The Answer Man? – Not Me!

2021-06-12 Struck Down But Not Destroyed
Rick Warren once said, “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, one has to wonder if he knows all the questions.”

When one goes on a date, he or she showers, puts on nice clothes, preens in front of a mirror for a while, checks to make sure teeth don’t have spinach between them, and preps their brightest smiles and best chuckles.  The same goes for blogging.  When we get on our computers, we take time to evaluate our words; we check for grammatical errors, examine links and think seriously about the topic: i.e., we put our best foot forward in both cases (at least most of us do!😏).

We tend to be experts when we get online, because no one can see all the background work we do to make a nice blog.  We check our resources and polish the blog and show off how smart, informed, and perceptive we are.  Most of us try to avoid harsh words or crass language (at least the blogs I follow; too much cursing or four-letter words and I will not follow).

Well, I am not that smart or “together” all the time.  I sincerely try to be nice in my comments or just don’t comment (my mother’s words are still there in my head, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”)

But sometimes I do not “have it all together.”  Depression sometimes surprises me with lonesomeness that makes me feel even the sun is dark, as if I am under a rock wi2021-06-12 Pinnedth no light.  I make solitary time either after my bride leaves our bed, or in places where I can get away from everyone, and I cry. . . And I cry. . . And I cry some more.  So many folks in my family are wonderful and I know that I am loved, but loneliness still stands over me like an angry wrestler ready to push me down and hold me to the mat even after I say, “I give up.”  He won’t let me up anyway.

I am not suicidal (See  ).  As my brother is fond of saying, “That ship has sailed.”  But many times I feel like the days are just passing me by, and I am just waiting either for Jesus to return or for Father to call me Home from this world.  Depression makes you question whether anything you do matters; whether your life matters.

But the bottom line is it is not about me . . . or you.  Life is about Him!

Like the man in John 9 born blind, just as we are all born spiritually blind, “Once I was blind but now I see.”  As C.S.Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  The world, the universe, the animals, the oceans, the mountains, the people; it all makes sense when I begin with the Cross of Jesus and the Bible.  Rick Warren put it this way: “You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”

In no other system, no other world leader, no other religious figure claimed to BE GOD.  And if Jesus is not God, then nothing makes sense in the world, the universe or people.  But sinse He IS God, it all does make sense.  I was born spiritually blind and sinful.  Jesus came to bear the penalty for my sin.  He lived a sinless life and died an ignominious death on a mechanism for capital criminals at the hands of the Gentiles and Jews.  But He rose from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb.  And now He lives to make intercession for any who will put their faith in Him.  It’s ALL about Him!

I do not intend this blog to be a ‘downer,’ but just to encourage you if you are feeling low, if you feel pressed into the ground by a boulder, or if you fight with the angry wrestler who tries to push you down; perhaps you wonder about your value, your worth, whether your life matters.  It DOES!  You matter so much to God that He sent Jesus to the Cross!  And I know that my Redeemer lives, and THAT is all that really matters.

“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold Him, and not another’s.”
  Job 19:25-27

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in YHWH.
  Habakkuk 3:17

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!

Guest Blog by Päivi Räsänen, Member of Finland’s Parliament

2021-05-01 Finland Parliament Building

The following is a news release by a Finnish Member of Parliament.  Whether you follow the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tipitaka, the Gathas, the Jain Agamas, the Dharma Wheel, the Bible or any other religious literature, this case before Finland’s Court can affect any religious practice by which people try to guide their lives.
Finland is a democratic republic along the lines of the US, but closer to Israel in number of parties and coalition type management of the government.  And since becoming part of the EU, it is anyone’s guess as to how EU diktats will affect their historically egalitarian governance.
Since Finland is part of the EU, the following bears watching as it may impact laws and policies continent-wide, and could spill over the Pond to challenge the US and Canada to follow suit.  “No man is an island.”
I encourage you to pray for Ms. Räsänen and the nation of Finland as they waddle into dangerous waters which may well be a watershed moment for religious freedom around the globe.  Ms. Räsänen has kindly put me on her email list and I am confident she would welcome any message of support from any place in the world (email below), and most of all, that we who follow Jesus are praying for Finland. 
Jesus is coming soon.  “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”

Press Release April 30, 2021

Three charges filed against a Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen.
“I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as it needs.”

Yesterday morning, I received by phone the information that the Prosecutor General has decided to prosecute me in three cases. The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” A charge has also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland published the pamphlet.

The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 in my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet in Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible verses from Romans 1:24-27.

The third charge is about my views presented in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I visited a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.

The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have committed threatening, defaming or insulting actions against a minority group. In all these three cases, the question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. I would not have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend. The Bible’s teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.

The Apostle Paul’s teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God’s word about sin are rejected, the whole core of Christian faith is made empty: the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sake of everyone’s sins and the way He opened into eternity.

There is a difficulty here far greater than a sentence of a fine or an imprisonment: a demand for censorship; an order to remove my social media postings or a ban on the publication of the pamphlet. If one defies the court’s verdict, it leads to demands of penalty payments. This sort of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings.

It is noteworthy that with regard to the pamphlet case and the tv episode with Stiller, the police stated that there was no reason to suspect a crime. The pre-trial investigation should not have even commenced according to their decision. The police stated in their decision: “if some of the views in the Bible were to be regarded as per se fulfilling the criteria of an agitation offense, the dissemination of or making the Bible available would in principle be punishable as an offense of agitation.” This has deeply to do with free speech and freedom of religion.

I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected. A conviction based on the Christian faith would be more than a superficial opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom speech and religion as far as is necessary.

The offense of agitation requires intentionality. In our Criminal Code the concept of intentionality is placed as criteria regarding the purpose of the author and the fact that the author perceives the nature of the act as a culpable legal infringement. In evaluating guilt, one must strive to genuinely understand the background and purpose of the author. As a Member of Parliament, I have been involved in the enactment of this precise amendment to our legislation.  It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.

I want to encourage others to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights.

The Prosecutor General has previously publicly said that she has, because of my cases, received inappropriate messages. I hope that no insulting messages would be targeted against her.

Contact:
Ms. Päivi Räsänen
Member of Parliament, Finland
paivi.rasanen@eduskunta.fi

Evamaria Kyllästinen
evamaria.kyllastinen@eduskunta.fi
Assistant to MP

Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker

As recommended in The American Conservative blog, consider writing a polite but firm email to Ms. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General: valtakunnansyyttaja.syyttaja@oikeus.fi and to the Finnish Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mikko Hautala, at sanomat.was@formin.fi.

Evil Is Evident; Hell Is Authentic; Prepare or Perish.

This title is not stated as a threat or with any glee.  It is written with trembling knees, a heart full of prayer and sincere desire that anyone reading it may find Life and NOT perish.  The title is simply the statement of three facts which I will address in three blogs.  Though Jesus spoke much more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we would be remiss if we skipped these subjects that He and the Bible address.

Fairy Tales
2021-03-27 WickedSome would like us to believe in fairy tales; happily ever after endings without consequences for wrong behavior.  Or at least, let’s provide some context which makes wrong choices understandable and tolerable since the villain had it so rough.  So Wicked becomes a Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty that makes Maleficent an unfortunate victim of her circumstances.  Romulans actually are nice guys, just with slightly different means of expressing the same values as Federation members.  Natasha Romanoff (or Black Widow) had a rough childhood; fortunately, she falls in love with a good guy and joins the Avengers.  Severus Snape, the epitome of evil with black cape, boots and a penchant for scaring Potter’s goodniks, turns out to be working for Dumbledore all along.  Another black-robed villain, Darth Vader is given reasons for his turn to the dark side.  And the Terminator turns out to be a misunderstood robot who just needed reprogramming.  Don’t we all?

So in this alternate universe Hitler would be mistreated by his dad and abused by a Jewish teacher.  Stalin was a nice kid who just got involved with the wrong crowd, and Pol Pot was very poor and had to steal food to survive as a child.

Unfortunately, alternate “universes” do not exist (with no apologies to Stephen Hawking).  By definition, universe means ”the totality of known or supposed objects throughout space; the cosmos.”  There cannot be another “universe” that contains that totality; that is an absurdity for which there is not a grain of evidence except in the minds of Star Trek viewers like Hawking.

Not Innocent, Only Incompetent
2021-03-27 Not Innocent Just IncompetentWe are the product of choices we make throughout life, beginning with infancy when we want the blocks the other baby has.  Shortly after most children master “Mama,” most also learn “Mine!”  Children are not innocent; they are simply incompetent.  Given the power, the mass of them would eliminate any opposition with a flick of Potter’s wand and simply kill anyone that prevents them from getting their way.

You and I were like that!  We had to be taught that there were better things than getting our own way all the time.  Most of those lessons were learnt through experience, the best teacher, but hardly the kindest.

In The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis illustrates these choices among those who refuse Heaven because of what they want.  From the dishonest intellectual to a greedy materialist; from a religious hypocrite to a self-deprecating egomaniac; from a mother who preferred to drag her child into hell rather than forfeit control to a tragedian who loved his own misery rather than accept joy that was offered.  “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton)

There are those who will choose their own way rather than God’s way even at the pain of death.  And from their choices will come every kind of evil from murdering unborn children to killing the elderly who no longer “contribute to society” to justifying what once were considered perverse lifestyles.  Like Lewis’ Ghosts they will couch their evil in beautiful sounding words like Social Security, Affordable Care, For The People, Toleration or Government Protection, but what they really want is selfish aggrandizement, physical comfort, control of others and power for themselves.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?
2021-03-27 House on FireEvil is real and it does not go away just because we try to be “nice” to each other.  Real love is much harsher than the pablum pop psychology puts out today.  If a neighbor’s house is on fire, would we be “nice” and say, “Let’s not upset him; wait till it’s convenient to tell him?”  NO, the “loving thing” to do would be to bang on his door, disturb his “peace,” and warn him to get to safety!  So it is that if we fail to warn people of the reality of evil and its consequences, we are simply “nice neighbors” who do not care if our acquaintances die.

Trying to be nice to some people is like appeasement of Hitler just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  There was a madness sweeping Europe and the Führer was simply its pawn.  This does not excuse him of the war’s atrocities, but remember he was as deceived as those he was deceiving (See 2 Timothy 3:12-13), an evil-doer going from bad to worse.

Paul had this to say to his protégé pastoring in Ephesus:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

And again some time later:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Children of the Day
2021-03-27 Children Of The DayWe are called to be light in a darkening world, salt to a rotting, tasteless culture (Matthew 5:13-16).  The times will become darker yet, as political leaders lie more, as religious conviction becomes labeled “Hate Speech,” as bureaucratic alignments for economic and national interests bring together enemies of Israel, as whole societies 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 5:8-30)

However, though evil is real and becomes more evident, we are called “to walk in the Light, even as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:5-9)  We must stand distinctly apart from liars and deceivers who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  And we pray for the deceived that they may see the Truth (Ephesians 4:18-19)

The Children of the Day recorded this song back in 1979 based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9.
When your heart is dark and empty and new shadows start to fall;
When cluttered fears and sin are the writing on your wall;
Your confusion and your doubts are always lurking left and right,
Don’t try to drive the darkness out; you just turn on the light.

We’re the children of the light, and we’re the children of the day.
We need not always stumble in an ever darkening way.
Though the darkness will close in around with shadows everywhere,
Still Jesus Christ is in our life, the Light of the world is there.

Next week, , I will discuss what Jesus and the Apostles taught about hell.  It’s not pretty.

It’s All About ME!

2021-03-20 Self MagazineSelf-help, self-improvement, self-actualization, self-worth, Self Magazine, self-love.  There is even a Self-Help Credit Union and books about self-massage.  And don’t even get started on seminars and classes one can take for any of these endeavors.  Oprah, Deepak, Covey, Maxwell, Robbins, Dr. Phil and a plethora of others make a fortune every year from our need to “find ourselves” . . . as if you cannot look in a mirror and say, “Oh, there I am.”

2021-03-20 Rain is WetThe first thing to recognize about the “self” phenomenon that began in the 1970s is this foolish idea that we need “to learn to love ourselves.”  That’s as absurd as “trying to figure out if I am a man or woman.”  Hey, follow the “science” and look in your pants.  This is like trying to figure out if the sun is bright or if rain is wet.  The sun IS bright by its nature; by the way it was created and what it was created to be.  The rain IS wet because it is made of water, and by definition you cannot use water in “dry-cleaning;” otherwise the cleaning would be wet-cleaning.

Just as the sun is bright and rain is wet, we love ourselves.  This first principle is in Ephesians 5:29.  You can no more hate yourself than the rain can be dry.  So how do we understand negative thoughts and self-deprecation we often encounter?  We are always of two minds, and the “self-love” gurus never seem to understand this.

If the Bible is correct, and I would (and do) stake my life on it, we need to reorient our thinking to correctly assess what we understand to be self-hate.  I love myself, but sometimes I do things that I know are not good for me or others.  (See Romans 7:15-20.)  And the more I love myself AND understand that the thing I do is not good for me, the more I will hate what I do.  Too much of our pop psychology from the 1960s on to the present time misreads this spite for what I do as spite for my self, demonstrating a lack of critical analysis skills.  It also shows a significant misconstruction of the human mind.  Many professional psychiatrists and psychologists now have been fed lies about self-hate and graduated with this misunderstanding.

2021-03-20 Me Me MeThe social and cultural revolution that occurred in the 1960s carried over into the 70s with what Tom Wolfe called the “Me Generation” that was focused on examining our own belly buttons to the point that we lost sight of what it was to be a person.  And it has not become any better for newer generations.  Stare at the sun long enough and you will not see it anymore.  Stare at your own reflection in a mirror and you will lose sight of what really matters . . . for yourself and for others.

The saddest part of this is that some of the “self-help” stuff is right.  If you read some blogs or scan the web about self-love, there are some excellent guidelines for caring for others or living at peace, eating better food or disavowing racism.  Do these things and, yes, you will find yourself happier, more fulfilled and living healthier and better than ever.  But the question comes, is being happy the ultimate goal of my life?  “People who are entirely wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1942)

The key consideration is motive.  Why do we do the things we do?  The Son of Man did not come to do His own will, but the will of His Father who had sent Him. (John 6:38)  God does not look on outward appearances as we do (1 Samuel 16:7), but looks at our motives.  When I indulge in self-help because it is good for ME, my motive is sinful, even if the action is good.  Even action that is self-sacrificial or self-deprecating is nothing more than banging a gong if the motive is only for me. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  Even writing a brilliant blog (🙄) is of no value to the Kingdom of God if all I want is more followers and accolades of readers.

Separating our “selves” from what we do is almost impossible for us.  The concept is easy enough to understand: consider when you look at a beautiful painting or the Grand Canyon; when you smell a delicious New England Boiled Dinner about ready to be served; when you feel the warmth of a loving embrace; when you hear a philharmonic orchestra play a Beethoven symphony perfectly.  In all of these occasions we are somehow transported “out of ourselves” to a point of delight without focus on us.  Ideally, this is how we should live!  Not as a Buddhist in “absorption into the infinite” nor in a state of impersonal nirvana, and certainly not with a focus on how much “I enjoy” this.

Rather, there is a position of satisfaction in savoring something without “self-consciousness.”  It is not a place of hating oneself or of putting oneself down; nor is it a place of exalting oneself, of loving and caring for yourself over concern for others.  It is simply NOT thinking about yourself.

There is also a place of discomfort where we are concerned for someone else, worried for another’s well-being, hopeful for something for someone besides ourselves.  This is also a field of UN-self-consiousness. 

So where does that leave us?  Always coming before the Creator with humility and repentance for being less than He created us to be.  C.S. Lewis commented somewhere that we are either repenting of a sin, contemplating a sin, or committing a sin, this being our constant habit.  It would seem rather dismal except that whenever we are in that place of repentance, God lifts us out of our “selves” and gives us joy for the moments that we are UN-self-conscious.  And this comes because of His grace to us, His unmerited favor that the Holy God of the universe lavishes on us who are so unholy.

2021-03-20 RainingSo give up reading on “how to be happy,” forget about “finding yourself,” or “realizing your potential.”  No need to “Run The World.”  Most of all, lose any misconception about a need to love yourself more or more perfectly.  You can no more improve on your love for yourself than you can make rain any wetter.

Instead focus on Him, on His Presence, on His purposes.  Learn to know Him, not as an abstract idea or philosophy, but know Him as a person.  Granted, an infinite and undefinable person, but He is here and He is not silent.  It is NOT all about me . . . or you.

Can’t Congress Find Anything MORE Stupid To Do????

2021-03-13 DST AgainWell, it’s that time of the year again.  After a year of pandemics and elections, it is time for the US Congress to address one of the stupidest laws they have ever enacted!  And this is noted with full awareness of the ACA (aka Obamacare – “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”Nancy Pelosi, March 9. 2010).  This presupposes the For The People Act that centralizes elections, disenfranchises states and degrades the integrity of the elections by “the people” it supposedly is FOR.  It assumes you know about the $1,900,000,000.00 ($1.9 trillion) Covid Relief Package that has less than $1,900,000.00 ($1.9 billion) for covid relief, less than 1/10th of the bill.

Even with these boondoggles, the stupidest law the U.S. Congress has ever passed was the Daylight Saving Time Act of 1918!  Because of confusion over when states would adopt DST, it was codified into uniform compliance by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (unless states wanted to opt out, which Arizona, Hawaii and half of Indiana did).  Now Daylight Saving Time begins with “Spring Forward” at 2am on the second Sunday of March every year.  When 2am hits, we are supposed to move our clocks forward to 3am, skipping that hour.  Standard Time resumes with “Fall Back” at 2am on the first Sunday of November.  When 2am hits, we try to reverse the damage by moving the clocks backward to 1am, repeating the 1am hour over again.  Then we do it all again in the spring.

Now, let’s up the absurdity!  This year, again, a group of congresspeople and senators have proposed the Sunshine Protection Act which would make Daylight Saving Time PERMANENT, so that we do not have to change our clocks every other season.  After all, if the government does not protect the Sunshine, who will!?  A reasonable person might ask, WHYYYYY!?  If you are going to get up an hour earlier every day of the year, why not just leave the clocks alone and go with the Greenwich Meridian Time standard that the US adopted in November of 1883 and was standardized to the world in 1884?

Two stories to illustrate the asininity of this idea:2021-03-13 Capital Grille Lounge
One is the apocryphal tale of why DST was ever adopted. 
It seems some congressmen were concerned about getting reelected and felt they needed something to show their constituents that they were not just sitting around the Capitol lounge and gym smoking stogies, drinking martinis and getting tax-payer funded massages, even though that is exactly what they were doing
One suggested, “Why don’t we vote to give everyone an extra hour every day?  You know, to work longer and pay higher taxes, but we could say it was so they could spend more time with their families.” 
Everyone jumped on the bandwagon immediately exclaiming “Capital idea!” until a freshman congressman, who was unschooled in the finer arts of making laws, noted, “But that would wear out in about two weeks when people would be going to bed at sunup and rising at sundown.”
After some substantial grumbling about mouthy young upstarts needing to learn their place, one of the elder statesmen said, “Well we can just subtract the extra hour from the morning and that way everyone will get the extra hour without confusing the clock-makers who would have to make 25 hour clocks. Besides I don’t have that many voting clock-makers in my district.” 
The measure passed with full bi-partisan support and was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson, who was busy planning to catch the Spanish Flu when he attended the League of Nations meeting the next year, and could not get reelected for a third term if he had slowed down the earth’s rotation to actually give everyone an extra hour.

The second story is a true one about a secretary I once knew in an office in which I worked.  Spring was on the horizon and we were discussing the coming change of the clocks.  I noted that, “If it is really so important to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening, why can’t we just start and quit work an hour earlier?” 
The secretary looked aghast!  “Oh, C.A., I have to get up at 6am to get here by 8 as it is.  I could never get up at 5am.”
The befuddlement in my brain was difficult to speak through, but I finally managed to say, “But you ARE getting up at 5am; you’re just calling it 6am for the summer!”

I would like to suggest an alternative proposal that we set our clocks BACK five hours!  That way we could all sleep in until noon and miss the rush hour traffic going to work, right?  This proposal makes the same sense as “permanentizing” DST year-round.

2021-03-13 Congressional GymAnd so the idiocy we call Daylight Saving Time (and that many people mispronounce as Daylight SavingS Time) may not be going away any time soon.  In fact, if our brilliant congresspeople have anything to say about it, DST might not go away ever!  Just think of how much we will protect the sunshine and the time we will save THAT WAY!  Now I wonder what they will do while smoking stogies, sipping martinis and getting massages.

History of Daylight Saving Time

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

HOW Are You Praying FOR Your Enemies?

How do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree?  This is an important corollary to Jesus’ command to love your enemies.  Matthew 25:44 tells us this and to “pray for those who persecute you.”  Now, don’t go all Pharisee on me and say, “It does not command me to pray for all my enemies, just those who persecute me!”

Let me summarize with a quote and then expand, so if you fully understand C.S.Lewis’ quote you can quit reading and do something more important.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

First, it is important to realize that person with whom you so thoroughly disagree is most likely deceived.  He or she does not realize they are not acting in their own best interests.  Like the phantoms in Lewis’ Great Divorce, there is something they want more than Heaven, not realizing Heaven would provide for them so much more than the meager trinkets to which they are clinging.  “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

These blinded individuals are to be pitied more than hated.  “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)  Once deceived, they encourage others to join in their destructive behavior (Proverbs 10:17), not realizing they are accumulating corruption and chains that bind them ever more tightly until one day they will have become so entangled there will not be any escape.  Like adding one tiny strand to a rope, each occurrence of mischief entwines layer by layer until they simply are beyond hope, but it is never for us to make that determination while they are still in the land of the living.

Secondly, Father’s heart is to do what is best for them.  That is right, the Creator loves your enemy and wants what is good for them!  2 Peter 3:9 affirms this in the New Testament as does Ezekiel 33:11 in the Old Testament.  The whole Bible is Father’s love letter to a world that chose to ignore His simple direction in the Garden of Eden, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

His intention, His heart was to give us each and all the very best with very little restriction.  But with Adam’s and Eve’s narrow and short-sighted choice, they brought disobedience, deception and death into the world.  And without His loving provision there would not be any hope for any of us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only born Son . . .” (John 3:16). Notice, NOT that He loved those who would choose to obey Him; not that He loved people of a certain geography or genetic line; not that He loved the ones who would learn to abide in Him.  NO, He loved and loves the whole world!

  • That includes the guy who raped a 16 year old girl the day before he shipped off to Vietnam and left scars in her life so she never learned how to develop good relationships with men.
  • That includes the dad who, drunk again, hit his son so hard up the side of his head that he could no longer think straight in school and now has a hard time holding a job.
  • That includes Dr. Levatino (https://www.abortionprocedures.com/about-dr-levatino/) as he performed 1,200+ abortions of babies at every stage of development.
  • That includes a president who may be a misogynistic self-aggrandizing narcissist.
  • That includes a Speaker of the House who may have so little respect for the Constitution or Office of the President that she would tear up his SOTU speech on national view like a child throwing a tantrum.
  • That includes the idiot who drove 60mph up Nicholasville Road and killed a pedestrian.
  • That includes the drug addict who has made a thousand choices that were foolish.
  • That includes the pusher who sells him the drugs.

There is NO ONE excluded from the love that took Jesus to the cross.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:6-8)

  • That includes me!! And yes, that includes YOU!

So now, thirdly, my problem is to align my heart with Jesus’ and pray FOR my enemies the way Jesus would pray for them.  How would you pray for a coworker who spreads cruel information about you to prevent you from getting respect at work?  How would you pray for a wayward son who refuses to have anything to do with following Jesus?  How would you pray for a spouse who has walked away from faith and wounded you so deeply you do not know if you will ever recover?

Think of how Jesus prayed for his crucifiers while he was dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  Some have said this is one of two prayers of Jesus to which Father said, “No.”  But Father’s answer is not our concern here.  What we need to examine is our hearts to see if we share Jesus’ desire for our enemies.

His Heart is broken for those you find too smelly, degraded or offensive to associate with.  He loves your enemy and makes His expectation of us very clear: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

So now, how will you pray FOR your enemy?

 

 

Naked and Unashamed

In the Garden, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)

We tend to infer from the conversation in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve were somehow physically unable to see their nakedness.  However, from the Genesis 2:25 language and later understanding that we gain from Bible study, that is not likely the case.  Not so much blinded, but oblivious to what did not matter.

In the perfect environment without storms or snow or burning sun, what need was there for clothes with two people who lived in perfect harmony and love?  They tended the Garden and cared for the animals who were naked, and they had nothing to hide from each other, from the animals, or from God.

TemptationWhat was missing from their knowledge that they could gain from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  God had made everything “good” day by day, and in the end “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  They knew everything good that was in creation, naming the animals and working the soil to growing delicious food, eating fruit from perfect pear and apple trees.  Now look at the name of the Tree from which Satan tempted them to eat.  What could they learn?  Only evil!

There was something to learn; something which their eyes had not seen yet, in all the “good” that God had made.  But it was not something they would enjoy as much as Satan made it sound: “You will be like God!” (Genesis 3:5)

Don’t you wish you could go back to that setting and yell to Eve, Don’t do it!  It’s a trick!  It’s a lie!  It’s what Lucifer wants to be: like God (Isaiah 14:14), and since he has failed, he wants to pull you and Adam down, too!  He wants to spoil this perfect creation and make it as evil as he is! . . . But we were not there, and likely we would not have understood any better than Eve did.

So she ate and gave to Adam to eat, also, and suddenly they did see things they had not noticed before!  It was as if their eyes were opened for the first time since creation.  In an unconscious sense, they probably knew that they were naked before, but because it did not matter, it did not register in their cognition.  It simply was something they did not think about.  But now, their awareness of their failure to obey a simple command that only required them to trust the benevolent Creator who would visit them every evening brought into sharp focus that there was nothing they could hide!  And NOW they had something that they wanted to hide!

Adam and Eve3How the devil must have laughed and jumped with sadistic glee at the success of his deceit.  He grinned as he saw their futile attempts to sew fig leaves together.  He laughed as he heard the Creator coming to visit them in the Garden.  Because he was without understanding of God’s unbounded mind and ignorant of His eternal plan, he thought he had dealt a terrible blow to God.

Ever since, we have worn clothes.  Every society (with the exception of a few nudist nuts) has required some kind of cover for the body.  Add the mess that came after the flood with snows and rain and hail, and clothes became necessary for most of us most of the time just to survive the damaged environment.  But apart from protection from the weather, we have always worn clothes, and societies have developed complex systems of clothes to express rank and social importance.

Only in the marriage relationship is nudity acceptable (or under a doctor’s care, but that’s for another blog).  We usually marry at 20-30 years old and most of us have accumulated a lot of emotional baggage by then.  How do two flawed people with so many things in their past that they would prefer to hide, stand naked and unashamed?  And what about when we get out of shape or age begins to change how nice things looked on our wedding day?  Can we return to “naked and unashamed” or are we always going to hide until the end of days?

Gift of Sex.jpgIn The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, the authors make a case for marriage being a place of safety and exposure.  They note that sexuality is part of God’s plan, not a deviation from it.  “The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people . . . The husband-wife sexual relationship is used throughout Scripture to symbolize the God-man relationship.”  They provide astute advice about body image and how to deal with body issues in a loving, mutually supportive and realistic context that removes the pressure from having to be a beauty-pageant winner or a world-class body builder.

The key of it is their perspective on mutual submission to the Lord of Life.  Jesus restores purity where there once was only shame and disgrace.  Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) He welcomes us into His family with open arms and forgiveness for all our past; such complete forgiveness as though the sin never happened!

God cannot reverse time and change what you did in the past.  He cannot restore your virginity; He cannot remove the marks left in your mind from rape or immoral behavior; He cannot go back to the Garden of Eden and remove the fruit from Adam’s and Eve’s hands.  What He can do is make you sexually pure again.  He can bring you into His garden of love, grace and forgiveness, and even though you know the difference between good and evil, He can guide you into discovering all that is not just good, but “very good,” again.  You can stand before Him and your spouse, “naked and unashamed.”

For additional understanding see Paul David Tripp’s article here: 10 Things You Should Know About Sex In a Broken World.

 

If Adam Had Not Sinned

“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all peopleRomans 5:12

But what if Adam had not sinned?  Would that have guaranteed freedom from sin for the whole human race?  Would each of us been sinless for all eternity?  There are no clear answers to these questions, but here I posit some possible considerations.

TemptationAdam was made in the image of God, i.e. experiencing time, having personality, emotions, volition, intelligence, masculinity and femininity, i.e. a living soul.  But we know what happened: he ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which Eve gave to him when she was deceived.  The only tree in the Garden from which they were forbidden.  So why did God put that tree there in the first place?  He gave them everything that was good, “very good,” in fact.  Why mess it up with a tree that posed a potential problem?

God did not want automatons who had to serve Him because there was no other choice.  By creating man with volition, i.e. will that was free, He was creating someone with whom He could relate; someone with whom He could enjoy fellowship.  He did not, nor does He now, need us or our fellowship.  Existing as the Triune One, He already had and maintains perfect fellowship within Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is simply in His nature to share the love and holiness He enjoys, so here we are!  Created in His image, not as though He has hands and feet, but in our spirits sharing in a very small temporal way the grand and eternal characteristics that identify Him as God.

By creating man with volition, there always is a possibility of disobedience. (Keep this in mind.)  However, all Adam and Eve knew experientially was what was good.  The only thing they could learn from the forbidden tree was what was evil.  It all came down to trust, that experience God did not even know until He came to earth as the God-Man, Jesus, and had to trust His Father and the Holy Spirit in ways the Triune God had not experienced.

Garden of Eden ExpulsionWe know what happened to Adam and Eve, and each of us has experienced the inclination toward sin that originated with their disobedience.  We know to do good, but we find in ourselves an impotence to do it.  We know to avoid sin, but we find our sin nature pulls us inexorably into it.  We have no power to resist evil and do good within ourselves.  It is only through the redemption that Jesus provides that our once dead spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit so that we no longer obey the world, the flesh nor the devil.  We are freed from sin’s power.

Back the original question: what if Adam had not sinned?  Imagine for a minute having parents who nurtured you perfectly, trained you in your growing years without unfruitful anger or selfishness, guided you with wisdom in making decisions until you were able to imitate them perfectly.  Imagine not being inclined to be selfish, yourself!  Seeing another child with a toy would not evoke jealousy or envy, because from birth you knew that if something was good for you, your parents would provide it.  Where would be the impetus to sin?  Why would you doubt the integrity of the God who walked with your parents and you every day and provided everything, not just good, but very good!?  Someone born into such a kingdom would be inclined to do the right thing, just as now we are bent to do the wrong thing.

However, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would still be in Eden!  The tempter may have been vanquished with Adam’s and Eve’s obedience.  Perhaps the serpent, that liar and murderer, would not even have been allowed back into the Garden after Adam and Eve had children.  But the Tree would still be there  . . . and you and I would still have volition, free will.

Without the pull of someone evil trying to mess up our relationship with a loving God, we might never have touched that forbidden tree, as Eve would have taught us to obey.  Eating from the Tree of Life in the center of the Garden would have provided us with eternal life.  But free will would still be free.  Someone could decide to eat of that forbidden tree.  Through the thousands of years and billions of people on the earth, one of us may have decided to go our own way and try the forbidden fruit.

Satans fallINSANITY, we cry!  Of course.  All sin is insanity in one measure or another.  Why would someone inject dangerous chemicals into his arms at risk of death just for a good feeling that will pass?  Why would someone steal what is not his just to gain a very small and temporary advantage over another?  Why would someone lie to save a moment’s embarrassment?  Why would an angel try to steal God’s glory and make himself God!?  Yet, Lucifer, living in the presence of all the love and holiness of God that he could experience, made just that decision!

I suspect God, infinite in wisdom, would recognize a “problem child” before he became a problem and protect the rest of humanity and the rest of the universe from one sinner’s sin, but He would not stop the exercise of free will.  So someone, even after Adam’s and Eve’s passage into faithfulness, could still decide to try life without God’s guidance.  Any one of us could have still sinned in the Garden and our path would have taken us and our progeny on the same road that we are now on, thanks to Adam’s and Eve’s choice.

So we are now faced with that same choice Adam and Eve faced: Will we trust The God Who Is There or will we trust our own perceptions and doubts about His goodness?  What if Adam had not sinned?  We would still face this choice: to do life our own way or to do life His way.  Even though Adam sinned, it is still our choice, the same as if he had not sinned.