others . . . we were quite lackadaisical.

When it came to baptism, however, we were historians, linguists, and careful interpreters of Scripture.

As I have gotten older, and encountered Christians from different traditions, I have come to see that we all carry our traditions like unquestioned banners of indisputable truth.

But it would behoove us to look more closely and examine what we’ve written on those banners.

The truth is, when many of us come to the corpus of Scripture we conveniently refer to as “The Bible” we find it easy (for some reason) to simply wave our traditional banners, and look no deeper into the ancient text than to merely say, “Here’s what this means to me.”

I think it’s time for us to reconsider Total Immersion. No, not just with reference to defining baptism; rather, to remind ourselves of the basic principles of understanding anything that is written.

For instance, no one would dispute that idea that the best way to understand a foreign language is with total immersion in the culture of that language. So, to best understand Spanish we could move to Madrid. Or to really understand Hebrew we could move to Tel Aviv. Both of these cultures, of course, employ a language foreign to most of us. But even if we are English speaking, for instance, it would help us immensely to move to London if we want to understand that particular brand of English, or to Perth for another shade of English.

Total immersion forces one to function in a foreign culture where language AND setting are crucial to communication and understanding.

If you live in the southern states of the U.S.A. you have a particular kind of awareness for many things “southern.” They might be expressions like “ya’ll” or “high cotton.” Or if you are a visitor to the southwest (like my next door neighbor just was) you might share a picture with me of an interesting tree called “mesquite” (as she did), but I wager my neighbor wasn’t in the southwest long enough for that photo or name to bring to mind the intoxicating smell of mesquite in the desert after a rain. Levels of understanding vary greatly depending on one’s level of exposure. Total immersion in a culture aids immeasurably in the knowledge of both word usage, and cultural nuance.

And so . . . when you approach the Scriptures . . . it is no different!

It matters not at what page you open The Bible; this principle will remain true no matter what you are reading. In fact, translators abide by this practice all the time, because idioms and other word nuances would make it unintelligible to us if they didn’t. They won’t literally translate God’s “nose was hot,” because we wouldn’t know what to do with that ancient Hebrew expression, so they say He was “angry.” But when it comes to expressions that have become sacrosanct (like “baptism”), due to religious controversy over church tradition as well as a long history of religious use, they sometimes cave and do not translate the terms.

This is even more the case with revealing historical background information in Scripture.

If you really want to understand your Bible . . . and not just use it as a leather bound collection of Hallmark-like inspirational verses to make your day go better . . . then consider the concept of Total Immersion. There are many tools available to aid in the understanding of the ancient texts. But begin simply.

  1. Acquire a couple (or more) standard translations produced by translation committees (these are usually done by multiple scholars from various traditions); I recommend ESV, and NIV, but there are others.
  2. Purchase a rudimentary Bible dictionary or Bible introduction of your choice. But remember, translation (as well as background research) is an ongoing science; new discoveries are being made all the time, and new perspectives can dramatically change the landscape of what you read.
  3. If you do research online be cautious; you can find virtually anything and everything being said, whether it is reputable or not. Note who is saying what, and what he or she represents.

But the most important tool in your tool belt should be an understanding (that you will need to constantly rehearse) that words (ANY words) only have meaning within a given context; that context is governed by linguistics AND historical setting.

It is more important that you ask the right questions of the text (even if the answers you arrive at are imprecise) than it is to have precise answers to the wrong questions.

Adapted from John Carver’s “A crude measurement of the right thing beats a precise measurement of the wrong thing.”

If we’re going to use a book as the foundation and go-to of our faith platform, then by all means we need to know what that book says. Asking, “What does this mean to me” . . . just won’t cut it!

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Melchizuh WHO?

It’s never fun to enter a conversation that’s already in progress and try to comprehend what’s been said already; kind of like walking into a room and hearing someone say, “. . . and that’s why I had to pull the plug!” In that situation you are reluctant to draw any conclusions, but you also are aware of the fact you may have just heard something life-threatening.

Such is sometimes the case when you read the Bible. For instance, when Paul mentions “baptism for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29), or when Jude talks about the archangel Michael “disputing with the devil about the body of Moses” (Jude 9). And most of us readers pause . . . and say, “Huh?” It’s like listening in on one side of a telephone call, and you hear someone exclaim, “You don’t say!” (And you’d give almost anything to know what the other person said).

And that is probably the reaction most of us have when we read this in the book of Hebrews:

” . . . where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High . . . like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”

Hebrews 6:20-7:1, 3 NIV

What? Who? Huh?

Of course, the story referenced is from Genesis 14, and the pivotal quotation is from Psalm 110:4. Modern Judaism, of course, has a very different take-away from these verses, but it is clear that the writer of Hebrews sees an absolute, incontrovertible reference to the divine nature and priesthood of Jesus who “always lives to intercede for” us (Hebrews 7:25; see also 7:16).

The writer is helpful in defining the name “Melchizedek” for his readers (Hebrews 7:2) and supplying the skeleton of the background story associated with it (Hebrews 7:1, 4-10), but he stops there. He does, of course, draw comparisons and conclusions about Jesus and this seemingly little known figure, but other than that he gives no more background than what you read here in your Bible.

He expects his readers to be quite impressed with his reasoning, too. And he uses this part of his letter to seal the ideas he sums up in the beginning of chapter 8 where he says:

“The point of what we are saying is this . . . .”

Hebrews 8:1 NIV

Why does Scripture leave out information that would be helpful to its readers? Why does it allude to stories, expressions, persons, etc. of which we know so little, and then present them to us as an integral part of its message?

Part of our problem may be in the way we personify Scripture; we treat it like a person. Sometimes we say, “The Bible says . . . .” In actuality we mean that in the collection of ancient writings Christians call “Scripture” there are words that say thus and so. Or that ancient writers in the collection we call The Bible have this to say. It’s easy to get confused when you equate The Bible with The God of the Universe.

Are they related? Of course! But they’re not the same thing.

It needs to be said . . . OFTEN, perhaps . . . that the writings we call “The Bible” were NOT written TO US! Now sure, there are statements made in these writings that some (if not all) the Old Testament was written “FORthe use and benefit of those who would live much later than the persons who were alive when they were written (Romans 15:4), but . . . they were not written TO us. There’s a big difference.

As a result, the writers of these ancient documents, who sometimes take great pains to help their readers understand what they are writing (e.g. John 1:38), don’t have US in mind when they explain things (or fail to do so). That’s not to say their message isn’t of great importance to us, for indeed it is. But it IS to say that we must dig, sometimes deeply, in order to find their meaning. Of course, this is what translators have done with ALL of The Bible. Word by word. Phrase by phrase. Colloquialism by colloquialism. And once they’ve done the marvelous job of finding for us the definitions of these ancient words, etc., they still will not have provided the background necessary for a full understanding of what was written.

This would likely be more clear to you if someone handed you a Hebrew Old Testament, a Greek New Testament (or even a letter in any other foreign language from another time and culture). Your first reaction would be appropriate: “I can’t understand this!” Of course not. Thankfully, a large number of folks have collected ancient documents, studied the original languages and historical background, then translated the Biblical documents for you to read in your own language. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, you can’t fully understand something even in your own language without knowing the context, time period, historical background, etc.

One of the reasons I love studying The Bible is that its writers DON’T tell us everything their original readers ALREADY KNEW; just as you would not take the time to teach the alphabet to a friend you are texting or emailing; you just assume they know their letters. And then some. In fact, nowadays you even assume they know abbreviated expressions like BFF and LOL. If the Biblical writers did try to explain everything the modern reader might not know I would question the credibility of their writings; they would be suspicious to me.

When I was a young boy I referred to my older brother as “Bebop.” If I wrote a story about him as a child, used that name, and you read it, there would be confusion in your mind about exactly who I meant. And if somehow you learned who I meant you’d still be wondering what a jazz term like “bebop” had to do with my brother. In brief, it was a name coined for him by our paternal grandmother. But you’d have to know that story to understand it, wouldn’t you?

The same is true in Scripture. That’s why we miss the connotation of the terms “Christ,” “Word,” “Holy,” “Son of Man,” “Savior,” and a host of other expressions which appear commonplace to Christians now. It’s why we misinterpret much of the book of Revelation, and why we give literal explanations for things that further study shows are clearly symbolic. Understanding verses in the Bible demands serious study, and often we are not willing to work that hard; we assume that if it’s from God then it should be readily, even easily, understandable to us. But that’s not how language works, is it?

So, Melchizedek? A mysterious figure about which the writer of Hebrews assumes his reader knows. The burden is on us to find out what we can, because we are “reading someone else’s mail” (to to speak). But that is going to require us to dig into some ancient Jewish writings. What we find when we do so is that old “Mel” had a Talmudic tradition that quite possibly informed the writer of Hebrews; he was thought by some to be Shem, the son of Noah. This might seem strange and out of time sequence (which it IS), but the tradition is one of which the reader must be aware in order to comprehend the similarity the writer of Hebrews makes between Melchizedek and Jesus. And even then we are left with more questions.

This is part and parcel of Bible study; you will never understand all the particulars completely. Thankfully, we have had scholars for centuries who took the time to look into these details and present us with a text that is readable and . . . more often than not . . . understandable.

So, the next time you encounter someone or something in Scripture that seems alien to you, or you see a term which puzzles you . . . DON’T JUST MOVE TO THE NEXT PAGE bewildered! Take a few moments (or perhaps many moments), throw caution to the wind, and investigate (pick up your shovel and dig in). You just might be surprised at what you can learn.

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Things aren’t what they Seem (You can’t Trust Everything with Wings)

I’m sure you’ve noticed in TV news, social media, and in the theater (not to mention the grocery store, newspaper, and magazine ads, etc.) . . . things are not always what they seem. This has always been true since the dawn of time. [BTW if you can find some things that fit into that rare category, you should memorize them, or write them down indelibly somewhere special, maybe even get them tattooed on some indispensable part of your body.]

The longer I live the more I have come to understand this truth. Yet, sadly . . . I still fall prey to the lure of inexpensive, shiny new things that promise as great a benefit as the more costly products they are trying to copy. Many of these things used to be sold in infomercials on TV, and (oddly enough) they were all priced at $19.95 (for some odd, but strategic, reason).

These things are harmless, of course, even though they can empty your bank account if you’re not careful. The greater, more serious harm, comes from ideas that are sold to unsuspecting consumers. Granted, they are usually packaged in metaphoric shiny paper, with matching ribbons, giving the illusion of excellence, quality, and inestimable value. They are sometimes paraded about as gifts to society, strides toward equality, advances in human rights, and the quest for the highest mores.

But sometimes . . . behind the illusion . . . the frightening reality is this:

” . . . Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.”

2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NIV

You see, you can’t trust everything with wings. It is only a masquerade; it is sometimes a message with no moral depth, no lasting value. It is a moral facade; the intention is that its adherents be utterly deceived.

I’ve been to prison before. But . . . not as an inmate. I was there as a graduate student; it was a requirement in my counseling class, so . . . . But I will never forget the experience of sitting across the table from a man who clearly didn’t care if I lived or died; that’s the vibe I felt. Entering through the sally port and multiple levels of locked and barred entries was an experience you have to go through to truly comprehend. Passing cells of incarcerated men as I walked to the table to meet a total stranger serving a prison sentence; it was as eerie a feeling as I’ve ever had. [One may unwittingly pass others who have done as bad or worse than these men every time he/she walks down the city street, but when one is in the presence of those who’ve been convicted of their crimes, and no pretense or illusion exists to cover it up . . . that will undo one as quickly as anything I know]. But evil isn’t always so obvious to spot.

We are an interesting mix in our current society. But in truth . . . haven’t we always been so? We hear loud voices protesting the social stagnancy caused by religion, and shouts decrying the inhumanity exhibited in the disapproval of gay and lesbian marriages, increasing transgenderism, and the refusal to use pronouns improperly. Over the past few years we have become more and more splintered as a nation, and our splintering is over morality (of all things). Under the deceptive guise of liberality and freedom from prejudice Pandora’s box has been opened. And what has oozed out is wrath, greed, pride and lust, etc.

None of these maladies is new. Goodness no! Whether the enticement is an appealing piece of fruit (Genesis 3), or the promise of a society where “it’s all good” and “you do you” the result is the same: the beautiful idea that sounded so right when we heard it . . . eventually shows itself for what it truly is. A sham. A deception. Once the jig is up, and the dance is over . . . THEN, it all is crystal clear. We’ve been duped again by “the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If Satan can, indeed, “masquerade as an angel of light” (along with his adherents), where exactly is he doing that? Some would say: “In the church!” or “In religion!” There certainly are no perfect people, and valid charges of hypocrisy, prejudice and other evils can easily be leveled against Christians as well as those of other faiths. But in a society that lauds the idea that your truth is yours alone and that it may differ radically from someone else’s truth . . . how can that charge be made? “Live and let live” demands that we do not interact with anyone else in society, because one cannot “push” one’s belief’s about right and wrong on anyone else. But if that’s true . . . how can there be any society at all? Our laws are built on the notion that certain things are sacred and should be protected. And that most of us can agree on what those things are. That’s why we discipline those who do not conform to those laws. But doesn’t each individual have the “right” to decide what he/she/them thinks is right or wrong?

As Isaiah said long ago):

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Isaiah 5:20 NIV

Could a society really become so corrupt that its populace would no longer understand the difference between good and evil? Is this where we are, today? For those with a Christian worldview (see 1 John 5:18-20 if you need to borrow a simple one) the answer is obvious. “Yes, indeed it can!”

One of the most successful ways to accomplish the aforementioned topsy-turvy point of view (where evil is deemed as good, and good as evil) is with a message that affirms egalitarian principles, an incontrovertible gospel of good will and acceptance for all. Adherents could seize upon the words placed on the pedestal plaque at the base of our Statue of Liberty for inspiration: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, . . . the homeless, and the tempest tossed.”

Satan often misleads with messages that give the illusion that one is following the path of goodness, the moral high ground. That way, even those who do not embrace traditional religion can invest themselves in a cause for justice and equality that has the aroma of morality; a value based endeavor that transcends the faith of even the most ardent Christian believer. In fact, it not only transcends it; it denounces it as morally inferior and destructive (see the June 1, 2017 entry entitled “Superlative Morality” on this site). Hence the question: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Not everything with wings can be trusted. Paul is so adamant about this that he even curses angels who are brandishing an erroneous message:

“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.”

Galatians 1:7-8 NIV

If one does not have a worldview that acknowledges the cosmic battle between right and wrong, God and Satan, Good and Evil . . . then all one can conclude from such tragedies is that something unfortunate happened. But the Christian sees more at work here.

How many issues have surfaced and intensified in recent years that threaten our unity as a people? Racial tension? Sexual orientation? Political strife? Women’s rights? Children’s rights? Financial inequity? Discriminatory access to medical care? Abuse by Law Enforcement officers? Educational inequity? You name it!

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “Who am I to tell someone who they can love?” It sounds good on the initial hearing of it, doesn’t it? It even carries a bit of a profundity to it. On the surface. And it aligns itself with the other statement that gets immediate applause: “Don’t you judge me!”

Deception, by definition, implies deceit. That is, it is not readily recognized; that’s why it works so well! The truth is, we ALL make judgments about any number of things. And we make judgments as a society about things that affect everyone in that society, whether they agree with them or not. That’s the only way society works.

So, the trick the deceiver must carry off is one that changes the ideas of the majority so that its judgments prevail and eventually become the norm.

Some things can only be learned in retrospect. We make an impulsive purchase (like the expensive vacuum we bought years ago; we couldn’t afford it, but we caved under the door-to-door salesman’s winning way and demonstration in our living room), or we join a group of friends in an endeavor that is important to them (like the Marine Corps Marathon I ran in back in 1982 because I couldn’t imagine my friends running it without me; “drunk off the smell of somebody else’s cork,” Mark Twain would say). Some of these decisions we later regret, and some we are glad we made.

But when making moral and/or social decisions the stakes are often higher.

Our country was founded with several crucial ingredients, some of which are slowly but surely being taken out of the recipe that identifies us. Paramount among these is a belief in “Providence,” and a shared “Creator.” Granted, there were various points of view represented by our Founding Fathers, but the gradual erosion of “faith” in this country and the attempt to neutralize not only specific reference to Deity but even to emasculate it . . . these have taken a toll that is yet to be measured.

And I dare say . . . we will live to have regrets.

There is coming a day when what we have called the United States of America may no longer resemble itself as you and I know it. In fact, that day is already dawning, isn’t it? But for some . . . they need the prophet Daniel to translate the proverbial “writing on the wall” (Daniel 5): “numbered,” “weighed,” “divided.” Not that changes aren’t ever a good thing, and improvements can’t be made; they certainly can. And must! But check to see if the formative ingredients in your national recipe have changed so much that your cake needs to change its name.

Even if an angel from heaven speaks to you . . . Even if a reputable religious leader persuasively preaches to you . . . Even if a nonreligious, impartial, justice-oriented social expert informs you . . . Even if the President himself/herself talks on network television in a “fireside chat” . . . that is no guarantee that what you’re hearing is the truth. Such is the nature of our society in 2022 AD.

Wolves sometimes appear in sheep’s clothing. And you can’t trust every winged angel in white. Stay alert! Watch for signs that should arouse your suspicion:
(1) unbridled anger
(2) disregard for Deity
(3) vengeful attitudes
(4) brazen and shameless immorality

NOTE: several “Elmer Gantry” type persons have been spotted in your neighborhood.

Categories: Bible, Faith, God, Inquiry, Religion, Science, Truth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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