Tuesday, December 28, 2004
There are many things that will cause people to be unequally yoked, including religion, race, culture, tradition, economics and even politics. How much such differences will affect a marriage will be determined by the level of acceptance and tolerance each brings to the union. But make no mistake, the more unequally yoked, the more sacrifice and tolerance is required. A fanatical Islamic will find it a hard row to hoe if yoked with a fanatical Christian.
Being unequally yoked can also result in outside variables putting stress on the marriage. Not too many years ago, a mixed black/white union resulted in a myriad of social problems -- not only for the couple, but for their children.
Another example would be a person who grew up in luxury who marries for "love", then later discovers that he or she is just not cut out to live in a trailer park. As any married couple knows, problems can strain a marriage and being "different" from each other in any way can be a problem.
Does all this mean an "unequally yoked" union will not work? Of course not -- but being "unequally yoked" will decrease the odds of success.
LONDON (AFP) - Less than half of all Britons now believe in God, a sharp drop from the more than three-quarters of the population who said they were believers in 1968, according to a survey published.
A new YouGov survey found that only 44 percent believed in God, compared to a Gallup poll survey in 1968 which found that 77 percent believed in God.
A majority of people in Britain neither hopes nor fears for a life after death, with just about a third believing in heaven, and even fewer in hell and the devil. Young people especially are significantly less religious than older people, with more than a third describing themselves as either agnostics or atheists. - Yahoo! News
The coming years will most likely separate the wheat from the chaff. It appears we may be in the Biblical "falling away" stage of the last days -- and those who fall away will be the "Christians of Convenience".
As to what is coming -- there are a lot of things we can speculate upon. However, there is one constant -- human nature. At the most fundamental level, humans are no different than they were when Christians were being fed to the lions. If the pendulum of our culture swings too far in the direction it seems to be heading, faithful Christians may again find themselves in the position of being, at best, objects of ridicule and at worst, outlaws.
I fear for my children and grandchildren.
Monday, December 27, 2004
However, it has always bothered me when people are put on a pedestal and honored for their material (and in the Queen's case, inherited) successes. It irks me when such people are quoted, as if their fame somehow grants them wisdom.Truth is, people who have never had to worry about where their next meal was coming from have little wisdom to impart about hunger. People who have only given out of their abundance have little wisdom to share about giving.
Christ made it clear that the measure of a gift is not the amount given, but the sacrifice involved. He also made it clear that He is no "respecter of persons". He evidently did not make it clear enough, though, because the majority of people still idolize others based, not upon their sacrifice, but upon their success.
The English have their Queen. Americans have their own royalty -- movie stars and the super-wealthy. I guess there is something in most people that make them need Queens and movie stars to idolize. I figure that makes me a little weird, because the more a particular person is idolized, the less I tend to trust them.
Christ also made another thing clear. People who do their good deeds for the praise of others already have their reward.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
I wonder who she'll see.
Am I still the son she raised,
Or her husband long deceased?
As a child, she took me in
And raised me as her son.
Grandma was a Mom to me
When all was said and done.
When I was sick, she held me near,
And sang to me her song.
The words I can't recall today,
But they were all her own.
She taught me how to say a prayer
By praying hard for me.
She showed me God and taught me love
For all my family.
The time has come, it's my turn now
To sing and calm her fears.
To hold her hand and stroke her hair
To wipe away her tears.
She suffers from a dread disease
That's robbed her of her mind.
I pray for peace and hope someday
A cure for her I'll find.
She was there when I was young
Though it's escaped her now.
Things she said she'd not forget
The illness stole somehow.
Her husband, Frank; the life they lived;
Her older brother Lee.
All the places she has lived;
Then of course there's me.
Her husband's gone, her daughters too.
Her son can't stand the strain.
It's up to me and my wife now
To help her with her pain.
"I want to go home, it's warmer there,"
She tells us every day.
"Why can't someone come stay with me?"
We don't know what to say.
"What?" she yells to everyone.
"I can't hear too good today."
She thinks we're talking about her,
No matter what we say.
"Where's my cane? Where's my snuff?"
"Someone moved my thread."
"You don't really want me here."
"That's what someone said."
"I'm not wet and I don't smell."
"It has to be my clothes."
"Why do I need to take a bath?"
"I just took one, you know."
With trembling voice, late at night,
She calls out from her pain.
"Please don't leave me by myself,"
She pleads time and again.
It takes it's toll on all of us
To watch her everyday.
To help her dress, to help her eat
To try and make her bathe.
Some days I curse the way she is.
It's just so hard to bear.
I yell at her and then feel bad
Because we really care.
She gave me love, she showed me faith.
She taught me family ties.
As she was there for me in life
I'll be there when she dies.
She knows something is very wrong
But not the what or whys.
She prays to Jesus constantly.
And late at night she cries.
Things now are bad, but what we fear
Is what may lay ahead.
The terror of Grandma losing her mind
Before her body's dead.
The Alzheimer's has changed Grandma
From who she used to be.
But God please calm her fears tonight
And take her soon with Thee.
for Delcia Merkley Adams
God took Ma home on August 12, 2002
After finding out my wife and I are still happily married after 35 years, some ask what our secret is.
What my wife and I fear most is harm coming to the other -- and what we want most is for the other to be happy. That leads us to make sacrifices for each other (love).
For example, my wife likes old "I love Lucy" re-runs. I don't (GAGGHHHH). I like the Discovery and History channels. She could care less about how a volcano erupts or how the Vietnam war really started. But I watch "Lucy" with her (now, that's LOVE), and she watches the Discovery channel with me. (Of course, I have been known to mumble a little during "Lucy" and she's been know to fall asleep during "Discovery").
We don't worry about about who gives the most. We don't count beans or balance the scales. If she wants it, then I'll try to make sure she gets it -- and she's the same with me.
Our secret to a long, happy marriage? I think it is because we love each other more than we love ourselves. We really do.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Children in Christ (young or otherwise) go with a teacher to learn about Christ, loving God and loving neighbors. Everyone else meets in the sanctuary for prayer and thanksgiving.
"Thank you Father for your blessings, mostly for your Son. Please direct us to those in need and give us the strength and wisdom to help them, in your Son's name".
The pastor then calls for "the list". After general discussion and prayer, names on the list are given out to the members, matching need with abundance. The sick are given to the health professionals. The poor are given to the rich. The old and weak are given to the young and strong.
The congregation then goes out and shares the Gospel, their strengths, their talents, and the abundance that God has given them with those who are in need. They do for the "least" of their brethern as they would do for Christ.
They sing their songs of praise as they work. At the end of the day, they meet back at the church, where they share their successes, failures, and update the "list". They pray to God that He will continue to bless and prosper them during the week, so that they will be able to share even more the next time they assembly together.
Rooch, you're the one I choose to send this to. Like Grandma said, "That Jeanie, she's my buddy!"
Not been sleeping good the last few days. I guess worrying about Tyler and Jess triggered the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in me. General feelings of doom and dread involving everybody, past and present. Thoughts about Grandma are really bogging me down today -- interferring with my work.
The last two months of her life. Hindsight. What I wish I had done -- and hadn't done. What I wish I had said -- and hadn't said. If I had known then what I know now things would have been different --but of course I didn't. I don't blame myself too much. It's not that. It's just that I WANT to go back and change things, and I can't.
I want to go back and hug her and tell her I love her (we got to where we only touched her to drag her into the shower). I want to just sit and talk to her. We got to where we hid in another room and ignored her pleas to "come and talk to me!". I want to go back and take some mornings off to spend time with her -- when she was closest to being back to her old self. I want to take her riding -- she loved that. I want to play music and sing songs with her. That was the last really good thing we did together. I want to get our Bibles out and study together. That was her whole life and we quit doing that long ago. I want to go back and pray with her every day -- like we do with Tyler when he spends the night. So many things I want to go back and do -- and they are eating at me like a cancer.
I'm also imagining your other grandmother (Joyce) being gone and what things I will regret and "wish I could go back and do". As I said, I imagine all this was triggered by the crisis with Tyler -- and it will pass. But like the virus that hid in Jesse's spine and popped back to the surface due to some stimulus, I imagine my feelings of doom and grief will always do the same whenever I get worried.
Hope this doesn't drag you down, Rooch -- but I needed to share it with someone. Maybe it will help and I can go back to work -- and not just disappear down the road somewhere.
My daughter's reply.
Hey Daddy, I'm writing this to you as opposed to calling because, like you, I tend to say things better when I write them.
When Grandma was alive she tended to be a guiding light to all of us. I can't tell you how many times she amazed me with her strength and wisdom. I remember her telling me about how she somehow shut things off when Jo died. I don't know if that was God's doing or hers. Perhaps she deep down knew something you and I can't seem to learn. What I would give if I could do that.
Everyday of my life I remember Grandma. It might just be in a smile or something that is said. You might remember me telling you the other morning when you came down to my house that I heard Grandma in you. You told me to "get your duds on," and it was like I was hearing Grandma. I see her in my life on a daily basis.
You might not believe this but I pray every night, and in that prayer I always ask God to tell Grandma that I love her and that I miss her. I miss her most when I am sad or scared. For some reason, when Grandma used to tell me that things would be okay, I believed her. I have no doubt that she was a better person than I am and I guess I trusted her connection with God more than my own. I KNOW God heard her. I don't have that assurance in regards to myself.
I have regrets too, Daddy. I don't usually make it public knowledge becauseI guess I don't want to admit to myself how great of a failure I was to Grandma. She was a beautiful and honorable woman and she deserved to be treated as such. I look back on that time too and I would also like to go back and change it. Grandma's whole life was her family and I was lucky enough to be a big part of that and I took that honor for granted. I took Grandma for granted and I'm sorry for that. She deserved better than the granddaughter she got.
I tell you what, though. I loved Grandma. I failed her in many ways, but I did love her. I hope you don't doubt that. To this day I cry sometimes when I think about her. I couldn't even help Terry much on those videos that he made of her because I would get too choked up. Part of that is brought on by my guilt. I don't want to remember how wonderful she was and how horrible I was. It makes me dwell on my failures as a person and that's something I don't like to do. Especially in sight of Tyler's illness. I guess I'm not real comfortable with the idea that I wasn't all I should be to one of God's chosen ones (and yes, Grandma was a chosen one. No one else I've ever met deserved to enter Heaven more than she did).
I guess my point in all of this is that I understand. I know it's not on a level that you're feeling it but I do know it enough to have empathy. My heart breaks for you Daddy. I would take away this pain that you are going through in a minute if I could. It just makes me tremble with fear knowing that I will feel it on your level someday. That day will be the day you die. For some reason only God knows, he made you and I soul mates. I know that sounds corny but I don't know how else to describe it. You are my everything. Everything I am and everything I will ever be is not only because of you and your teachings but because you are in me. You are in me more than any other person on this earth.
Grandma was (and still is) in me in a very similar way. I see her in myself a great deal and you can bet your life that I'm proud of that. The way that I am willing to take on a doctor for my son, the way that I put my children before all others, and the way that my silly looking nose has that horrendous bump on it. Those things are from her. You have those things as well. (Aside from the nose of course and only I have that honor. Hee! Hee!)
These things have been our gifts but they have also been our curse. That type of "loving" is what makes us fear to the point of collapse and what makes us regret the most. I don't know what to say Daddy. Nothing I say will take this away. All I know to do is love you. And I do Daddy. I love you with everything I have and everything I am.
In that prayer I say every night I also thank God for making me your daughter. That was one of the greatest blessings I have been given in this life. I am honored to call you my Dad and I am so proud of you. I don't believe any daughter could love her Daddy more. You are not only my Daddy but you are my other half. You are the one I go to (even over my husband) when I need advice or simply someone to understand. That's because you are the only one that understands. You're my "buddy" too (as Grandma would say).
I love you Daddy and if there is anything I can do let me know. I love ya, Daddy, and always will. That's one thing you can count on.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Sperm is but a unique molecular arrangement of atoms. All the atoms required for sperm creation would have existed within Mary's body. All God would have had to do was arrange them properly in order to create sperm.
Now, the Mayo Clinic cannot do this (yet), but we are talking about God and the Holy Spirit here -- the Great Physician. Therefore, I have no problem with the Virgin Birth.
It could be argued that part of his humanity (his maleness) could not have come from Mary. Mary would not have been carrying the chromosome for males. Only males have it. Well, yes -- and no. Forget parthenogenesis - we know that wouldn't work to create a male Jesus. Mary would have been Y-chromosome challenged. So how could God have solved Mary's gametic dilemma? By providing her with twenty three paired chromosomes (including a y-kicker) of his choosing.
Now, since Mary was to remain a virgin, she couldn't get what she needed the old fashioned way, and artificial insemination had not been invented yet. So, we are left with the Holy Spirit providing that insemination when He "overshadowed" Mary.
Now, such "overshadowing" will unfortunately create for us humans a mental picture that many would undoubtedly consider blasphemous. (Of course, this does not mean that somehow that is exactly what the Holy Spirit did.) However, there is another possibility I prefer -- the one I alluded to earlier -- nucleic acid synthesis. Here's how.
What is a Y-chromosome? It is long DNA molecule (with associated proteins).
What is a DNA molecule? Basically a sugar-phosphate backbone with nitrogenous bases.
OK, what is a sugar-phosphate backbone with nitrogenous bases? Well, a sugar-phosphate backbone is basically a polymer consisting of hydrogen phosphate and deoxyribose sugar. Nitrogenous bases consist of guanine, adenine, cytosine and thymine -- which require one more element in the mix, nitrogen -- also very common in human bodies and elsewhere.
So, what is hydrogen phosphate and deoxyribose sugar? Hydrogen phosphate is a molecule made from atoms of hydrogen, phosphorus and oxygen. Deoxyribose sugar is a molecule made from atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.
So, here we finally are! All Mary needed to conceive was simply the right combination of hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen and carbon present in one of her ova. These elements are very very common and would have been readily available within Mary's body and her environment.
Now, due to many factors such as the complexity of the human genome, scientists are nowhere close to being able to do this -- but in theory, it can be done. With this being true, it doesn't strain even my feeble brain to conceive of the Creator doing just such a thing when He "overshadowed" Mary. Therefore, by manipulation of the elements, the Virgin Birth would have been a reality, along with any and all attributes God chose to give to His male offspring - Christ.
Now, I realize many dear Christians do not need or even want such sci-babble. But for those who have an especially hard time with "miracles" (like me and Thomas), it sometimes helps.
Outside of recognized parthenogenesis in certain species, "virgin births" are not part of evolved biology -- and male-creating parthenogenesis is unknown. However, with the Holy Spirit involved, it was certainly not a naturally-evolved biological event -- it was influenced externally.
What are the odds of a TEL-AML1 or a Philadelphia chromosome-positive ALL child's translocation being cured by prayer alone? Yet, as Christians we pray, believing God answers prayer. When a child is cured, doctors attribute it to the chemotherapy. Yet, as Christians, we also consider the possibility of God's intervention.
Science cannot fully explain how the chemotherapy works in oncology, much less what God would have to do to duplicate or improve upon it. However, we do know enough about the mechanics of procreation to imagine the technical requirements for a "Virgin Birth". If God chose to intervene, we have sufficient knowledge about procreation to imagine how it could be done.
Bottom line, I'll hang on to that with which I am most comfortable -- which at this time is believing in the Virgin Birth, however it happened.
We are God's creation and most of us long for our Creator. Some of us believe Christ was the Messiah. Some of us do not. Some of us have never even heard the name of Christ. Yet we long for our Creator -- and the only way we have of reaching Him is through Christ.
Christ is the way, the truth and the light. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. He is the only doorway -- there are no back doors or side doors. He came to earth and became our doorway to life eternal. This is the "Good News" we can shout around the world.
So, if our works and beliefs won't buy us a ticket, how do we reach God, especially if we are ignorant of Christ's name, misled, retarded, or have Alzheimer's? I doubt if there are any special words, prayers, secret handshakes, liturgies, denominations or baptisms that will get us through the door (Christ). What will get us through that door is our hearts -- the creature longing to be reunited with its Creator and who is willing to deny itself and follow its Creator to the best of its knowledge and ability.
Every knee WILL bow to Christ, just as every person will someday know as they were known. We will not be judged by our religion, our knowledge or our accomplishments. We will be judged by our hearts -- by our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for God and for our fellow man. On "That Day", God will not have to judge us, we will judge ourselves. Our consciences will either accuse us or excuse us.
There will be those who have done "great works" in Christ's name who will be turned away -- because what they did, they did for themselves. Although their minds knew Christ, their hearts never accepted Him.
There will be those who never knew Christ's name who will be welcomed in -- because they loved their Creator and their neighbor. They denied themselves and took up their cross and followed Him, without even knowing who He was. When they fed the hungry, they fed Him. Their hearts knew, accepted and followed Christ, even if their minds were ignorant of His name.
The way is narrow and few there be who find it -- but not because they didn't belong to the right church, know the right theology or say the right prayers. The way is narrow because few there be who are willing to love -- to deny themselves for the sake of their Creator and their neighbor.
To those who are willing to put their Creator and their neighbor above themselves, God will someday say, "Well done, thy good and faithful servent!" -- regardless of what they called themselves on earth. They will have worshipped God in spirit and truth, not in words and ceremony.
Does anyone really believe that if we had been born a male in 1906 -- knowing only what it was possible for males to know back then -- we would have behaved any differently than they? We all know that answer since it is the only logical answer possible. We would have been just like them. We may or may not have agreed with women getting the vote -- some did, some didn't, and their opinions were not just based upon how much they wanted to oppress women. In fact, all women (especially at first) were not for women getting the vote.
We can say with authority that it was unhygienic for people to defecate in a pot and then dump it in the street a few hundred years ago. But it would be wrong thinking to believe they knew the dangers and did it anyway just because they were "nasty" people. This type of thinking is what is sometimes applied to "oppressive males" of the early twentieth century and before.
So, who made the rules back then? It wasn't a who, or a group of whos. It was the times. We cannot blame the times on males just because they had the vote. You might as well blame them for the San Francisco earthquake.
When technological advances resulted in better economic conditions, both women and men found more opportunities to go to college, study, get better jobs and become self sufficient. As men became better educated, they understood that women had every right to vote as men -- so eventually education won out over ignorance and men voted to give women the vote.
It is impossible for us to put our 21st century brain into people a hundred years ago. That makes it impossible for us to condemn them because they did not do what we would do today.
Women should have equal rights. Women were "second-class" citizens a hundred years ago compared to women's status today. Some would want us to agree with them that the typical early 20th century male oppressed females while knowing better, which would make him -- not ignorant -- but evil. Sorry, that just wasn't the case.
We should truly respect other people -- and that goes for the dead as well as the living. Virtually everyone deserves respect to some extent, and I am certainly not the one to lay down the ruler. But, for the sake of men living and men dead, I feel I should be frank for a moment.
I have a problem with anyone who thinks he or she is qualified to judge anyone else in space or time. Christ said he had a problem with that too, so I don't think it's just me. We can judge deeds, but we cannot judge the people who do them -- because we were not born and raised in their shoes.
I also have a problem with condemning a person who does wrong out of ignorance, whether it is an ignorant child or an ignorant man who lived in the early 1900's. That, to me, is mean -- and dishonors our fathers and grandfathers.
I know a little more about human nature now than I did back then. In general, due to biology, culture and tradition, most females can handle male dominance better than males can handle female dominance. Sometimes this works out just great. Sometimes it doesn't.
For one of the first (maybe the only) time in human history, females have a good chance of surviving just fine without a male. This has created an entirely new social order that finds itself overlaying the old one -- and they are not always compatible.
In every relationship between two people, one person will be both stronger and weaker than the other. If we give one person blanket authority over the other, problems can and will occur -- especially today in our enlightend age.
What makes a marriage work? Certainly not because the male is in charge. A marriage will last when each person cares as much or more for their mate as they do for themselves -- and I am not talking about sex. I'm talking about self-sacrifice, and not just for the male or the female, but mutually.
This mutual caring and self-sacrifice defines real love. It does not set expectations for our spouse and expecting him or her to live up to them.
So, do I believe in "leadership marriage"? Sure, if you mean letting whoever is best qualified in whatever is happening at the moment lead. If you mean "forcing" roles upon men and women, then no, I don't. It won't work in today's world and it never worked smoothly in that of our forefathers'.
My dad, who was born in 1906, had no doubts about my mother's abilities. He also had no problem with a woman who chose to have a career other than motherhood -- if she could find one. He did believe that if a woman chose to be a mother, that should be her full-time career. He believed that it was the responsibility of the father to be the provider as long as he was able.
For a man born in 1906 times were much different than today. Making a living during his time, for most people, involved hard physical labor and long hours. Career opportunities as we know them today did not exist for women -- not because of male chauvinist pigs, but because modern technology was in its infancy. So let's not be too judgmentally harsh on our fathers and grandfathers. Most of them worked until their fingers (literally) bled to provide for their wives and children. Much of what appears to be male-domination and repression back then was not that at all. It was behavior required for the survival of our species.
For this reason and many others, we should honor our old fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers -- and not be armchair disparaging quarterbacks. Without their very real hardships, sacrifices and "ways", many daughters of today would not have the career opportunities nor the luxury to be critics -- because they would not be here.
Back to the roles of women today. Ignorance is harmful. Therefore, knowing that women are just as capable as men in most things is a good thing. Forcing males and females into roles that millions of years of evolution did not prepare them for is not. Let's not "throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Technology has freed up both men and women in many ways. Due to less extreme demands and more opportunities, I believe in many cases it is possible today for a woman to pursue a career and be a good mother at the same time. But let's try to keep the pendulum at equilibrium and not let it swing too far the other direction. Ignorance and harm lies both ways.
Years ago, stay-at-home mothers were more respected than career women. Today, a woman feels embarrassed to "admit" she's "just a housewife" or stay-at-home mother. The feeling is that if she does not have her own career outside the home, she should be pursuing one. This is an unfortunate backlash of the women's movement towards equal opportunity.
To accept one fact (women are not inferior to men) at the expense of another (women and men have different evolutionary advantages, both physical and mental) is not healthy for our society today and our children of tomorrow. Let's not replace one harmful ignorance with another. And let us also use our intelligence and wisdom to understand some dynamics about ideas and changes.
First, concepts like "sexism" are not static. Any age or culture can only define such concepts for themselves. It is very difficult and usually arrogantly presumptious to try and define them for another age or culture.
Second, whether changes will ultimately be good or bad can only be judged by hindsight. Nature programmed life to be very suspicious of change for good reason. Most changes, like most mutations, are not beneficial to a species. We are sometimes quick to label people who are conservative and resist change as stupid or worse. We should all keep in mind that, although it might be time for a change, what was before just may have been what was needed and not think badly of those who resist.
I heard the voice of my Creator through the instructions of my parents. I heard it in the stories my old grandfather told while fishing on a river bank. I heard it in the songs my old grandmother sang and I heard it in the prayers she prayed.
It spoke about wisdom and honor.
I heard it clearly at an altar call in a little church long ago.
It spoke about faith.
I heard His voice when I first saw blood on the street as a cop and I heard it again when I was the cause of it.
It spoke about anger, fear and forgiveness.
I have heard His voice through my wonderful wife.
It spoke about what love really means.
I have heard it from those who would ask, "Brother, can you spare a dime?"
It spoke about sacrifice and giving.
It was there to guide me while raising my children.
It spoke about blessings, responsibility and example.
I heard His voice when I stared down at my father in a coffin, and many years later at my mother and little grandson.
It spoke about lions laying down with lambs and a place where tears never fall.
I have heard his voice in the silence of my own thoughts and prayers.
It spoke about how He was always close by.
I have heard his voice as it whispered through the trees, flowed in a river, and spoke from a whippoorwill in the night.
It spoke about what is good and right.
It spoke about how He he can be found throughout His creation -- if I wasn't too blind to see.
I have heard his voice in the words of my friends and enemies.
It has spoken to me of tolerance, respect and brotherhood.
It has also advised me that He sometimes works in mysterious ways.
I heard God's voice in spirit. Most of the time, His message was so clear words were not needed. Yet, sometimes I needed the words. I sometimes needed them to explain His truths to myself and to share his truths with others. So, I kept my Bible close by. Within its pages, I often found understanding in my head for the messages he put in my heart.
Surely not. Salvation cannot be just for those lucky enough to not be ignorant. What kind of "mercy" would that be? What kind of hope would that give to the "unlucky"?
I have a hunch that God's Grace is made available to all because of the sacrifice of Christ -- not just to the theologically competent. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Him -- yet many will come from the east and the west, north and the south, the past, present and future.
I believe that Christ's salvation is open to all of mankind. Paul said, "this message has gone out unto all the world" -- when he knew for a fact that missionaries had not reached all the world. So, what could he have meant? I believe he meant that Christ's sacrifice had made it possible for all people everywhere and every-when to worship God in spirit and truth -- and that God would fill in the blanks later.
These "deadly sins", like virtually all sins, are precipitated by our animal instincts (which the Creator gave us for good reason). It is no more in our power to not have pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth than it is for my dog Jake. However, if we let our selfish nature rule our lives, we will ultimately harm others and ourselves. This is what God does not allow and why He designates them to be "sins".
Only death will remove these selfish instincts from us and perhaps only Hell will cleanse the harm they have done. However, theology aside, it is probably important for us to understand the role our biology (natural man) plays in Biblical "sin". Without an understanding of this, we will likely join history in thrashing ourselves and others for that which we have no control over.
BTW. Is "chowing down" still "gluttony" if there is no one going hungry? I don't think so. In fact, I believe the test for bad behavior (sin) is not in the strict definition of a word but in the effect our behavior will have upon ourselves and our neighbors.
Einstein's famous equation from 1905, E=MC², demonstrates that energy is equivalent with matter. It suggests that energy can be transformed into mass and mass can be transformed into energy. The 1st law of thermodynamics tells us that energy/matter can neither be created nor destroyed -- only transformed. Using theological terminology, energy might be described as omnipotent and omnipresent. I think you can all see where I'm going with this. Add omniscience and you have what most people require of God. Can two omnipotents/omnipresents coexist in the universe -- or is God sentient energy?
Does the idea of God=E=MC² cause conflict with the Bible? In other words, how would that idea play in scripture? Most would agree that spiritual beings are not composed of known substances that decompose. That leaves the question, what ARE they composed of?
Let's start very early in the Bible. Genesis 1:26 states, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness". OK. If we bounce the idea of God being sentient energy against this verse, what would we have?
Well, we accept that a human's body is matter, and that matter is compressed energy that cannot be created nor destroyed. This would mean that God did not "create" us, exactly. But what would prevent Him from "making" us in his own likeness -- and how could He do that?
Maybe he could do that by using a portion of Himself (energy) to "make" the body-matter of man. Of course, that would also imply that God did the same when he "made" all the rest of the universe, including the earth and all life thereon.
Does the logic hold up so far and would it pose no conflict with the Bible? Well, we have already acknowledged that all matter is energy and vice versa, so I don't see a problem so far with the energy-to-matter logic. Does it cause a conflict with the words from scripture, "in our image, after our likeness"? I can't see a problem, yet.
So, if we accept things so far, what is man at this point of "making"? Seems like he is a bundle of energy that shares its existence with its creator. In other words, material man would not be fundamentally different than the trees and the stars.
Well, if we were to accept that God is "sentient" energy, then what would keep Him from giving mankind some of that sentient energy as well as material (bodily) energy? In other words, maybe God "breathed" His (sentient) "Spirit" into man -- an act above and beyond that which he did for the trees and stars.
Would this finally give some explanation to why mankind has a personal and immortal spirit that survives the death (change) of his material form? Could this provide a glimpse into the physics of how we can hope for a continuation of our "selves" after our physical death?
- Energy, like God -- just is.
- Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
- God can neither be created nor destroyed.
- Energy is omnipresent.
- God is omnipresent.
- Energy is omnipotent.
- God is omnipotent.
By definition of "omni", there cannot be two omnipresents or two omnipotents. Do you think it is somehow sacriligious to consider the possibility that God and energy are one and the same? If not, it might help explain a lot of things, such as the Trinity.
Or rather, maybe its a question of whether we trust him or we don't.
Semantics and the English language can certainly be a stumbling block to our understanding. When I was young, I would hear people say, "I KNOW God exists!" and "I KNOW Christ rose from the dead!" Even preachers belted out such proclamations from the pulpit.
This "knowing" of their's caused me a lot of worry and self-doubt back then, because try as I would, I could never reach that glorious state of "knowing". I was too literal-minded. I finally figured out that knowledge was not what Christ expected of us. Faith is not necessary for those who "know".
Then I had to deal with the word "believe", as in "... whoever believes in Him will not perish...". Although those around me seemed to find it easy to believe in things like the Virgin Birth and Jesus walking on water, I could never quite reach the mindset that I associated with the definition of "belief". I tried real hard, because I sure did not want to be damned for not "believing". I never quite made it.
I prayed lots and lots. I searched the scriptures lots and lots. I kept stumbling across scriptures about "faith" -- scriptures like, "without faith it is impossible to please God" and "By grace are you saved through faith" and "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith" and "we walk by faith, not by sight". So, I started looking a little closer at that word "faith". Many times I had read and heard the passage, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". But one time I slowed it down and thought it over.
"Substance of things hoped for"? Well, I could honestly say to God and myself that there were things I "hoped for". So, if faith was the "substance" of things hoped for, I certainly had that part down pat.
"Evidence of things unseen?" So, faith is the evidence of things unseen? To some, this may seem like a circular argument, but to me it was an epiphany. I had certainly seen the faith of others, and if that was not evidence of God, I didn't know what could be. I had experienced more than a few things in my own life that would surely qualify as evidence. So it dawned on my that, with hope and evidence I met the qualifications. "Hallelujah, I have faith!"
Now, although I still cannot with a clear conscience claim to "know" or even "believe" in some things -- I can honestly claim to have "faith" in them. So, if by the grace of God we are saved by "faith", than I figure I have a chance.
A not-quite-accurate analogy might be this:
My father died when I was 22. Let's say a serious, level-headed and trusted friend of the family knocks on my door. When I open it, he says, "Steve, I don't know how to explain it, but your dad is out here on the porch with me."
Can I "know" my dad is really out on the porch? No more than I can "know" Christ rose from the dead, even though trusted friends tell me He did.
Can I "believe" my dad is really out on the porch? No more than I can "believe" that Christ rose from the dead. (I might say I do out of fear of the consequences of disbelief, but that would not make it so.)
Can I have "faith" that my dad is really out on the porch? Yes. His being on the porch is the "substance" of something I would hope for. The trusted friend's testimony is the "evidence" of things unseen. In the same manner, I have faith that Christ rose from the dead.
Feelings and emotions are not unique to mankind. My dog Jake has feelings and emotions -- such as anger and fear. But, he does not have true (agape) love. In other words, he is unable to intellectually decide to make sacrifices for another. Christ said in John 15, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend". That's not a "feeling". That's an action. That's DOING something.
We've all heard stories about dogs that have given their lives to save their master. If dogs did that based upon an intellectual choice, then they would have given true (agape) love according to Christ. Dogs will instinctively fight and die for their pack, however no thought is involved, therefore no sacrifice is made. It is instinctive behavior.
Some would say that true (agape) love is outside our ability -- that it is something we can only shoot for. This is an unfortunate paradigm. God gave us love to use, not shoot for. We can feed the hungry. We can care for widows and orphans. We can be "good Samaritans" if we choose to. We can mow our neighbor's yard when he's sick. We can "give in" and let our spouse have his or her way. All such deeds require us to sacrifice something -- and that defines the one and only true love (agape), (as demonstrated by Christ giving his life on the cross for us).
Love is not a feeling. Love is not an emotion. Love is not an attraction. Love is not any of these. Love is caring enough to give -- and giving is something we all can do. True love (agape) is something we all are capable of. Just give of yourself and you will have loved. It's that simple.
People consider love a wonderful thing -- and it is -- more than most people realize. It is the most wonderful thing in the universe. Scripture tells us that God is love -- so that means that love is God. When you give love to someone, you have given that person God.
Just let a stranger help us when he or she doesn't need to. It leaves its mark in a powerful way. That's because we have experienced real love, not some counterfeit emotion. In other words, we have experienced God.
This is true for all animals in their natural state, including man. "Hoping for something in return" is the real motive behind most of our "virtue" and altruism -- whether we are conscious of it or not. Unselfish virtue would require being virtuous for virtue's own sake, whether it benefits us or not.
Giving to charities, going to church, singing praises to Him, "spreading the Gospel", obeying the ten commandments, feeding the hungry or doing anything else to receive "Brownie points" from God, may be "serving" God, but it is not unselfish virtue. Since we mortals have so much to gain and so much to lose, are we really capable of unselfish virtue (or unselfish love)?
God is immortal with nothing to gain and nothing to lose. This is why He can not only define virtue and love -- but also BE virtue and love. For this reason, I believe the only place actual "unselfish" virtue or love can be found is in God. However, God chose to "breathe" His Spirit into mankind. For this reason, I believe we mortals are capable of unselfish virtue (and unselfish love). But when it occurs, it is not from us, but from God within us. When we truly "love God", we "mirror" His love back to Him. When we truly "love others", we are sharing God's love. And, if we are ever "unselfishly virtuous", it is His virtue in effect, not ours.
"So what," one may ask, "can we really do for God ourselves"?
We can make ourselves available for Him to use. We can be the "conduit" through which His virtue and love enters into the world. We can say, "Here I am, God -- use me."
Placebo effects are sometimes dramatic, yet scientists are not sure why. For example, doctors in one study successfully eliminated warts by painting them with a brightly colored, inert dye and promising patients the warts would be gone when the color wore off. Events like this leave scientists scratching their heads.
It is possible that most placebo affects are merely subjective and due to patients being conned into ignoring their symptoms. However, it is harder to shrug off events like the wart elimination, which was objective evidence. In other trials, objective evidence like the dilation of airways in asthmatics and increased blood flow in the hearts of angina patients has been associated with the placebo affect. There is only one constant researchers are sure of when studying the placebo affect -- faith. The patients have unquestioning faith in what the doctor tells them.
The phrase "Faith healing" has become a target of ridicule in the last few decades -- mostly because of the exploitation of people by religious charlatans. But "faith healing" sounds a lot like the "placebo affect". More doctors are starting to employ the power of the placebo affect with certain patients. (Just goes to show that Native American -- and other shamen healers -- might have some things to teach modern medicine).
So, if there is such a thing as a "man/woman of God", and a person had as much faith in them as they do in doctors, I wonder what miraculous healings just might occur? As skeptical as I am, I'll probably never find out first hand.
BTW -- It appears that the word placebo (“I will please” in Latin) entered the English language by way of a peculiar mistranslation of the 116th Psalm that read, “I will please the Lord” rather than “I will walk before the Lord”.
As I drove around (DWI) I happened onto a little frame house-turned-church with a big cardboard sign out front that proclaimed, "Jesus Heals!" I pulled off the street, parked on their grass and walked in (with a fair amount of stability).
It was a charismatic service in progress. I sat down beside a little old lady who blessed me with a huge grin (I think she KNEW things). I managed to stay awake due to the lively "amens!" and "praise Gods!" I was also somewhat fascinated with the strange babbling that would erupt spontaneously around me.
Towards the end, the man preaching announced that "We have God's healer in our midst, tonight!" He then invited anyone needing healing to come forward.
Now, I have always been chronically shy and reserved -- but Mr. Hiram Walker had cured me of that, at least temporarily. I glanced over at the little old lady and she gave me another big grin. Then I got up out of the pew and worked my way to the front where "God's healer" awaited.
When it came my turn, God's healer (a woman) asked me what I needed healing of. I was at a loss for a moment -- I had not thought about that. Suddenly, I thought of something! A bullet had caused my left leg to be a little shorter than the right -- so I told her about it. I told her it caused me to walk in circles and was really bothersome. I'm sure she smelled the alchol on my breath, but she just smiled and asked me my name. I told her and she instructed me to sit down on the front pew.
"Do you have faith that God can heal you?" she asked.
I nodded my head and replied, "Yep".
"Do you have faith that He will heal you if you ask Him to?"
I shook my head and replied, "Nope", quite honestly.
She nodded and said, "That's all right -- because I do. And He is going to heal you tonight."
That was not the response I was expecting and for some reason, I suddenly felt nervous.
"Hold your legs out straight," she commanded.
I stuck them out. Kneeling down, she grasped both heels of my feet in her hands.
"It's the left one, isn't it?" she asked.
I nodded. (It really wasn't that much shorter, just about a half inch, the doctors said.) God's healing woman than closed her eyes and started praying -- then started babbling. I didn't know what to do, so I closed my eyes, too. My left leg begin to feel kinda warm and tingly, but I kept my eyes closed until she finished her prayer.
"Arise, my brother!" she said as she stood up and reached for my hand. "God has healed you! Give him the praise!"
She stared into my (what must have been) bloodshot eyes for a moment, then turned away. I stumbled my way back to my pew and sat down next to the little old lady. She grinned again, this time nodding her head.
I sat there a little muddled until people started filing out and then I got up and followed. I climbed back into my old Ford pickup and started it up. On the way out of the house-church driveway, I looked over and saw God's healing woman staring at me. I stared back until I ran over the curb and fell into the street.
When I got home that night I measured both my legs. They appeared to be the same length. But how could I ever be sure? They were so close to begin with. The whole episode freaked me out, and I'm still not sure what to make of it to this day.
"If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20
Most people believe this analogy to mean that it only takes a very small amount of faith (small seed) to move a mountain. I'm not sure that is an accurate interpretation.
The fact that the tiny mustard seed grows to be a huge tree-sized bush implies a LOT of faith to me. Christ may be telling us that if we want to move a mountain -- or have nothing impossible to us -- we must have a LOT of faith.
Kinda fits the empirical evidence, doesn't it?
The problem with words like "conservative" and "liberal" is similar to problems encountered with trying to paint a moving truck or to keep track of the flight of a firefly on a June night. I have learned to dislike (no, I'll be honest) -- I have learned to despise the use of words like "conservative" and "liberal".
I guess I could throw in words like Baptist, Catholic, Democrat, Republican, ad nauseum. Such "tribal" identities require definition (platform, creed, articles of faith, etc.). Thereafter, if you wish to belong to that tribe, you are expected to accept and adhere to the tribe's definitions -- and many people will surrender their brains at the door and do just that. Even worse, people from other tribes will assume you DO adhere to your tribe's definitions and attack you accordingly.
Tribal instinct in action.
I just do not believe it is spiritually healthy to surrender my brain and be a faithful (tribe, party, denomination, etc.) member. Tribal definition make demands upon my intellectual and spiritual integrity that I do not always agree with. Besides, I know the origin of "tribalism" and it has nothing to do with God's spirit. It is due to our animal instincts.
I also try not to think of anyone else as a tribe member (conservative, liberal, etc.), even if they make that claim because, odds are, they are not as personally sure of and committed to their tribe's definitions as they claim to be.
This is why I can really enjoy having fellowship on my porch with almost anyone. I'm kinda like my old hound dog, Jake. If you throw me a peanut (give me a smile) and not kick me (try to do me harm), I am your friend. And that is what I really think Christ meant when He said, "Where two or more are gathered together in my name, I'll be there."
Notice that he did not say in the name of "conservative" or "liberal" or "Baptist" or "Catholic" or "Morman". He said, "... in MY name...".
In the first three decades of the 20th Century, American corporate philanthropy funded prestigious academics to develop a scientific method of ensuring our people would be, as the Army's recruitment slogan goes, "the best that you can be". The plan was to establish national policy based upon science.
The resulting "science", called eugenics, was developed. In short, it concluded that to be "the best that you can be" required an intellectually superior, white race. It further concluded that to obtain such a people required the identification of so-called "defective" family trees and subjecting them to legislated segregation and sterilization programs.
These people with "defective" family trees included poor people, insane people, disreputable people, brown-haired white people, African Americans, immigrants, American Indians, Eastern European Jews, the infirm, the homosexual and anyone classified outside the superior genetic lines drawn up by these American scientists.
American corporate entities involved included the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. Some of our country's most respected scientists were involved, as was the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State Department, various state governments and even the U.S. Supreme Court. They all were intent on breeding a eugenically superior race. The plan was to wipe out the reproductive capability of the weak and inferior.
Ultimately, 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized — legally and extra-legally. Many never discovered the truth until decades later. Those who actively supported eugenics include America's most progressive figures: Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
American eugenic crusades proliferated into a worldwide campaign, and in the 1920s came to the attention of Adolf Hitler. Under Hitler, American eugenic principles were applied without restraint, careening out of control into the Reich's infamous genocide.
During the pre-War years, American eugenicists openly supported Germany's program. The Rockefeller Foundation financed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and the work of its central racial scientists. Once WWII began, Nazi eugenics turned from mass sterilization and euthanasia to genocidal murder. One of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute doctors in the program financed by the Rockefeller Foundation was Josef Mengele who continued his research in Auschwitz, making daily eugenic reports on twins.
After the world recoiled from Nazi atrocities, the American eugenics movement — its institutions and leading scientists — dove underground. Today, there are still those of the ultra-right who think eugenics is a pretty good idea.
Evangelical groups like the Evangelical Luthern Church in America were reportedly the most vocal opponents of eugenics during that time. In contrast, mainline Protestants were reportedly the most open to the idea. After all, the concept of improving the human race seemed to be both logical and scientifically sound.
- Sources include the Archive on the American Eugenics Movement at http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/ and War Against the Weak by Edwin Black
There is a general misunderstanding of the words "law" and "theory" as used by science. Most people believe that when a theory is proven it becomes a law. This is wrong. Scientific laws are generalized descriptions, usually expressed in mathematical terms, which describes the empirical (observable) behavior of matter. Scientific laws DESCRIBE things -- they do not EXPLAIN them.
For example, observing that items fall when dropped led to the Law of Gravity. A theory in science is the explanation for events that have been observed (laws). Scientific hypotheses and theories are our best attempts at explaining the behavior of the world -- in ways that can be tested by further experiment.
A theory in science has been "proven" -- which does not necessarily mean it is true. This is because scientific proof, (like legalistic proof) is determined by evidence. When there is insufficient evidence, scientists will consider an hypothesis unproven. Sufficient evidence will "prove" that the theory is a good explanation for what is happening. If evidence surfaces that does not agree with a theory, then scientists will revise the theory accordingly -- but they usually won't abandon the current one, even if they know it is flawed, until they have managed to think up a better explanation that agrees with the evidence.
When biologists says "Evolution has been proven", what they are really saying is that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that it would be illogical to believe otherwise. For example: If the evidence against a man suspected of murder was as strong as the evidence for evolution, a jury would have no choice but to convict him. Is that a guarantee he really did it? No, but it's the closest we can get to the truth with the facts we have.
I too believe in a Creator (in a slightly different way than most of my Christian brothers and sisters do -- possibly due to my Native American heritage). I believe the universe is His handiwork and I base this belief mostly upon personal, subjective evidence. I also accept the theory of evolution -- and I base this acceptance mostly upon empirical and objective evidence.
Science accepts evolution based upon objective evidence that would require the suspension of logic to deny (when one knows and understands all the evidence). As a Christian, I had to work that out for myself long ago. I'll just say this -- there are things with which I am not at peace with at midnight, but this is not one of them.
I reckon that God is a part of (both above and within) His creation (guess you just gotta be part Injun) -- which means He's had a fantastic journey.
There are word usages, logic and circumstantial problems associated with the Genesis account of creation -- even if one does not consider evolution. In such cases it may be wise to consider the possibility that there are things we worry about more than God did, or He would have made them less debateable. Without such an approach, there are a lot of things we should probably discuss -- like handling snakes and drinking poison.
Does there being a Sabbath require a literal seven days of creation? Perhaps -- but other explanations can be suggested. To deny empirical scientific evidence because of debateable scripture is to take the same stand the church took against Gallileo. Galileo was tried by the church on charges of heresy. He was accused of going against Holy Scripture by saying that the earth moved around the sun. The Church sentenced him to a life of perpetual imprisonment and penance. We (I assume you, also) now know that Galileo was right and the Church's interpretation of scripture was wrong.
Thank goodness scientists are not in personal danger for their studies today like Galileo was -- for they are as certain of their evolutionary principles as Galileo was of his celestial ones. I suspect that future Christians will probably have no more of a problem with geological timescales and the concept of evolution than present Christians have today with Galileo's theories.
Without an evolutionary process, it would require a non-linear biological jump (miracle) to account for the existence of our species -- and that possibility will have to remain in the spiritual domain. A monistic world view, in which the difference between the world of the senses and the world of the spirit is an apparent one only, does not require a miracle. Much of my personal spirituality is based upon such monistic principles. However, science has no present way to quantify or qualify a monistic world view -- it does not lend itself very well to testing. Therefore, for me at least, it must remain an article of faith as opposed to (most) of the tenents of evolution -- which I accept based upon the weight of the empirical evidence.
Grandson Tyler stayed over last night. Insisted that, "I'm getting big! I can say the prayer tonight!" He did a good job.
Long after he had gone to sleep, I lay thinking about how his faith was much greater than mine. In fact, his faith was absolute -- no doubts or theological questions to cloud it up.
Made me think about all of us adults with all of our different denominations, traditions, knowledge, and so on ad nauseum. What exactly is God looking for? How much we know? Who belongs to the right club? Who was baptised in what way?
Perhaps God really does not care what we know or what denomination we belong to. Perhaps he only cares about the heart and that is why there are six billion denominations -- because He could care less. Because in each of those denominations are people with hearts that he can look at and weigh. Perhaps He figures that, if He wanted to, He could write the "truth" across the sky and everyone would sing from the same songbook. But perhaps education is not his goal for us humans.
Perhaps the "whats" of our beliefs are not nearly as important to him as our hearts. Perhaps there will come a time he will ensure all will know the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".
Little Tyler knows little about theology, but he has faith and love without question. Perhaps THAT is what our Creator wants from us and perhaps THAT is what we "adults" replace with our theology.
My little grandson, Tyler -- for such are the Kingdom of God.
We are also to love Him (sacrifice ourselves to His will) with all we've got.
Frankly, anyone who won't "humble" themselves towards their Creator is either insane or a fool.
However, I doubt it is in his plan for us to live on bended knees "worshipping" Him. I especially get tired of modern "Christian" music where the words are mostly about "praising God" but seldom about sacrificial service to Him or to others.
Our knees will take us to God with our needs. The sweat of our brows will do His work on the earth.
If all those who claim to be Christian would spend less time in "worship" and more time in "work", the Gospel would be shared, the hungry would be fed and God's love would be realized in a real way throughout the world.
What if some of your children needed help? Would you rather have your other children on their knees worshipping you -- or out helping their brothers and sisters?
And, it is true. Allowing alien intrusion will usually result in change -- sometimes good, sometimes not. By their very nature, religious beliefs build a high wall to ensure no change is possible -- for which I would be very much in favor of, if I knew a belief was the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Problem is, I don't know of any belief, creed or denomination that I feel has everything figured out that well. So, I don't want a wall built around my beliefs so high that I cannot see over it. And, since I believe what interests God more than our knowledge is our heart, I am not afraid of considering other ideas in my quest to understand my Creator.
I believe Christ is the doorway through which we must all walk somehow, someday, somewhere.
I believe there is no other name under heaven by which we must all be saved.
I believe that Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and to Him the knee of every person will bow, regardless of what they believed while alive on earth.
What I do NOT believe is that everyone who fails to "accept Christ as their Savior while alive on earth" will "burn in Hell" -- and I was born and raised as a blue-blood Southern Baptist.
If this was true, most humans who ever lived would burn in Hell -- not for their sins, but for their ignorance. This is not the message of the Gospel. This is not the picture of Christ we have in the Bible. This is not an example of the love God requires from all of us. This is a teaching of questionable origin and supported with a misunderstanding of the reason Christ said to "Go ye into all the world...".
Jesus cried from the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do"! I believe this prayer echoes throughout the universe -- from sea to sea and from age to age. I do not believe that it is God's will for anyone to perish out of ignorance, nor do I believe that is what the Gospel (good news) is all about.
Most of humanity has never had the chance to know about Christ. Even for those who have heard of Christ, no two have ever had an equal chance. I don't believe God will condemn them for their own unique level of ignorance -- because they did not "accept Christ as their Savior".
Consider this scenario.
A little girl is born into a dysfunctional family where the only time she hears the word "God" is when it precedes the word "damn". At fifteen, she goes to a church with a friend and they give her a Bible and tell her to read about Jesus. She walks home with the Bible, hoping her father won't take it away from her and throw it away.
A handsome young teacher from school sees her walking, pulls over and offers her a ride. The girl gladly jumps in -- she's had a little bit of a crush on him all year. The creep doesn't take her home. Instead, he takes her to a remote spot, rapes and kills her. She did not have the chance to learn about Christ. She never "accepted Him as her Savior".
The teacher is arrested and sentenced to die for his crime. While in prison, a minister witnesses to him about Christ and the guy repents and "accepts Christ as his Savior."
Now, the strict teaching of "only during this life do you have a chance to accept Christ as your Savior" puts the repentant rapist in Heaven (which I have no problem with) and the young girl he raped and killed in Hell (which I have a big problem with).
This requirement to "get saved while alive or be damned for eternity" presents us with a horrible no-chance paradox that would make any Devil proud.
As a life-time Baptist, I know the teachings and scriptures that are used to support this. Yet, there are many scriptures that do NOT support this. Human reason does not support this, and God instructs us to use our reason. More importantly, the spirit of Christ's teachings and God's Holy Spirit within me does not support this teaching. Something is haywire about it. It is not a Gospel of love.
I don't presume to know how, but Christ's words and simple logic both say the same thing. God will somehow, somewhere, sometime level the playing field and all humanity will have equal knowledge of Christ. At that time, the advantage "preacher's kids" had will be taken away.
So, what about God's judgment? Will there be one? Yes, I believe there will be. I believe at that time, God will separate the "sheep from the goats".
What will it be based upon? I reckon I will have to get a little "mystical" here. Blame it on my Native American blood. I believe judgment will be based upon our spirits. I believe it is our spirits that will ultimately accuse or excuse us. If our spirits fight against what we believe is wrong, I believe they are of God and will excuse us even when our actual deeds and beliefs were ignorant. If our spirits do not fight against what we believe is wrong, I believe they are not of God and will accuse us, even if our actual deeds and beliefs were "Christian" all the way.
I believe this is what Christ was talking about when He told the Samaritan woman, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:21-24).
I believe Christ made this possible. I believe it is the true meaning of the Gospel -- God's good tidings about Christ that will bring great joy to all men with good spirits, not just the theologically competent.
I will not and cannot presume to limit God's mercy according to my (or anyone else's) interpretation of Scripture. The great I Am will do as He pleases, and I choose to believe it pleases Him to be an equal-opportunity Creator.
That "work hard" phrase is very deceptive. It is as silly to say hard work is the way to wealth as it is to say a big bullet is the way to kill a bear. The bullet has to be associated with the proper rifle -- the hard work has to be associated with the proper situation.
It would be interesting to watch Bill Gates work alongside a typical bricklayer or roughneck for a week. He might do OK, but he wouldn't get rich. If "hard work" was the formula for financial success, I personally know at least a hundred people who would be far wealthier than Gates. I have no doubt that some of you reading this would be far wealthier than he.
My son is a PharmD. He makes pretty good money. One day I heard him say something like, "Yes, I'm making more money than most, but I worked very hard for eight long years -- I earned it".
Now, even though my son's a doctor, he's not stupid. I asked him if he remembered how hard his grandfather had worked in the oilfields -- not for eight years, but most all his life. Then I asked him if his "eight hard years" were harder than those. I think he got my point.
Due to the grace of God, my son was in the right place at the right time with the all the right everythings to make his eight years of "hard work" more financially rewarding than my Dad could. Does he "deserve" any more than my Dad did? Of course not.
It is probably evident that when I hear someone say a rich person "deserves his wealth" because he "worked hard", I get a little irritated.
By their nature, instincts are selfish. What appears to be altruistic behavior will, upon closer examination, be behavior that an animal believes to be somehow beneficial to itself. Self-sacrifice does not occur naturally. What appears to be sacrificial behavior (such as a dog fighting a wolf to save a lamb) will only occur with conditioning or with breeding (genetics). The seemingly altruistic behavior in the sheep dog will actually be as selfish as that of a Beagle hound, who would not only let the wolf have the sheep but help him eat it. This instinctive selfishness is natural in animals (including human animals). It is a gift from God that all animal species require for survival -- and it is not "sinful".
When God chose to give His Spirit to the human animal, he included something else -- two basic responsibilities (laws). These responsibilities require acts of self-sacrifice which conflict with our selfish animal instincts. "Sin" occurs when a human fails to fulfill either of these basic responsibilities (which God has given to all humanity, independently of religion). These two basic responsibilities are for humans to love their Creator and to love each other.
We are still in animal form, so God did not eliminate our selfish animal nature when He gave us our two responsibilities. This causes inner warfare between the selfishness of our instincts and our consciences. As Paul said, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." This "law in my members" was Paul's selfish animal instincts. A zoologist could not have worded it any better.
Almost all human behavior-- even what appears to be altruistic -- when analyzed for motive, can be attributed to selfish animal needs such as survival, sex and recognition. This includes most of our "worship" behavior, which is instinctively used as a means to an end. We want our lot to be better while alive and we want to overcome death. That's why the Bible describes our good works being as filthy rags.
Because God did make us in His image, we humans can (but rarely do) choose to perform a truly altruistic act -- one that requires an actual sacrifice on our part with nothing to gain. We can (but rarely do) choose to deny our instincts and suffer for another or for our Creator. We have the ability (seldom used) to share what God gave to us instead of to a gopher -- sacrificial love (the only real kind).
It makes little sense to blame sin on the rain or on the Devil. Put the blame where it belongs -- upon ourselves. It is our failure to do what we know we should. It is our failure to deny ourselves and follow Him. It is our failure to unselfishly sacrifice ourselves for our God and for our fellow man.
We have little control over the behavior of others, so there will be times when we must "Cry havok! and let slip the dogs of war" in order to survive. Passivity is a ticket to extinction -- but it's not the only one. We are out-numbered in the world and we are well on the way to being universally hated.
I believe that at one time, most of the world looked up to us as knights who, for the most part, rode white horses. We set a pretty good example of strength tempered with compassion and justice. We were on top in education, medical care, life expectancy and morality. We are now far down the list in all of these -- and we have begun painting our horses black.
We are not only hurting ourselves, but all others who look to us for an example. Worst of all, we are making choices that will not leave our children a safer world. Long-term safety will not depend upon who does or does not have WMDs. In our technologically advanced world, there will be ways for the few to kill the many and the first victim of the war against terrorism will be personal liberty. Peace, liberty and safety will ultimately depend upon who hates whom and what is universally accepted as decent human behavior.
For example, the beheadings and the torture rooms found in Iraq are barbaric. The world should react with outraged censure and condemnation. That will accomplish far more than establishing torture rooms of our own. We do not want to participate in an escalation of the barbaric.
We've come a long ways since the days of Ghangis Khan. We have learned a kinder, gentler method of being strong -- and in the long run, it will work. We must not let an incident like 9/ll slip us backward into a less civilized state. We must keep the bar high for ourselves and for the rest of the world, or we will find ourselves with far more to worry about than 9/11.