Life In Abundance, Even In Death

2021-07-24 Fall in Kentucky

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 (CSB))

It always intrigues me when discussing death with some ‘Christians’ that they demur and say, “Let’s talk about something nicer.”  And I wonder, what is ‘nicer’ than death?  True, I do not look forward to debilitating disease or pains and problems of aging, but the end of this life on earth is not something awful for us to fear.  Even in death, there is abundance of LIFE!

The Christ-follower daily faces paradoxes.  Jesus announced very clearly, For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  The “sermon on the mount,” Matthew 5-7, has many of these oxymorons, starting with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12).  The most pointed of these are the last two: “Blessed are those who are persecuted (?)” “Blessed are you when others revile you (?) and persecute you (?) and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely (?)  What kind of invitation is this to follow this guy!?

Far too many Christ-followers have been sold only half of the bill of goods.  Prosperity preachers abound with promises that if you just buy their books and listen to their sermons, you will have unending health, wealth and comfort.  If things do not work out to make your life its very best, it must be your lack of faith, or something wrong with you, because God only wants to do good for you.

But just thinking of how the love of parents requires them to sometimes do something painful to their children should eliminate any confusion here.  No child ever said, “Oh, goody, I get to have a vaccine shot today!”  But a loving parent will vaccinate their children against DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) to protect them from these much more harmful diseases, no matter how much the child may scream.  Love constrains parents to make their children eat their vegetables even though the dessert cake is sweeter.

So, yes, our Father only wants what is good for us.  C.S. Lewis began to understand this as he matured in his trust in God, writing “We are not doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  And “there’s the rub,” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said.  The maturity to which Jesus calls His followers is not the nursery school comfort of warm milk and cookies.  It is the challenge to come to Him and DIE so that you can truly live.

The Christ-follower, like Jesus, lives in a culture of life-affirmation.  Thus abortion, the unwilling taking of an unborn child’s life is anathema to His people.  Euthanasia, the execution of those who no longer are “contributing” to society (whatever that means), is also viewed as something more demonic than beneficial.  Suicide, in societies that have honored God’s word, has always been viewed as counter-productive.  Even suffering, when viewed as a means to draw us closer to the One who suffered more agonizingly than we can imagine, becomes life-affirming and a channel for God to bring glory to Himself.  Our rewards will wait, but they will come.

Thus, we are instructed that when we are persecuted, we can move to another place (Matthew 10:23), but not to retaliate against our persecutors, but to pray FOR them (Note: NOT against them).  We are not to fear death or its agencies that try to murder us (Matthew 10:28).  Francis Chan, just as he headed to Hong Kong to set up ministries in Southeast Asia, noted, “It is crazy to me that it is perfectly normal to be a Christian in America and to be obsessed with staying alive.” (February 7. 2020)  Jim Elliot penned in a letter to his bride, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Someone observed once, that unless one is willing to die for something they can not really live for it.  We who follow Jesus view death not so much as an enemy of life, but as a ferryman who will one day transport us out of his reach.  Following Jesus may involve pain, suffering, or apparent loss in the world’s eyes.  We may lack in comfort or have greater difficulties than those who just go with whatever cultural stream is flowing.  But there will come a day when it will all be worthwhile.

We must not serve God just for His rewards (another blog coming soon), but He does promise great rewards for those who give up their lives to or for Him.  Our confidence in Him assures us that there is nothing for the Christ-follower to fear.  He came to give us LIFE, and that promise is as certain as His resurrection!  There is no historical event more certain than that Jesus arose from the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

 

 

Guest Blog – Alabastersky and Shades of Grey

A blogger presented this on July 15, 2021, and wrote in much clearer fashion than I probably write.  I have not been down all the rabbit-holes she went into, but investigated many of them including extensive reading of Vedic Literature, the Book of Mormon, prophecies of Zoroaster, the Quran, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, and others.

Altogether, the Bible is the only book (or library of books) that really tells the Truth about The God Who Is, how He has revealed Himself throughout history, and finally in Jesus, called The Christ.  Read on for valuable insights.
Thanx, Alabastersky.
_______________________________________

In the 1990’s, in spite of the good little church goer that I was, there was about a 4 or 5 year period where I used to be attracted to anything new-age, from music to books and everything in between. Back then, to me, everything was a shade of grey. There was no black and white, and although you would hear me say that God and scripture were true and that I believed in absolutes, I had no clear understanding of what that really meant.

I was fascinated by Nostradamus and end-of-the-world prophecies, but if you told me I should study the book of Revelation, I likely would have rolled my eyes in the belief that (at least at that time) I was not a theologian nor even a book worm, so none of that would likely make sense to me anyway. The sad truth was that angels clothed in light, things written through trans-channeling (or auto-writing), and anything that focused on a better me and learning to love myself through my own independence and “woman had more of an attraction to me than anything “holy”.

One of the books I actually do remember reading at the time was titled Conversations with God. I found it interesting that the author claimed there was no right or wrong, there was only functional and dysfunctional. Sounds somewhat logical, right? Especially when wrong and right appear so black and white, so unloving and hateful! But let me tell you why all of that is deception dressed in light – taking what is truth, twisting it, and then repackaged it in a way that is always palatable and yet never powerful.

First of all I want to say that God is so much more than just sentience (or feeling) as new-age spiritualism would have us believe. That He is “more of a feeling” and is “everywhere and in everyone and everything” is a twist on the truth that He is omniscient and omnipresent. He is, in fact, an actual living, breathing, person, and His Word is not only truth but really IS ABSOLUTE truth, and very powerful!

Featured Image -- 20182After both of my parents passed away, I learned that grief is love that has no where to go, and because love never dies, grief may subside but it always remains under the surface. So imagine when it dawned on me that I had been grieving the Holy Spirit, because at that time I was so absorbed into all of this, His love for me also had no place to go. I didn’t realize I was actively resisting Him. If you were to ask me back then, I was in such a confused state that I would have even debated that God approved of that form of spiritualism, because I didn’t understand the difference between an “angel clothed in light” and an “angel of the Light“.

Only in Jesus Christ can I find freedom to live the life I was created to live – my purpose in this life. That was a game changer for me, because all of the sudden I saw sin (which is ANYTHING that separates me from Him) as slavery (black), and righteousness in Him as freedom (white).

“Oh but Lisa”, you might say, “there IS grey! Take for example the grey lines between male and female”! Yes, the male/female thing can be a big debate and a lot to unpack for some, but I have to tell you that the black and white in me no longer sees it as a debate. Once I aligned myself with scripture, passages like Psalms 139 (He formed me in my mother’s womb, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, all the days ordained for me were written in His book…) and Jeremiah 1 (before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…) came alive with meaning! I began to realize that if I choose to become anything outside of what He has created me to be (and this goes beyond just LBGTQ, it applies to anything and everyone) – if WE, any of us, choose any other path outside of the one He has created and ordained for us, then we set ourselves up for a life focused on temporary pleasures, and in the end are left not only unsatisfied and unfulfilled, but also in a deadly deception.

True science, in the end, always aligns with scripture (whether intended or not). Why? Because Jesus Christ, God Almighty, the Creator of this universe and everything in it, is immutable. We align with Him, He doesn’t align with us. He doesn’t sanction the sin, He sanctions the sinner. Once I recognize His authority in my life, I am the one who changes as I come under it. Anything less is expecting Him to change and bend to my will instead of me bending to His – and that in itself is saying that I do not believe He is God, because I do not value Him enough to bend my will to His. Truth: the fact that He sanctions the sinner and not the sin has nothing to do with Him not loving me, quite the opposite. It has everything to do with Him loving me so much that He takes delight in me as I discover what I was created for.

I’m just glad He caught my attention enough at the time for me to allow Him to stop the soul-sucking practices, habits, and bad theology I was mixed up in and allow Him to begin healing me instead. His Spirit was continuously wooing me back to Him. As I began to respond and desire conversations with the Living God Himself rather than with just His creation, I knew more and more that He really is immutable (the same yesterday, today, forever), and that scripture really is His holy word.

So that’s where I am with holiness on my end.  It is what I call the journey of shades of grey into a solid state of black and white, because that’s what holiness does. Only those who allow His holiness to be imparted to them realize what a beautiful thing it really is to be set apart in this way. It is incredibly comforting in the chaos of this world, and touches the human spirit in a way that is far more than anything sensual this world has to offer!

Link to original blog: https://alabastersky.wordpress.com/2021/07/15/shades-of-grey/

Suicide? Don’t Do It!

 

Several blogs I have written address suicide, e.g. , but to get a really helpful handle on suicide I recommend the book, Hope Always, by Dr. Matthew Sleeth.  It is an excellent guide for both professionals and lay people interested in helping friends at the end of their rope.  It is a wonderful addition to any library with 24/6 or Reforesting Faith already on its shelf.  (Note, I do not have any affiliates or compensation from books or items I recommend in my blog.)

2021-05-29 Hope AlwaysHope Always is Dr. Sleeth’s latest.  With the insight of a director of a large hospital emergency room and the traumas endured there, he writes with an understanding of the pathos that drives people to consider suicide.  His personal experience with friends who have chosen this route to end this life did not drive him to despair, but instead to forge deeper into faith that God is the author of Life with a capital “L.”

Written in an easy reading style that will be informative for lay people, without pedantry or complex medical terminology, he presents an argument for life and a plan for preventing suicide, whether the “final option” is one you are considering or you know someone who may be thinking about it.  In all likelihood you have been touched by suicide, either a family member, friend or acquaintance who took their own life.  It may have haunted your thoughts, or you may have even attempted it, and from Dr. Sleeth’s perspective, many are glad you failed.

The timing of this text is significant, as I expect sequel printings to probably include more on the “culture of death” into which the whole world is moving.  Nine states in the USA as of 2019 have legalized PAS (Physician Assisted Suicide). Germany has recognized PAS and suicide itself as a non-criminal act for 150 years and in 1942, Switzerland determined that if a suicide was assisted for non-self seeking motives, the assistance was not a crime.  The Netherlands and Belgium seemed to be racing each other in 2002 to be the first to explicitly legalize PAS to go beyond just suicide for the terminally ill, but to make euthanasia an acceptable way for one to end one’s life simply based on a person’s decision without regard for medical reasons.  Luxomberg, Canada and Spain have joined this morbid club in the last 12 years, though with some constraints, though these are likely to be challenged in courts.  Columbia authorized PAS in 1997 and in 2017 extended this to minors so that even “children could die with dignity.”  Taiwan and Australia since 2015 have both passed laws allowing for PAS.

After a brief overview of suicide statistics, The “Life Continuum Scale” he presents in chapter 3 is alone worth the price of the book.  It scales from the left side at -10 (Has a plan with deadly means) toward the middle of -1 (Experiencing melancholy and pessimism).  Then to the right it scales up to the extreme of +10 (Sacrificially giving one’s life for others).  It is the clearest presentation I have ever seen of essential mental health in relation to suicide and gives readers a clear tool for evaluating themselves or others with whom they may be concerned.

Dr. Sleeth then takes us on a tour of the psychology of suicide examining this uniquely human activity.  Not even lemmings commit suicide, though this myth persists in popular culture.  He reminds us that “There is no one-size-fit-all approach to examining and treating people.  Medicine and psychology, like spiritual care, are a combination of art and science.”  Yet, “50% of those who commit suicide suffer from a mood disorder.”  Thus, he recognizes that while spiritual issues need addressing, the religionist who only tells the suicidal to read the Bible and pray more may miss some critical elements to help the hurting.

However, he goes on to address the real source of suicide, even if it is worked through psychological disorders.  As Dr. Sleeth points out, there is one source for the desire for death: “Satan is always for death.”  While examining many of the psychological and social factors surrounding desires for suicide with the intelligence of a highly trained physician, Part 2 of the book examines the Biblical worldview of suicide.  Beginning with the first recorded suicides of Adam and Eve, Satan convinced our parents to trade Paradise for death!  Though the devil claimed they would surely NOT die, Father had told them they would, and they chose to take that chance; to believe the Lie from the father of lies. 

I suspect many suicides are still in this vein: someone decides to get attention and “attempt” suicide, expecting to be saved at the last minute, but miscalculations on when someone is coming home, the speed of a train, how severe a pill will be, etc., and they buy into the Lie that the enemy told them, “You will not certainly die.” (Genesis 3

In contrast, Paul’s announcement to the Philippian jailer prevented his suicide.  Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  Speaking on this passage to a group of prisoners, Dr. Sleeth told them, “When Jesus is in the house, people don’t kill themselves.  They live.”  Though many characters in the Bible voiced a desire to end it all, God shows us through them what He really thinks about suicide.  From Moses, Elijah, and Jonah, he reveals that even God’s best can feel hungry, angry, lonely and tired (HALT), low enough to throw in the towel and die.  But then Dr. Sleeth leads us through the process whereby God brings saving life into the picture.  And he notes, “Jesus is still healing the hopeless!” and that He is always FOR life and against death!

Towards the end of this very readable book, Dr. Sleeth provides many helpful links, including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  Beyond this, he has solid advice for church leaders and participants who want to help people struggling with depression and suicidal intentions.  If the Life Continuum Scale is worth the price of the book, he should double the price for including chapter 10, The Hope Always Toolkit!  From a simple 12-step program anyone can do, to a list of scriptures to help us “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” to music, movies and books that can lift one’s spirit, he provides practical resources to assist one if you are depressed, or that can be used to help others raise their hopes.

If you have felt like ending it all, do not buy the lie!  There is Hope Always!

Rated R: The Mystery of Marriage

The word “mystery” in the Bible does not mean what most people seem to think.  The first definition of the word is anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.”  However, other definitions are more fitting: “an event that remains unsettled until the very end,” or specifically, “any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.”  I.e., a mystery is not something about which we are still in dark; it is something that is being or has been revealed, though it was once hidden.

Now to the singles reading this, I will offer very little to aid you in your sexuality, other than to note that Jesus was a young adult single.  I can offer (in another blog sometime) advice on this matter, but only as an observer and student of Scripture, because I am “the marrying kind.”  Jesus, the apostle Paul and others, both men and women, were not, and they lived fulfilled and purposeful lives without spouses, and with complimentary relationships without sex.

As for the MPA Rating, the R is a slight overstatement.  Spoiler: there is no lewdity, nudity, or excessive foul language or violence, but the subject matter IS something which you probably don’t want children to read without parental input.  If you have come here for the R rating, please stick around for a few minutes and read about the mystery of a marriage.  Regarding Same-Sex marriage, I refer you to an earlier blog.

Consider for a moment what most modern American marriage relationships look like.  Now this a VERRRY broad generalization and not to be taken as a model for how a marriage must work, but just an observation of how most in our nation work.
He mows the lawn, maintains the vehicles, does minor repairs around the house, works outside the home, and sometimes shares some of the housekeeping or cooking.  He maintains the checkbook, figures their taxes and spends some time with the children.
She does most of the cooking and housekeeping, organizes vacations, makes reservations and is primarily responsible for raising the children even though she may also work outside the home.
And he shows love to his wife and she shows respect to him, and they satisfy each other sexually.

If they are more affluent they may hire a landscaper to maintain their lawn, and they will take their autos in regularly for maintenance.  If anything in the house needs attention they just call a repairman.  They may hire a CPA to do their taxes and may even have a personal financial manager to pay their bills, and tell them how much they can spend on amenities each week. 
Perhaps they will employ a cook and a housekeeper or order meals from a service that provides on time delivery.  The cook may do the grocery shopping and the housekeeper maintains their cleaning supplies.  They may sign up for a cruise or tour group and leave the travel arrangements entirely to the tour company.  A nanny could be hired to come in daily, or an au pair may live with them and share meals with the family.

All of these services can be hired without incurring any personal guilt or judgement from society.

However, if they indulge in sexual infidelity, there will be consequences.  These may involve separation, legal actions, social stigmatism, and maybe divorce.  There will be changes in family relationships beyond the couple, including children, in-laws, shirt-tail relatives and family friends.  There may be job losses or changes, housing rearrangements, financial hardships, and a complete reorienting of their lives.  All because of violating one feature of the marriage relationship.

This suggests that there is something unique about the sexual relationship in a marriage that makes it apart from all of the other intimacies and details of the “normal” marriage.  The Bible supports this idea in 1 Corinthians  6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” 

The husband who does not tend to his wife’s sexual desires risks pushing her away, either into the arms of another or into volunteerism or vocational obsessions.  The wife who does not tend to her husband’s sexual desires may find him falling for promiscuity, prostitution or pornography to gratify them.  The unique thing which elevates their marriage above every other relationship a husband or wife may have is their sexuality, specifically their sexual fidelity.

Every marriage is as unique as the couple involved.  No two are exactly alike, but there are certain commonalities that can be recognized in any successful and pleasant marriage. 

The first is a common faith, a recognition that the marriage is not just for their happiness, but is a “mystery,” a reflection of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31-33)

Let’s reveal this “mystery!”  Jesus said the pattern for marriage was laid down by God at the creation: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.”  (Matthew 19:4-6)

Problems in marriages come because none of us is completely sinless as Jesus was (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15).  So when you put two fallible people together and tell them to love and respect each other (Ephesians 5:33), there will inevitably be conflicts, as each of them needs the other to discover where their selfishness lies.  It is in the curing of that selfishness that married couples become a model of Christ and the Church.

2021-04-17 Marital FidelityThe second is a developing intimacy that will increase and expand as they live together.  Sexual expression will likely be a part of that intimacy even when age or illness deteriorates the actual sex act of consummation.  An acceptance of a spouse’s body in the same way one sees his or her own body will grow in this intimacy (Ephesians 5:29).  Just as one looks at his or her reflection in a mirror and tolerates developing wrinkles or extra body fat or minor defects, loving and respectful husbands and wives will become more comfortable with each others’ bodies, and can enjoy physical intimacy that reflects what the Scripture means when it says “the two shall become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24)

Note the inclusivity and exclusivity of this expectation:  Nothing is forbidden in the marriage sexual relationship as long as it is mutually agreed and not harmful.  However, it is ONLY for the two committed to the marriage.  (See for more about this.)

As books have been written on these subject, I will simply refer you to some of best I have encountered and encourage you to explore this wonderful subject of what makes cohabitation a marriage by reading a couple of these references:
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
The Gift of Sex by Dr. Clifford and Mrs. Joyce Penner
The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. William Harley

See https://www.marriagebuilders.com/ for an excellent online resource from Dr. Harley.

Mystery solved.  Revelation resolved.

 

Hell Is Authentic


The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

An Aboriginal Mental Challenge: Can You Read Without Preconceptions?

2021-02-27 G.K.ChestertonG.K Chesterton is the source for today’s blog: a challenge to do some mental gymnastics to discover something we may have been missing.  In his 1925 philosophical tome, The Everlasting Man, the “prince of paradox” presents an interesting challenge: to read a Bible story from an aboriginal mindset.  You see, we have Christmas and Easter, jewelry and architecture, names of streets, cities and buildings and so many myriad additional references in our world to that unique man, Jesus, that it is difficult to imagine anyone anywhere in our global community that does not know something about Jesus.  And depending on the source of that something, our views of Jesus have been significantly shaped by the introductions we have been given, whether from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, friend, enemy, or Christian/anti-Christian teaching.  And Chesterton contends that much of our view, even in the “Christian west” is significantly distorted.

So I wish to challenge you, as Chesterton has challenged me, to do some mental exercising.  Set your mind as though you have never heard of Jesus, a Christian church, or anything “christian.”  Pretend for this exercise that your only exposure to the divine has been the thunderous clouds that bring rain and frightening lightning; a starry sky at night and the warm and sometimes burning heat of the sun at day; the long graceful hop of a wallaby or neck of a giraffe; the worrisome growl of a bear or roar of a lion; a baby’s sweet coo and cry and the caress of your beloved.

Begin by beguiling your brain into thinking you have never received a Christmas gift or hunted an Easter egg or walked on Christchurch Avenue or stood in front of the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral.  You have never heard of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul or John.  Equally, you have never heard of Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Rama or Krishna or Zoroaster.   Add to that, you have never been concerned with politics, social structure or economics; no Communists, Conservatives, Democrats, Greens, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Tories or any other ideology for guidance of a nation.

This is a difficult mental exercise, but I encourage you, that it is not impossible.  Settle in your mind that you have never been taught anything about any god or history of creation, whether theism or atheistic evolution.  You have never worried about issues of government or society.  Your mind has been focused all these years on eating and drinking to stay alive and whatever day-to-day activities were required to survive, be at peace, avoid enemies and enjoy your time on earth.

Now, with this mindset, approach a new short book someone has brought you.  Its title is very short, just four letters, L-u-k-e.  If you can find it in its original formatting, without chapter and verse numbers, all the better.  (Chapters and verses were added centuries later to make research and memorization easier.)

However, it is available at a website where you can look up your language in which to read it.  If English is your native language, I encourage you to use the ESV noted in the website connection.  If another language is your “heart language,” feel free to try to find it under the ALL tab when you pull down the languages from the little arrow by the default version that opened.
So sorry, Mongolian is not on the list . . . yet.  But Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and LOTS of others are there.
Any Gujariti readers here? 😉

2021-02-27 Biblegateway

Now that you have emptied your mind of any preconceptions about this little story, begin with Luke’s introduction to his narrative for his friend, Theophilus.  Read the short biography at a single sitting if you can; in your heart language it should not take much more than 90 to 120 minutes .  Remember, you have never heard of these people, Luke, Herod, Elizabeth, Martha or Jesus before.  Your entire impression of these people will come from your reading this for the first time!

You may want to have a pencil and paper handy, and note what you discover about some of the characters introduced to you for the first time.  Questions are sure to come up, as we begin with no information on the culture or history of these people and events; Why did He say THAT!?  Why did she do that!?  Why was He so rude?  Why did that confuse them?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be meek and mild? Aha, you’ve slipped from the aboriginal mindset and are remembering something you’ve heard.  Try again! 😁

If you want to dialog about your questions, email me (capost3k@gmail.com) or comment here.  No guarantees I have any answers for you.  Either Tim Keller or Rick Warren wrote (but I cannot find the referemce), “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”   (Similar to a Confucius quote.)

Here’s to hoping you have a good week and discover who Jesus really is.
Enjoy Peter Hollen’s and Home Free’s a-capella performance of Amazing Grace.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S.Lewis

The Frozen Chosen

Year of the Ox

I have several blogs in the works on our political situation here in the US, as well as some on theology and one about why Father would appoint a godless Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler or some presidents to lead nations, but those can wait a week or two.

Frozen in Kentucky, we are getting our share of the polar vortex that “proves” global warming. 🙄  The bottom line, like William Goldman said early in his illustrious career, “Nobody knows anything.” 

So Tuesday evening, February 9, we went to bed with moderate winter temperatures and woke to a frozen wonderland, pictured below.  With temps staying below freezing now for four days and no sign of getting above it before Thursday, February 18 (and just barely, then!), the ice is still on our sidewalks, although salt trucks have pretty much cleared the main roads.  A few of us have worked up the nerve to clear our walks, but most are still under the glacier that has gripped the central US this week.

Before heading out on Wednesday for our 1-2 mile walk, Anita found our “hand-warmers” and I wish I could load the video associated to the third pic.  It’s really ‘cool’ how the white sodium acetate reacts in the aqueous solution when you click the metal disk which allows the supersaturated NaCH3COO to crystallize in the water.  You can see the chemical reaction at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m25n9179ym4.  (Just for the record, I do not have any affiliate links from which I get remuneration.  Any referrals I provide in my blogs are just because I like the products.)

2021-02-13 SpeedJust to give you an idea of how cold it was and how frozen it felt, hardly anyone was moving about on Wednesday as schools and everything shut down in Lexington.  I know we’re wimps compared to friends in Canada and Norway, but no one knows how to drive 25mph here unless the weather forces them to do so.

So out we went, with warm hands and hearts into the wasteland of arctic air that had seeped into Kentucky.  We used our hiking sticks to keep our feet steady, but even then, Anita felt too unsure of her footing, so I returned her to home and wandered Copperfield alone.  But not for long!   Even with hand-warmers, taking my glove off every few minutes to take a picture made me decide to head home pretty quickly as well.

Baby, it’s cold outside!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFJ7ie_yGU.  (Red Skelton’s section is hilarious!! 😂)

I always wondered why someone thought Valentine’s Day ❤️ should come in the coldest month of the year!

The Copperfield Clubhouse Pool was cool, as were the trees and bushes around it!

Cars were pretty much unmoved.  Some were creative about preventing the ice from locking down their wipers, except for Charles who had no intentions of driving, but was called on a mission of mercy to a friend in the hospital.

Smaller trees seemed to do better than big birches around the neighborhood.  The birches were not as bowed as they were in 2003, but still arched under the weight.  Basketball, being the local primary religion in Lexington, one of the “idols” had to stand unattended since it was too slick for the supplicants to participate in “worshiping at the altar.” 😇

Back at home after perambulating the neighborhood, our friend across the street was as surprised as Anita and me that the USPS actually could drive around for mail delivery today!  I guess their slogan, “Neither rain nor sleet, . . . etc” really works!  Well, we’ll scrape some ice off the sidewalk and garage and go have a hot cup of Chili Chocolate from Peoria, Illinois!  Thanx, Sean and Mikki!

Final note, for Valentines Day/Chinese New Year, we ordered out at the Palomar Malone’s for some steak and lobster mac & cheese!  That was after checking the web for traffic cams to make sure the drive was navigable.  And here’s an icy panorama to finish off.  Happy Year of the OX! San Nin Faai Lok! https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a35394134/year-of-the-ox-prediction/

 

 

Guest Blog: Christmas In Mongolia

Cup of Cold Water Ministries has servants who represent Jesus in ten countries, around the world, including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and Mongolia.  This terrific organization, though small, supplies a niche service to international workers, most of whom are doing “tent-making” and combining social services along with Gospel presentation; living out Jesus’ instruction, “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Recently, they began facilitating the ministry of Tuvsho whom my wife and I met when we taught at The Mongolian International University in 2013.  We saw first hand the change in the environment of Ulaanbataar (Ulan Bator) from the early autumn to the wintry pollution when temps reach down to -30F (-34C) and residents burn almost anything to stay warm in their gers (yurts) and unheated houses. Below are pictures of Ulaanbataar in summer and winter, and of the ger districts. The city, originally planned for a population of about 200,000, now houses 1,500,000, over a third of them living in urban areas with inadequate solid waste management, limited water supply, and no utilities other than electricity.

But the largest challenge is the young people who often seem to have no hope of a viable future in Ulaanbataar. That is where Tuvsho and Quinnie come in with a HoME, a Heart of Mentoring. They have a team, a Board of Directors and a system of accountability to do the work to which Father has called them.  You can find out more about them and the service they are providing to at-risk youth in Ulaanbataar at https://www.ccwm.org/tuvsho.

I encourage you to consider a tax-deductible Christmas gift to HoME this year so that Tuvsho and her team can complete construction of the post-“orphanage” residence she is building, and the provisions for guidance and job-skill development for children as they grow too old to stay in the social-welfare system.
____________________

christmas Dec 9
Written By Tuvsho

It is a custom in Mongolian families to decorate a Christmas tree as a symbol of a New Year celebration. Because we are a post-Soviet nation, Christmas, which is considered a religious holiday, is not something many celebrate.

I used to have a “New Year Tree” too, and it was always the most exciting time of the year to put the tree up, decorate it with ornaments and see its lights glitter and shine with different colors.  Guests would come and put some money on the tree as a gift and we would collect them when we took the tree down after New Year.

Now I call my tree a Christmas Tree.  Most of my family has not yet chosen to follow Jesus but they all know that I have.  This year I found my six year old nephew praying to the tree and making his wishes right after we finished putting it up and turning on its lights on.  Although I knew his prayers to a tree were pointless, I sensed a genuine prayer full of pure joy and hope, and that was not pointless.  I believe God hears those prayers.  I remember when I was a young girl praying out to anything or anyone that would hear me saying, “God, Buddha, Jesus, Mohamed…whoever is the real God please listen!”  I know that the real God, the true Creator, heard my prayers.

Something about that tree caused my nephew to want to pray.  I believe it is the message behind it all, the true Redeemer who has come for all of us.  My Christmas tree and the star on the top brings my family and many others together just like that star, the star of Bethlehem, brought people to Jesus.  May many little hearts be guided by the message of the star and even the excitement of Christmas to find Jesus in this New Year.

tuvsho

Intermezzo Guest Blog: On Being Infected With Covid-19 On Thanxgiving

2020-11-25 Intermezzo Blog

Basement Isolation Reflections
By Karla Duerson

When [insert certain circumstance here] then I will be happy, fulfilled, satisfied.
If only [insert certain circumstance here] then I could live meaningfully, fulfilled.
When all the kids are finally gone . . .
If only he would stop antagonizing his sister . . .

These subtle whispers can rob reality right out of in front of my nose.  Life is happening right now.  That’s it!  Yet the zest and spice of life are illusive.  The mundane quotidian lulls me.  Sometimes I want to shirk responsibilities.  I back away from complexities and challenges.

I work a lot.  I do a lot.  I think a lot.  I take care of people a lot.  I get tired.  Sometimes I daydream about being alone.  “When all the kids are finally gone . . .”

Well, now covid-19 has brought me closer to aloneness than I have been in a long time.  No one is talking to me.  No one is interrupting me.  I have very few tasks to complete.  Strange.

The strangest covid-19 symptoms are those that have robbed my senses.  I cannot taste coffee!  I cannot smell chocolate chip cookies.  I cannot touch my children.  My vision was even affected for a day.

My friend said, “Taste, smell, touch – God gave us these to enjoy life.  When one or all of them go away, it really is a wake-up call to His goodness!”

Well put, my friend.  This world is an explosion of God’s breathtaking artistry!  Tree-lined mountain tops, a home-cooked meal, gifted flowers in a pretty vase, Wylies’s round little cheeks, and Neva’s brown silky hair, Guy’s strong growing arms.  The world above in space, the world below in the sea, the world all around us on the terrain is remarkable beautiful.

How can I stay awake to that splendor?  How can I ward away dullness, ingratitude and boredom?  One of our very young participants on our Simple Church Zoom call suggested the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Well, sitting in the bed in the basement for the fourth day in a row while listening to the hustle and bustle of the activities going on above, concerning myself about everyone’s well-being without being able to lift a finger, and longing to cuddle and comfort my people, this brought me to tears.  I love it when children share.  

Even more, Gavin reminded us of the next part of the letter:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I will learn the secret that Paul did because just like my BSF notes stated last week, “God intends hardships to draw us closer to Him, so we become more content with His presence and provisions.”  So, “whether in plenty or in want,” I will learn to be content and that I “can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I am in the basement.  Topside, in the upstairs of my home, I am in plenty.  Either way, I have Christ who empowers me to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to smell His wonder-filled world, to truly live!

Read more of Karla’s writing at www.karladuerson.blogspot.com

On a lighter side, be sure to check out Gavin’s take on Black Friday:

Inside Joke – Black Friday

And for some thought-provoking apologetics, check out the CSLewisDoodle on “Good Infections”:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw-kYN6wWXWDyp_lB0wnlxw
C.S.Lewis Doodle