Saturday, August 31, 2013

Good IS NOT Good Enough!

Some many people say "I've been good. I'm going to heaven!"  That's one of  the most dangerous thoughts you can have! How "good" have you been?

The standard of comparison provided by God is the Ten Commandments. Do you know them? Do you know where to even find them? Do you obey them? (Not one or two or most, but ALL them).

Why did God write down the Commandments, what's referred to generally as The Law written by the Hand of God in contrast to the Law of Moses written by the hand of Moses? (The Book of the Law, the Pentateuch, includes all the law, 613 commands in total.).

Mankind sinned before the law was written! That should come as no surprise, but I can hear them now "I didn't know that was wrong!" God gave the law so that man was without excuse! Right and wrong were no longer hidden in the mysteries of God, but set in stone!

Deuteronomy 30: 10 "If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?"

Let's stop and look at two of the covenants (deals made by God for mankind). The Old Testament is about the covanent of "law", while the New Testament is a covanent of "grace". Some say that the Law no longer applies, but that by grace alone (sola gratia) that we're saved.  Others say that we're saved by grace, but must keep the Law to obtain salvation, while others believe that the Law is the assurance of our salvation.

Regardless of your Calvinistic tendencies, all Christians should believe that Christ was our example and that we're called to be Christlike!  There's much scripture to support that statement.  Since Christ wasn't a sinner (law-breaker) and we're to be as much like Christ as humanly possible, then we are to do our best to keep the Law!  However, much of the Law (that part written by Moses) is ceremonial. The part of the Law most important to God is the Decalogue.  Hence, every Christian should strive to please God in this manner! There are rewards and punishments that go along with our compliance, usually how close we're able to commune with God!

Those who say "I've been good" are missing the "grace" part of the equation! No you're not good! If you say that you are, then you're deceived. Satan told you that you are "good" to keep you from seeking salvation! Romans tells us that "There is none good. No not one!" and this is reinforced by Jesus himself:

Matthew 19:16 "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  17  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18  He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

God only is good! However, verse 18-19 tell us what we're to do to have eternal life. We are to be good! What is "good". Obeying the Commandments!  In fact the Greatest Commandment to love God and neighbor is a summary of the Decalogue!

Now since you know that in yourself you're not good enough to "save yourself" what does it take?  You must be a disciple (follower) of Jesus!  You believe in him, you're sorry that you disrespected him out of disobedience to the Law, you accept him and that he died for you, you believe that he is risen and yet lives! That''s all it takes! By this simple thought (sacrifice of self) you're saved! Nothing beyond simple faith (self-sacrifice) qualifies you for eternal life. It's a gift God has given you; Christ shed his own blood and died so that you may have eternal life... which, by the way, you don't deserve.

If you look at the "repentance" part, if you believe that you're "good" what have you to confess to God that you did wrong? I bet that not only have you broken one commandment, but you have actively or in your heart broken them all! Have you wished someone dead? If so, you're a murderer! Have you desire for what someone else has? Then you've coveted! Have you lied or avoided truth? Then you're a liar! Have you disrespected God? Then you're a blasphemer! Have you placed other things above God? Then you're an idolater! Have you sassed your parents? Then you have disrespected them! You see, we're all "scum". We're blaspheming, lying, lusting, disrespectful idolaters; yet we think we've been "good". That's what Satan wants you to think, because without remorse for sinning there is no salvation!

Maybe you're naive to your own sinful life. Perhaps you try never to disobey. I bet that everybody has broken all the Commandments, but let's give you the benefit of the doubt! Perhaps you've broken only one:

James 2:10
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
If you've sassed your parents you're just as lost as the rest of us! By breaking one Commandment you are a sinner just like the rest of us! (While  you're thinking about how good you are by only breaking one, consider that you just may be propping yourself up as an idol, for pride is why we all face death!)
Should we try to be "good"? Most certainly... but it won't save us! How will we know if we really love Jesus enough to merit everlasting life? It's by keeping his Commandments!
1 John 2:3 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."
We are to walk as Christ walked. That's sinless. Will we ever be sinless? Fat chance! However, we can desire to please God and our self-control shows respect for God; and remember that Jesus IS God. Too many Christians fail to place an emphasis on holy living. If you truly have accepted Jesus then you will be "good". Because we're saved doesn't mean that we no longer have to keep the Law. We should be joyous that we now love the Law!
No, being "good" is not enough! That's pride! Jesus called those who thought they were "good" vipers! That means if you perceive yourself as "good", you're a snake! That's just not good!
It would be better if you are honest about your degenerate life than claim righteousness. In God's eyes if you are just a "good" person, you're despicable. Why, because you have failed to accept the grace that his vicarious death provided. Start now, this instant, examine yourself honestly; are you really "good"? The obvious and only answer is "No you're not!". What then, do you need to do?  Accept the gift that has already been made for you. Accept Jesus' atonement!
Romans 5:8 "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Did Christ die for the "good"? No, he died for the sinner. That's all of us. Your self-deification that you are "good" as God was good; is blasphemy. That's the only one sin that God won't forgive:
Matthew 12:31 "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
The Holy Ghost has the ultimate grace. He calls the sinner to redemption. If you fail to respond. that's blasphemy! You rejected Christ as Savior. That sin and that sin alone shall keep you from eternal life. Why should Jesus allow you to live with him in heaven if you don't even believe in him?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Death is Swallowed up in Victory

1 Corinthians 15:54 "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
We have all lost those we love. It's difficult if the love is genuine and for most of us, it is!  Humanity looks at death from a different perspective than God  does. For us, even Christians, it is a sad event, although we're promised eternal life. Even a strong Christian may have doubts about eternal life because our faith is frail. However, as Jesus died in the flesh he lives in Spirit, we too will leave this mortal body and live in Spirit, and some day in a fully restored perfect body!
We are corruptible! Not only will our flesh decay, but until we die, we sin. At our death we become incorruptible. We shall have a body which will not age, will not die and will never sin again! (Most people are satisfied with a sinful life, but if you're a Christian, get used to the idea that sin will no longer tittilate). Sin has lost its sting by death! The sting which is death lies defeated! Being alive makes us mere mortals. With death we shall become immortal, providing we have an enduring faith in Jesus! What a promise! What great hope we have! Yet we dread it. Why?
The grave shall never contain me. My poor body may lay in it for awhile, but my soul shall never be restrained by mere earthen walls. Six feet of ground cover will never seal my Spirit!  The grave shall be defeated. Death will be as well. There will be no victory for death since I will live! I like that promise, yet again, I say, "I'm afraid of death!" Jesus understands. He's been there. He did it for us!

Luke 23:46 "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."
Jesus was in agony at his death just as we may be. He felt death's sting. He cried out to his father "Why has thou forsaken me?" as the sins of all mankind bore down on his frail body. It hurt Jesus and was painful to "cross-over", breaking that silver cord between life and death. I don't fear being dead! However, I fear the breaking of that silver cord. I fear crossing-over!  Jesus and I have that in common. It's a penalty we pay for being sinners. Jesus, though paid the same price although he was without sin. He bore ours.
The sting of death doesn't start with the cessation of breathing. We know when it's coming and there is a great fear with high anxiety. We may not admit it, but we feel death coming. Even with car accidents, the entire life flashes by and those dying apparently often know what's coming. That innate fear of dying does strange things to those who're dying.
I sit here now asking for forgiveness. I hope that I never do what I may do, but the sting of death may change me. I love my children. They all mean the world to me. At times some of us have been estranged, but my love is unconditional! I had great failures in life and so have some of my children. As a loving father I expect more from my children than I do for myself because I despise my own short-comings. I want them to succeed where I've failed. With that motivation my goals for my own have exceeded my own goals for myself. That has placed a wall between them and me at times. My love has been a barrier to mutual love! My expectations have barricaded a relationship.
I've been proud of the accomplishments of all my children! Each of them has in fact excelled in being what they are. At times I've minimized their accomplishments as I was blinded by my expectations. I'm contrite. My motives were noble, but my methods were ignoble. That's my character weakness!
No one knows my true self more than my wife. She knows where I'm vulnerable and what disappoints me. She understands that even with a flair of an occasional temper, that I quickly recover and my love remains undiminished. I get pleasure from her joy, but have pain in disagreements. Nothing I hate worse is friction in our relationship. She knows I bite my tongue quite often and I knows that she does with me. Pride is put aside as conflict is put aside.
My pleasure is in hers. Outside her overspending, seeing her happy makes me "Happy, Happy, Happy!".  My favorite response is her "arm hug" as we sit and just be together!
With that in mind I may revert to my "Old Man" as the death shadow approaches me near the end. I may say cruel things and do awful deeds. I may strike out at those I love most. I don't want to do that, but when my mind succumbs to age, Dementia becomes my partner. My own cognition may become overwhelmed by mischievous synapses. My utterings may be those of the angel of death. I may not be my own.
I may criticize the ones I love, even curse them. That won't be me! It will be a remnant of original sin rearing its ugly head to make one last stand against love, the best gift God gives us! Satan will relish the last days where I try to take that loving bond we have and turn it into a chain of hate. Remember, if you will, that ugly sinner you see at the end is not me! It's my former self. The "New Man" has been threatened by the "Old Man" breathing his last breath! Why is it that way? Why can we not make a graceful exit? Dissension is the way of the ruler of this world. Death belongs to Satan. Life belongs to God. Principalities battle until the sting of death is complete. Satan succumbs only when our spirit is finally entirely sanctified.
Luke 8:49 "While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. 50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. 52  And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. 53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. 54  And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat."
If we look closely at the account of this miracle in Luke we obtain slightly different information than the other gospel accounts of the same miracle. It was chronicled that "her spirit came again"!  When the girl had died, her spirit had immediately left the body. There was no "soul sleep" awaiting the general resurrection. Her spirit (soul) had left her body as death left its sting!  Upon being resurrected by Jesus, her spirit returned and rejoined her body.
In like manner, when I die, my own spirit will live on. A nice room in a mansion is already prepared for me there in heaven! Someday, when Jesus comes again, my ashes will arise and ascend to heaven to rejoin my spirit and the twain shall again be one!  During that interval I will find joy in Jesus. I shall live on in a perfect place. My life and love will be God. There will be no dissension in heaven. I will have no animosity toward anyone. My shortcomings with those I loved in this world will be replaced with not only genuine unconditional love, but with divine love!
My fear is that I might cause grief to those I love most while I yet live. Consider this a warning! As Dementia strikes a mighty heave at your very existence, remember my name is dad. my name is husband, my name is brother! I reject the me which will be manifested as I succumb to the grim reaper.  I hurt right now at what I may become! Please forgive me what I may do later!
My worst fear is that it may happen to my spouse. It hurt me terribly to see Dementia, who dwelled in her own mother, emotionally try to destroy the one who cared and loved her most. Even knowing that Dementia is speaking provides little comfort because the words are uttered by that loved one. I ask God to allow me to exhaust my life with dignity and preserve the love I have sought to establish with my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and my siblings.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
John 11:25 "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:"
Dementia has passed away along with another person who has gone. The sting was too much for Dementia. She has been replaced by Joy! The body will become dust for a short while because scripture tells us of Jesus "Surely, he come quickly!". The Spirit of those who died in Christ has already returned to the Creator. The Christian Spirit resides right now with God although the body lies sedentary and lifeless. 
As the body lies motionless the believer lives on! Right now those who submitted to Christ, but succumbed to death, lives on regally, as a king or queen, subjective to and praising God! Fear not the sting of death nor have remorse at those who suffered the sting. The pain of that sting is healed by blood which has already been shed. The sting has been defeated. Death will no longer be feared. Life has been  left behind because the race is won!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gambling and God: Are they at odds?

I really don't like to create sin where there is none, but is gambling wrong or just fun? That's a question to ponder using scripture as our guide, but common sense to objectify.

Gambling is to take a risk to gain the benefit of whatever is the desired outcome. Normally gambling is considered a game of "chance", meaning the outcome is unpredictable. When there is "risk" the gambler stands to either gain or to lose. The probability of winning or losing are called "odds". If a coin is flipped the odds are 1 out of 2 or 50% that you will win and the same odds that you were lose. Statistically, if you flip heads or tails 1000 times, you will outcomes of 500 heads and 500 tails.  The only way to alter that outcome is by some part of inherent bias in the gambling process. It's possible to weight a coin to provide greater odds toward the desired outcome. We're all familiar with loaded dice which increases the odds of rolling a seven. That's built-in bias and is called "cheating". Whenever one gambles the gambler takes a risk of unfair odds or cheating!

"Cheating" is legal in the gambling world. The state allows an unfair advantage to the "house", the establishment which has to make a profit. Those stately buildings, luxurious furniture. lavish restaurants and olympic pools are paid for by "losers" who gamble. The winners, few that they are, take home their profits from gambling and don't pay for those grand facilities. Casino house odds range from  0% to 11.1% for craps games, 1.06% to 14.36% for Baccarat, and 2.7% to 5.26% for roulette; for examples. These odds (if greater than fair = 0%) insure that if you play long enough and often enough you too will become a "loser".  I call gambling "stupid taxes" because the gambler is giving a portion of his income to another to when he's not forced to do so!

Outcomes in gambling are normally a result of "fate" with the exception of the house advantage. Fate is usually the odds of a mathematical outcome or can be in nature as well. The odds that you'll be struck by lightening can be calculated because there have been a history of occurrences. That history can be expressed as odds. It would take an even greater fool to bet that he/she will be struck by lightening in a lifetime! Likewise, gambling in the stock market is historical, can be charted, but neither is it guaranteed. The stock market also has a certain degree of "chance".

The extent of a gamble can be decided by how much "history" is known. If one steps up to throw the dice in theory if the previous 100 throws were known it would give the crap-shooter an edge. Likewise, if a black jack player "counts cards" it would give the player and edge. That's statistics. Most people can't or don't know the history of the game they are playing, hence it becomes strictly a game of chance. In the stock market charts and graphs are available to share historical performance. The performance of companies is based on world affairs, international trade, domestic policies, the desirability of the product, population demographics and so on. If the investor (gambler) studies these trends the desired outcome (profit) is biased toward himself. This is not cheating since the investor can't skew the outcome, but realizes the potential for desired outcomes. Hence, "playing the market" is low-risk gambling unless it's high-risk growth investments.

Gambling, strictly on chance, is foolish and the outcomes are most often negative. The gambler loses! The stock market, if played by an amateur, is likewise foolish. That's why we pay financial services to gamble for us. Financiers can actually bias the market in the favor of the investor by large volume investments. They also have the computer tools and history to determine outcomes, so "chance" is diminished and pragmatism determines the outcome. Hence, a good investor is a gambler, but a low risk one! Since the stock market has performed in the past, it's a positive key that growth will continue to occur and rather than the stock market being strictly a gamble, it becomes an investment! It moves on the scale from foolishness to wisdom based on the growth an investor selects. (We seldom get something for nothing.) A wise investor expects small, but near certain growth, thus turning static equity into reasonable profits.

You should always look to the Bible for guidance. Is gambling addressed scripturally?

Here's what I would like the Bible to say "Thou shalt not gamble." However, it doesn't say that. Neither does the Bible say "Thou shalt not take heroin". The absence of a direct command doesn't make it right. We do have the command Exodus 23:19b "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk." Few of us today would even consider milking a goat, killing the offspring of the goat, then boiling the "kid" in it's mother's milk." However, it's there for a reason! It's a lesson on respect for God's creation (the animal kingdom) and for God!  We show respect to the animals because God wants us to respect what he's given us!  My point is that whenever we consider a human action that action or behavior must be respectful to God's will!  Because "gambling" is not specifically mentioned as being a sin, doesn't make it sin free!

The Bible specifically mentions "casting lots" numerous times. Two things were incidental to casting lots: 1) God's will was desired, not a gain in wealth and 2) It was not "chance" which provided the outcome, but the Will of God!  Gambling on the other hand is determined by pure mathematics (fate) and with the thought of gain in mind! God's will is not just a matter of mathematical outcome, but God has a "bias" in favor of what he wants! God is omnipotent. He decides the outcome and that outcome is always what he desires for us, not what we desire, our "pleasure" so to speak.

An example of casting lots is:

Nehemiah 10:34 "And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:"

You can see in the above example that the "casting of lots" was not by definition gambling! It was to decide who was responsible for helping in the work of honoring the Lord! It was strictly a fair method of determining the work of the different classes of people. The end result was to magnify! Not themselves, but God only!

Before the prophets in seeking God's wisdom, the priests would turn to the urim and thummim which were letters on their breastplate. God would somehow light up or signify his will through their use. There was no gambling associated to their use, but divine guidance only!

Ezra 2:63 "And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim."

Why then do I consider gambling a scriptural no-no? It has to do with respect! There was one particular instance in the scripture where the unsaved (non-Christians) cast lots:

John 19:23 "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did."
Scene: Jesus, the only Son of God, dying in my place!
Props: The clothing Jesus our Lord was wearing at his death.
Setting: Pagan soldiers gambling to divided the clothing of the one who died for me.
Plot: An innocent man dying for my sins. Sinful men gambling in disrespect.
Outcome: Personal gain for the pagan at the expense of our Messiah.
The only occasion of modern gambling in the Bible was that the undeserving by a game of chance made unearned personal gain at the expense of the innocent and in disrespect to Jesus! This is just as the "seething a kid in its mother's milk" commandment, is one of paramount disrespect.
Those soldiers were being paid to crucify our Lord. Their earned income was already paid, but they sought spoils; something that was not their own! They didn't deserve what they had not worked for!  Each soldier turned to "fate" to get reward. Their concern was not for the death of an innocent man, but for their own personal gain. What is man's biggest problem?
1 Timothy 6:10a "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after..."
The clothing are material things. It's wealth! Wealth and the love of that wealth (money) is the root of all evil!  By gambling for the Lord's clothing, the soldiers were sinning. It was evil to gamble because of their attitude!  What was the attitude of those gambling? Desire for wealth! To win. Maybe even exhilaration at having won... more exciting because it was the clothing of a famous man!
When one man wins another loses. Money isn't created by gambling. If you're taking the money of another person's that person loses what they had and you proceed to take it! Your personal gain is at the expense of anothers loss, to say it another way. (We are to love our neighbor, not take what's his). 
Contemporary gamblers are of three types: 1) A few wealthy who really don't need the riches, but enjoy the sport of gambling, 2) The loser who is trying to have that one lucky break in life to succeed, or 3) am occasional gambler who knows he'll lose, but hopes for the best. Most gamblers are losers! They have a history of losing and have a false hope on succeeding on the misfortune of others.  Unfortunately, they are usually the "unfortunate"!
In the case of Jesus, who was the loser? Jesus lost his attire, but he no longer had any use for them! Those who won the lot were the real losers. They won clothing prone to decay, but lost their chance at salvation! When a person has that "love of money" they may win the prize, but lose their soul! They have the liberty to gamble, but it's not expedient! There are consequences to every action. (Many high stakes lottery winners have been known to become destitute and even die prematurely. That money they craved didn't create happiness, it bestowed obstacles to joy)!
Anything which disrespects Jesus is a sin! Instead of worshiping and sharing in the joy of Jesus, most gamblers are looking for that "high" they achieve when they win a few pitiful dollars. Money which will do no good where they're destined!  I repeat: Wealth is a roadblock to joy. Joy can only be achieved with one sentence "Well done, good and faithful servant"! (Matthew 25:23). Is the gambler and one who lives for gambling "good and faithful"? I venture to say that their priorities are totally at odds with God's will!
We know what can happen to a lottery winner. It can be that the person suffers immensely because of the new wealth or it can be that the winner is prudent and pragmatic. However, others abuse the wealth of the winner.
What can happen to a loser; one who gambles frequently and comes up short?
1) Addiction. (Seeking unfulfilled joy).
2) Inability to have self-control (a sin in itself)
3) Living with false hope.
4) No thrill in perfunctory activities.
5) Loss of self-worth (worth defined by gain)
6) Loss of job, family and friends.
7) Marital problems and divorce.
8) Feelings of desperation. (Not even God can help).
9) Bankruptcy and debts.
10) Living with danger. (Creditors hounding you from all sides).
11) False friendships.
12) Inability to separate fact from fancy.
13) Inability to worship and commune with God!
I've seen this in action! Addicted gamblers are concerned with one thing: self-pleasure and excitement. God has little place in the lives of addicted gamblers, but God is the cure!
Nothing is too hard for God. With repentance and faith all things become possible! That takes commitment.  If a gambler says "Gambling is a disease." they are already defeated! Gambling is a curable behavior! The "cure" is already available. All a person has to do is call the pharmacist (God) and ask for it! The "blood of Jesus" has already provided the cure. You're only called to allow him the infuse you with the spirit that saves you! It will take will-power and self-control. There are consequences for sin and a struggle with Satan is the consequence. Satan will tell you that you can't do it.  The Holy Spirit will provide the armor so that sin can be defeated. Put on the full armor of God!
How does one become an addicted gambler? They gamble that first time. They gamble a little more. They win some and loses many. They seek to even the score. They look for that big winner!  If one has never gambled he is never at risk of becoming addicted. If one never gambles there is no chance that he/she will disrespect God by gambling. Did you ever consider this: Because of a gambler's disrespect of the desires of God, the gambler's propensity for addiction is greater!" Prove me wrong!
"Pleasure" is the desire of the flesh. Satan rules the world of pleasure. Joy is God's domain! God wins the battle in the end! We're all choosing sides now. Which side do you chose? (Remember that there is no fence-straddling. He would rather you be hot or cold as lukewarm). "As for me and my house, we choose God!"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hate is not of Ignorance

Anytime a "Politically Correct" person mentions "hate" of a person, the reason is because of "ignorance".  I have a problem with that because it's not true! Many intelligent people are hateful and intelligence has no correlation at all with hate! In fact some of the most intelligent people are hateful, if not to inferiors, but most often to Christians, conservatives and southerners.

"Ignorance" is when a person is unaware, uneducated or ill-informed. While getting to know a person of a different social status may be beneficial to relations, it can also be detrimental, depending on many influences. Let's make a discernment between "intolerance" and "hate". 

"Hate"  is when a person is hostile to another for a reason or for no reason. Anyone, regardless of intelligence, therefore, can hate! An idiot can hate or a genius can. In fact, anecdotally, it's obvious that someone of low intelligence, hence more ignorant, is more innocent in their thoughts and are less hateful.

"Intolerance" is when one dislikes participation with someone different whether it be racial, ethnic, cultural, political or religious. Intolerant people, just as anyone else, may be hateful or may be loving. They're just out of their comfort zone with those who are different. True, some of that discomfort may be because of prejudice, but that's not necessarily true. It may be because of valid reasons! As an example. I can't tolerate those who're liberal in belief. It just runs so diametrically opposed to my life, I just don't want to be around it!  I don't hate liberals; I just think they're on the wrong track as far as liberty and Christianity.

I mentioned prejudice. Most people equate that with hate as well. Prejudice can be hate, but it doesn't have to be. Prejudice is by definition an "irrational predisposition to judge one prematurely", but we all know that in today's enlightened age, that you're prejudice if you differ with a person or group for any reason. Yes, you can be prejudice without hating!  I find the Islamic religion to be a cancer on the world. Do I hate Muslims. No, I love them so much that I want them to accept Jesus as savior so they will be with me in heaven. In effect, I'm intolerant, but not hateful, of their religion!  Guess who else is intolerant of Islam? God himself!

Referring to Jesus Luke says  Acts 4:12   "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Salvation means saved from the eternal wrath of God... Hell. If one does not accept Jesus as savior, that person is going to hell. Is that intolerant? Very much so!  Is that hate? Emphatically "no" because:

John 3:16 (KJV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God loves the Muslim. He "so loved the world" and that includes us all! He loved the Muslim (and us) so much that he sacrificed his only son. Why? So that we "should not perish". He doesn't want the Muslim whom he loves, nor me, whom he loves, to go to hell!  Does God send Muslims to hell because he "hates" them? No. He loves them so much that they're given a great opportunity! "Whosoever believeth in him" shall "have everlasting life"!  You see, God is intolerant of sin, but loving of the sinner! That's grace, but now the "PC Police" call it intolerant! They expect our "hateful" God to grant everyone eternal life whether they believe in and love him or not!
Now for a moment of truth!  I hate certain cultures. I find the social activity appalling within some groups of people. I dislike the music, the blame, the slang, the food and much more in people of some different cultures. It's not because of skin color or intelligence. I just don't feel comfortable because I enjoy a different culture. I see no reason to change because I'm content as I am. I'm traditional and that's what I like. Some would call that prejudice. It certainly is, but it's not hate. In fact I normally go out of my way to show love and concern to those of different cultures!
I'm not a proponent of diversity as you can see. I was taught that America is the melting pot. On the Statue of Liberty it says (by Emma Lazurus):
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
This poem in my early life was offered as a token of acceptance; the world was invited to meld with America, the "melting pot"!
To melt into America means that you become and American. You're no longer an Asian, a German, an African nor an Italian. We are all to be united as Americans. In unity there is strength. In diversity of culture there is weakness!  (And that;s my opinion!)
We are to love God and love everyone!  That doesn't mean that we have to tolerate whatever society comes up with because this world is temporarily Satan's domain. In the Lazurus poem no mention is made of bringing foreign gods or foreign religious practices, specifically yoga, Buddhism and the like. We are a Christian nation and we invite all immigrants to become Christians, but not by force, but by telling them about Jesus, but proselytizing is intolerant according to the PC Police.
Yes, love our neighbor. Love our enemies! However, that has nothing to do with tolerance because Jesus demands obedience. Tolerance damns. Obedience saves!

Off-color language and blasphemy: common among "Christians"

I hate bad language! Any word describing excretions is about the grossest of the gross that I can think of. It's a complete turn-off. When I was dating one particular person said the "s" word a few times. I hated it and found it disgusting. I fought it by saying "Oh, mucus!".  After about four exclamations of "Oh, mucus!" my date said "That's disgusting! Will you quit saying that!".  I replied "My point exactly. That's how I feel about the "s" word." She never used the "s" word again, at least in my presence. (fyi... It wasn't Terri or we wouldn't be married. It's that important to me).

One of my co-workers quite often used Jesus' name in vain. I hate that the Christ who died for me was reduced to an act of exclamation. I take his death seriously because it should have been me!  Each time my co-worker said "Jesus Christ" in vain I always said "I prefer my nickname, Larry."  After three instances, my co-worker got the message and said that he wouldn't say that anymore and he never did, at least in my presence. (He never got angry about it either). (No, I'm not claiming to be Jesus and this was tongue-in-cheek to make a point).

"OMG" is in vogue. One can rationalize it anyway they want, but it means "Oh, my God".  Again, my Creator and Messiah's name is used as an exclamation point. God has been minimized and he forbids that!  You may rationalize and say "That means 'Oh, my gosh'".  "Gosh" is a substitute for "God", but the thought is still there and that's the use of God's name in vain. Some even say "Oh, My Word" as a substitute and that's the one in vogue by the Christian community!

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God 2 He was in the beginning with God."

Who is "the Word"? That would be Jesus (as you can see from the following)! 

John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

By saying "Oh, my Word" one is using God's name in vain and are being irreverent to the One who saved us by his death.  "Oh, my anything" should just be null and void. Scripture tells us:

James 5:12 "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment."

Using the Lord's name in vain is what's called "swearing". We don't need to do it! Yes, you will be judged for doing it, but not by me. It will be by God himself. I don't need that on my record. There's too much there already!

Now let's go back to off-color words. We don't need a definition because the couth knows what's appropriate and if you don't you may be uncouth!  Most of us recognize the "s" word and the "f" word as off-color. However, words substituted for those have the same thought. "Crap" and "friggin" are said in the same state of mind as the real bad words they replace. Why do we need to blemish our vocabulary by such distasteful words?

Wanda and Carolyn were twins in my elementary school. Like most kids they quickly learned "bad words". Wanda said the "s" word one time and Carolyn quipped "Wanda, I wouldn't have that in my mouth!" Yes, even an eight-year old knew distaste in vocabulary!

You know what I think and I always hope that what I think is Bible-based. Let's see:

Colossians 3:8 "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth."

Uncouth people offer no restraint. They care not whether they're in public or private, the movie house or the church, or on the social media. Filthy language has become the norm. Since it's the norm many accept it as modern vocabulary. The wise realize that nothing changes for God. Sin is sin. In God's eyes shorthand for crude remarks are just as bad as the crude remarks themselves because the sin isn't in the lips, but in the thought. What you think is what you are!

Filthy language can include talk of sexual functions and acts, bodily excretions, references to nefarious places, and denigration of people and places; all used as casual nouns or adjectives in the common vernacular.  As such those words are unnecessary in the context of the sentence and modify nothing. Words used outright as an end in themselves are for the shock value. Filthy language is to the listener as second-hand smoke is to the non-smoker. As smoke inflames the lungs of the child, as does filthy language the mind!

Again, those benign words people substitute for the base such as "crap", "friggin", etc. are as bad in God's eyes as the words they replace. Filthy talk is from a filthy mind and just because everybody is doing it doesn't impress God!  I see no reason to insert such colorful words in my sentences and never have. It's not because I find them so objectionable, but I realize that God does. In fact I venture to say that most people inject filthy words in their sentences because of a poor vocabulary and an inability to adequately be interesting. Some people see nothing wrong with "damn", "hell" or real biblical words. Those are wrong in the sense that damnation and eternal punishment aren't to be taken lightly and our minds should not honor the principalities by diminishing their reality. (God much prefers that you speak of salvation and heaven over damnation and hell!)

Now for those who blaspheme. What in the world is that? "Blasphemy" is when one disrespects God in thought, manner, speech or action.  As we know the 2nd Commandment specifically says that  "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." That's clear! However, people who say "OMG", "Oh, my God", "Oh, my Word" etc. say "I meant nothing by it!" That's the exact definition of "in vain"; using God's name without reverence! God's name is so Holy it should be used only in praise and worship. We blaspheme his name when we use it lightly! Obedience to the other nine commandments are ways to show respect for God and when breaking any commandment, one blasphemes!

Matthew 12:31 "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost are those who are against God. We know that from looking at this verse in context of the previous. Who are those against God? Atheists, pagans, and irreverent Christians, those in name only (CINO's). CINO's, in the Herrin lexicon, are those who profess to be believers in Christ, but Jesus has no priority in their daily lives. By their works we know them, or actually for their lack of works. These are the people who only pray for their own needs, who don't have a loving heart, who fail to truly "buy-in" to God's Holy Word, those who never made a conscious decision for for Jesus, and those who are "Christian" because of their heritage. Jesus is the Way and only way to heaven and if a person tries it by any other way, they blaspheme God and are damned!

Many people will say "Jesus died for that sin 2000 years ago!" or "Jesus died for all our sins... yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's!" Both of those are truly correct. He died for ALL our sins!  However, let's not forget repentance. True repentance is when we have a change of heart about our own conduct. It's when we hate what we once did! How can we have a change of heart yet continue on with our sinning? Did we really repent? Are we truly saved? Are you?

Romans 3:25 "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past..." Yes, all our sins up to now are forgiven because if we truly repented Jesus remits those sins. If we sin in the future, we repent as we go although each of those sins are already covered by Jesus' death. We don't go on sinning without further repentance!

When your sins are propitiated "forgiven by the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus", you  must first repent. The blood atonement doesn't save you if you aren't sorry, but only of  you're truly remorseful. How can one be sorrowful for what is done when it''s still a principal part of ones life? That's to blaspheme the sacrifice God made of himself!  Don't take sin lightly!

When a Christian feels sorrow, repents and professes a committed belief in Christ (faith), that person is "born-again". The old man is buried and the new man takes his place:

2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Baptism is symbolic of our becoming new. With the immersion of the flesh into water, the old man is passed away and with ascension from the water, we become a new man!

Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

Let's see here. We're to be "dead to sin" and "walk in the newness of life"!  How can it be then that we still blaspheme and exhibit filthy talk if we're dead to sin and have a new life? What's "new" about living the same defeated "old" life we always lived? Romans 6:1 is extremely important for the Christian. If we proclaim Christ as Savior, then we are to live the life of the saved one!

Regardless, of whether you believe in "eternal security" or "conditional security" these verses apply either way. He wants us to be Christlike. We fail Christ regardless of our interpretation of doctrine if we're not living a sanctified life! By failing Christ, we blaspheme. We lack respect for his sacrifice!  Both doctrines agree on the sin, but disagree on the penalty. Either way, you're assured of your salvation by whether you live for Christ or not (works)!

James 2:24 "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
James emphasizes what is said on Romans 6:1. Yes, if we're a truly saved Christian, there will be a change in our manner.  If a Christian remains the same person after salvation as before and there are no changes, that person needs to examine themselves!  "Did I skip the repentance part? Am I truly sorry for being sinful? Do I really love Jesus enough to respect his will over my own?" Look inside right now. You may find evil still dwelling there. Evil can be defeated. It's called submission! Submission to Christ.
Honor God! Put all filthy talk from our lips. Put them from our thoughts! It stands in the way of meditation and prayer when our minds are on the filth of this world. Honor God. Don't use his Holy Name or any substitute which dishonors him. It's easy! You just pray for divine deliverance from such talk and the Holy Spirit helps you to have self-control. That's the promise. That should be your plan! Make a commitment to do just that!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Strong-willed person

Strong-willed connotes stubbornness and refers to a person who is difficult to control or even manage!  There are those folks, when given specific advise or directions, who must do it their own way to prove they are in charge. Trying to tell am obstinate person the proper way to do things is as the proverbial "peeing in the wind"!

Deuteronomy 21:18 "If a man have a stubborn (strong-willed) and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place... 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die..."

"Stubborn" does not stand alone in these verses. "Stubborn" is coupled with "rebellious". Hence, strong-willed is attitudinal in context. If the attitude is rebellious to God (Violates the 1st Commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.") or the parents (Violates the 5th Commandment "Honour thy father and thy mother") then the strong-will is negative. In fact, the 5th Commandment has a promise "that thy days may be long upon the land ".  Conversely, a person who does not honor can expect to have a short life-span and be in agreement with Deuteronomy 21:21 above "shall stone him that he die"!

However, is strong-will always a negative or can it be a positive attribute? The synonym "stubborn" always appears in the negative sense in the Bible. It is most always paired with some form of "rebellion".  It would appear that "stubbornness" is not a compliment at all, but a sin!

1 Samuel 15:23 "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."

A strong-willed person has determination. Not just a desire to reach a decision, but a firmness of purpose. A desire to remain unchanged to the end. "Determine" and its components in the Bible are used in the context of "making a decision", not strong-willed.

Let's suppose that you believe strongly in the Bill or Rights because of the freedom you believe in and prefer over being controlled. You believe that way because it's ingrained inside you as right and proper.  Furthermore, you abhor the thought of speaking and behaving in manners which are dictated to you by another. Then one day an official comes to you and says "We find your beliefs repugnant, and if you do not change, you can no longer have food, medicine, shelter or work."  What would you do?

Would you submit? Would you take a mark or have an e-implant to allow you to buy and sell? Would you pledge allegiance to an evil government? If your answer to all these is "no", then you are a strong-willed person and are to be admired! It's in the attitude and what's wrong and right. (This may happen someday with the Anti-Christ).

Now, let's suppose that you're a wife!  Your husband is judged by others to be fair and ameliorating. However, you've been taught feminism and women's rights. You dress androgynously, provide an income for the family and perhaps want to unilaterally make child-birth decisions. It's when and if you're ready and you alone.  You get angry when your husband controls money management, child-rearing methods and even selection of churches. You make life miserable for him until you get your way and what you want. That's strong-willed! Your pride will not let you be submissive to another, even a loving husband!  Your strong-will may be so strong that you will not even partner with him!

In the latter example strong-will is rebellious and negative! What would make it positive (or righteous) strong-will is resistance to  your husband if he tries to break your spirit, although you're a dutiful wife and great partner. That's the difference.

You may disagree with me on what makes a good wife, but hopefully you still get the message: There is negative and positive strong-will based on attitude.

Some women, even Christian women, hate the idea that they are to be submissive!

Colossians 3:18 (KJV) "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."

Yes, wives are to be submissive to their own husbands. That's God's plan. Women were provided by God to be companions to men, not rivals!  However, men are to be fair in their treatment of their wives and they're not to provoke. (There are two sides to every coin!)  Don't get hung-up on submission. The Bible tells us to submit to God, to submit to authorities, submit ourselves to the elders, submit ourselves to rules and laws and submit ourselves to one another! Submission is God's will and submission is righteous!

If one can't submit to another, how can he or she submit to God? It's all about pride!  Being prideful leads to rebellion! Rebellion against God, rebellion against marriage, rebellion against authority, rebellion against the law and rebellion aginst each other! As an example, the situation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the supporters of the military in Egypt right now is rebellion. Each group refuses civility. They are in rebellion, they are non-submissive and determined. They are strong-willed! What will be the outcome? Death and destruction! That strong of will is not God's plan. That's stubbornness caused by pride.

Those church fathers who were martyred were determined, but they weren't strong-willed! They were determined to stand against self and for God! Their firmness in their faith wasn't for self-glory or for narcissistic reasons. It was because they respected God and did not see fit to belittle their creator by caving in to heresy. Those saints had righteous determination not founded upon rebellion, but liberty! In the case of martyred Christians, they were righteous in attitude!  Are you categorizing your own strong-will with that of those who died for Jesus, or is your strong-will from self-indulgence? You see, it's all a matter of attitude and for most of us strong-will is rebellious and sinful!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Running the Race

"I'm enthused!" Mr. Anybody said as he started his new venture. "I can't wait to get started. I can't wait to meet my goal!" Four weeks later no enthusiasm, goal not met, and Mr. Anybody not even committed to the goal. (Is this the rut he is to be in?)

"Committed" is a profound word for without it goals are dreams!

"Commitment" means that Mr. Anybody would "bind" himself to his new venture. If one is committed the results are successful. If one is not committed there are no desired results.

Mr. Anybody had a vision. He created a metric to enable himself to measure his progress. The desired goal was defined by a final metric. The vision could be anything, but perhaps Mr. Anybody desired to be a runner. His metric was distance measured in miles and his goal was five miles. Mr. Anybody was a healthy man and was fully capable. In the past he hadn't been real motivated to do much other than eat good food and enjoy recreation. He was worried about his cholesterol and flabby body so he decided it would be best to exercise. He hated running, but believed it to be a good way to improve himself.

With the goal set, we go back to where we started. "I'm enthused!" he said. Mr. Anybody, let's call him "Dreamon" (I like that name!), sincerely desired to improve himself. He saw himself as a healthy man with a smile on his face as he crossed that five-mile marker. He just couldn't wait to get started. He was excited!

Dreamon decided to run a mile the first day. "That's reasonable.", he thought. After about 800 yards Dreamon felt the pain! He used muscles long forgotten. His breath was struggled and the oxygen just didn't fulfill his needs. His stomach hurt and he became nauseated. "Well, that's enough for today." he said, telling himself "At least I ran!".

Let's stop right here! So far where has Dreamon Anybody messed up? Number one: His goal of five-miles wasn't established by time. Is the goal to run five miles the first day or in ten years from now? It just sounds as if he had a good idea! 

Now, let's set a goal for him. It must be obtainable for him and the time frame needs to be realistic. However, the goal should be one that challenges and the change show positive results. Let's use the five miles, but define it further: "My goal is to run five miles without stopping within two weeks." That's obtainable, realistic and challenging!

However, Dreamon can't just run 800 yards one day and wait two weeks and expect to run five miles! He's doomed for failure! There must be a ramp incremented from day 1 to day 14. Five miles divided by 10 is 0.5 miles per day. (I gave him weekends off because God wants us to at least rest on Sunday, and we all need some type of midstream incentive and reward). So on the first day Dreamon is to run one-half mile, day two 1 mile and so forth until on day 10 he runs five miles (after resting on Saturday's and Sunday's).

We should expect Dreamon to fail for one and only one reason: He's not committed. He doesn't see the contract with himself as binding!  Where does Dreamon find commitment? God!

Psalm 37:5 (NIV) "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this..."

Whatever "he will do this" means includes running!  He wants you to keep his temple in great shape and as long as you're running for the right reasons, he's with you all the way. Just as you "commit yourself to the way of the Lord" you also commit yourself to your set goal.  God will help you, but you need two things: 1) will power and 2) self-control!

Let's say that Dreamon is tempted to quit on day two after not even finishing the one-mile goal for that day. He says "My gut really hurts and my legs are tired!" That's no reason for quitting. That's normal. All beginners go through the same thing. They succeed without quitting and so can Dreamon! Dreamon gets a spark from this thought and meets the goal. He was even able to run and extra 1/4 mile because he now acclimated!  That's "will power"!  Dreamon was elated. He not only isn't a quitter, but he actually surpassed his goal. He feels really good. He's motivated!

On day three Dreamon does quite well. This day he met his 1-1/2 mile intermitten goal with little pain. "It does get easier, he thought!"  On day four, tight muscles set in!  That happens. Dreamon ran the 2 miles intermitten goal that day, but he stopped to rest. He was really uncomfortable. He could have ran on, realized he could have made it, but quit anyway. He really felt badly and although he made the distance his goal was to run it without STOPPING. Doing what he knows he can do means that Dreamon has "self-control". By stopping he let himself be defeated!

If Dreamon quits he has little commitment. This is the problem with most people! If they don't quite measure up to their own expectations and abilities, they just quit without a fight. That's the reason fat people stay fat, smokers continue smoking and liars keep lying. They have no or little commitment. It takes WORK to succeed!  Nothing can be achieved by someone else handing you the results. You must be the one to do it!

Dreamon has two choices! He can either quit and be a quitter or he can renew his commitment. He tells himself "If others can do it, so can I!" and know that he's being truthful! Dreamon decides to recommit to making his goal! (Hurray for him. He didn't quit!) After Dreamon made up his mind things became easier. Each day he firmly established one thing: I will run today's mileage without stopping (or even crawling). Guess what? He kept that attitude and at the end of day 14 (resting on Saturday's and Sunday's) Dreamon Anybody ran five miles without stopping! He felt good physically and mentally. When Anyone, not just Mr. Anybody, is committed they are most often successful and feel good about themselves. When we feel good about ourselves, we set higher goals and we improve. We do it "One Day at a Time"!

Smokers can quit smoking this way, gluttons can quit overeating in the same way, thieves can quit stealing, lusters can quit lusting and blasphemers can quit blaspheming! You're not alone! God is with you. His Spirit resides here and comforts. Through prayer, meditation, fasting and Scripture, we can do it! 

Although, I've used a worldly metaphor for Dreamon Anybody to commit to running, Dreamon needs the same commitment in his devotion to the Lord!

1 Kings 8:60 (NIV) " so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” "
Yes, Dreamon believes he can run five miles, but he's got to be committed to running that distance. Likewise Dreamon believes in the Lord, but must commit himself to Jesus. Commitment is running the race and finishing!
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."
Yes, there is more than one prize for eternal life, but "Run in such a way as to get the prize"!
That's comitment! That's self-control!  When we say "Jesus, I believe!" the race has just begun. Live a Christlike life and turn to God in all things! If God calls you to preach, then preach! Even if you set a five-mile goal, turn to God.
Dreamon Anybody is a new man! He not only made a commitment to and ran the endurance race, but he also committed his life to God! Not only is he successful in this life, but now has eternal life as well! This can be you!  Because Dreamon is a new man, he wants a new name! "Truly Anybody" is more fitting! Anybody can truly be what they envision. Truly Anybody can be a devoted Christian!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Ants as a Model for Christians

When we think of "workers" in the animal kingdom, ants come to mind.  And, yes, ants are prominent in the Bible.  They are mentioned because they set examples for us to follow!

Proverbs 6:6 "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Okay, what's a sluggard?  That's someone who's lazy!  They spend more time trying to avoid work than actually doing work. They're self-indulgent. Their life is for pleasure and their pleasure is at the expense of others! Think about who you know. I bet it's easy to think of sluggards by name.

We're to consider the ant. Ants are the opposite of sluggards.  I'm not sure of entomology, but my bet is that the word "sluggard" is derived from another animal; the slug! "Slugs"are also known informally as "sluggards". Coincidence? Sluggards are slow-moving  slimy mollusks who live in the shade and devour plants at night. They eat what others grow. I would take offense at being compared to a slug if I was a sluggard!

"Consider her (ants) ways and be wise" Proverbs tell us. What are the ways of the ant?

1) They live in communities. They strive as a team and depend on one another.
2) They're industrious. Their homes beneath the surface are layers of catacombs. Space is maximized and their home is a fortress against the elements and predators.
3) Ants are not self-indulgent. Those long caravans of ants are because scout ants leave behind a chemical trail for the others to follow to the food source. When the source is depleted the trail dies out and the scouts mark another trail.
4) Ants are eusocial, the highest level of social organization. As such they are cooperative in taking care of each other, their labors are divided based on physical characteristics, and they have social castes. Those castes are pretty much as our own, most being workers, some being managers, and then the nucleus of the community, the leader, or Queen ant.
5) Ants are strongly defensive, not only against predators, but the elements. (If you've ever tried to wipe out a colony of ants, you know of the battle ahead!)

Well, we've considered the ants! How is that consideration to make us "wise"? How will it make us discern what's right?  Doing what's right is an approach to doing things as God would have them done. Humans, who coincidentally share many physiological similarities with ants, including lungs; can follow the example of ants. We are communal. We are called to help each other!  It has been shown that recluses are anti-social and hence, are lacking love and care for others. God directs us to love and care:

Philippians 2:4 ESV "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Ephesians 4:32 ESV "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

John 13:34-35 ESV "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” "

Scripture tells us to be industrious, to be workers.

Colossians 3:23 ESV "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,"

2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."
Proverbs 14:23 ESV "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty."
Proverbs 10:4 ESV "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich."
These verses certainly demonstrate  great differences in the work ethic of ants compared to sluugards! Note that the focus on our industry is for "the Lord"!  Why do ants work so hard? For "her Lordship", the queen. Yes, we are to provide for all our immediate needs as do the ants, but like the ant who loses the queen, without God our work is for naught! Our work ethic is to be God-centered! That's the "Great Commission"!
Matthew 28:19 ESV "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..."
That's our primary God-centered work! We are to make disciples! Disciples are followers of Jesus. We are to tell others about Jesus, his love, and his sacrifice! Are you a sluggard in this work? Yes, we all are! When I think of where I've failed God the most, it's right here! I haven't even made disciples of all my own children, let alone strangers! Laziness (sluggardness) holds us back. We need to be worker ants for the Lord!
"Spiritual leadership" is the man's job!" you say?  Most worker ants are females. The women are the hard workers! They have the path, the sagacity to accomplish just as the male does. Yes, girl, you too are to spread the "Good News"!
Sluggards are self-indulgent! They look out for old numero uno! However, ants supply for not only for  their own needs, but others, especially the queen, are of primary importance. Just as we are to give Caesar what is his, the common ant is to give the queen what is hers! She spawns the colony. She's their mother! Ants provide for their own. The Queen is godto the ants, just as we have our God! Ants are an example of how we ae to love and care for God!
Ants are warriers! When challenged, they fight! Like the ants, we too are to fight. Spiritual warfare is going on. You may not be aware of it, but we need to fight for our own sufficiency. Our enemies are the invisible powers and the devil.
Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Our leaders are controlled by darkness. Likewise, our entertainers, educators, scientists and psychiatrists. Principalities have infested all walks of life. Even our religious leaders have caved and submitted to spiritual darkness. You must study and understand scripture yourself because you may be "drinking the Kool-aid" of rulers of darkness! How many of you do what you know you shouldn't do? Many!  That's the tip of the iceberg. You are deceived into believing that God can be disobeyed, but his love is boundless. God's love is without bound, but rebels will be punished!
Proverbs 30:24 "There be four things (ants, conies, locusts and lizards) which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: 25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;"
This is your summer! The strong will prepare their meat!
Matthew 24:44 (KJV) "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he  shall find so doing."
"Be ye also ready". That's "your summer". The Lord is coming when least expected. If you have wisdom, as does the ant, you'll prepare. Prepare your "meat" for the household.   "Meat" is the straight path represented by the body of Jesus. We are to prepare our households for the coming of the Lord! Like the ant who knows winter is coming and stores up victuals for that season, mankind knows that winter is coming,  not that we'll be part of the cold, but that we prepare for what the world sees as frigidity and darkness. Prepare for the Lord. This is the summer and time to do that work!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Dumbing Down of Society

Dad spoke Latin, a dead language, until is death. At the turn of the 20th Century it was not uncommon for students to learn both Latin and Greek. Our statesmen of years past read the classics and philosophy. They could tell you of the battles of of the Polyponesian Wars. My own Dad had a 42 volume set of the history of the countries, had read them all and many up to four times! Dad wasn't a schooled person, but was truly educated!  His favorite book to study and know was the Bible! No telling how many times Dad read the Bible, but more than reading, he had the wisdom to understand it!

In my own time things have changed!  Unfortunately the study of the classical languages was passe' by the time I started school, but science and technology were on the immediate horizon. My life was filled with "x" and "y" and their relationship and the interaction of forces. Gravity and the effects on physical bodies was the basis of many school problems and my own childhood was filled with thought on the expanse of the universe and endless time.

I graduated with what was then considered a large class in a country school; about 113 students if I remember correctly. Although we were never graded on a 4-point system a quick conversion can easily be made. No one graduated even close to a 4.0!  Likewise, my small college class was at the time the second most recognized engineering school in the nation. I graduated with about 400 students. There were zero 4.0 gpa graduates, but there were brilliant students!

"Grade inflation" appears to be at an all-time high. Schools must graduate students with high GPA's to stay prestigious and for financing reasons. Garfield High School in Washington had 404 students, but graduated with 44 valedictorians!  All these students had 4.0 gpas!  Bullard High School in California  is graduating 55 valedictorians!  Are students getting smarter or are grades being inflated?

Anecdotally, it's intuitive that bright students are getting brighter, but that grades are getting easier. Those students who soar with the eagles are indeed brilliant, but those who fly with the turkeys also have higher grades than their skills would support.  "Why" is not the issue, but the effect is!

I hate fast food restaurants!  Why? Although many workers are high school educated, a quantity are even college graduates; but they demonstrate little intelligence. Sure, there are brilliant people working the fast food industry, but I'm generalizing. Not only do many often fail to listen to the order, but neither can they get the order right nor make proper change! Maybe it's unfair to pick on low-skilled workers. I had similar experience with college students working under my direction in industry. Few listened, fewer applied knowledge and wisdom was scarce!

It does seem that most young people can name and sing popular songs, know all the musicians, sports figures and movie stars. Young people are not stupid!  They live in a rapid world. All knowledge is as fast food. It's served and eaten, but not digested!  Students learn enough to pass the class, maybe excel in grades, but do little pondering and critical analysis. They are fed the information the media culture supplies, "drink their Kool-aid" and do little first-hand critical thinking!

Not only do I believe that grades are inflated, but that the young who do excel in grades still have a problem with constructive cognition. Sure, having learned technology at a young age, they have an advantage, but they're missing the slow technique of reading, contemplating, learning and applying. This is most obvious in the study of Holy Scripture!  God's Word is read by few, studied by fewer, contemplated by even less and is rarely applied. Many think they know what the Bible says, but what they really believe is what their perception of what the Bible should say!

It was said of Bezeleel  Exodus 31:3 "And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship..."

The Lord told Moses that he filled Bezeleel with the spirit of God. As a consequence Bezeleel was given wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Later verses indicated that all those aspects were demonstrated by skill in the practical. (I believe that Bezeleel could easily make change and pay attention to orders!).  We gain knowledge if we read Scripture (God's word), and understand the knowledge we gain.  We don't read the Bible to be entertained, but we are to read it so that we gain in knowledge and understanding, and also to become more wise. In our wisdom we also seek joy in the Lord!

Understanding is a key to life!

We have the story of the eunuch who was reading scripture:

Acts 8:29 "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
Understanding requires input. We must receive knowledge. To receive knowledge a person must train themselves to listen. With that we still may need guidance! Yes, we do learn by listening to others! (Back to an original point. Many don't have an attention span to listen to what's being said. In this fast-paced age they is an auto reaction to words. The person subconsciously perceive that they know what is going to be said!)  If anyone desires understanding, in contrast to "good grades" listening, questioning, considering and applying are paramount. No steps can be skipped. Critical thinking requires pertinent questions.
How many today look at the stars and wonder about the creation? They have been force-fed evolution. Does the modern student question the discontinuities in that theory? No. Many just believe it or accept it because that's what taught. They get the "A" in parroting, but an "F" in cognition! Even with the "A" grade, they're still being dumb-downed. They become a micro-processor. They can take in information (if they still have the self-control to listen) and they can replicate it for a grade, but something is wrong inside their mind. They just accept!  With God's Spirit, we are to contemplate true knowledge. We are to ask critical questions as the eunuch was about to do. We need guidance!
I worked hard to make my grades. An "A" was hard to come by and not many received all "A's". However, with the struggle to retain all the information with which my mind was bombarded,  I did learn essentials with a high ability to apply what I learned. No, I wasn't a valedictorian, but in real life, I competed evenly with those high achievers. I'm nothing special. I was called a "dumb Kentuckian" all my life!  God blessed me with the ability to listen, apply, analyze and gain the corresponding wisdom.  The wisdom of God leads to success. I'm certainly not what the world calls "successful". I don't have riches nor influential friends. Even close friends are unfortunately few! However, I have faith, joy and assurance that the truth of God is sufficient! I know God's plan and his plan for me!  My part of the plan is to take time to talk to Him and he will speak back; through his Holy Word; the Bible!