Guest blogs are always welcome…
…even from people who disagree with the views presented here. Use the contact page to request info.
We all have emotional attachments to people, but have you ever felt emotionally attached to a thing? Guest blogger, Mary Vanderplas, explains…
Until just recently, I had driven the same vehicle for 20 years. I don’t doubt that I would be driving that vehicle still, were it not for the fact that when I brought it in to be checked because it was having some problems, the mechanic, George, solemnly pronounced that the transmission was going.
Being the car person that I am (NOT), I called for advice two people I know who I was fairly certain know a lot more about cars and the market for them than I do. Both my brother and my best’s brother-in-law instructed me to check online before venturing out into the wide world of car sales. I followed their advice and managed to come up with a couple of cars for sale in the immediate area of my home that met the criteria I had.
When I called the dealership about one of them, I spoke with a friendly salesman who answered my questions and invited me to come down and take a look. When we arrived, we were met by the salesman I had spoken with – a pleasant man with a soft voice and gentle manner. He led us to the car I had asked about. It looked sleek and attractive on the outside. Getting in, however, I was immediately overcome by a sense that it wasn’t the car for me. There were just too many unfamiliar features, things I couldn’t identify, let alone imagine myself learning how to use. The salesman calmly pointed us in the direction of another car of a similar make – telling us that it was a 2016, two years newer than the one we had just seen. We commented to one another about the color – black – noting that neither of us particularly cared for the color.
After being shown a couple of other cars that didn’t meet the criteria, we decided to take a closer look at the black 2016. The salesman suggested that we take it for a test drive and that we drive it to our house. We had wondered out loud whether it would clear the driveway, thinking that the bottom might scrape on the cement because the car is low and the driveway pretty steep. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was no problem getting into and out of the driveway without scraping the bottom, as long as the wheels were turned soon enough allowing the car to go in or out at an angle.
By the time we got back to the dealership, we were sold. The salesman produced the reports I asked for, confirming that the car didn’t have a history of any issues. Evidently, the previous owner, who had owned the car for only seven months, just decided he or she wanted something else. Even though the price of this car was a little higher than I had expected to pay, we felt it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse – a good deal considering that the car was for all practical purposes new.
A couple of things about this experience make it interesting and memorable for me. One is that I was surprised by how hard it was for me to take the plunge and get rid of my old Jeep Cherokee for another car, even though I knew it was what I needed to do and I had already been thinking for some time about the inevitability of having to get rid of it one of these days. But even after George gave me the bad news, I resisted the thought of giving it up. My first thought was that I would drive it until it died entirely – which would have been pretty stupid, considering that I was able to get at least a little for it by trading it in while it was still running. But cling to my old Jeep I did – like someone not wanting to say goodbye and let a dying loved one go.
Upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that my attachment to this car had a spiritual dimension. The car represented more than just a means of transportation. Indeed, it was like a trusted friend, something that had taken me on the highways and byways of life for 20 long years, through all of the ups and downs that those years brought. It had listened to me laugh and sing and express joyful emotions; it had listened to me curse and rail and cry in frustration and anger and sorrow. It had been there with me and had faithfully carried me along no matter where I was or where I was going. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that, when it came time to leave the dealership that day with my new wheels, I had a lump in my throat and I wanted to be alone with my Jeep one last time before we left.
A second thing that made the experience significant for me was that I sensed that God’s hand was in it. I don’t say this lightly. To speak of divine providence in the context of sharing an experience of buying a car isn’t something that I would necessarily expect myself to do. When it comes to the doctrine of providence, I have always been inclined to think more in terms of being sustained in a general way by the hidden hand of God and not in terms of receiving specific things as a result of God’s intervening in our daily lives to bless us. But I felt clearly that day that God was present and that the car I drove home was a gift from God’s hand in a very personal and particular way.
If you ask me to explain why I felt that way, I can’t. I just did. And the result was that I was filled with gratitude and joy. I still get goose bumps when I think about it. Maybe it’s because I know that I don’t deserve it. I know it wasn’t a reward for my being a good person – which I’m mostly not – or for my having driven the same car for 20 years, as though there is virtue in austerity and excessively curbing consumption. My not buying a car sooner than I did had less to do with any virtuous proclivities toward responsible spending than it did with a borderline neurotic aversion to change. At any rate, when I drove away with this beautiful new car, I felt that I had received a gift, an undeserved blessing, and I rejoiced and gave thanks to God for giving me this particular car.
So now I am driving in style – in a 2016 Toyota Camry that shines like a new penny and purrs like a kitten. But as for me, I am the same person, and I am headed in the same direction: toward the reign of God, where new cars pale in comparison to the glories we shall behold and become.
My Dad came to visit the recently, and he had a conversation with a friend of mine about his adventures as a missionary in Columbia. My Dad told a story about a guy who came running into the church and hid behind the area where people were seated. Then several police officers charged into the church and arrested the man. I laughed and laughed, imagining the looks on the congregation’s faces. He told a story about how someone who is teaching him to speak Spanish gets a kick out of telling him the wrong words to say, for example, “Get out of my way” instead of “excuse me.” My friend said, “You should write a blog.” I mentally agreed that if one’s life is comprised of new and interesting circumstances, it makes sense to write a blog. This lead me to think about my life and my blog.
What do I write about? Basically, I write my opinion and advise people to test everything and hold on to what is good. You don’t know how many times I’ve regretted naming this blog What God Does. Who am I to say what God does? What if I’m wrong? I chose the name because it is easy to remember and helps define the purpose of this blog, that is, to clear away misconceptions about Who God is (that URL was already taken when I started this blog) and what God does. I know for certain that I hear people teach things about God that are NOT TRUE. Perhaps I should have called this blog What God Doesn’t Do.
I recently binge-watched the TV series, Sherlock on Netflix. It’s a modern-day interpretation of the famous Sherlock Holmes detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The show is extremely well done, and I highly recommend it. Dr. John Watson documents their adventures online in his blog. An interesting life practically begs for an accompanying blog.
Do I have an interesting life? Yes and no, I suppose, depending on what season you ask. And some of the most interesting stuff I choose not to share. But no one charges into my office looking to hide from the cops. I’m not trying to learn a second language. I don’t solve ghostly mysteries. Do you have an interesting life? Maybe you’re like me, and the answer will vary depending on when the question is asked. If you have a story to tell, an analysis of some current event, or a spiritual truth to share, please feel free to write a guest blog post.
Creating a Family Tree as a Family Project
A fun activity that you can do together as a family is a family tree project. Tracing your history ancestry is an educational experience and one that helps your kids develop a sense of roots and belonging. By visiting the past, you can prepare them for the future. While this may seem like a big challenge to tackle, it can be quite easy if you follow a few pointers.
Consider Your Kids’ Ages
First, think about how old your kids are to determine how in-depth you want to go with your research. The older your kids are, the farther back in your history you can go. For kids around preschool or early elementary age, you will want to limit the information to only the past two or three generations and keep things simple.
For example, if your child’s grandparents are living, you may want to include the names of their parents. Any farther back and your little one won’t understand the relationships.
As your kids get older, you can trace your lineage farther back. In fact, if your kids are into history, they may enjoy learning about family members who were alive during the Civil War and before. It can bring these stories to life for them.
Consider Visual Aids
While you may want to scan old newspapers and court documents to find out names and dates of your ancestors, kids often learn better with visual aids. Consider using a family tree template to record your information.
You can find a variety of styles to fit the ages of your kids and your individual needs. For example, some templates use actual trees with the branches listing family member names. Young kids will enjoy this option and help them understand the concept of “family tree.” Older kids may prefer an elegant design that can be framed when the project is complete.
These templates provide choices for how many generations you want to include. Something simple like the three-generational or four-generational family tree is ideal for the younger kids. Older kids will enjoy the ten- and twelve-generational charts if they want to find a lot of information about their history.
Begin with History
While it is common to begin with present family members and work your way back, you don’t have to follow this method. If you have a famous (or infamous) ancestor in your lineage, begin with that person. Work your way backward or forward based on how much information you can find. For kids, it can be a lot more interesting to study about people they have read about than someone obscure from history.
Don’t get stuck trying to find a person with little to no information. Kids gets bored easily, so skip over great-great-great grandfather John if you can’t find anything about him. It is okay to leave a few blanks on your family tree template. The focus should be on helping your kids learn about their past and making it fun. Tracing family history can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience for parents and their kids.
Suzie Kolber created http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects. The site offers the largest offering of family tree chart online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.
A note from Alice — The image is of my family tree on my father’s side. Ancestry in my family includes Liam Neeson, actor, and Francis Joy, founder of the oldest English language general daily newspaper still in publication in the world, The News Letter in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Here’s a press release that may be of interest to anyone, but particularly people who live in the Central FL area:
Orlando, FL (September 23, 2015) – Homeless and Hungry, a local Homeless Advocacy group, teamed up with a world-renowned graffiti artist, Skid Robot and the Albin Polasek Museum of Winter Park to create street art that helps people experiencing homelessness in Orlando.
If you are not familiar with street artist Skid Robot, his work illustrates the dreams of the homeless of LA’s infamous Skid Row. He paints illegal graffiti behind the impoverished to highlight the need for change. His art empowers those without a voice as he illustrates their personal stories. Now Skid Robot turns his advocacy eye to the homeless population of Orlando. His installation will be up through the month of September at the Albin Polasek Museum. This will be the first of four pieces of his art ever offered for sale! All proceeds from the sale of his art will be used to help 4 homeless citizens of Orlando! All donations collected aid Kathleen, Daniel, Jennifer, and Carl, people experiencing homelessness in Orlando!
These street art murals specifically address the issues related to homelessness. Veterans, individuals with severe Mental Illness, the Elderly and Domestic Violence are the subjects of these first 4 pieces. Future subjects include Youth Homelessness, LGBT issues, Family Homelessness and many more! After the exhibit at the Albin Polasek Museum, these four creations will serve as a mobile Homeless Awareness Campaign that will tour from city to city to highlight the issues related to homelessness. Skid Robot will be creating more pieces to add to the mobile display, doing a live painting exhibition in each city!
About the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens: The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, located at 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789, is open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Admission fees are charged as follows: adults (18-59) $5; seniors (60+) $4; students (age 12 through college) $3; with members and children age 12 and under free. For more information, call 407-647-6294 or visit the website at www.polasek.org.
Founded in 1961, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is home to an art collection created by award-winning, internationally recognized, Czech-born American sculptor Albin Polasek. The museum’s primary exhibit is American representational sculpture, with over 200 works by Polasek. The museum also exhibits contemporary art in all mediums in its gallery space. Guided tours of the historic Polasek residence and chapel are hallmarks of this museum, as well as its breathtaking sculpture garden located on Lake Osceola. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only 30 members of the National Trust’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios. The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is a 501(c)3 public charity.
About Homeless and Hungry: Homeless and Hungry is an Advocacy and Education group, located in Orlando, FL. Founded in July 2014, by Thomas Rebman, a retired Naval Officer and former Orlando, Florida Middle School Teacher, they have been responsible for aiding homeless citizens all over the United States.
Last year, Tom decided to voluntarily experience homelessness as a Summer Reading Program for his Middle School students. This Reading Program unintentionally became the most unique and impactful homeless awareness campaign in the United States in decades and spawned the group. Since then, Tom has voluntarily lived homeless in thirteen cities throughout the United States for a total of 98 days studying homelessness. The cities include: Orlando, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans and Skid Row in Los Angeles! His experience on the streets combined with his management background and research skills have made him one of the most educated and vocal advocates for the homeless in the Nation. He was invited to brief the Florida Governor’s Council on Homelessness because he is the only person that could compare homeless services between the cities in the State. Homeless and Hungry is registered with the State of Florida Agriculture Department to accept donations and is a 501(c)3 public charity (applied). For more information on how to help, call (407) 421-8115 or email email@example.com. Their website is www.homeless-hungry.org.
About Skid Robot: Skid Robot, is a world-renowned graffiti artist from Los Angeles, California. He uses graffiti art to present social messages with a focus on homelessness and poverty in the area known as Skid Row. He paints breathtaking images of household items, especially bedding and bedroom furniture, in areas where homeless people sleep or congregate in an effort to highlight their lack of household possessions and shelter. He has been covered internationally including a feature in People Magazine. This will be the first time any of his art will be available for public purchase.
America is NOT a Christian nation: As a friend of Christ and an American, I am thankful
I keep hearing these comments made about America being a Christian nation. America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious country. I believe we’re all the better for it. We are not a Christian nation, a Muslim nation, or a secular nation. What we are is a nation of diverse peoples who could and should be made stronger by our diversity. How can Americans expect to keep their freedoms when they are so quick to deny those freedoms to others?
If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.
~Founding Father George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789
It seems to me, Muslim Extremists act out in terrible, violent ways because they have become so obsessed with being right and with trying to force, by any means necessary, their world view, that they forget the whole message of their religion. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Because it happens within Christianity as well. I am not just talking about the crusades or the Catholic/Protestant let’s burn/behead anyone who disagrees. Even in this day and age: dangerous cults, abortion clinic bombings, homophobia, violence committed in God’s name. There are atrocities going on right now in around the world in the name of Christianity that make me feel physically sick. The more you allow hate and fear to control your thinking the more twisted your worldview becomes.
I get it, people are scared. Our fear does not service us. To use a Star Wars reference, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side.” Every time.
The anti-Islamic, or anti-(place group of choice here) sentiment in the country and in the world is just awful to behold. It seems obvious to me that when you think using a US vs. THEM mentality that you are becoming exactly what you fear, an extremist. You may not be blowing anything up, but you are contributing to an environment of fear and distrust that can only lead us down the path to The Dark Side.
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual.
State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”
~Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808
I would like to believe we have not forgotten the terrible lessons of the Holocaust and the anti-Semitic, or anti-(place group of choice here) sentiment that allowed it to take place. To place the blame on Hitler alone, or the Nazi party, or the Germans is a dangerously blind simplicity of history. The belief that Jews were inherently evil had been propagated for some time. As were similar sentiments about the mentally disabled and others who became targets for Nazis. This was a widely held view by many, even Christians, that accumulated in the actions of Hitler and the Nazi Party. I would like to believe that we, humanity, learned something from that. However, the Islamaphobia and general fear and hatred of THEM that I see taking place in this country makes me doubt that we have.
Religion is not mandated or imposed by the American government for one reason, it does not, can not, and should not work. Our forefathers understood that. They saw what happened in Europe when the Government tried to enforce religious beliefs. A bloodbath. Wars and countless atrocities all in the name of God. So in their wisdom they wrote the first amendment which allows for freedom of religion, freedom of thought and faith. You must choose God for God to have any effect on your life. Mandates are made by man and man is certainly no God.
Ephesians 4:2-3 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
We shall overcome.
Julie Ferwerda, author of Raising Hell, is ruffling some feathers and catching some heat on Facebook today for sharing this “Letter to Rejecting Christian Family Members,” with the intent of providing constructive words for people who are facing similar circumstances to copy/paste/edit/share as they see fit.
There’s an interesting dynamic between her approach to conflict and the approach recommended by Frank Viola in his recent blog post, What To Do When Other Christians Hurt You — 8 Responses. The most operative line in that post, in my opinion, is “In cases of repeated abuse, which I’m not addressing in this post, getting others involved is often wise and necessary.”
Many believers seem to have a problem distinguishing Jesus’ teaching to privately deal with personal conflict and Jesus example of publicly dealing with conflicts that arise from religious hypocrisy, specifically, hypocrisy involving shunning and persecuting people who believe differently. In my opinion, conflicts that arise from religious hypocrisy will inevitably produce personal conflicts. Airing those kinds of personal conflicts publicly is a form of shining light in the darkness. Keeping those kinds of conflicts private is like whitewashing tombs and pretending there are no “bones of the dead and everything unclean” inside.
If you attend a church with leaders who encourage you to disassociate yourself from another believer over doctrinal differences, woe to you — and those are Christ’s words, not mine. His harshest rebukes were reserved for the religious leaders who practiced and taught emotionally abusive behavior like pretending someone no longer exists and expecting everyone around you to do the same. The salt in the wound is that they also expect you to keep what they are doing a SECRET.
Guess what, believers… the system that has protected and sustained the shameful protocols governing the way believers interact with one another and with not-yet-believers is being turned upside down and inside out. All kind of stuff is falling out, where everyone can see.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Here’s Julie’s letter:
Dear Family Member,
Since you took the liberty to say things to me that you’re thinking, I’d like to do the same. Please don’t “hear” an angry tone in this letter, I’m just matter-of-factly letting you know a few of my responses to yours. I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts in response to this letter, because I would like to see things from your perspective.
1. I still find it interesting that you are rejecting my beliefs, yet you don’t even know what they are. You reject my beliefs based on assumptions and misinformation. I can understand how it seems impossible to counter 1500 years the making of one’s beliefs (held by the majority of Christians today) but the 1500-2000 years of people making theology is precisely why we should be willing to question how those beliefs morphed over time.
As I told you, the first 500 years after Christ held the orthodox position of universalism, which the Eastern Church maintains to this day (which was the church of the apostles); the Western Church (Rome) is the one that deviated from that position in the 5th century after Christ. You can read a bit more about the early church position on Universalism on wikipedia (FB won’t let me post the link).
Also, in my book I offer many universalism quotes and sources from early Church Fathers, which can be located from books and papers scanned online.
I will also say this..when you look honestly into this topic…there is not a shred of evidence for a place of eternal torment as a destiny for most of mankind. I can’t imagine for an instant why anyone would not be incredibly interested to know why and how this radical idea can possibly be suggested. Why wouldn’t every Christian be interested in hearing a case for God’s love and plan for mankind being big enough to include everyone, and why wouldn’t they want to know how it actually or supposedly lines up with the true Bible teachings?
Anyhow, I find it very unfair to close me down and reject me before you are even willing to see what I have to say or how I came to my beliefs. I took the time to painstakingly record my journey in my book so that people could see that Christian Universalism is not at all contrary to Scripture or what Jesus or Paul or other writers of the Bible actually taught, but is completely in line with what they taught. The world could have never moved forward in any kind of capacity (i.e. science, technology, medicine) without the willingness to listen to other perspectives.
2. I think it’s strange that you accuse me of “influencing your children,” yet they are all basically adults. How can you desire to have that much control over your adult children’s thoughts, beliefs, or the outcome of their lives? They are out in the world every day being influenced by every kind of belief and doctrine, so what about that? Is your God so uninvolved or impotent, or your lifetime of influence so ineffective that your children are that unsafe in this world?
Is it necessary that everyone they are around has to agree with them or their faith will crumble? If that is true, why do you let your kids go on mission trips where they encounter people without God? Or why do you let them go to a secular college where they are surrounded by atheists and agnotics in their classes and on campus daily? Part of the answer to that is that they are now adults and you cannot control their lives, their thoughts, or their beliefs. Yet will you try to keep them from being around me, someone who loves them dearly, even though you cannot (or do not try to) stop them from being around people every day who don’t care about them? Is it fair to single me out as unworthy of your children or your family?
Also, I doubt you would have a problem talking about your faith beliefs in front of my children (and you have) because you are convinced you are right and you sincerely believe you should share that faith with everyone as much as possible, right? Why is it okay for you to talk about your faith with others, but not for others to talk about their faith with you?
I’m at the age where I am not going to pretend to be something or someone I’m not, and I also don’t feel that I should try to pretend when I am around your adult children, who now have their own lives and thoughts independent from others. If they are not “safe from corruption” around me, they will not be safe anywhere else either.
As an aside, I feel sad that you are worried about your children being so easily influenced by someone like me. I think your children are all strong, independent, wonderful children who will make up their own minds about whatever is true by the authenticity and love they witness (or not) in everything.
3. I find it also very sad that you are the one who has continually rejected me over my beliefs, but I have fully accepted you and loved you with open arms and total tolerance/grace, even though I have suffered incredible rejection and loss from you at times. You have often treated me like an untrustworthy person, even though I have never manipulated, rejected or shunned you for anything or been the one to leave. There has been no reciprocity of love and grace in this relationship. You say you love me, but you do not accept me or allow me to be in my own process of becoming. I don’t know how you see this as lining up with the Bible. It feels to me that you have always picked the parts you want to believe and ignored the parts that don’t line up with your personal feelings.
4. You have demonstrated an air of being completely right and sure of your beliefs over the years, even though those beliefs have changed considerably. Does this not ever make you feel more humble that you may not be right about everything? There are 30,000+ Christian denominations that all interpret the Bible differently (many, QUITE differently), all SURE that they are right. Whose interpretation are we going to decide is correct? The point is, we all need a lot more humility, openness, and tolerance in each other’s beliefs because nobody is 100% right or there would be more consensus. It seems to me that Jesus never criticized anyone for differences in doctrine, but he did a lot of criticizing over people not being loving and fair to others. He cared a lot more about how people acted than what they believed.
6. You said something like, if you are wrong, there is no consequence, but if I am wrong, there are drastic consequences. I beg to differ on the point that there is no consequence if you are wrong. If you are wrong, you are guilty of profoundly misinterpreting the character of God, and then misrepresenting His character to others, which to me is also very serious (and warrants further, thoughtful investigation of the matter).
Not only that, if you are right, the universe is not safe and you end up doing things like living in fear for your kids and having to try to control their life choices (and keep people with any differing theology away from them) because God truly isn’t big enough or loving enough to overcome their false beliefs or defiant wills with love. You end up spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to keep yourself and your kids safe in an otherwise out of control universe. I know, because that was my old belief system and it caused untold psychological suffering, and it was not the true representation of the God who says that “love does not fail” and that “nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even principalities or powers, nor anything in all creation…” If anything can separate us from God’s love, or if God’s love fails for most of mankind, then God has not told us the truth. Not only that, why would we ever trust a God who made a universe in which he would fail most of his creation? How could this be possible that a God could not find a way to remediate (and overcome) any “problems” or insufficiencies brought about by his own creative design?
Anyhow, I don’t know that you will be open to seeing my side from this letter, but I wanted to say these things. I guess the ball is in your court to decide if we are to have a relationship. Just to be clear, I have not and will not be the one to reject you or your beliefs. I have always accepted you and will continue to do so, if you are willing to be in my life and accept me for the person I am.
Hello readers! I have a very busy week ahead. With that, and the fact that I’m renovating this website, I think it’s a great time to hear from you. If there is something you’ve been wanting to shout from the rooftops, please feel free to write a guest blog. Perhaps you strongly disagree with something I’ve written, and want to write a point by point refutation. Go for it! Perhaps you want to write a promotional piece for a charity, a special event, or for your own blog or website (link-juice for the Google gods). This is an open invitation to anyone, writing about any subject. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll post links to interesting blog posts or articles, and I’ll get back to blogging ASAP.
Related blog posts: Three-Thousand-Year-Old Inferiority Complex, Girl Gone Mild, Martha Stewart Theology, Obedience: My Husband, My Master, Bird’s Eye View of Rachel Evans’ Book, Eshet Chayil, My Breasts Are Like Towers, I’m Too Sexy For My Tzniut and Why the Church Needs the Church as Much as the Church Needs the Church
I have thought a lot about the subject of jealousy for the last day or so. Most of my life I have tried to avoid that trap. That’s right, it is a trap! I remember the first time I had a problem with jealousy. It happened when I was about eleven or twelve years old.
As a child, I had a very good singing voice. I had many opportunities to sing at school and at church. My only real competition was a boy named Bob Pudvin. He had an excellent voice and was capable of handling anything he was asked to sing. At times it seemed that people paid more attention to him than they did to me. I remember wishing that he would just move from the area or just go away. I wanted him gone. I was having my first experience with jealousy.
Sadly, I had to learn a hard lesson about being jealous. One day I went to school and our teacher, with a very serious tone in her voice called the class to attention. This brought our class to an immediate silence. She announced that earlier in the morning, Bob Pudvin was riding his bicycle on the way to school, and he was hit by a car. He was instantly killed. I was stunned along with the rest of my classmates with this sad news. Then I felt guilty, because I had recently entertained thoughts that I wished him gone. I never wished him dead, just gone. Now he was gone, and I felt terrible. The guilt was overwhelming for an eleven year old boy.
For months after, I felt that my desire for him to be gone was what caused him to die. That was no burden a young child should have to carry, yet it was one I was carrying.
Eventually, I made up my mind that I would never be jealous like that again. It was not easy to follow that path, because there are natural occurrences in life that will prompt feelings of envy or jealousy. What is important is what you do with those feelings. Jealousy is a powerful negative feeling. It has led to people committing murder or bringing serious bodily harm to others. I’m sure that right now there are people in prison cells plagued with remorse and guilt for their actions committed in a jealous rage. In many cases, the people they harmed were actually people that they loved. When the rage and anger subside, they are left to deal with guilt, which also can be a very negative feeling.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into the jealousy trap. That is what it is, a trap. It changed my life for a very long time. Every time I had to sing, my thoughts went to Bob Pudvin and the impact of such a loss had on his family.
There were many times I sung through tears, because I was thinking about him. Even today, sixty one years later, I still think of that poor innocent boy who was the subject of my childhood jealousy.
There are many verses in the Bible that speak about jealousy. Remember, it was jealousy that let Cain to kill his brother, Abel. Proverbs 6:34 says that jealousy is the rage of a man. James 3:16 says: “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
Proverbs 14:30 says: ” A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy (jealousy) the rottenness of the bones.” There are many other verses that point out the same common idea. Jealousy is negative, wrong, and if you let it continue in your life, the one who will suffer the consequences will not be the other person, but YOU!
Why I Am Not a Creationist, Even Though I Believe in the God Who Created Everything – Guest Blogger, Mary Vanderplas
“How old is the Earth?” he asked me, speaking in a tone of voice that suggested an agenda behind the question. His tone of voice, coupled with the fact that this was the first time I had ever seen the man and that I had just introduced myself as a chaplain (he was a patient in the hospital where I work), tipped me off that his motivation was more to interrogate and test than to dialogue with me on the subject of the Earth’s origin. “Hmm,” I responded, “is there a reason you’re asking this?” “Well, you’re a chaplain, aren’t you?” he replied. “Don’t people like you believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago?”
Even though I was taken aback by this man’s question and by the way in which he posed it, I could appreciate where he was coming from. In fact, there are more than a few people “like me” – people who believe the Bible and who believe in the God revealed therein – who are “creationists” – i.e., people who believe not only that God created all things but also that the biblical account of creation recorded in Genesis is to be interpreted literally, leading to an understanding of origins and the development of life on Earth that is decidedly different from that of modern science.* A 2012 Gallup survey found that 46% of Americans – an increase of six percent from two years earlier – believe that “God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” (cited in “Creation-Evolution Controversy” on Wikipedia) So my interrogator wasn’t altogether unjustified in his assumption that I am a creationist.
The truth is, though, that I am not a creationist in the sense of the term that is popularly held in the culture. As a Christian believer who considers the Bible the normative witness to the truth of God, I believe this central truth to which the Bible attests: God is the Creator of all things. Everything that exists does so because of the will and power of God. Nothing that exists is here strictly by accident. This I hold as one of the tenets of my faith. But I do not believe that the creation came into being in six literal days or that everything we see now in the way of species, along with those that have become extinct, was created by a direct act of God some 10,000 years ago.
My purpose in this blog is to address (briefly) why I think creationism – with its rejection of evolution and its emphasis on a literal interpretation of the creative narratives in Genesis – is misguided and why I am comfortable with evolution as a scientific theory of the development of life on our planet. Let it be known that, even though I disagree with the stance of creationism, I am not out to bash those who embrace it. I recognize that the subject is a controversial one, and that in terms of one’s faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, what one believes about how and when the Earth and life came to be is less than essential. This is not to say that I don’t think the creationist stance is a hindrance to the church’s witness or that I don’t think that efforts should be made to overcome the ignorance of those who hold a view that denies the facts of science. I do. But I don’t think that either stamping out ignorance or breaking down obstacles to the church’s mission is legitimate grounds for bashing anyone and that in fact I am called to show love toward and pursue unity with fellow believers.
So let me begin. I am not a creationist because I don’t think that believing in the God who created everything requires reading the creation narratives in Genesis as a literal scientific description of how God created the world and life. Indeed, I think that to read these narratives as such is to misread them, to read them as something other than what they are. I agree with those who assert that the author of Genesis did not set out to give a scientific description of the process by which the universe and planet and life came to appear; he set out, rather, to declare the ultimate origin of all that is. The message of these texts is theological, not scientific – an affirmation that the world is how it is by the will and power of the living God. In reading these texts, we need to understand the “scientific” language not as conveying scientific information but simply as a vehicle by which the theological message is transmitted.
A related reason why I reject a creationist stance is that I don’t believe that, in order to affirm the Christian doctrine of creation, one must reject the notion of continuous creation. The language of the text of Genesis 1 and 2 suggests that an affirmation of God as having created all things “in the beginning” does not preclude his use of natural processes taking place over a very long period of time to bring forth the marvelous diversity of the species that we see (see Genesis 1:12, 27; 2:7, 22). The Christian doctrine of creation is, in other words, consistent, in my view, with the scientific theory of evolution.
I am not a creationist because I think that the evidence for evolution is compelling and that to deny it is to wrongly reject a significant source of knowledge of this vast and wondrous world that God made. While I do not consider myself a scientist (even though for a time earlier in my life I studied the science of psychology, before turning to theology), I enjoy reading and learning from those who study scientifically the origins of the universe and the Earth and the origin and development of life on our planet. What the scientific community tells us, among other things, is that there is much evidence to support evolution as a comprehensive theory explaining how life on the Earth developed starting about three billion years ago. It is hard to dispute, though some in the creationist camp don’t give up trying, what scientists in the fields of biology, molecular biology, paleontology, genetics, and others have uncovered about a common ancestor and about descent with modification through natural selection and other mechanisms. While there are still unknowns and unsolved puzzles when it comes to evolution and the mechanisms of evolutionary change, these “gaps” in knowledge are not grounds for arguing that evolution is not a credible scientific theory. Evolution is widely accepted in the scientific world; and in my view, those who persist in denying the truth that science has discovered – on religious grounds or on any other grounds – are choosing ignorance about this good creation.
Another reason why I am not a creationist is because those who argue against evolution often blur the lines between theology and science in arguing their views. Proponents of the position known as “Intelligent Design,” for example, argue that the presence of unexplained-by-science biological complexity is proof of an intelligent Designer having brought it about. But to do this, to invoke a supernatural explanation for a phenomenon in the physical world, is not science. Science involves developing testable hypotheses and gathering data to support them. Moreover, as many critics of this way of thinking have noted, to assume that something that has not yet been explained is unexplainable scientifically and to retreat to a supernatural explanation is to squelch the (God-given, I believe) drive for scientific inquiry (and to force this “god of the gaps” to recede to the margins as puzzles are solved).
There is more that I could say by way of articulating my rejection of the creationist stance. Suffice it to say that, as a Christian believer who understands that the whole world is God’s world, I believe that it is important to accept the findings of science and to recognize that the data and theories of science are significant in helping us to understand God’s good creation. Where creation-as-theology and evolution-as-science are concerned, I do not see any conflict between the two. When either one transgresses the boundaries, however, trouble ensues: Creationists bill their doctrine as science and push to teach it in the science classroom (while calling evolution “just a theory”); evolutionists argue that the facts of science prove that life is purposeless and that God doesn’t exist.
Suffice it for me to say, too, that, as a Christian believer, I do not read and contemplate in a vacuum the findings of science and the things that I see around me. On the contrary, I see the world and I read science through the eyes of faith. When I observe the world of nature, I see the intelligence and power and wisdom of the living God giving it its marvelous diversity and complexity and basic orderliness. When I ponder the vast expanse of the universe, and read about its fundamental constants being exceedingly finely tuned, I see the hand of God setting and preserving the galaxies in their orbits and designing a world such that life would appear. When I contemplate the human characteristics of consciousness and conscience, I see the personal Designer at work bringing into being a most complex and spectacular creation. The understanding given to me by science only heightens my sense of awe and praise of the Creator!
*Granted, not all who are in the creationist camp believe that the universe and planet are a mere 6,000 to 10,000 years old. There are “old Earth creationists” as well as “young Earth” ones, and a number of variations among those who believe that the events described in Genesis took place farther back in history than 10,000 years. What these positions have in a common is that they attempt to harmonize Genesis, construed literally as a description of the events of creation, with the findings of modern science that the Earth is very old.
This is a guest blog by my dad, John Dean, now a Columbian missionary. I hope that he will continue to write guest posts, sharing the stories of his adventures in Kingdom of God.
Puerto Inirida is a small town located in the jungles of Colombia. The only way to get there is either by air or boat. It is located near the border with Venezuela. In the middle 1940’s a young woman named Sophie Mueller, a missionary with New Tribes Missions came to the area to evangelize the indigenous peoples who lived along the many rivers in the region known a Guiana. The rivers were populated with 14 different ethnic groups, who all had their own unique languages.
Sophie was originally a reporter for the New York Times and a gifted artist. She was converted when she stopped to listen to street preachers as she was walking along the streets of New York. She eventually dedicated her life to God and felt the call to missions. She wanted to go where no missionary had ever gone before and decided that God wanted her in South America. She traveled to Bogota, Colombia and departed there for the jungle.
When she arrived in the Guiana area she met up with the Curipaco tribe. The indigenous were animists and were led by witch doctors and witches. The tribes often went to battle with each other over territory, and their religion involved getting highly intoxicated and dancing wildly. Sophie met these people and told them about Jesus. The witch doctor decided to test her and evaluate her god against his gods. He put a poison into her soup and decided to wait to see what would happen. She took the soup and eventually vomited through the night, but she survived. A couple of dogs and a few chickens licked and pecked at the vomit and they all died. The witch doctor immediately wanted to know about her God and she communicated as best she could about Jesus. He was her first convert.
Over the years Sophie Mueller traversed the rivers of Colombia and helped to start hundreds of churches. She translated the New Testament into 14 different native languages. She taught the tribal people how to read and write and gave them pride in the fact that they were the indigenous people of Colombia and Valenzuela. Today, she is revered by the various indigenous tribes in Guiana and Venezuela. Sophie died in the late 1980’s, but her influence on the people continues.
A missionary from our fellowship met with one of the indigenous people while he was ministering in Puerto Lopez. The man was from the Puinave tribe and told the missionary, Jim Gage, about the need for someone to come to the rivers and teach the people. After hearing Jim preach, he said that he taught like Sophie Mueller, and that the indigenous leaders would be anxious to talk to him. Jim made the trip to the jungle and met with the indigenous leaders and they told him that they would like to start a bible institute to educate their young pastors. Along the various rivers of Colombia there are about 1,000 churches and many of the young pastors need a solid theological education. Jim presented this need to his sponsoring church, Westwood Missionary Baptist Church of Winter Haven, Florida, and the leadership and people immediately responded to the need. That is where I come into the story. I surrendered to the call of the Lord to go to Colombia as a missionary.
I traveled to Colombia in February of this year and met with Jim Gage. A week later, Jim and I traveled to Guiana and met with the tribal leaders from the four largest indigenous ethnic groups. We started the planning stages for the Bible institute. My pastor and our missions director had made previous trips to initiate things. We arranged a Bible conference, and the church printed out 1,000 New Testaments in the four major languages. When we presented a few of these bibles to the leaders, they wept for joy at having the New Testament in their own language.
Meeting with these people and spending time in the jungle in the town of Puerto Inirida has been a wonderful and unique experience for me. I have learned that you can live very simply and still be happy. My little apartment there was very basic. I had a bed with a rock hard mattress with mosquito netting. We had plastic chairs and a plastic table. The kitchen consisted of a sink, counter, and a portable gas grill. It was not unusual to hear rats moving around the kitchen at night looking for food scraps. I had to hand wash my clothes and hang them in the living room to dry. Life was good despite the lack of modern comforts and conveniences.
I came to Colombia with little knowledge of Spanish, so in Puerto Inirida I had to learn as I became involved in daily activities. I became acquainted with my landlord, who was very helpful in my language development. The lady at the little restaurant down the way was also helpful and taught me how to order food. I like my coffee black and the Colombians like it with sugar, so it is important for me to order it “tinto sin asuca” which is black coffee without sugar. Eggs are “huevos,” and if you want them fried you order “huevos fritos.” I have not mastered Spanish by any means, but in the three months I have been in Colombia, I have made some good progress.
I had to return to the States because I do not yet have a visa. I am only allowed to stay for three months without a visa. I write this in Maryland at a Bible Conference, and I will return to Florida at the end of the week to visit my family and report to my church. I’ll make a trip to Detroit to visit my brothers, and then on July 9th, I will return to Colombia to focus my attention wholly to learning Spanish. I am going to hire a tutor. I hope that within a year I will master the language enough to preach and teach. Once I have mastered the language, I will be making quarterly trips to the jungle to teach in the Bible institute. We start our first classes this August, and I would covet your prayers for the success of this work. We Americans cannot traverse the rivers because of the risk of kidnapping by the FARC guerillas. The indigenous people can travel the rivers without risk or fear from them, so it is vital that we train these pastors in both Bible and evangelization so they can go back to their people and spread the gospel. We found out that the various tribes who do not live near the rivers have yet to hear about Jesus, and these dedicated indigenous pastors can go there and share the good news of the gospel to their brethren who still live in darkness.
I would appreciate your prayers for me personally and for the work that we are doing to help these people. I would also appreciate prayer that our church can receive the finances needed to keep this worthy project going. God has given us a unique opportunity that most missionaries do not have. We have thousands of people just waiting to learn more about Jesus. Our church meetings in the various indigenous churches surrounding Puerto Inirida have been packed to capacity with people and others crowded around the outside anxious to hear the word of God preached.
“Everything is Spiritual”
~ Eshet Chayil ~
~ ONE MIGHTY WOMAN ~
Biblical womanhood what is it ? …We are the wife of our Lord Jesus Christ… This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:32).
What is the Eshet Chayil ? It is ”A Woman of Valor”.
~ Eishet can be translated from Hebrew to English as woman or wife.
~ Chayil can be translated as virtuous, valorous, strong, and courageous.
We can also find that Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor, is truly defined in (Mishlei) (Proverbs 31:10-32). This passage describes not only the ideal woman, but the ideal wife. Note this is also the song of praise and joy that a man sings to his wife at the sabbath dinner table. If she is not yet an Eishet Chayil, this is His statement of Faith that she will grow into the role. Eshet Chayil is a twenty-two verse poem or song with which King Solomon concludes the book of Proverbs. It was a Jewish custom for the man of the house to recite this hymn at the end of the week as a blessing, and thus to speak about and be thankful for all his wife is. An important part of Judeo-Christianity is to acknowledging that the fruits of the earth are gifts from God. Hence the reciting of blessings is a way to elevate the physical into the realm of the spiritual.
These are the qualities of a woman suitable for a king’s wife
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
(Proverbs 31:10-31 NIVUK)
Keep in mind, this song is sung on the Sabbath (the seventh day)! What application can be drawn from this? Well one could now tell all the men to go home today and sing a song of praise to their wife, but what I really wish to do is to consider this following thought; This is a song of praise sung by are Lord Jesus Christ to us. Jesus, our husband, is calling forth those things he gives to us. Think on that!
Notice this; ~ If we search the Bible we find only one woman who is described in the words “eshet chayil” , and that is Ruth, the Moabite widow who decided to follow her destitute mother-in-law to Israel. After her husband-to-be Boaz finds her sleeping at his feet in the field and hears her story, he cries out “for you are an “eshet chayil!” (Ruth 3, 11). Notice the word “chayil” is also used to describe a warrior, most mighty in strength and power [see Strong’s Hebrew #(2428) and #(2429)]. The phrase in (Ruth 2:1) ” mighty man of wealth” ‘ish gibbor chayil’ is literally something like: a man, mighty and renowned, and in the context it is Boaz’ reputation in Bethlehem that is being stressed. Later Boaz himself will apply the feminine version of the same description to Ruth in 3:11 “eshet chayil ‘atte ” ~ “a woman of renown are you”. The word occurs again at 4:11 in the blessing by the elders on the future marriage.
The book of Ruth is a romance that has as its theme ~ “The Kinsman Redeemer”. It is full of imagination with its entwined theme of love and romance thru Our Lord Jesus Christ ~ Our True Kinsman Redeemer. In this book.
Elimelech~(God is King) and Naomi~(the lovable) were of the tribe of Judah and the city of Bethlehem where they had rights of ancestral property. They had lost their property through foreclosure and debts and moved to the land of Moab. After her husband (Elimelech) and sons died Naomi and Ruth, her daughter-in-law, moved back to Bethlehem hoping to receive back the property. The marriage customs required the nearest relative of a deceased man to marry his widow (Deu. 25:5-10). The offspring of this marriage would carry the name and inheritance of the former husband. Because of age, Ruth became Naomi’s substitute in marriage and bore a son to perpetuate the family lineage. Boaz became the goel (kinsman redeemer) and bought back the property of Elimelech for the family. It fell his duty to redeem the land (Lev. 25:25-28). This person must be near of kin, able to redeem, willing to redeem, and free of need of redemption himself. He accomplishes redemption completely when the price is paid in full. “Goel” or “kinsman redeemer” pays the price of redemption. The word goel means, “to redeem, buy back” and is applied to a piece of property, farm, salve, etc.
OUR KINSMAN REDEEMER: ~ Meets all of the law of the kinsman. He is our nearest of kin through the incarnation (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 2:10-18; Phil. 2:7; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4-5). He is able and He has the power to redeem (Heb. 1:2-3; Col. 1:15-23; 2:9). Jesus is willing to redeem us (Titus 2:14; Jn. 10:11, 15, 17-18; Matt. 20:28; Heb. 10:7). He is free to redeem us because He did not need to be redeemed Himself (1 Pet. 2:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1:18-19).
p.s. ~ The book of Ruth demonstrates God’s providential loving care of His people. The very names of the people tell the story. Everything that happens to God’s people is quite significant. Notice the names; ~Ruth’s sister, (Orpah)~ (Gazelle/ wild goat) turns back to death; ~ (Ruth)~ (a friend) cleaves to (Naomi)~ (the lovable, my delight) who brings her to (Bethlehem)~ (House of Bread) and to her redeemer (Boaz)~ (by strength) who, ~ Like Christ, was the Bread of Life, The Lord of the harvest, and the Giver of Rest” ~
~ Realize you indeed are special to God for you were Bought and Redeemed ~ By The Blood of The Lamb; ~
~ Remember ~ “BEHOLD The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, was the herald that John the Baptist used introduce Jesus. ~ Aren’t you glad.
Good Friday (Guest Blogger Edy T Johnson)
Edy writes in the voice of one of the men crucified with Christ. Read the account in scripture here.
2013 Good Friday – Seven Last Words
Luke 23:46 – The Last Word
Then Jesus calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And having said this, He breathed his last.
We heard this Rabbi speak. We heard the stories He told. I especially liked the one about the lost son who returned to his father. If I had a father, perhaps that might have been me. But, I had no home to go to. So, I got by, breaking into others’ homes to take what I needed. …OH, this pain!
The pain of the flesh is bad enough, but the anguish of the heart is simply devastating. Why did my life turn out this way? But, more important, why is this great Rabbi dying alongside us? Does a person’s life make no difference in the end? Good or bad, we all die!
Oh God! …..what am I saying? …..In this agony, my cries could fill Jerusalem. But, I won’t give them the satisfaction.
This Rabbi has me confused. Earlier He cried out to God, asking why He had forsaken Him, but now He calls God “Father,” and gives up His spirit to Him, rather like a last will and testament, turning over all He has to His heirs.
Why can’t it end for me, like that? Why cannot I just announce that I’ve had enough and say goodbye?
I know! — The Lord is giving me time to repent. What I said to the Rabbi was inexcusable. My fellow thief was right to ask, “Do you not fear God?”
“This man has done nothing wrong,” he told me. And, he was right. Even the centurion, just now, had to admit, “Certainly, this man was innocent!”
He sure wouldn’t say that about me. I’m guilty as sin. OH God! It’s too late to tell this Rabbi, the Messiah, that I’m sorry. What can I do to make things right? Time is running out. I can’t make it! OH God, what can I do?
Oh, what was it He said to that woman taken in adultry? “Where are your accusers?”
I am my own worst accuser. But, it’s too late for me to make amends. My life ends, bound to this cross…oh, but I remember, now, the rest of His words, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”
Oh, Lord, all merciful. Thank you for your Word. I can die in peace, after all! My Lord, my Messiah, into your hands I, too, commit my spirit.”
Friday Fears (Transcribed Guest Blog by Tim Spicer, edited by Alice Spicer)
What if there are no easy solutions to the woes and trials of mankind, such as the rapture or the Apocalypse? What if God doesn’t plan to solve all saint-versus-heathen-type problems with a lightning bolt, an earthquake, flying locusts, falling brimstone, bowls of wrath, and other scary Revelation stuff? What if God’s purpose is to give humanity the ability to make the world better, beginning in the hearts of individuals and working His way out from there? The concept of solving problems instead of being whisked away from them, of being alone – yet being with God at the same time, of God working through us and in us instead of working independently from us – it’s really just the fear of living, really living, right here and right now. We’ve created preconceived ideas of how God works through humanity and through time, and although some of these ideas may be accurate, we also have to consider the possibility that we might not have it all figured out… eyes open.
Miscellaneous Monday (Guest blogger Patrick Strickland)
The Allegory of Male and Female – the Spirit and Soul in Creation
BELIEVE INTO ME
As I was praying on what to write in this guest blog this verse came to mind.
Joh 17:18-20 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (19) And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified in the truth. (20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe INTO me through their word;
The whole purpose for me to write anything is for you dear precious reader to come to the place where you can believe INTO Jesus Christ who is the Word of God, the truth we are all going to be sanctified in. God wants to put ALL OF US into Christ Jesus and make Jesus Christ our wisdom, our righteousness, our redemption, and our sanctification.
1Co 1:30 But of him are ye IN Christ Jesus, who of God is made also to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
I did not say I want you to believe on just what Jesus Christ did at the cross for us, but I want you to come to the place where you can begin to recognize through the spirit of revelation that you are a member in particular of His body: one cell of trillions that make up His body. Jesus did not just die to forgive us of our sins, which he did do. Jesus did not die in place of us, no Jesus actually died as us. When He died for all men everywhere died in Him. When Jesus Christ died two thousand years ago you were in Him and died with Him; when He was buried you were buried with Him. When He rose again you were raised in Him and when he ascended up into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God you were raised up and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus as the body of Christ. Now this does not apply to just those who believe, no it applies to all men everywhere. Now I am not minimizing faith for without faith we shall not be able to experience the full reality of this glorious truth of our union with Him in our personal lives while living in this earth. But the truth is that this spiritual reality is true whether we believe it or not. That is the wonderful thing about the truth, if it is true, then no matter what anyone believes it is still true. There is only one sin that the Holy Ghost will ever convict us of that sin is not believing into Jesus Christ.
Joh 16:8-9 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on (the Greek word for ‘on’ is ‘ice’ and literally means ‘into’) me;
Believing into Christ brings us to the place where many powerful and precious promises of scripture can become a living reality in our personal lives right now. If you can believe it, then what is true of Jesus Christ becomes perfectly true of us as members of His body.
THE SPIRITUAL CREATION OF GOD AND THE FORMATION OF THE MATERIAL
Unfortunately man only sees the universe from a materialistic point of view, and that makes its existence to be haphazard and of miniscule importance. Until we can see creation as a spiritual allegory expressed in thousands of different glorious ways, man will simply see himself as some marionette dancing on the strings of life without rhyme or reason, just blown about by every wind that comes along. Now if our understanding of the creation is from just a material point of view, our view point will be intrinsically faulty, then many of our beliefs will be imperfect at best. Many of us reckon that our beginning is from our parents and that we never existed before our birth into this physical world. The truth is that our parents only helped to form our bodies, but God created our spirits before the very foundation of the world in Christ. Scripture declares that God is the Father of all spirits. Heb 12:9; Num 27:16; Isa 42:5 and because of that we are not to call any man upon this earth our Father Matt 23:9. Our parents are not the source of our life, but God is.
What is true concerning the spiritual account of the creation of man in Genesis chapter one, is equally true of the development of the human consciousness in man in Genesis chapter two. In the beginning – In Christ God created man in His image. He created only one man who was in His likeness and image. In creation God is providing Himself with a means of expression in the spiritual universe. That man was spirit, just like the Father was spirit, having aspects of both male and female in one spirit. Spirit is not male or female. In the Hebrew or Greek you cannot find gender when speaking of spirit. There is not a male spirit and there is not a female spirit in the bible. But spirit is both male and female. Now we must return to the language of spirit to grasp the truth that is hidden in the creation of man. Male and female to the natural man refer to the men and woman of the human race. Men are distinct from woman in so many different ways not the least in body form, and their roles in life are clearly defined. The woman bears the children and supplies their need for sustenance and comfort, while the male works to supply the physical needs of the family. But when we consider man in creation, we are only speaking of one and not two. So we must understand the language of spirit when we read in Genesis chapter one that, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.”
Male and female represent two aspects of God made evident in creation. Everything that God created found its origin in Him, that is in spirit. If all of creation came out of spirit then everything must be a part of God who is that Spirit. So the human concept of God creating EVERYTHING OUT OF NOTHING IS PURE FANTASY! The man in Genesis one was pure spirit, invisible and intangible, and in the words of Scripture, in the likeness and image of God. Whatever God is, was just as applicable to that first man, who represented all of mankind, who are also omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. The original man that came from our creators hand was pure spirit. THE FIRST MAN WAS CHRIST, he was not just Jesus the head, the male. The divine declaration is that he was “male and female,” the female aspect was everyone who was created in him. The body or the material physical form was to come later, to become a vehicle for the visible expression of the “likeness of God.” Being male and female means that he would be able to reproduce out of himself without any help from outside. Having come out of God, we conclude that God must also be male and female, but again we remember that God is Spirit. So these attributes are essentially spiritual even though man’s darkened mind today considers them to be simply physical. Creation is the normal function of spirit and requires nothing from the world of the five senses to achieve its purpose. In the spirit realm all God has to do is speak and it comes into being. The Man in Genesis one was created spirit and is therefore both male and female at the spoken word of God.. It takes a spiritual mind to understand that the creation of Genesis one is actually just a spiritual creation; and that Genesis 2 covers the formation of the material universe.
In Genesis two God did not create anything. The Lord God made the earth and the heavens, He made the trees to grow out of the ground in the garden, He formed the beasts of the field and all of the fowls of the air all of these living things were made after he formed man. The man in Genesis two was not created but “made,” which is the Hebrew word “Yatsar,” meaning to mold as a potter would mold the clay. The beasts were not created either, but they were“formed” – Yatsar – molded as a potter would mold the clay. In Genesis chapter two The Lord God is the one involved in the formation of the universe, and Elohim is the God of creation in Genesis chapter one. The “Lord God” in chapter two is in reality the Man created in Genesis chapter one, and his composite nature is here revealed in his name. The name “Lord” is Jehovah in the Hebrew, and relates to the man aspect of his being, involving “Jehoshua, Yahweh Yeshua,” etc. and finally Jesus. The “God” part of his name is Elohim, the Creator’s name, who is an integral part of the creature he created called Man. So God and man were eternally united in the creation of Man, and have never been separated except in the darkened mind of the Adamic consciousness.
This “Lord God” proceeds to bring forth a manifestation of himself, and at the same time gives him a form, using the dust of the earth. I must repeat this so that you dear reader can understand how important it is this man was not created but “made,” which is the Hebrew word “Yatsar,” meaning to mold as a potter would mold the clay. But even as the form was completed it had no life in itself until the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a “living soul.” This man that was formed from the dust of the earth was both male and female in one, just like the man that God created in the spirit. In creation Elohim created man in his own likeness and image, and gave him dominion over all the works of his hands, all of which was at that time spiritual and therefore invisible. This is a crucial development and change from chapter one… in Genesis chapter one the “heavens and the earth” were created by Elohim; now in chapter two the Lord God makes the earth and the heavens, which is the exact opposite of the created order! Gen 2:4.
SPIRIT AND SOUL
What I have written up to this point is just a necessary foundation, I could literally write hundreds of pages of material on just Genesis one through three alone but because I am a guest blogger I must keep it simple and continue unto the allegory aspects of the formation of the man and women in the garden as being allegorically the relationship between the spirit and the soul. Now I cannot cover every aspect verse by verse of this wonderful truth but I will give you some basics.
Adam is spirit. Spirit is both male and female This was true of the man created as much as it was true for the first man formed out of the dust of the earth. Adam formed from the dust of the earth walked with God and had continual fellowship with Him. So we read that the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and while he slept the female part of his being was separated from him. This experience opens for us the Adamic Dream World, for this chapter in Genesis cannot be considered to be LITERAL for it is an Allegory.
The reason for this is the fact that it is impossible to divide spirit. There is no such thing as “Half a spirit,” and neither is there such a thing as a Male Spirit or a Female Spirit, for spirit has no gender. God is spirit which is both male and female and so he could bring forth out of himself a son, without having to find a woman to assist him in producing children. James 1:18 States, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures, or of the God kind of people.” In Acts 17:28 Paul says, “In God we LIVE, and MOVE, and have our BEING, as certain of your own poets have said, for we also are his OFFSPRING.” Man is the product of whatever God is, just think about this! So God told Adam in Gen 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This was not said to Adam and Eve, for she had not appeared as a separate entity at that point in time.
We may well ask the question, why was this female part of Adam taken from him to become a separate entity. My understanding was that first of all God wanted to reveal to us what is the role that the Soul or the female part of spirit would play, and how it would function. The removing of the female part of spirit did not take place in creation but later, for in Gen 2:7 the Lord God, who was the MAN created in Gen 1:26 brought forth a manifestation of himself giving him a FORM or a body made from the dust of the earth. However the form (Body) had no life in itself, but the Lord God breathed into the nostrils of that man the breath of life that he received from God. The body that Adam had at that time, was the same as the man who walked out of the tomb on the day of resurrection. That body was spirit in manifestation, for the spirit was in control of the body, and every cell was energized by the spirit and functioned accordingly.
In the world today our body is under the control of the Carnal or Natural mind. The original mind given to man in creation was the Mind of Christ who is spirit. That mind contains all the knowledge of God and all the wisdom of God and is programmed for righteousness. But the woman taken out of Adam in the allegory of Gen 2, was separated from Adam having become a LIVING SOUL. This soul consists of the MIND the EMOTIONS and the WILL, but due to the separation from Adam who is Christ, this Mind has no input from the spirit so it became Natural or Carnal. Such a mind can never know God, for it functions through five natural senses, through which we establish the realities of our life. None of these senses can reveal God to us. Under the control of that mind we wander in the darkness of ignorance for we are unable to know God who is spirit. Also our body that was spirit in manifestation originally (Gen 2:7), now became flesh and blood and became subject to every sickness, disease and death, that is in the world. However, the Mind of the Living soul now took over control of our body, causing it to become a BODY OF SIN according to Rom.6:6. This Natural Mind assumed control allowing us to do whatever WE wanted to do, to satisfy the desires and lusts of the flesh. Our body became the vessel, to fulfill our personal desires, because we believed that our body belongs to us to do whatever we wanted to do. Your body is affected by so many things bringing limitation and sickness, because the natural or carnal mind has asserted authority over your body. But remember the carnal mind has no input from the spirit, also it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it receive or know the things of the spirit for such things are foolishness to it and concludes by saying, IT IS DEATH. This mind functions to encourage us to fulfill the desires of our heart, including that which we lust after. To follow this natural “Mind” therefore will lead us into death, destroying our body. For so many Christians the reason why God gave us a body has never been understood. Paul says in 1 Cor 6:19 Don’t you know that your body is the Temple of God and it does not belong to you. When man was created in Gen 1:26, he was spirit and God intended that he would be his dwelling place on the earth. For many years God dwelt in the Tabernacle of Moses which allowed him to lead Israel in their journey across the wilderness. God was always there in the midst of his people, which was the desire of his heart.
The fact that Christ dwells in every man is most important to us. It is CHRIST IN YOU that is the hope of the glory of God being manifest in these bodies of ours. Remember that sickness itself has no true reality at all, because it has no law of God to support its existence. Sickness was not a part of God’s creative work, therefore it is not a part of reality. Anything that is a reality must have no beginning and therefore it also will have no end. Anything that belongs to the spirit world is eternal and these things we call REALITIES. Sickness had a beginning and also will have an end, so it does not qualify as a REALITY. Jesus Christ the King said :
Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
It seems that this direction given by the King has been ignored as the natural mind considers it to be wrong. Part of the reason for this is that the word “Evil” has not been understood correctly. Good and Evil only represents our natural human ability to determine what we think is “OF GOD,” and what is “NOT OF GOD.” Each of us has eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil where we are deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil; usurping the right of God to add to our lives what He desires to bring all of us into. Our carnal mind is acting like god of this temple telling us what is of god and what is not. The problem with that simply is Paul told us that our carnal mind cannot understand or even receive the things of the spirit. So our carnal mind cannot really make that choice, even though it thinks it can. This is where Satan can enter and deceive us
The Female part of Adam’s spiritual being was separated from him in the Garden of Eden, during the deep sleep that fell upon Adam, the Lord God brought her to Adam who identified her as a “WOMAN”. God never recognized her as being a separate entity from Adam. Gen 5:2. The woman became the allegory of our soul. The man became the allegory of our spirit. Now to any ladies who read this don’t get upset at the next statement but God never created a woman. You cannot find it anywhere in scripture; but you can find where the Lord God formed the woman out of the man.
After the holy spirit started to reveal the truth of this to me I then ran into the writings of Des Walters which verified what the spirit was already teaching me. Des Walters described what I am poorly explaining so much better, So I will share with you what he so eloquently said:
“In this separation the female part or the SOUL now begins to function as a LIVING SOUL being apart from Adam who represents the Spirit. So the focus is now on this “Living Soul” who now has no direct connection with Adam. She functions quite differently from Adam who walked with God and talked with him every day in the Garden. Eve as a SEPARATE ENTITY never ever walked with God for she has no input from Adam who is SPIRIT. Adam’s mind was the mind of CHRIST who could never have been tempted to do what EVE did, for being separated from Adam her mind became simply the MIND OF THE SOUL, what Paul calls the NATURAL or CARNAL MIND. This mind has no input from the Spirit and so can never know God, for it has no capacity to do so. It was through this natural mind that MANKIND was brought down from its high estate in the realm of spirit, into the dust realm.
In this process the natural mind of the woman, which was neither good nor evil, became the target through which an enemy was able to infiltrate and ultimately control her. The carnal or natural mind has assumed authority over the man because of his sense of separation from God, whose voice cannot be heard.
The first man was created out of God, but since then every person born in this world has come out of a woman.
Because that woman became a LIVING SOUL, all her offspring became exactly the same. Mankind discovered that an alien authority had invaded our humanity, producing rebellion, pain, sickness, suffering and ultimately death. This authority functioned as the Carnal Mind that took control of what we would think, what we would believe, and what we would do. However, there are some things that we need to understand about the carnal mind. First of all Paul tells us that it is an enemy of God, so it will never help us to please God, for it is set in opposition to all that God stands for. It will encourage us to please ourselves in all that we do, like spoilt undisciplined children. Then it deceives us into believing that knowledge is power and is the most important thing for us to have. So we foolishly feed upon the Tree of KNOWLEDGE even though God told Adam not to eat of it’s fruit, because in the day you eat of it YOU WILL DIE.
This is not speaking simply about physical death but spiritual death, which isolates us from God and then causes us to live out of our mortality. We have also discovered that the Carnal Mind has no capacity to hear from God or to receive truth from him. This further isolates us from the very source of our being and prevents us from experiencing his life. Under these conditions our body becomes vulnerable to every sickness disease and finally physical death itself. Just as Eve was deceived by the serpent that represents the carnal mind being more subtle than all the beasts of the field, so is mankind today living under the same alien control. Paul makes a blunt statement in Rom 8 saying, “The Carnal Mind IS DEATH.” So in truth it is not the cancer that kills you but the CARNAL MIND. We have been so created that what we think in our Heart or Mind IS WHAT WE ARE. The health of our body then requires that we live in constant fellowship with God so that his life flows through our body in an uninterrupted stream.”
When we finally awake from our Adamic nightmare then we shall be in Christ’s image and glory and we shall know we are righteous, which is truly our reality. (Psa 17:15; I Cor 15:34: 2 Cor 3:18) Sickness and disease which has no reality will become a thing of the past in our lives. But as long as we continue to sleep we shall remain in deception of the carnal mind NOT knowing and NOT walking with God, and continuing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil creating the man, the tare that Satan planted in us, who we think we are from birth – who does not have a lasting reality at all. While we have been asleep in this Adamic dream we have created the character of the person we think we are… all of our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our insecurities, all of our strengths and weaknesses. All that makes up who we think we are, we created. That man’s name -nature and character our carnal mind created is not written in the Lambs book of life from the foundation of the world, and will be destroyed by God’s fire. There is only one name – nature and character written in the lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world and that is Christ. Christ is one who is made up of many as I Corinthians 12 describes so wondrously. Thank God that because of Jesus Christ is actually in us we have the opportunity to wake up to the realities that are found in the spirit of God. When we wake up the tare we think we are will disappear like smoke in the wind and will be exposed as having no lasting substance at all, and will be replaced with the reality of our true character a member of the body of Christ.
Friday Fears (Guest Blogger: Ian Dean)
A friend of mine, through unverified sources, believes that socks, especially the patterned ones, have an agenda of world domination. In his one-man crusade against them, he has devised a plan to make sure their devious plot never comes to fruition:
1. Never, ever match patterned socks, as this will give them the opportunity to procreate.
2. Store them in a dark drawer, as they communicate by pattern.
Remember that they already outnumber you two to one, so we have to strike them at the source!
This is something my daughter, Nikki, shared on her Facebook page:
The beauty behind this project is that the Alzheimer victims get to express themselves, still leaving input about ideas that were a part of themselves at some point in their life-journey, in new and creative contexts. They are still present, only in a different way than before. I use to care for and spend many days with an Alzheimer patient named Helen. She always will hold a special place in my heart. Though she was severely affected by Alzheimer’s, she still had her own personality, likes, dislikes, and let me tell you, strong opinions about what she was thinking even if it did not always make complete sense to me. She would tell me things that would shock me sometimes. A runner with no legs in the Olympics leaves us inspired and in awe. We all wear pink during the month of October to show our support for fighting back at breast cancer. Shouldn’t we also feel the same about patients with Alzheimer’s? The best way that I can describe Helen is, it was as though she was speaking to me through the language of a Beatle’s song! Many of the Beatle’s songs don’t make perfect sense (to me at least), but they sound awesome, are loved by so many, and are essentially timeless. WE LIKE the music made by the Beatle’s because they are full of wonder, creativity, mystery, and are out of the norm. Isn’t that exactly what our relatives of Alzheimer’s are full of too? Helen would allude back to times in her mind that were of her past while she was living them out in her mind as though they were of the present. This may seem very odd to us, frightening even at times, but it is their way of coping with what they are going through, and often times they leave clues for us as to their life stories from the past – things that use to bring them joy (why do you think they obsess over these things? (:). They make connections with their old experiences and throw them out into the open with their words, but these words are still a part of them and who they ARE. Just like any other facet of life that we must overcome, we also must be accepting of it, WHILE we fight through it. We need to be accepting of Alzheimers for what it is because whether we like it or not, it is a part of our relatives that are affected by it and we have not yet found a cure. As out-of-the-world as this project – this “idea” seemed to me at first, I see that it can do nothing but good for a part of human kind that, lets be honest here, often seems to be forgotten about (because it is painful for us to cope with. Yes, that said, it is the truth). This strange idea is essentially the first of its kind, but out of every misfortune, there almost always comes some form of good. I support this project. If you believe Alzheimer’s patients are still wondrous and beautiful in their own unique ways, and that they should be able to showcase their creative thinking in today’s society, then you can and should support this project too.
Click the pic below to go to the project page on Kickstarter.com:
I’ve been very busy preparing for a Kickstarter campaign (please see the ad to the left for more details), so I haven’t had time to write my way-too-long blog posts. Consequently, I welcome guest-blogger, Anne-Marie Scholer, graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, to answer the question, “Which one brings the greatest sense of relief – to forgive or to be forgiven?” Her short but hard-hitting story addresses both the giving and receiving sides of forgiveness, and it is likely a story that will resonate with anyone who was/is the target of bullying:
I had a facebook request for “friending,” from someone who had bullied me in middle school. She had made me miserable whenever we had contact during those years: constant nasty comments from her, delivered with an expression of disdain. She even hit me in the face during a class one day.
I responded to the “friend” request by private message; I couldn’t possibly accept, given the history. (I included a brief description). She had the grace to apologize, even though she wrote that she didn’t recall (which is common–many bullies can’t recall their own shameful actions).
After a couple weeks, I realized that I had forgiven her, due to how she had apologized, and I felt lighter for it. I actually wrote back to tell her that, because the relief was so powerful.
Have you ever been bullied? If so, have you forgiven him/her? Are you waiting on an apology first? Maybe you were the bully. Have you even considered initiating conversation to ask for or offer forgiveness?
I am very pleased to welcome back a wonderful guest blogger, someone who regularly comments on www.whatgoddoes.com, Mary Vanderplas. She is a former Presbyterian Minister and is now the Chaplin at Florida Hospital in Leesburg, FL. Her first guest blog was Revelation 8 (Guest-Blogger Mary Vanderplas). Although we regularly disagree with one another, Mary regularly inspires me to look at things from a perspective that I might not otherwise. Several times we have entered into discussion about theodicy (a spiritual/philosophical attempt to reconcile the idea that God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing with the very real presence of evil and suffering in the world). Mary’s perspective and insight is spectacular, and her vocation puts her in a unique position to give the very churchy word “theodicy” a gripping context in the human experience. Mary wrote the following introduction for a blog series I’ll be doing based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. I will be writing this blog series in the same manner as I have been writing the Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell series, that is, as the inspiration hits and as time allows. Here’s Mary’s introduction…
A little boy, barely five, is wheeled into the ER after being found unresponsive at home. His body, connected to life support, shakes uncontrollably from brain seizures. His mother and grandmother look on helplessly as the medical team does their work.
A young woman is brought into the ER after being involved in a terrible car accident. She is sobbing and shaking, overcome by the trauma and desperate to know if her husband – who was airlifted to another hospital, a hospital with a trauma unit – is “going to be okay.”
A woman not yet fifty lies limp and lifeless in the bed, her frail body riddled with cancer. Under the influence of medication for the pain, she is in and out of consciousness. Her husband sits by her bedside, speechless with sorrow.
In my role as a hospital chaplain, I encounter on a regular basis people such as these, people who are dealing with tragic suffering. Some of the time, they are asking tough questions about God and their experience. Some of the time, they are feeling acutely the pain and grief of their situation and are not (yet) at a point of asking, let alone thinking about an answer to, the tough questions. Some of the time, they express their feelings, including their sense of the absence and silence of God, with loud and mournful cries of “why?”
Because, quite often, the people I am called upon to minister to are in the midst of crisis, my ministry is primarily one of being present with them in the pit of their suffering. With the mother and grandmother referred to above, I sat with them in their helpless sorrow, sharing with them in the sense of injustice and the experienced absence and distance of God. I said very little. At one point, at the grandmother’s request, I prayed out loud. What I prayed was a bold prayer that God would act in power to spare the boy’s life. Since it was evident that they were overwhelmed by the pain of watching their beloved child/grandchild suffer, I did not even attempt to help them make sense of their experience of tragic suffering. I knew that to do so at that moment would have been wholly inappropriate. Instead, I tried to communicate by my presence and actions the presence and care of God in the midst of their tragic situation. And by my bold prayer, I made (indirectly) a statement about protesting the expressions of evil in the world and calling upon God to do something about these expressions being a faithful response in the face of suffering.
With the young woman who, with her husband, was involved in a car accident, I also provided mainly a ministry of presence. Shortly after she came in, the word came from the hospital where her husband was taken that he had not made it. Hearing the news, the woman emitted an anguished shriek, followed by intense sobbing. I sat with her, holding her hand and “speaking,” with words and mainly with nonverbal expressions of empathy and caring. An hour or so later, she looked at me and asked, “Why did God have to take someone who was so good?” Even though my best judgment told me that it wasn’t the time for a deep discussion of the theological issues that her question raised, I responded in brief to her question, which arose out a struggle (in its beginning stage) to make sense of her experience in light of what she believed about God and his ways. First, I challenged her understanding that God had caused the tragic death of her husband. “God didn’t take him,” I said. “I don’t believe that God caused this terrible thing to happen.” Second, I acknowledged that I didn’t know the ultimate source of her terrible loss and that I didn’t think that it could be known whose doing it was. Third, I acknowledged that I didn’t know why God didn’t intervene to prevent it from happening or to save her husband’s life after it happened. I told her, too, that what I believe and am assured of is that “God cares and he is and will be with you in this.” Whether she heard any of what I said in that moment of deep grief I don’t know. But I did feel compelled to begin to help her address the issues raised by her anguished question, rather than simply ignoring them, and to provide the comfort of knowing that God was not the cause of her suffering but a very present help in her time of trouble.
With the woman afflicted with cancer, I provided something more than a ministry of presence. She and her husband shared that well-meaning friends had spoken much to them about God being in control and God having a purpose for what they were going through. After battling the disease for going-on two years and being the object of many prayers, their own and others’, they were weary of the battle and they were questioning deeply whether what others seemed so confident of – namely, the existence of a loving and just God who cared about them personally – could possibly be true. I empathized with their expressed experience of the absence and indifference of God. I spoke directly to the notion that “God is in control” and the notion that “God has a purpose” for their suffering. I said, specifically, that while I believe that God’s purposes for us and for the world will ultimately prevail, I don’t believe that this cancer is God’s will. “I don’t pretend to know where it came from in an ultimate sense, but I don’t believe that it came from God. On the contrary, I believe that God hates it, just as you do.” I affirmed that even though I don’t think we can know where cancer and other evils come from, I rest my faith and hope on the promise that one day God will act to overcome them, to destroy them completely, and that even now God is with us when we suffer, giving courage and strength and hope. (If I had read Tom Long’s marvelous book prior to ministering to this struggling couple, I would have said even more.) And by my presence and actions, I tried to communicate to them something of the loving, compassionate presence of God with them in their suffering.
Next blog in this series: The Shaking of the Foundations
I am very honored to welcome guest blogger, Louis Soto to www.whatgoddoes.com. David’s view on theodicy (a spiritual/philosophical attempt to reconcile the idea that God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing with the very real presence of evil and suffering in the world) is simple, but profound, basically, “I don’t know.” He holds on to hope but admits, “I only see through a glass darkly.” I appreciate Louis’s honest, humble, straightforward manner, and his commitment to telling the story of how losing his son caused him to reexamine traditional beliefs about God’s intentions toward humanity. His experience is so much more than the churchy word “theodicy,” so much more than just a blog in a blog series. That’s why I say I am honored that he has taken the time to write a blog for this series, based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith.
Here are the other blogs in this series:
It’s been four years since I had to view my son’s lifeless body and put him in the ground. In the following months reading the police and medical reports that described his death has created a vivid visual that has haunted me almost daily. Despite the many hours and shifts in mood and perspective every minute has been pinned to the backdrop of the deepest sorrow. There have been many emotions; so much fear and despair in the first few days that have become months and now years. I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for why God had allowed this to happen, but thought that in His mercy He would allow me to understand. I felt as if God had hidden Himself from me. No one could explain how this could have happened, but certainly God knew and I felt that if He helped me to understand I could somehow get through this. The truth is that after years of pleading with God for that understanding He has remained silent. I do not know why David couldn’t be saved and why God did not prevent this. David choked to death with incredible odds in his favor; a police officer at his side at the time of the incident and EMT and ambulance 20 feet away. It appeared that these people did everything they knew to do to save David, but tragically failed. One of the EMT’s present told me that this should not have gone down this way and all he could think of is that there was a higher power controlling the outcome. This has to be the greatest of all sorrows. Why would God cause us to love our children so and then take them away?
My other grave concern was what had become of David. Everyone told me he was in a better place; that he had gone home to be with the Lord. While I wanted to believe this, common religion teaches that the probability of damnation far exceeds the possibility of salvation and couldn’t understand how so many could be so sure. I was conflicted with years of the typical Christian soteriology. I had preached a gospel whose power was fear; turn or burn, what a horrible thought. Sometimes, well-meaning Christians would attempt to comfort me by saying that David was in heaven, then paused and asked David was saved, wasn’t he? Uhhh… I don’t know, what if he wasn’t! Of course, silence ensued. Why would God create the living, allow them to die so that they wouldn’t live forever in a state of sin, but allow a part of them to survive to be tormented while they wait to be brought back to life completely and be kept alive forever in a torture chamber. How is that better than living forever in sin? There had to be a better purpose for death. That is what I had believed, but the thought that this could be the fate of my own son shocked me into a greater awareness. I knew something was wrong with this thinking and am grateful to God for having revealed Himself to me in a way I had not known. It probably would have been simpler to accept all the assurances that I was receiving, but I wanted assurance from God.
While I believed David to be a good kid and have a basic belief in God, I was unsure that he met the Christian definition of being saved. As I grappled with God and approached scripture with a new heart and mind I began to see many things that settled the matter of David’s destiny. Everyone that assured me of David’s salvation had David in mind when reaching that conclusion. It always came back to David was a good kid, David was only 16, David believed in God, David was a Christian, David accepted Jesus. It wasn’t until I realized that salvation, eternal life and reconciliation were not all necessarily the same thing and that David’s ultimate end was not found in David’s life, but in Jesus’. I found assurance when I understood that in the same way that David was included in Adam in his earthly life, so too was he included in Jesus’ in his spiritual life. Living without David is extremely difficult, but living with the fear that David could potentially be tormented in hell forever would make this life intolerable. I don’t understand how those who believe in the hell doctrine as it is commonly taught can remain calm and sane while thinking that their loved ones are either there or heading there. How could anyone live with that thought and even worse, how could we ever enjoy heaven while many of our children suffer in hell; our heaven would become hell. To desire to enjoy an eternal bliss while our loved ones suffer hellish blisters seems ungodly and selfish.
While I wish that God hadn’t placed me on this path and miss David terribly I am convinced that David will live again. For now the sorrow is deep and long for the day when my tears are wiped away as the trumpet of God rouses David from the grave and I see my boy even more beautiful than I knew him to be.
I have created a website that describes in more detail this hope that David will live again.
Next blog in this series: Fellow Pilgrims
This is a letter I received (via Facebook) from someone I’ve never met, named Jacqueline Sainsbury. I’ll let the letter speak for itself, and perhaps write a blog about it after further communication with her.
I wanted to share with you my experience of being both “called out” of organised Churchianity and my experience with Churchian religious persecution. It’s a long one, excuse the length. I couldn’t shorten it.
I began attending the Seventh Day Adventist church (SDA) around 2006. My mother had been attending for some time because it was the closest church in our neighbourhood she had not already been called out of (her story alone would take me hours to write). I was not ‘of the faith’ until that year- my experience with God was more what I could call ‘theoretical’; I knew Jesus in theory was God and Saviour, but there was no personal experience or emotion attached that knowledge. It was like trying to comprehend molecular chemistry. Sunday school was a long time in the past.
I had a dream/vision one night, and afterwards discovered the Word. I began almost immediately to attend the SDA congregation. I was 15 and was what you would call a hippy; this congregation were very traditional and only sung old hymns to an organ, played by an elderly lady. Yet I enjoyed the fact they weren’t trying to be ‘attractive’ to people by playing rock music or using any fancy tricks to get people to come to church. I liked that honesty. And the SDA’s themselves have a big historical connection with healthy living (they were mostly vegetarians) and were interested in alternative lifestyles, so I felt at home. This congregation also appeared to have a lot of truth, especially concerning prophecy, and open to some more taboo topics (Freemasonry, New World Order etc.) The speakers varied from engineers to old pastors from the countryside. It felt egalitarian in its core.
Fast forward a few years. ..
I was in my last year of high school, and I’ve been reading literature that discusses the validity of the ‘Doctrine of eternal torment/literal destruction and annihilation of the wicked’. Steadily these writings are convincing me what my conscience has told me from infancy.
I had argued about hell with a ‘church leader’ when I was about 9 and they hated it). As I became more convinced, I shared my findings with other SDA church members. You can guess what followed.
I distributed a few Bible studies concerning these (I now believed) erroneous doctrines and talked very openly with people about the truth. One church leader was friendly and enjoyed the discussions; he never agreed but he never stifled any debate on the subject. Most people didn’t take me seriously because I was 17 and a ‘spiritual baby’ in their eyes. But, the pastor came to my house to discuss the writings one evening, and unbeknownst to me, he was preparing to completely dismantle me and the writings in front of the congregation.
We used to have a great speaker come every few months to talk; he was an engineer and knew NT Greek like he knew modern English. He was very smart, a great thinker. And he was the man chosen to attack the ‘heresies’ I had introduced to the church. My mother and I (she had been studying with me) sat in stupor as they presented a big sermon (and slideshow) discrediting the writers of the literature (with no real basis other than their religious bias) and then told the congregation that anybody who believed in this ‘false doctrine of universal salvation and restitution was in league with the enemy’. I was appalled! My mother couldn’t believe it (for her this was like ‘Round 2 in the battle against Churchian insanity’.)
I told her I had to leave the church- that I couldn’t commune further with that hypocrisy. I sadly left SDA and my friends there, and a few months later, my mother joined me in the wilderness for her own reasons.
During my first year of university, I was still very interested to seek out Christian fellowship in a more traditional way. I found the university Christian organisation and attended some meetings. Most of the students seems like kids to me (not in a derogatory way, I love everybody, but truthfully I felt there was a big difference in spiritual understanding between me and the students, even the group leader- obviously). So after a few months I started leaving those accursed Bible studies in the club room for other students to read. Then after some weeks, I noticed they were missing. I put more in. The next day, they were missing again. I couldn’t figure out why, I assumed cleaners were just taking them or students had taken them home; but nobody was talking about the studies in the meetings. Something was up.
Then one day, the leader (I’ll call him Dave) contacted me for a ‘meeting about some materials’. We met in a café on campus, and after sitting down he pulled out a backpack- PACKED FULL of the writings! He dumped them all over the coffee table. And then we launched into a 5 hour public discussion/debate/interrogation on the Bible studies. He had read only 2 of 43 I printed out and distributed. One was covered in red ink, and he tried to show me that the studies were totally wrong (he had a PhD theology degree and I was in my first year of a writing course) but I managed to quote enough scripture to break his arguments. (It was a very short 5 hours actually- time just seemed to melt away). During those hours I was labelled ‘dangerous’ and ‘in need of saving’ and then the Gold medal winner: ‘I believe you are working for the Devil’.
Yep, those studies really hit a nerve with Dave.
All the while across the café (unbeknownst to me and Dave) a young Hare Krishna devotee was sitting, listening, word for word, without a peep. Once Dave accused me of being in league with Satan, I had enough. I knew he could not possibly have the ears to hear this message, so I tried to end it amicably and leave. He returned my studies, made clear I was not welcome back to the group, and that was that. Then the Hare Krishna devotee came over to our table as we were moving and asked if we wanted to buy a sticker (they fundraise/proselytise that way). I said no thanks (it had a picture of a Hindu god on it) and explained that I was grateful for the offer, but I couldn’t display the image. He said that was ok and “By the way, I was listening to that discussion, it was so interesting!” And then he walked off.
To this day I don’t know if those 5 hours did anything for that young Hindu, but I hope God used the time to plant a seed of Truth in his soul..
Now I am living in a Muslim-majority country (99%) with my husband (also Muslim) and my daughter (yes that story, it’s very complicated -but the experience is a fire I needed). I have felt very disheartened these past months because I have so much external pressure from my friends, neighbours and relatives here to conform to their standards; yet I don’t. And yesterday I was so sad and tired of fighting the looks, the comments, the gestures of disapproval and outright disgust…
I truly had no idea how I could carry on with the situation any longer.
The message in there was for me: people here are trapped in an incredible FEAR.
I refused to convert when I was married, my husband was ok with that, I don’t make a big show of my faith here; but people are aware I’m ‘stubbornly resisting’ Islam and it really rubs them the wrong way. Every person persists in constantly asking me if I’m following local religious customs (it’s been made worse by Ramadan right now – I’m not fasting or veiling myself that’s like walking around with a target on your head). I’m probably just very weak, but I feel whittled down by the ocean of negative energy.
Often when you are in a situation, it’s hard to see the bigger picture. It takes somebody on the outside to give you clarity. Thank you so much for that clarity.
I am guilty of forgetting what it was like to be trapped inside the fear of having sole responsibility for other’s eternal destiny, and your own. It is crippling- like Atlas holding the world on his shoulders. And to see somebody either flaunt or freely admit their disregard for the only system you believe can save mankind from destruction is terrifying. Yes, I can understand how my very presence alone would shake up the hen house. So thanks for reminding me Alice. I’m going to try and approach it much more gracefully and patiently now.
Please continue to make your videos- my brother and I love them!
Yours, in Christ, the saviour of ALL MANKIND.
I am very pleased to welcome my first guest blogger, someone who regularly comments on my blogs, Mary Vanderplas. She is a former Presbyterian Minister and is now the Chaplin at Florida Hospital in Leesburg, FL. Although we regularly disagree with one another, Mary regularly inspires me to look at things from a perspective that I might not otherwise. Several times we have entered into discussion about apocalyptic language, and I feel that her knowledge surpasses mine regarding this topic. In some ways, I regret starting into the Revelation blog series, since there is so much that I still have to learn (and unlearn) regarding this particular book. Every time I began writing about chapter 8, I said to myself, “Mary should be writing this one.” I asked Mary if she would do this, and she agreed. I don’t necessarily agree with every word she’s written, but her perspective and insight is spectacular, and since I always enjoy reading her comments, I felt like the audience of this blog might appreciate her thoughts as well. So here it is!
Take some time now to read chapter 8 of Revelation. I would recommend that you also go back and read the ending of chapter 6, where the sixth seal is opened by the Lamb. After an interlude in which John presents a vision of the church in chapter 7, he returns in chapter 8 to the opening of the seals.
Well, is your heart warmed by John’s imagery? Just when you probably thought that things couldn’t get any worse – what more could possibly happen after the coming-apart-at-the-seams of the whole cosmos (6:12-17)?! – you turn the page, only to be met by a whole new set of visions of terrible events. What is going on here?
With the opening of the seventh and last seal (8:1), one would expect the end to come post haste. Instead, the final seal leads into seven trumpets. The trumpets, like the seals, originate in a scene of heavenly worship – conveying that the events are not random occurrences, but part of God’s plan for history. Before the visions of disasters are presented, there is a pause, silence (8:1). Likely John’s purpose was dramatic effect: a break in the action to prepare readers for the visionary fury to come – i.e., “Take a moment to catch your breath, folks, and then hang on!” Beyond this, it was a feature of some apocalyptic traditions to have the cosmos returning to a state of primeval silence before the end. Remember that John the prophet was writing in this literary genre and borrowing heavily from the apocalyptic traditions that were already popular in his day. Also, in view of the heavenly scene he pictures, in which the prayers of the saints are part of the worship of heaven, it is at least possible, I think, that the interlude of silence is a divinely-instigated shushing: “Quiet, please, so I can hear the prayers of my children.”
The heavenly scene of worship reflects the worship of the earthly temple, in which the burning of incense figured prominently. Here, in a striking image, the prayers of the saints ascend in the smoke of the incense (8:4). The pleas for deliverance and cries for justice on the part of God’s beleaguered saints in those tiny churches in Asia were, lest anyone doubt it, “getting through.” Indeed, their prayers were a part of the heavenly worship; and the saints themselves were intimately connected to this other world.
More striking still is that the pleas and cries of God’s struggling saints have an effect. Notice the images John uses to convey that their prayers “shake things up” on earth: “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (8:5). Viewed from the perspective of heaven, their prayers precipitate the unfolding of events leading up to the coming of God’s kingdom and justice. Thus, in a real sense, their prayers for the final victory of God are answered – though not immediately.
John next presents the visionary scenes of disaster. Here again, he draws from a store of images in the scriptures and the traditions of Jewish apocalyptic thought in describing his visions of what will take place just prior to the end. The sounding of trumpets was a part of the worship of the temple and had a variety of other associations in Israel’s history, including calls to battle, announcements of victory and liberty, use in celebrating the advent of a new year, use in conquering enemies (remember the battle of Jericho and the pivotal role the blowing of trumpets played in God’s victory over Israel’s enemies – see Joshua 6), calls to communal repentance. The sounding of trumpets had become a featured part of prophecies announcing the coming day of the Lord and conclusion of history. Here in John’s revelation the image speaks particularly of the judgment that will come upon the enemies of God’s people and upon the whole earth.
The visionary “seven angels” designated (by God) to blow the trumpets likely reflects the traditional seven archangels in Jewish thought, though John’s interest here is confined to communicating that God’s plan for the fulfillment of history is brought about through the terrors that are to come.
The images John uses to describe his visions of the disastrous events to come may have had some connection to natural disasters in the real world that he and his listeners/readers inhabited. What is most telling, though, in terms of what John is saying to his readers is that these images reflect to some extent the story of the exodus at the beginning of Israel’s history. There, as you may recall, God sent a series of grievous plagues on the Egyptians for the purpose of persuading Pharaoh to repent and let God’s people go (see Exodus 7-12). Some of the trumpet disasters here in Revelation 8 (and continuing into Revelation 9) – specifically, hail and fire, sea turning to blood, darkness, and locusts – match the plagues in the exodus story. Thus, the trumpet disasters, like the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, are pictured by John as judgments against the enemies of God’s people as well as a means of liberation.
Think about how the churches in Asia, tiny and marginalized as they were, harassed and persecuted by imperial Rome, would have heard/read these visionary trumpet plagues. As bad news eliciting fear and trepidation? Possibly, I suppose, since the imagery is dire and the pictured judgment/destruction cosmic in scope. But more likely, I think, these struggling congregations would have read them as good news, as the means of their ultimate deliverance from their Roman oppressors. It’s a bit like going through physical therapy after an injury. One can endure the pain, knowing that a positive outcome – namely, use of the injured body part – will ensue. (As I write this, I am two weeks shy of finishing a course of physical therapy to rehabilitate a broken wrist. While I am not quite ready to conquer the world – well, in a manner of speaking – I have hope.)
The issue here in Revelation 8 is the manifestation of God’s justice as history is brought to a close. As the imagery John uses makes clear, the terrors to come are not merely tragedies but the judgments of God because of human sinfulness. What is particularly envisioned is divine judgment of the evil empire, the punishment of oppressive and arrogant worldly power that sets itself against and seeks to destroy the church. But evil empire acting to persecute God’s people (Pharaoh, Rome) is not all that stands to be judged. All arrogant and oppressive earthly powers are hereby served notice: “Time is running out. You will not be allowed to go on forever doing violence to the powerless. You will be judged and punished by the One whose power is incomparably great and whose authority you are under and who hears the cries of those you so cavalierly abuse.”
Eight years ago I went with a group from my denomination on a mission trip to southern Africa. While there, we visited various local churches and church leaders with whom churches here in the United States are partnering for the purpose of helping the people of these countries with basic physical needs as well as spiritual needs. In one of the countries we visited, the cries of the people for justice were loud and piercing. Widespread poverty, homelessness, unemployment, even confiscation of property and imprisonment of those who dare to challenge the ruling powers characterizes life there under the rule of a thoroughly corrupt and oppressive government. The Christians are particularly subject to harassment and abuse at the hands of the authorities; and when we met with them, they talked about and prayed for God to act to deliver their country and punish their oppressors.
It will happen, says the revelation of John. For the people of that country, for all people in every place and time where power is arrogantly asserted and used for self-serving ends and where the rights and dignity of God’s children are trampled and their needs ignored. The God of exodus justice will not be silent, but will act to judge and liberate. He will hear the cries of “How long?” (6:10) and will respond with deliverance for the world.
Lest any become smug, as though the message of God’s judgment is for those other people, John’s pictures remind us that the whole creation must endure the terrors of divine judgment preceding the coming of God’s kingdom. (This echoes Paul’s words about the whole creation suffering under the weight of human sin, subject to decay and death, and awaiting its deliverance – see Romans 8:19-23.) There is, therefore, no room for a mentality that would exclude anyone from God’s mercy expressed as salvation or that would put anyone above God’s justice expressed as judgment of sin.
John’s revelation suggests, too, that the trumpet plagues are not displays of divine vengeance for the purpose of destruction, but rather expressions of divine justice, the purpose of which is to stimulate repentance toward the goal of restoration. (Could this be the meaning of only a fraction – one-third – of the creation and its human inhabitants being destroyed? See 8:7, 9, 11, 12; also 9:18.) The terrors of God’s judgments thus reveal the heart of God for every single one of his rebellious children and (perhaps) his ultimate plan to bring every lost one of them home.
What is assured is that no earthly powers, however strong and threatening, however much in control they may appear and even be in our present circumstances – none of them will be able ultimately to thwart God’s plan to judge and liberate, to eradicate evil and establish his just and peaceable kingdom. For it is God who is really in control, who governs our existence and guides the destiny of us all. To use Paul’s metaphor in Romans 8, the creation is “groaning in labor pains,” and there is no stopping the bundle of new life from coming!
Arnold, Clinton E. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 4, Hebrews to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Boring, M. Eugene. Revelation. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1989.
Evans, Joseph. “It’s Coming.” http://day1.org/3039-its_coming.print.
Metzger, Bruce M. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Peterson, Eugene H. Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination. New York: HarperCollins, 1988.
The Discipleship Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version including Apocrypha. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
I hope you find this recommendation useful.