Life & Death

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   1 Corinthians 15:55

I had a “procedure” done last week. It’s one of those things guys are supposed to do every few years once you turn 50. Let’s just say that saying “Ahhh” doesn’t always involve a tongue depressor during post-50 physicals.

Anyway…when I last went through this three years ago I had a rough time coming out of the anesthesia. I was in that twilight stage where I was becoming aware, but I couldn’t move or talk. My body started hyperventilating as I panicked. More than anything I just wanted someone there to calm my distress. I gradually went back under and came out later OK.

Wife must be here

…and make sure my wife is here after, ’cause I’m scared

I had a heart-to-heart with my wife and the anesthesiologist prior to going in and told them I’d really like Julie to be right there when I start waking up. I mean, I’d REALLY like her to be there. A lot!  Did I mention I don’t want to be alone in Recovery?

 

Call me a sissy, but there are a couple things that really freak me out. One is not being in control of my faculties and the other is being intubated.

The latter was my big fear when I had double bypass in 2003. I was not worried about dying. After prayer and talking, we realized I’d either wake up to her or God after that surgery. There would be no bad outcome.

Paramedic intubation

OK!!!  She’s at 1918 Milburn..

The prospect of waking up still intubated in the ICU was a hell on earth I was terrified of, more so than the prospect of dying on the table. You see, I’m very fond of breathing. And of being able to control my breathing. And of being able to talk, if I so choose. But waking up intubated and with my hands tied down so I couldn’t pull it out – as I’d seen someone else once – was not something I anticipated reacting to well.

 

If you want to get information out of me, just bring in the equipment to intubate me, and I’ll give up my own mother before you even ask. Seriously.

Speaking in earthly terms here, I came to realize this past week that I am not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of living, of life here on earth and in this body. Life on earth is too full of pain and trials, some – like intubation – too horrible to contemplate.

Victoria-Arlen-DWTS-588x395

Victoria Arlen, Dancing With the Stars

There’s a young lady, Victoria Arlen, on the current season of Dancing With the Stars who contracted a nervous system disease that left her trapped in her body, unable to move or speak for years. She heard the doctors tell her parents that she wasn’t likely to live and they needed to be prepared to lose her, to let her go.

 

I guess intubation isn’t too bad…by comparison.

So let’s redefine “life’ and “death.” Real life doesn’t start until we die our way out of this world. Real life doesn’t happen until we end this earthly journey and meet our eternity with Christ in His full glory. When Adam and Eve sinned and God condemned them to earthly death, the Hebrew is literally translated as “Dying, you shall die.”

In other words, life on earth is nothing more than the process of dying. It doesn’t get better. It keeps getting worse. Being here on earth is death! After you’re done here, if you have accepted Jesus, if you’ve given Him permission to pay your debt of eternal death for you by way of His death on the cross, that’s when you truly come alive!

If you haven’t had your Come-to-Jesus moment, if you are still outside of His grace, you need to talk to Him. RIGHT NOW! Just call out to Him in sincerity; He’ll hear you any place, any time of day. Tell Him you’re sorry for all of the bad things you’ve done, all of the things you wish you could get back. Ask Him to come into your life and make it right. Tell Him you accept His payment for your sins. Ask Him to live in your heart and help you make your life one He’d be pleased with.

Then get yourself a good Bible, by which I mean a good, literal translation and not some paraphrased translation. If you’re not into the “thee” and “thou” sort of thing, get a New King James translation. I consider anything else as a bit suspect.

Then find yourself a good, Bible-based church. I go to a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, mostly because they go back to the Bible on every issue that ever comes up. Wherever you go, it isn’t about the music. It isn’t about “Feeling Your Faith.” If you find yourself somewhere that talks about that, RUN LIKE YOU STOLE SOMETHING!! Faith happens regardless of feelings. If you run your Christian life based on your feelings, you’re going to have problems.

Jesus in Gethsemane

“Please find another way!  If not, I’ll go.”

Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven to let Him off the hook for the cross the night He was arrested by the Jews. He didn’t feel like doing what had to be done, but He did it on faith. He struggled too!  He just didn’t stumble, He stayed perfect!  He had our temptations and never gave in!

 

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.   Hebrews 4:15

So get with a community of believers, because none of us can cross the finish line without all of us helping each other get there! Times will go well and not so well, but with your nose firmly planted in God’s Word, you’ll learn how to cope with it; God’s Way.

Enough from me. Get on your knees, fold your hands, and talk to Jesus. He’s waiting.

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Patriotism

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.   Romans 13:1

US Flag TatteredNo country is perfect. Let’s just get that out of the way up front.  All countries exist and have their authority from God.  They may misuse their authority, and “We ought to obey God rather than men…”, but insofar as we do not transgress God’s law’s, we obey civil authorities.

Even evil Babylon served God’s purpose top punish the Children of Israel for a) not keeping His commanded observance of the Shemitah (see Sweet Release) every 7 years and b) sacrificing their children to the pagan god, Molech.

Isaiah and Jeremiah mourned for their beloved country and people, Israel. They were patriots who were grieved at what their country had turned itself into and worked tirelessly as God directed them in an attempt to save it.

In that context, I am an American patriot. I love the country I used to know and grieve for what it has become, what it has chosen to become.  I pray for its recovery for former glory as One Nation Under God, because it is now One Nation Under Self.

I grieve for the lost character that won two World Wars and generated an economic engine that powered the world. I grieve at the new character that says self over God and country, the new character that turns over hospital beds like restaurants turn over tables instead of putting the patient first, the new character that that disrespects its own home and neighbors in self-righteousness instead of contributing to a positive effort to solve problems.

Do I still say the Pledge of Allegiance? Do I still sing The Star Spangled Banner, standing, with my right hand over my heart?  Yes to all of that!  I do that, because I think most of America feels the same, but is being drowned out by voices with bigger microphones who think they know better than the true majority.

DNA Pirates CoverHas America been hijacked by people with wickedly selfish agendas? Absolutely!  Who else would convince so many Americans to tell God to get lost?  Who else would prey upon their own population and third world countries with terminal experiments in radiation, cancer, and covert  sterilization projects?  See my series on DNA: Pirates of the Sacred Spiral.

But I’m not going to disrespect and condemn the entire country and population in an effort to resist the problems we face. I’m going to stand with my hand over my heart, tears in my eyes, and sing the National Anthem, pledge allegiance to the flag, and communicate in my small corner of the country as best I can what problems we face and what mind set I think will combat those problems.

old-holy-bible-olivier-le-queinecMy first, best action is to continue to pray every day for our country, it’s true leaders, and all those who fight against evil, both on battlefields and halls of government. God is our ultimate Hope and Protection, now and in eternity.  His Protection remains to those who are faithful and is suspended from those who tell Him to leave.

His Protection has left America. It will only return when we look to Him and His Ways to solve our problems and change our hearts.

Even in its weakened state, The United States of America is still a beacon that draws refugees from the world over. It’s still the best thing going on the planet, but that won’t last without a return to the values, to the God that made us great in the first place.

American Flag

Will we ask God to sew it back together?

Guns: A Root Cause Analysis

It’s different now. If you have some savings, take them with you. If you have a pack, fill it and bring it. If you don’t have a sword, sell your coat and buy one.    Luke 22:36

Jesus: Put your sword back. People who live by the sword die by the sword.    Matthew 26:52

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.    Matthew 22:37-40

How do we reconcile the first two passages above? Defending yourself is one thing, both individually and as a nation.  Having the means to protect yourself is one thing.  Owning and using weapons as a way of living is quite another.

Karate SparringI’ve had friends who earned black and brown belts in a variety of martial arts. To a man and woman, they all had the same basic message for me: every good fighter avoids a fight at all costs.  You never know when you might be standing in front of that one person who’s going to hand you your ass.

Jesus was saying more or less the same thing, but more delicately, of course. Be prepared for trouble, but don’t go looking for it.

Matthew 26:52 also needs to be taken in context. Jesus wanted to be taken.  It was His job.  He had to be arrested, suffer, and die for our salvation.  That wasn’t the time for a sword fight, especially against trained troops.

So that leaves me in favor of gun ownership for home and self-defense. If you look at my article from last Monday, Gun Violence, you’ll see two very important messages.  First, the solution is in changing our hearts as a nation.  Second, you can follow the link provided to a Washington Post article from 12/3/2015, which clearly demonstrates that overall gun deaths have declined over the last two decades, coinciding with an increase in gun ownership!  The only parts of the country with increases in gun deaths are those states – Illinois, most notably – with the strictest gun laws.

Love HandsAs for Matthew 22:37-40, well, that would pretty much solve everything, now wouldn’t it?

Below I’ve pasted in a complete article from msc.com, which does a great job of talking about FACTS, not hyperbole and politics. When I taught corporate management classes, one mantra for solving problems and making the best decisions was “Think about WHAT’s right, not WHO’s right!”

It’s about fact-based discussions. Following is a great one.  I’ve highlighted parts to help you skim the article.  I also kept the links to other articles, which I don’t all agree with.  I provide them for you to look at and analyze yourself in light of the December 2015 article cited at the top and the article below.

******************

Opinion | I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinion-i-used-to-think-gun-control-was-the-answer-my-research-told-me-otherwise/ar-AAsRR7y?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site. She is the author of “Arriving at Amen.”

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

However, the next-largest set of gun deaths — 1 in 5 — were young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides. These men were most likely to die at the hands of other young men, often related to gang loyalties or other street violence. And the last notable group of similar deaths was the 1,700 women murdered per year, usually as the result of domestic violence. Far more people were killed in these ways than in mass-shooting incidents, but few of the popularly floated policies were tailored to serve them.

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.

Read more:

The Post’s View: The worst kind of American exceptionalism

Chris Murphy: Mass shootings are an American problem. There’s an American solution.

Richard Glover: How Australia beat the gun lobby and passed gun control

The Post’s View: Gun control’s silver bullets

Charles C.W. Cooke: The right to bear arms isn’t up for debate

Unforced Errors

WildfireFor we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.   Ephesians 6:12

TsunamiSomeone dies. Someone else loses a job.  We’ve had natural disasters galore between Mexico’s earthquake and an onslaught of record-shattering hurricanes.  The common question is “If there’s a loving God, why?”

People often ask that rhetorically to try to make the point that God doesn’t exist. Some people really want to know, in which case it’s a great question, but addressed top the wrong being.  Instead of arguing that disasters prove that either God is not love or simply doesn’t exist let’s argue that terrible events ARE proof that there is a devil who hates us all and loves to cause as much harm and suffering as possible!

Angry at GodWhy is the evidence always directed against God instead of acknowledging the obvious, namely that such things prove that the world is wicked and the devil does exist? Ergo, God must exist too.

But let’s back up and take this from the top. Slowly.

God is love. As the Creator of us all and of all we can witness and more, God puts Himself last.  That’s how much He loves.

Dog & Boy 2God wants a loving relationship with separate, intelligent life, so He created us and a world for us to live on and a universe in which it can exist. He created us in His image, but as individual beings apart from Himself.  He made us this way to have a real relationship, a relationship of choice on both parts.  See A Love Tutorial!

Furthermore, God put Himself at risk from His own creation, those He loves, by giving us the ability to say no. He makes plain what it takes to have a relationship with Him: don’t eat from that one tree.  Just that one.  Later it’s the Ten Commandments and certain conditions even after the Tree was chosen.  He never gave up on us!

Think on this: do you have someone who loves you? Do you cherish that love? Is that love meaningful to you?  What if you found out that that person only loves you under compulsion?  What if that person has no choice but to love you no matter what?  Would you still find that love meaningful to you?  Would you still cherish it?  Would that person even be an equal to you in your eyes once you discover that his or her love is mandatory for them?

They would perform all of the acts of love such that you wouldn’t know that it was forced upon them. But if you found out that it was all required, forced behavior, would you enjoy it as you do now?  At all?

sexbotArtificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies are coming together to create robot companions; dinner company, house mate, slut…?  Go ahead and Google “Sexbots” and see how far we’ve fallen.  These automatons are for lonely people who will settle for all of the mindless acts of love, because they can’t find a real mate, sad as that is.

The point is that, in this case, the creators (humans) place themselves over the creature (robots). Humans would get conversation, company, a nanny, or sex from these things.  It’s all about what an individual can take from or do to something/someone else.

Did I just say “someone” in reference to robots? Well, yes.  Because lawyers and ethicists are starting to ask the question, “If AI is a sentient being, who’s going to protect the rights of these sexbots?”

While I find the argument ludicrous, it goes to prove my point; we are not at all like God. We – as a race – create a new “life form” for the acknowledged purpose of enslaving it to our will and even abuse.  Some people find that objectionable and want to protect the robots…and/or make a buck.

God did not create robots or AI. He created living, self-aware beings who could choose and then put Himself at risk by allowing us to reject Him.

adulteryAnd exactly how do we reject God? After He asks us to use His creation within its design parameters, i.e. be nice to each other and the planet, we do everything we can to use ourselves and others outside of everyone’s design parameters.

Some of us even flip Him off and tell Him to get the F*** out of our country and lives.

satan B.jpgNo, we choose against God and enslave ourselves to the god of this world and his “…rulers of the darkness of this age…(and) spiritual hosts of wickedness.”

And who put HIM in charge of the world??

Um, that would be us. Because, starting with Adam and Eve, we chose Satan over God.

When terrible things happen, it shows very clearly that God does indeed love us. He loves us so incredibly much that He allows us to reject His overtures of love if we so choose.  It’s also proof that the choice of rejection puts us in league with Satan and gives him sway over this world.

And then we complain about God’s behavior when the consequences come home to roost. That perception also demonstrates how the rulers of the darkness of this age…(and) spiritual hosts of wickedness work in this world, cloud our minds with bad thinking and perceptions.

Fortunately, Jesus placed Himself even lower than the angels in order to suffer our lot and pay our debt for us. Again, all we have to do is to choose wisely.

God loves you

Comfort

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.    Isaiah 40:1

Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.    Apuleius Roman philosopher, rhetorician, & satirist (124 AD – 170 AD)

Stress - business woman running lateSome things are heard so often we don’t truly hear them any longer. We just rush through them without thought.  When it comes to Bible passages and what we say in church on Sunday mornings, I think this is too much the case.

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-12As a former actor, I was trained to be able to say something as if it were being said for the first time. That can be a challenge when confronted with something like the 23rd Psalm; “The Lord is my Shepherd…”  And it is such a thing of beauty!

One passage that ends most church services is from Numbers 6:24-26. It is the Benediction, which we hear most Sundays, and which is rattled off far too quickly.  Speed kills (meaning).  Allow me to type it here as if scripting it, not literally as punctuated and written in the Bible.  Think of someone saying this for the first time as they leave a friend’s house, not to return soon.  The speaker is thinking about what he or she is going to say next, making it up as they go along.

 

The Lord bless you!

(Pauses thoughtfully)

…and keep you.

(Cups her host’s face in one hand)

The Lord make His face…shine upon you.  And be gracious to you.

(Both hands on the host’s face now, looking deeply into the eyes)

The Lord lift up His Countenance upon you. And give you peace.

(Kisses the hosts forehead and exits)

 

HUGGING-FRIEND-570How would you feel if a dear friend said that to you in that way as they leave, not knowing when you’d see each other again? Warm?  Bittersweet? Comforted by such kind words?

There is much comfort to be had in the Bible with passages like this, the 23rd Psalm, and more.  Sit some place in the quiet with time on your hands and slowly read the Psalms.  Read the whole Bible.  There is much to learn in there, not the least of which is how much God loves you, everything He sacrificed for you, and how He wants to spend all of eternity.  With you!

quote-if-you-surrender-yourself-and-do-not-rush-but-meditate-on-the-word-of-god-you-will-find-john-r-rice-111-56-66

A Love Tutorial

Re-published from 9/11/2014

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:3-5

Please see this video next: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTOzt-aqxbo

This video struck me as being something like a parable or illustration of God and humanity. It’s touching both in itself and in how it can show how God deals with us.

Dog & Boy 1First, let’s characterize the players. There is one, vastly more powerful being who denies its strength and humbles itself to woo a decidedly less powerful, less capable being than itself.

Second, the individual it wants to win over is mentally incapable of understanding just what this big, perhaps scary individual is trying to do. Even if the intent is understood, the object of affection tries to push away – and even flee from – the being trying to love it.  But the stronger individual is not deterred from its purpose.

Dog & Boy 2Third, the stronger is infinitely patient, suffering repeated rejection in order to wear down and win over whom it loves. Time is neither an object nor obstacle.  It is virtually the tool of choice, as the lover outlasts that which is loved.

Dog & Boy 3Fourth, love conquers. In the end, the boy in the video embraces the dog.  God conquered on the cross 2000 years ago.  Alas, we do not all respond as the little boy does, finally recognizing just what a friend is before him.

What do you think of the dog in the video? Does she warm your heart?  Does her unconditional love inspire you?  Do you admire her persistence?  Do you think she would be hurt if she never succeeded?

Well, take all of that and make it infinitely bigger to fit God. NOW what do you think of Him?  What will you do about it?  Say thank you?  Tell other people about this great big, cuddly God who just wants a hug back?

Hopefully, your answer is a positive. To everything.

Being Poor

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.    Proverbs 22:2

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.    Proverbs 28:6

 

Faint on tthe RoadDefining “Poor” from Merriam-Webster:

  • lacking material possessions
  • less than adequate
  • inferior in quality or value
  • lacking a normal or adequate supply of something specified

 

From “Cheers,” Season 1, Episode 20, titled “Something Single, Something Blue.”

Glynis Johns Someone_SingleThis episode saw Diane Chambers’ wealthy mother facing the prospect of poverty due to a clause in her dead husband’s will, if Diane isn’t married by the following day. Mrs. Chambers was played by the great Glynis Johns, who many might recall as the mother in Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.

While Cheers is a comedy series, this is a poignant exchange toward the end of the episode. Glynis played it completely straight, tears in her eyes.  This came at about the 20:30 mark:

“I’m really quite afraid. I’m afraid of being poor.  I was poor before I met your father, and it took me years to really forget how being poor felt.”

I, too, have been poor. While in grad school and for a while after I lived in a roach infested apartment in downtown Detroit.  I had three years of fighting cockroaches and no hot water in the bathroom, all in all.  I had a ’68 Rambler station wagon that lived much longer than it should have.  I remember it always being a crapshoot if anything on it worked, from the windshield wipers to, oh, just about any accessory on the dash.  I remember wondering what it might be like to someday have a car where I could be sure everything on it worked!

God blessed me immeasurably in subsequent years. A wife, two daughters, and some very good jobs that came with company cars.  Everything worked on them, including bells and whistles not even thought of in the ‘80’s!

I lost almost all possessions in the financial ruin of 2008-9, but God has restored my fortunes since then. It’s been a tough road.

So, when I watched this scene over my lunch hour today, my eyes teared up along with Glynis Johns’.  I’ve been poor.  Twice.  And that’s just talking about money and possessions.

old-holy-bible-olivier-le-queinec

Not Used Enough…Yet

Within the last five years I’ve learned how poor I am in God’s Word. As any good Lutheran, I know the Gospel and directly related verses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the Bible that I’ve been embarrassingly oblivious to.  If you search my blog, especially under “Science & History and the Bible,” you’ll see many entries on how the Bible truly does intersect the world in history and today in ways I never before realized.

 

The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know, the more I mourn not having known in my younger years!

I find that I simply can’t penetrate certain things adequately, because I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. English is a very poor language, not nearly as nuanced as those ancient tongues.

I’m often dependent on trying to find a reliable source for translation, and those are not always easy to come by!

I often, once knowing what Scripture literally says, find myself poor at trying to execute what I think I’m hearing. For example –

I forgive people for wrongs done. I even pray for them.  But without their change in behavior I feel the only way to protect myself is to cut myself off from them.  Do I not love enough like Jesus, or would continuing to engage with them be like “casting pearls before swine?”

Even the disciples were told to shake off the dust of their feet at towns that refused their message. Of course, they were there proclaiming the Gospel.  Me?  I’m just trying to practice some decent behavior with the expectation of something approaching reciprocity.

I would like to bring more people to the knowledge of the truth of God’s mercy and love, but I find myself confounded as to how to do that more than I am.

Mercy. GOD’s mercy is the only solution.  Look at my article from last Saturday, “Sweet Release.”  Every 7 years, the Children of Israel were commanded by God to just let it all go.

All debts were cancelled.

fallow_landNo work was to be done for an entire year. It wouldn’t be necessary, because God would so bless their farms that they’d have plenty to get them through.  The land would lie completely fallow and rest.

And I thought some European countries had generous vacation schedules!

Still, with such a rich proposal, the Israelites blew God off. He let it go for SEVENTY, SEVEN-YEAR CYCLES, giving them fair warnings and even minor disasters.  God finally called it enough, and that was the reason the duration of their Babylonian Captivity was 70 years!

Maybe they remembered being poor at some point. Maybe they couldn’t bring themselves to trust God, because they were poor in faith in addition to being poor in money and possessions.

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Those seven-year cycles, those Shemitahs, were something God only brought to the Israelites. I know I’m only speaking from the cheap seats here.  I wasn’t there.  But I can’t help thinking that I’d take that.  A one year vacation of doing nothing after six years’ good, hard work sounds great to me.  That along with a guarantee of never being poor would be fine.

Being poor, whether in physical assets or knowledge or moral makeup, is never fun. As long as we’re on this earth there will be poorness.  Satan will see to it.  Jesus even warned us of that;

For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.    Matthew 26:11

But we can counter that with staying in God’s Word; all of it, Old and New Testaments. We can be charitable.  We can fellowship with other Christians in order to help other remain focused on how Jesus expects us to live –

RICHLY*!

 

*Regardless of how much stuff we have.

Sweet Release!

Shemitah – Hebrew, translated literally as “release.”

jonathan-cahn.jpgI first learned this word through the books “The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah,” both by Jonathon Cahn, a Christian Rabbi. He wrote these books when he realized that the pattern of history over the last century has a strong parallel to the history of ancient Israel, their national sins. and their Babylonian bondage.  I wrote a series review of his work a couple years ago, starting with The Harbinger, Overview Part 1

Christians are all familiar with the term “Sabbath.”

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” warns the commandment. It was to be a day of rest commemorating God resting on the seventh day of the universe after spending six days creating it.  What I didn’t know until a few years ago and reading Rabbi Cahn’s books is that there was also a Sabbath of years.

sabbathJesus also informs the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath when they turned their noses up at His disciples picking grain to eat on a Saturday, which is the actual seventh day and the actual Sabbath.

Sabbath is to be a day of rest, a year of rest, and a year of…release!

I was recently reading back through “The Mystery of the Shemitah” and a passage captured my attention more than it had when I first saw it. Rabbi Cahn made some succinct comments about the Shemitah – the Sabbath Year, which I’ll reproduce below.  You’ll see that it isn’t just about resting from physical work, but a rest – a release – from the world, from possessions which encumber.  It’s a release to rest in the arms of our God without a care in the world.

The need to work for our food? Released!

The need to collect debts? Released!

The need to pay debts? Released!

Rest-in-Jesus-ChristThe Shemitah strikes me personally as something very much like my bypass surgery in 2003.  Was that a scary time?  It certainly had its moments!  But I remember that entire period from surgery through recovery very fondly.  I was released – I was “shemitah’d” from the cares of life to just be.  Eat, sleep, breathe…repeat as needed.

The law of Sabbaths from the seventh day to the seventh year to the seventh 7-year cycle was peculiar to the Israelites. Except for the commandment, God did not require these Sabbaths from any other people.  However, I can’t help wondering what this world would look like if  everyone on earth was “shemitah’d” from every debt and possession every seven years.

What a leveler that would be! There would be no oppression by debts lasting a lifetime, no burdens of a glut of unnecessary wealth.  We would do nothing but rest on the grace of God’s providence in those times, a true rest from not just labor, but from the world!

Here are selected portions of Rabbi Cahn’s comments from his book “The Mystery of the Shemitah,” page 31. After reading those, I invite you to slowly, carefully…care-freely read the passages from Exodus and Leviticus describing these Sabbaths, these Shemitah’s, these blessed releases!

‘The Shemitah declares that God is first and above all realms of life, and must therefore be put first and above every realm. During the Shemitah was, in effect, compelled to turn away from these earthly or worldly realms and turn to the spiritual.

The Shemitah cleanses and wipes away, ends imbalances, levels accounts, and nullifies that which has built up in the previous years…It ends entanglements and brings release…The Shemitah requires people to release their attachments to the material realm: their possessions, their finances, their real estate, and their claims and pursuits concerning such things.

The Shemitah is the reminder that God is the source of all blessings, spiritual and physical alike.”

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The Law of Sabbaths   Exodus 23:10-11

10 “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.

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Highlights are mine.

The Sabbath of the Seventh Year   Leviticus 25

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food.

The Year of Jubilee

‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.

13 ‘In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. 14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another. 15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you. 16 According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops. 17 Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

Provisions for the Seventh Year

18 ‘So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.

20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” 21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

Redemption of Property

23 ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. 24 And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.

25 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. 26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, 27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. 28 But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.

29 ‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year he may redeem it. 30 But if it is not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to him who bought it, throughout his generations. It shall not be released in the Jubilee. 31 However the houses of villages which have no wall around them shall be counted as the fields of the country. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the Jubilee. 32 Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, and the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites may redeem at any time. 33 And if a man purchases a house from the Levites, then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall be released in the Jubilee; for the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. 34 But the field of the common-land of their cities may not be sold, for it is their perpetual possession.

Lending to the Poor

35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

The Law Concerning Slavery

39 ‘And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. 40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God. 44 And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. 45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. 46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor.

47 ‘Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, 48 after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; 49 or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself. 50 Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him. 51 If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought. 52 And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption. 53 He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him. 55 For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

To BeautyBeyondBones:

BBBThe following started as my comment to yesterday’s article at BeautyBeyondBones; Preparation; A Lesson from Hurricane Irma.  It’s turned into a minor dissertation, so I figured, “Hey!  Here’s MY next article!”  I would urge you to read her article, indeed follow her blog, and even buy her new book, Bloom.

To Beauty BeyondBones:

The most critical thing I read in this blog is this: Sure I go to church. I try to be a good person and love Jesus. But is that enough? Frankly, I’m impatient, self-centered, and lazy at best. And if I’m being totally honest, I spend more time fixated on The Bachelor or other trash TV than I do in worship to Jesus.”

martin_luther

Martin Luther

That’s the Roman Catholic in you coming out (What can I say? I’m a Lutheran and we’re studying The Reformation’s 500th anniversary).  It’s not about what you do!  No penance, no good works, nothing makes a difference in your salvation.  You can’t do it!  Only Jesus can and, in fact did.  End of story.

 

Your “loving response” is to make every effort to give a drink to a child, care for widows and orphans, share the Gospel, and do your best to live as Jesus commanded us to.

“If you love Me, you will…”

When Jesus separates the sheep and the goats – you guys visited me in prison, fed me, etc. You guys didn’t.  Off you go – unbelievers who did good works don’t get a pass.  Matthew 25:31-46

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

The works are tangible proofs of our faith. And God doesn’t need those proofs!  They are for us and for those around us.  They are for us in moments of doubt when Satan attacks, such as you may have been experiencing when writing Preparation.  I believe but…do I REALLY believe?  Well, I do X, Y, & Z so, yeah.  But I also sin A, B, & C, but Jesus forgives, and I believe that.  The proof of that to me are the good works I do out of faith and love – not because I think they’ll save me.

satanSatan is also translated as The Accuser. You are right – we will have to answer for our words and actions on the final day of judgement.  Satan will make His accusations against you and me before the throne, but Jesus will step in and say, “All true, but Caralyn, Jeff, and the rest have agreed to allow me to pay their debt.  So here I am, and here’s my blood.  End of story.  Now make a hole so I can take my sister and brother up to the Big House.”

And that last line is critical – Jesus has already made the sacrifice, BUT if we don’t accept His payment on our behalf, if we reject Him by not believing in Him, our debt remains unpaid.  Going down!

And yeah, you silly thing, you watch the garbage TV, have your nose in your cell phone…just like I have my vices and failings. But I refer you to St. Paul in Romans 7:13-25:

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 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. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

St PaulWe’re in a lousy state, but we’re in good company if we’re struggling like Paul did. If our lives and struggles echo his, we could be doing a whole lot worse!

And the proofs are for others – to show that our faith HAS made a change in our lives! Proofs give others a reason to listen, it gives us credibility when we talk about Jesus.

Caralyn, is your blog going to save you, because you are reaching so many people with the Gospel? NO!  Are your blog and your life one massive collection of PROOFS that you are credible in your message?  YES!

Penance? Doesn’t do anything for anyone.  No one sees your prayers, etc.  And no one is supposed to!  They are between you and God.  Paul discounts speaking in tongues, because no one understands the speaker, so no one is edified.  In the same way, personal penance edifies no one, and since Jesus already paid the price, it doesn’t matter to our salvation.

Beauty Beyond BonesWhat does matter? BEAUTYBEYONDBONES!  It’s the life that screams JESUS IS REAL!  It’s the good work that is a beacon to draw people to the banquet of mercy and forgiveness.  BBB is what edifies others!

Are you doing enough? No.  None of us can.  That’s the point.  Only Jesus can.  Are you practicing your loving response to His sacrifice?  Absolutely!  Better than many.  Could you do better?  Of course.  We ALL could.  Just maintain the struggle as Paul did.  As my pastor says, if you’re struggling, your spirit against your flesh, you’re on the right path: So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

With that last thought, let me refer you back to my article on Mr. Mister and Kyrie Eleison.  Bad hair and all.  The pertinent lyric?

Somewhere between the soul and soft machine Is where I find myself again.

Caralyn, offered in love and support of the miracle that is BBB! Keep shining…”Tiffany!”

The Whole Matter

GodIn this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.    1 Peter 1:6-9

I write about a wide range of topics, and always from a Biblical perspective.

  • In 2014 there was the series review of The Exodus Case by Dr. Lennart Moeller, which evaluates archeology related to Exodus.
    • Why? This shows that Biblical history and world history are one, pointing toward the accuracy of the Bible.
  • Euthanasia. The latest being, Charlie Gard; His Parents Couldn’t Help Him.
    • Why? Well, murder for convenience is just that; murder. Call it abortion, euthanasia, mercy killing, dying with dignity…wrong is wrong and God is quite clear in right and wrong.
  • Various science topics. DNA Pirates CoverMost recently, another book review series on DNA: Pirates of the Sacred Spiral by Dr. Leonard Horowitz.
    • Contrary to secular claims, science does indeed affirm intelligent design. In a word; Creation.
    • Dr. Horowitz is a prominent research scientist who has demonstrated how DNA shows God’s design and how men have hidden it’s true nature from the world.

Sometimes I read a headline that prompts an article. Sometimes I like to share some personal memories that have taught me something I like to share with you.  Search The Jeff Tales.

I write about a lot of different things to bring God’s Word to light in a variety of ways. You just never know what’s going to prompt someone to either accept God or get closer to Him.

But what is the whole of the matter? Salvation from our sins thanks to the love of the God who created us.  So here it is as succinctly as I can put it.

God created all; from the rocks and stars to animals, people, and microbes. And it was good.

Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, had a perfect life, always on vacation as it were. No worries.  Have you ever wished you were your cat or dog?  They have no worries.  Just watch the house and let you love them, right?  They had it something like that.

Lucifer, one of the highest angels, wanted to be God. He got ambitious, and God condemned him.  In a moment of “You and your little dog too!” Satan decided to wreck it for Adam and Eve to spite God.  He succeeded.

adamevesufferingWe’re all descendants of Adam and Eve. We ARE Adam and Eve!  Blood of their blood and bone of their bone.  We inherit their sin right down to our DNA.  Because we are flawed that way, we commit our own sins in addition to being born with that inherited sin.

God set the rules up front, and once Adam and Eve – and we – broke them, He couldn’t very well go back on His Word. Right?  He’s perfect, saying what He means and doing what He says He’ll do.  But He devised a plan whereby He could absolve us of our sins under those very rules; namely disobedience must be paid for with blood/death.

Jesus SmilingAt the right time, He sent His Son, Jesus to earth by way of a human, virgin birth through Mary. He lived a perfect, obedient life and became the perfect sacrifice worthy to pay the price exacted by the original rules.

Passion of ChristJesus died horribly to pay our price, and then God raised this perfect One from the dead to rule over all creation. He holds out this gift of absolution to us for free.  All we need to do is say “Yes.”  With that simple acceptance, our eternal salvation is assured.

Once our sinful bodies die here on earth, our redeemed souls are free to enjoy an eternity of bliss in the direct presence of God.

Is the world a great place? Take a look around; past wars, present threats of war, constant and increasing crime, and the accelerating decay of society.  All of this will be replaced by peace and perfection by a loving God who will welcome us into His presence.

Why?

He created us. He loves us.  That’s all He ever wanted to do; have a relationship with us that we choose to participate in.

Everything else I write about is pointing to the reality of the salvation – and the danger – we have to choose between. The world is an evil place.  Satan still tries to deceive us and fill our minds with thoughts of only self and not God.

So, if you have a past that you aren’t proud of, if you have sins on your conscience that you can’t escape, if you want God’s peace in your soul amidst the scares and turmoil of the present day, just talk to God.  Talk to Him with a sincere heart, ask for His forgiveness and say “Yes” to the gift He holds for you to take from His open hand.

No muss, no fuss. Jesus took care of that part.  Just say “Yes.”  After that, get to know Him better by studying His Word in the Bible.  Learn how you can love Him back and have that relationship He wants with you!