Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Restoration and Salvation

In verse one of Psalms 23, we saw that David had made an astonishing statement: The Creator of all, YHVH, not only provided for him personally; but acting as a Shepherd, did so on an intimate level.  In verse two, he made another massive statement by detailing the level of care the Shepherd went to on his behalf.  Now, we are moving on to verse three, and yet another revelation.  (KVJ here)

he restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name. (CJB)

The KJV says "he restoreth my soul."  Most Onlyists point to translations such as this as evidence of foul play in the translation department.  However, David knew full well exactly what the soul was: The inner person.  Some people refer to the soul as the "inner man."  More properly, the soul is comprised of three main areas.  These are the mind, the will and the emotions.  It is this same understanding of "soul" that is also referred to as "the heart" in verses such as Matthew 12:34, when Christ stated that from "the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

So what is David actually saying here?  He is stating that YHVH brings his entire soul, his inner person, back into proper alignment with His word and will.  Adonai refreshes his mind, and refocuses him on the things of righteousness.  The Lord adjusts his will, bringing him back into line with His own.  Finally, YHVH takes his emotions and brings calm to them.  This is the refreshment of the soul.

Another thing David states is that he is led along the right paths.  What's the difference between the right and wrong paths?  In shepherding, if one were to lead the sheep down a path of brambles, thorns, and so forth, not only does one risk losing precious wool by having to cut out the offending brambles, but one also risks the sheeps discomfort as well.  If the path is rocky and loose, one risks also their less than certain footing in such conditions.

Let's move on.

He will turn back my soul: he will guide me into the tracks of justice for sake of his name. (JULIA)

Once again, Mrs. Smith uses the future tense, showing the care of the Lord pressing forward beyond just the present.  The phrasing here is also interesting, as "turning back" refers to returning to a point prior to diversion from an appointed path.  This is the same thing that "refreshing" or "restoring" does for David, as it returns him to where he needs to be.  (It should be noted that the original Hebrew does not actually have tense, so any argument over tense sensitive translation is without merit.)

Some may wish to call into question the translation of justice in this verse.  The original Hebrew, however, is able to go either way.  In this case, the Julia version brings about another interesting aspect of this verse.  While most translations prefer the term "righteousness," (meaning a state of right living and purity of heart), justice refers to another aspect, one far more familiar to the shepherd: The seeking of an offending lamb.
A lamb which spurns the rest of the flock and heads off on its own is often in for a very rude wake-up call.  Alone and on its own, it soon winds up in danger of all different variaties, from brambles and thorns to ledges, rivers and predators.  The shepherd keeps count of his sheep, and when one goes missing, leaves the flock in the care of the under shepherds in a safe a protected place, and goes in search of the lost.
This is comparable to the tale of the Good Shepherd told us by Yeshua.  However, simply finding that lost lamb is not the end of the ordeal, for the lamb must learn not to wander again.

In David's time, this was accomplished most often by breaking one of the lamb's legs.  In this modern era of SPCA and PETA, such an action seems cruel- However, it would be far more cruel to allow the lamb to run off again.  Each time, the odds of finding the lamb alive dwindle; the more the lamb runs off, the more headstrong it becomes and the further it wanders.  With each extra length of wandering, the dangers to its life increase.  Breaking its leg is not solely for punishment, but to draw it closer to the shepherd.
Once the leg is broken, the shepherd carries the lamb everywhere.  He tends to the leg and makes certain it heals properly.  He feeds the lamb from his own hands, since the lamb cannot stand to graze.  He snuggles the lamb when it sleeps, so that it maintains the sense of physical contact it needs.  He speaks to it and sings to it, so that it grows used to his voice.  When all is said and done, and the lamb can once more walk on its own, it will never again run off, so dependant has it grown on the shepherd.  It will graze with the flock, of course, and sleep with them; but when moving from field to field, that lamb will be at his side always.

Justice does not simply mean punishment for a wrong deed; it requires corrective action so the deed is not repeated, or it is not justice.  Thus, the use of justice here shows us a great deal about our common Shepherd.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. (NLT)
Note the first part of the NLT's translation.  This is yet another aspect of the restoration of the soul.  Of course physical nourishment renews physical strength, but the provision of this has already been addressed.  Now, David references the renewing of his inner strength.
On long walks from one distant field to another, the flock of sheep can grow weary; one might even use the word dejected.  Sheep do not like to move for extended periods of time.  They are meanderers, happy and content to drift slowly with one another across a field.  Long marches, however, can slowly cause them to be depressed, in a manner of speaking.
For this reason, when on long walks, the shepherd will talk and sing to his flock.  The speaking and singing lifts the spirits of the flock, and keeps them strengthened.  David is telling us here that not only does Adonai strengthen him physically by providing sustanence, but that He strengthens him spiritually through encouragement- The same way David himself encouraged his own flock.  David was not a shepherd aspiring to be a musician, carrying around a harp to play in his downtime.  He had the harp to provide music to his flock, and in the process, worship YHVH.

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him--not for my earning it, but] for His name's sake. (AMP)
The Amplified sums it all up very well.
Adonai refreshes and restores David's strength and his soul- Indeed, He safeguards David's life as a whole.  Adonai leads him, and us, in the paths of righteousness- Right standing and uprightness, of which justice is a part.  However, in all of these verses, we've seen the same basic phrase ending this verse: "To bring honor/glory (for the sake of) His name."  Why?

I said in the last section that it has been a long held belief of mine that David had a revelation of the redemptive work of Christ long before it happened.  I believe firmly that David knew of this gift of salvation; knew of the Gospel; long before it was actually presented.  This section here gives further evidence of that.
The most major of God's gifts to us, which we cannot hope to earn or be worthy of, is salvation.  This is not to say that we are trash- YHVH finds us valuable enough to have died for us!  Nevertheless, we cannot attain salvation through any other means aside from Yeshua and an appeal to His sacrifice.  That is what the Amplified is saying here: We cannot earn this right standing, but He gives it to us anyhow- For His name's sake.  For the honor and glory to His name.

I used to read this and wonder why I could not be prideful, but God seemed to demand people brown-nose Him.  I wasn't being heretical; I was honestly inquisitive.  That question has remained with me for some time, even since finding the answer, because I believe that there are other people out there who wonder the same thing.  Here's the answer:
If you were a doctor who had come up with a cure for cancer, but the general attitude of the world was set against you, how would you get the word out?  The solution is simple, yet most businesses will report to you that word of mouth accounts for the majority of their clientele.

Likewise, YHVH is able to remove the most insideous and lethal disease of them all, one which modern science has not yet been able to even track- But the general attitude of the world is dead set against Him.  So rather than advertise, (a neon sign, no more war, showing up and punching the atheist, take your pick), He chooses word of mouth.
We are given salvation and redemption, restoration and refreshment, not because we have earned it or deserved it but because we will then tell everyone about how good the Shepherd is.  We praise and extoll and lift up His name above all other names; and as a result, more come to Him for the operation they need and the gift they truly desire, and the cycle begins again.

Next time, we'll look at verse four, and the immortal "yea, though I walk" portion.  Until then, may YHVH continue to strengthen, restore and refresh you as you spread the word of His goodness, mercy and the gift that He offers to all.

God bless!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Rest and Provision

Last time, we looked as Psalms 23:1 and saw how this verse by itself was an earth shattering statement.  From the name God is given in this verse, (Adonai), to the statement that David wanted for nothing because of the Lord's provision, the verse is full of meaning that many far too often miss.  The simple assertion that YHVH is a Shepherd, an ever present guide, protector and provider, challenges the thought that God is unapproachable.

Now we will examine verse two. (KJV)

He has me lie down in grassy pastures, he leads me by quiet water (CJB)
Remember that at the time he was writing this, David was a shepherd.  He knew the importance of two things above all when it came to sheep: Pasture and water.
Grassy pastures are more than food for sheep; they are the places for repose and relaxation.  Sheep at peace are happy sheep, and happy sheep are healthy.  Moreover, the word picture of grassy pastures, or green pastures as it says in the KJV, speaks to the abundance of provision.
However, the softness and greenness of the grass was not all there was to settling the flock down to graze and relax.  If there was no water nearby, the flock would grow thirsty after a short time of grazing in the sun and be too weak to then move onward to drink.  If the water was too loud, it would spook the flock and there would be a risk of injury and/or loss of life as chaos ensued.
Thus, when David says that Adonai leads him by quiet waters, and makes him lie down in grassy pastures, he is making another major statement.  He is saying that not only does God lead him, but knows him so intimately that He knows where he'll be best kept.  Moreover, Adonai cares for him so deeply that He finds him a place where there is not only soft, green and abundant grass, but still water to soothe and water him.

Let's move on to another translation for another look at this verse.

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. (AMP)
Not only does God care for and provide for David, He provides only the best.  He doesn't just provide food for David's nourishment, but the very best; exactly what David needs to live a full and complete life.  God doesn't just care enough to give him food and water, but is intimately concerned with his rest as well.
Sheep cannot sleep next to water that makes noise.  Gentle babbling is one thing; gurgling, dropping and rushing water, however, keeps them awake, paranoid and frantic.  Sheep only spend an average of 3.5 hours sleeping every day, so it is vital that they have the very best conditions for sleep possible.  Because their hearing is one of their sharpest senses, loud water's constantly alternating patterns confuse them, adding to their unease and preventing sleep.
That said, one cannot have sheep rest beside stagnant water, either.  Not only does this invite sickness in the flock if they were to drink it, but it brings yet another problem only a shepherd would know of: It offends the nose of the sheep.  Sheep have great sight, but poor depth perception, meaning they depend upon their hearing and their sense of smell to warn them of danger.  When a sheep's hearing or olfactory system is overwhelmed, it places undue stress upon them because they can no longer hear or smell clearly.
What this means, then, is that David is seen to with the utmost care and attention to detail.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. (NLT)
The NLT's reading is important for an almost imperceptable reason: "He lets me rest."  The KJV and other translations can often be misunderstood to mean that God forces David to rest.  While it is sometimes the case in our own lives, and undoubtedly in David's as well, that God will introduce circumstances that cause us to rest, God does not force us to do anything.
This translation introduces a vital understanding to the attentive reader: Adonai, like any good shepherd, allows His sheep to rest.  While there are times when He will cause them to rest for their own sakes, and likewise keep them awake for the same reasons, He allows them to rest on their own schedule when in a place of safety.

He will cause me to lie down in pastures of tender grass: he will lead me to the water of rest (JULIA)
Mrs. Smith's translation is unique for several reasons, least of all that hers was an already accepted version among many churches in the late 1800's.  Additionally, she was a Greek and Hebrew scholar well regarded in her time.  In her own words she wrote out her translation "...endeavoring to put the same English word for the same Hebrew or Greek word, everywhere, while King James's translators have wholly differed from this rule..."  Thus, we have this beautiful passage reflected slightly differently, thereby giving us yet another glimpse of the Shepherd.
While other versions use past tense or present tense on this verse, Julia used future tense.  This is consistant with our God and the relationship we all have with Him.  Prior to coming to Him, we do not necessarily experience plenty, nor do we experience rest or peace.  Upon returning to Him, however, we are- And it continues on throughout our future with Him.

As we conclude this section, allow me to point to the fact that Yeshua called Himself the Good Shepherd.  In Psalm 22, we see Ha'Meshiach on the cross meeting the demands of YHVH's law.  Here, we see Him providing for the daily needs of His flock- The Church.  It has long been my firm belief that David had a revelation of the redemption and salvation that was to be offered to all peoples over two thousand years later.  His intimate references to YHVH and their relationship evidences this.

There is one final note which should be made on this passage in regards to shepherding: Sheep ill at ease cannot nurse their young.  Thus, not only is God concerned with the current generation of His flock by leading them to quiet water and the best pastures, but also the needs of the next generation.  By providing the best for the adults, the young also recieve the very best care.

Next, we will look at verse three.  I look forward to that time, but until then, I pray that you will find the rest and provision that Yeshua has for you.  God bless.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Adonai Our Shepherd

As I stated in the introduction to this study, Psalms 23 is a psalm not for the dead, but for those of us that still live.  Death itself is never actually mentioned in this Psalm, and the word is used only once.  Yet, for whatever reason, we equate death, dying and funerals with this beautiful illustration of God's provision and guidance throughout our lives.

Without any further ado, let us begin with the first verse. (KJV here)
A psalm of David: ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing. (CJB)
I love this version for the simple fact that they used in text the Jewish manner of vocal reading.  The original text uses YHVH, (what we usually write as YHWH), but the Jews do not pronounce YHVH aloud; instead, they vocalize Adonai, or in some cases, Adon.
Adon, singular, means "Lord," whereas Adonai, plural, literally means "Lords."  When used with singular modifiers, it is meant to accent the preeminence of God. (1)  Thus, in this case, David is writing that the all powerful, ever present God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is his Shepherd.
This is an astounding claim to this day, because even then as today, many believe God to be an impersonal and distant deity.  David is saying that this is not the case at all; in fact, just as the shepherd is with his flock at all times, so too is God with him at all times.  Far from being distant and aloof, Adonai is personally concerned with the wellbeing of every one of His sheep.

Let's look at how the Amplified words verse one:
THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. (AMP)
The Amplified here takes the very job of the shepherd and inserts it in brackets to further amplify what the Lord is doing for David- And indeed, all of us.  He feeds us; He guides us; and He shields and defends us.  Again, this does not line up with the concept of God being distant, impersonal and unapproachable.  To the contrary, this says exactly the opposite.

Let's move on to the second half of verse one.  The New Living translation reads:
The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (NLT)
The New Jerusalem Bible phrases this last section as "I lack nothing."  The Message says "I don't need a thing."  The Easy-To-Read Version states "I will always have everything I need."  The God's Word Version announces "I am never in need."  Brenton's English Septuigent terms it "I shall want nothing."  Finally, the Apostolic Bible Polyglot trumpets "not one thing lacks for me."
Regardless which version you prefer, the meaning is clear- God's provision for His own is complete.
KJV Only Alert

A quick aside to those who turn up their noses at these other versions and the way they word the verse: The original Hebrew reads closer to some of these than it does the King James.  The word here is châsêr, pronounced khaw-sare', and literally means "lack."  "Want" and its synonyms are implied, but are not the literal translation for this Hebrew word.  What's more, the Bishops Bible of 1568, (which is one of those listed as source material for the creation of the King James), reads "therefore I can lacke nothyng." (sic)

In conclusion for this section, I want to quote Dr. J. Vernon McGee, who said of this verse:
"The emphasis is upon the fact that there is nothing between the man's soul and God. ...notice that David does not say, I have not wanted, but 'I shall not want.' ...[this] looks into the future and gives assurance to the child of God. The security of the believer rests upon the Shepherd."
The Creator of heaven and earth is not afar off; He stands with us, providing for us completely and totally.  No other shepherd could do the job which Adonai does for us.  Only YHVH is capable of such absolute provision.

This, the  twenty-third Psalm, opens with an absolute assertion: That the all powerful and omnipresent God that created all we see and do not see takes a close and personal interest in us, our lives and the quality of the same.
Next time, we examine verse two.  Until then, may Adonai continue to be YOUR Shepherd!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: A Psalm For The Living

How many funerals have we been to where they read Psalm 23 with all the joy of a caught fish?  Ever notice it's the favorite scripture for movie funerals?  It also seems to have made its way into "condolence" greeting cards; stories of losing loved ones; songs about the deaths of others- Even rap songs have been crafted around it as being the Psalm of choice for those within the violence of the street.

Why all the focus on death for this Psalm- Has anyone ever actually read it?!

I'm sure the majority of us have either read or heard Psalms 23 from the King James, but here's a different look at it from the Complete Jewish Bible:
A psalm of David: ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
He has me lie down in grassy pastures, he leads me by quiet water, he restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.
Even if I pass through death-dark ravines, I will fear no disaster; for you are with me; your rod and staff reassure me.
You prepare a table for me, even as my enemies watch; you anoint my head with oil from an overflowing cup.
Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life; and I will live in the house of ADONAI for years and years to come.

I bring this up because I believe the time has come for Christians to have a fundamental shift of mindset when it comes to certain Scripture.  We do not serve Kali, Mara, Mors, Thanatos, Micthantecuhtli, or Ereshkigal.  YHWH is life, not death.  Yeshua took death upon Himself, not because He needed to prove anything about His power over death, but to remove any claim death had to those of us who choose to return to our origin- To Him.
With this in mind, I want to examine this misconceived Psalm of David and show just why this is not a Funeral Psalm, but a Life Psalm.

For this study, we will be using the Complete Jewish Bible, the Amplified Bible, the New Living Translation, the Julia E Smith Translation, and I will link to the KJV for those who desire it.  I will also reference other versions when their wording can be used for clarity and emphasis, but these others will not be directly quoted from.

Get ready, my friends.  This will be an eye-opening event.

NOTE: Second installment is finished and POSTED- Click here.  Third installment is finished and POSTED- Click here.  Fourth installment is finished and scheduled to post August 30.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Denominations: Not Divisions, But Organs In The Body Of Christ

Recently, I received a private email from someone in Greece who stated that they were concerned that we here at WarriorSoul are espousing a rather dim view of Christianity and the denominations within it.  This person's concern was that we seem to stand against various denominational churches within Christianity.  In other words, we seemed to this individual to be setting ourselves against the Body of Christ.
This, however, is not the case.  Speaking with the other founders of this ministry, and praying about the concern as well, we have decided to reprint the following article.  We here at WarriorSoul Ministries do not have a problem with denominations in general; as with most things of this nature, problems stem from certain people within the denominations.  
For instance, we have no problem with the doctrines of the Southern Baptist denomination, because their statement of faith remains the same as our own- They believe in One God who exists in Trinity as the Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost.  They believe Christ was born of a virgin as prophesied, died once, rose and ascended to the sky.  They believe He will return again.  Are there doctrinal differences?  Yes, of course there are; these are not enough for us to disavow the denomination.
The problem lies with the people within each and every denomination.  Any time someone states that the only true Word of God is the King James Version and that all other versions are from the devil; any time someone states that the Pastor's word is above question; any time someone states that women MUST wear this and not this, or that men MUST have hair of this length and not this- These are human issues, man-made laws that are not God's own, and these are what we take issue with.

Without further ado, here is the entry on denominations with the Body of Christ. ~Andrew, on behalf of WSM

God is far too complex for us to be able to comprehend a full revelation of who He is. Thus, he has allowed different aspects of Him to be seen by different people. Also, as humans, we are so varied that what helps me get into the throne room of God may not work for the person next to me.

I may enjoy lifting my hands and shouting praises to the rafters, whereas they may be much more focused on God if they are holding a hymnal and singing in a reverent tone. The other gentleman next to me might be the sort of willing vessel to jump and whirl when the Spirit comes upon him, while the woman next to him, because of her past, would not feel safe in anything but a carefully ordered service.

Thus, we have denominations, which are really only single words or phrases that sum up that church's approach to worship, Bible study, and prayer. Some of these are spawned due to rebellion, but some are very much acting upon a true revelation of God.

Very often, even those that originally began in rebellion have been blessed once that sin has been confessed.... Martin Luther rebelled against the "church" of his time because of a revelation of God and the meaning of His word.
Was the rebellion necessary? Only he and God know for certain, but the fact remains that it is because of him that many of us now know how to truly read and understand the Word of God.

As people come to know Christ, depending upon their prior lifestyle, God moves them into flocks that will minister best to their individual needs.

Someone who was an atheist for example, may not be able to get into the "Holy Spirit thing" right away, and thus God places him in a body that focuses more on the Word.
As he grows spiritually and develops, perhaps God will lead him into a new body, an new denomination even. Then again, perhaps not. His calling may keep him in that place, meant to instruct those who follow after him.

Or perhaps a former witch comes to knowledge of the Lord because of the Spirit she can feel around the Witness. She would, perhaps, be led to a Spirit manifesting church... One in which the Spirit that drew her can continue to love on her.
As she matures, perhaps she'll be led to another church or denomination, one that focuses more on the Word and it's study. Perhaps not. It may be her calling to become so filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, that she can simply enter a room and clear it, thus being able to witness to those in it unimpeded.

Either way, simply because someone hops, runs, walks, crawls or shuffles down the Straight and Narrow, the major thing that matters is that they are moving forward along it. If they are not moving, or not moving forward at all, then yes, there is a problem there.
If they have stalled, then there's a chance God is doing some major repair work. If they are falling, get out of the way, and take as many true believers with you as possible.

Some may feel that last part was too heavy handed, but let me be clear. When a church body is pronounced dead and lifeless by God Himself, it is time to leave. Period. Anyone staying will indeed be brought down with the ship- they either are too blinded, or they've got something to lose.

I've found this test to be true- The Word says to test the spirit with Spirit. Thus, ask the Lord to reveal if this particular church body is within His will. Because when it comes down to it, it's really not the entire denomination that's wacky, it's the individual bodies.

This was all brought about by a verse in the Bible, actually, in Acts...
I believe it was Gamaleil who stated that if this thing is not of the Lord, it will fail, but if it IS of the Lord, then we are powerless to stop it.
And there have been denominations who have fizzled into nothingness. And there are churches that have done the same.

So after reading that, I got this vision of the human body, and how all the organs are supplied blood, and they all work together. If one organ stops allowing the blood to leave it, it ceases to function correctly, causing the Body to weaken. This also will eventually cause the blood to stop flowing to it, which will cause a hemorrhage if left untreated.

So too the Body of Christ has many different parts that do many different things, but we all operate within the Body of Christ, and thus, MUST work together.

Originally appearing on Renegade's Rants, December 13, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jihad Within

I find that one can read to the heart's content on subjects such as investigation, politics, law, medicine, and so on, but it is never anywhere near as fulfilling as speaking with an experienced person within that particular field.  Likewise, one can read all there is to know about Mormonism, Witchcraft, Atheism and Islam- But it does not beat the understanding one can develop after speaking about it with someone who actually practices.  It is, of course, vital to remain distanced to some degree, as well as to be well versed in one's own faith and prayed up; but if one is led to do so, a conversation on other beliefs with one who holds those beliefs is invaluable.
For instance: I have regular discussions with an older gent whom I'll call Ali.  This man is an Imam that lives here in the States in virtual exile.  Our discussions range from the day-to-day conversation of two friends, ("We can't get this rain to go away!" "Send it our way, all we've had is sun!"), to more focused political or theological discussion.  Some of our most interesting conversations have been about the finer points of Islamic theology, and perhaps most interestingly, the subject of Jihad.

In the event that some of our readers do not know much about Islam, allow me to backtrack and state that there are several pillars of the faith, and by pillars I am also referencing their "articles of faith."  There is the Shahada, or proclamation of faith- "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."  There are the prayers, for which every true Muslim must kneel on their prayer mats facing Mecca, repeating them a prescribed number of times.  There is the Hajj, which is a journey to Mecca that must be taken at least once in the life of a true believer.  There is the observance of holy days, such as Ramadan, during which a devotee may eat nothing during the daylight hours.  Finally, there is the Jihad.  (NOTE: I've only touched on some of the pillars of Islam; depending upon the sect, there can be many more.)

Jihad, according to Ali, can take three distinct meanings.  The first and most widely publicized is the holy war against Infidels- Anyone who is not a follower of their prophet.  (Some Muslim scholars now say that this form of jihad can take on the form of either words or weapons.)  The second, and less well known, is a holy cleansing war, in which those Muslims who are not unwaveringly devout are slain.  (Many Muslim scholars deny this, yet the teaching is found within the highest religious teachings reserved for prospective Imams.)  Third and lastly, the least reported is that of the internal jihad; the war all devout Muslims must wage against the sinfulness within.  Ali is now a political refugee for suggesting that this last type of jihad is all that is truly left to the Muslim.

While discussing this point, Ali said something that was very interesting in the "double take at the train wreck" kind of way.  He said:
"This is not so different from Christianity, you know."
The religious side of me immediately started shouting "Oh, he did NOT just say that!"  The analytical side of me was attempting to calmly say "Now wait- Let's hear him out."  In the chaos, my mouth got confused, and working completely independent of my brain, pulled off my best Porky Pig impression ever:
"Uh, b-dee, b-dee, b-dee, uh, uh... How so?"

He began to quote verses from the New Testament rapid fire, like some sort of spiritual AK.  "Take up your cross and follow Me"; "if any man wishes to be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me"; "we are dead to sin and alive in Christ"; "for this reason, I crucify my flesh," and so on.  When all was said and done, I was left with two thoughts above all else.
The first thing that hit me was that this man knew the Bible better than I did, and that brought some major conviction.  There are people in other parts of the world that memorize every scripture from cover to cover so that it can then be passed on to the next eager believer.  I've got four or five Bibles within reach at any given time, and I can barely quote five or six verses with their references.
The second thing was that Ali; Islamic Imam, trained and brought up in the Qur'an and the complete Hadith collection at Mecca itself; was absolutely right.  How I'd missed it before, I do not know, but there it is.  Jihad means "holy war," and we do fight against our flesh daily.  The difference is that we as Christians rely upon the strength of the Holy Spirit to be successful; Muslims must attempt this in their own human strength.  No wonder so many prefer to focus upon the jihad against infidels- Dying in holy battle absolves all of their sins, as opposed to having to fight their own sin nature.

So, dear reader, there is a major open door for ministry to the Muslim world- The simularity between Islamic and Christian jihad against the human sin nature, and the differences therein.  Until that opportunity arises, though, let us continue our daily jihad against our own flesh.

God truly is great!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Model Family, Model Bride

(Author's Note:  This is the devotional I brought forward at this month's men's breakfast.  Though it is written specifically towards men, I believe that women will find it of interest as well.  God bless you all!)

Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her, [saying], many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], but you excel them all.  ~Proverbs 31:28-29 (AMP)

Most people know this as the "Virtuous Woman" passage.  It also offers instruction to husbands, children and encouragement to the Bride of Christ.  We'll look at this here today.

Note first that the children bless her.  We all have mothers, and if they still live, we need to bless them; whether we feel they deserve it or not.  "Her children rise up" - They take an active role in doing this.  They do not just sit on the sidelines and ask for blessings to fall upon her; rather, they speak those blessings forth into existence.

Now, look at what her husband says to her.  He is expressing his satisfaction in her; his joy with her; and his fidelity to her.  How many times have we heard the women in our lives speak about feeling as though they don't measure up to other women?  The virtuous husband builds his wife up by assuring her that the only reason she does not is because she stands head and shoulders above them all.  He is telling her that his eyes see only her, and she is a precious treasure.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 - 
"Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil." (NLT)  
This passage tells husbands to live in joy with his wife all of his days.  This passage gives us an example of this in action.  Song of Solomon 8:7 -
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man would offer all the goods of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned and despised." (AMP)  
Read that carefully, for it tells us that nothing in this world can buy the love a husband and wife share- It should be treasured, not despised or taken for granted.

These two verses in Proverbs also speak to the joy of the family as a whole.  When we are operating in full alignment with the Word of God, there is joy and assurance within the family that no one can take away.  Indeed, we see this in Micah 4:4 -
"Instead, each person will sit under his vine and fig tree, with no one to upset him, for the mouth of Adonai-Tzva’ot has spoken." (CJB)

This passage also gives encouragement to the Church, for as Matthew Henry said, "God by His grace has formed from sinful men a church of true believers, to possess all the excellence here described" in Proverbs 31:10-31.  Verses 28 and 29, then, show us a picture of what we are to strive for in our daily walk.  A makes the point that we ought to live in such a way that we are held by those who know us best in high esteem; that those who see us at our lowest and our worst can nonetheless speak only blessings upon us, so well we serve the example of Christ.

Moreover, when we as Christians are living in the will of God; surrendered to His Word and doing nothing except by His strength; we serve as an example for the next generation.  They look back on us, as we look back on others, and bless us, as we bless those before us for their excellent example, instruction and encouragement.

Finally, Christ, our Bridegroom, praises us in the same manner when we live according to His Word.  He encourages us and builds us up- Reminding us of our future joy, and telling us not to compare ourselves with others.  His love is for us, and we surpass all others in His eyes.

So, in conclusion my friends- Be men of God.  Let us bless our mothers; build up our wives; provide the right example for the next generation; and be the Church that Yehshua earnestly awaits to rapture and bring away to Himself.  In His grace and mercy, we do not have to be perfect; in His strength, though, we can do all things.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Things of the Unseen

As Christians, we are told over and over that we are to be aware of the very real nature of the spirit realm.  I use the term generally in order to reference all things that are hidden to the eyes of man, but which are nevertheless very real.  Angels, demons, and all other created creatures which are not seen with the natural eye are still as real as you and I, and should thus be granted the same amount of respect as that which is given the things of this physical realm... At the very least.
Ironically, the majority of the secular world also believes, to some degree, in the existence of the supernatural.  The most popular thriller and horror movies incorporate aspects of the unexplained, and shows such as Ghost Whisperer, Medium, and Ghost Hunters enjoy large followings even now.  I say this is ironic because, as one Christian rap artist observed:
"They scoof at the Bible and the things that it tells- They'll believe in stars and astrology but not in Heaven or Hell?!"
What is, perhaps, most ironic is that within the Christian community there remains a strong disavowal pf anything supernatural that isn't easily relegated to one side or the other.  Concepts such as ghosts, invisible creatures, or crying/bleeding statues are looked upon as imagination, or most popularly, things straight from the devil.  With the way mainstream Christianity reacts to these paranormal activities, it's no wonder we are portrayed as crackpots and worse in modern entertainment.  (The Waterboy's mother comes readily to mind with her oft repeated phrase "it's the DEVIL!")
So, what I'd like to do today is an exercise in broadening the mind.  We'll examine several kinds of phenomena, and look to the Bible for commentary.

Let's start with crying or bleeding statues.  This is very often associated with Catholicism, and usually involves a statue of the virgin Mary or some other saint bleeding or crying.  Most often, healings or some other sort of miracle occurs from physical contact with the liquid, and this is usually followed by a surge in faith.  It is important to note also that the majority of these events take place in areas where signs and wonders move people more than words.
Now, when addressing this topic, I am often referred to the writings of Jack Chick, whose take on this sort of happening is always that it is of demonic origin.  Friends, whatever you do, don't base your theology on ChickTraks.  He firmly believes the Catholic church to be Satanic, and rejects the fact that Protestantism sprang from Catholicism; instead, he espouses the exact opposite which is completely contrary to historical fact.  Anyone that rejects truth and substitutes their own should, at the very least, be viewed critically.
This to the side, the Bible is full of accounts regarding inanimate objects being used to give signs and wonders to those people who placed less stock in mere words.  The stone giving water twice; the burning bush that wasn't consumed; the idol of Dagon falling before the Ark of the Covenant; these are just a few examples of such cases.  Even Christ warned that the rocks would cry out praise if the people did not.  A crying statue in comparison?  Why not!

Ever heard people talk of seeing dragons, or any other sort of creature that no one else has seen?  How often they are ridiculed!  These are creations that are mythical or invisible; things no human eye can see and no one has ever recorded scientifically- Of course jeering and derision is the default response to such claims!
Yet in Ezekiel, the prophet writes about creatures that are otherwise invisible.  In Revelation, John observes a pestalence- a kind of locust/scorpion hybrid that no human has ever seen.  Pterodactyls are supposedly extinct, yet sightings are reported every year around the world.  Moreover, anyone who claimed to have seen a Coelacanth was thought crazy... Until, that is, a fisherman ended up with one in his net.

Ghosts are a favorite for church disparagement.  Every ghostly encounter is immediately and gleefully condemned as demonic activity.  I will agree that the majority of these are, in fact, the work of familiar spirits... But not all.  The Bible itself offers proof that the spirits of humans can, on occasion, appear to the living.  Look at Samuel's ghost appearing to Saul- Had that been a familiar, the witch's reaction would not have been nearly so violent, considering she would have dealt with familiars on such a regular basis it would have been a ho-hum matter of course.

In its zeal to paint the devil for what he is, the Church misses hundreds of opportunities to introduce the supernatural of God to unbelievers, and that is a tremendous disservice to both parties.  So, the next time you hear of some supernatural occurance, dear reader, do as the Bible instructs: Test the spirit of the account with the Holy Spirit.
Then, seize the opportunity to open that person up to the supernatural God of Creation, for Whom nothing is impossible.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Waffles, Bacon and a Side of Prayer

I am a breakfast kind of guy.  I love breakfast food, and at any given time of day I'm as likely to be eating oatmeal, pancakes or cold cereal as I am a "normal" lunch or dinner.  Don't get me wrong, though- I'll plow through steak, pork chops, or a good bowl of pasta in a heartbeat!  I just like breakfasts because of the great memories that come with them.

On Saturday mornings, Mom and Dad would work together to make breakfast for us kids.  Sometimes, it was a simple pot of oatmeal.  Other times, it was pancakes or french toast with bacon and eggs.  No matter what it was, one thing remained the same on a regular basis: We'd eat breakfast as a family.  It was the best day of the week, and the best time of day, as the morning sun shone brightly and we gathered around the table together with a promise filled day ahead of us.

As life dragged on, the family breakfasts grew more and more infrequent, until it was nearly a miracle to get us together at the table for any meal.  Communication began to crumble, and the family followed closely behind.  Without the support of one another, we began to make bad choices all around: I fell headlong into a pornographic addiction; my sisters began dating and befriending people of dubious influence; and my parents' marriage dissolved into resentment, hurt feelings and heartache.
Soon, the only communication we had took the form of either written notes or face to face arguments.  There was a day, shortly before my parents separated, that my Dad called the house and I didn't recognize his voice.  That moment sticks with me because, all fault to the side, no child should ever forget the voice of a parent who took an active part in their lives.  In fact, the memory haunts me to this day- In that until recently, I never knew what had gone wrong.  My family had survived car accidents, a catastrophic fire (read more here), economic hardship and several church splits...  So what went wrong?

Over a Men's Breakfast of Belgian waffles, sausage, hashbrowns, eggs, and a side of bacon, I mulled over this question once again.  As I stared idly at the smaller plate of bacon, my pastor began talking about prayer and the importance of it.  I had learned a while before that prayer was a means of communion with God.  Then, suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place.

You see, I've never ordered a plate of bacon and a side of waffles.  Waffles are a main course; bacon is a side.  (Though it is an excellent garnish for salads!)  Sometimes, though, we order a side of prayer, instead of making it our main course.  When we do this, our communication with God begins to falter, and soon our relationship with Him begins to suffer.
Likewise, it was the communication between my family that was the lifeblood of our relationship.  When that began to fail, the family began to suffer.  It was no one person's fault, though we all had a hand in its demise. When we stopped communicating, the family began to fall apart.

When we do not communicate with God, our lives suffer for it.  So remember- When it comes to prayer, order it as the main course...  And get the waffles on the side.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quotes: Jefferson

"Building a wall of separation beween Church and State." ~ Thomas Jefferson

If there is a more well known, more misunderstood, more misquoted, and more hotly disputed quote from our founding fathers, I have not been made aware of its existence.  Since the early nineteen hundreds, the phrasing of this solitary statement has been taken into account for nearly every religious freedom case presented to the Supreme Court.  I marvel, personally, at how quickly everything else he wrote in that letter has been forgotten- Indeed, even the proper phrasing has been replaced with the oft quoted "separation of church and state."
You may be asking yourselves why I would bring a quote with such unique political meaning to the pages of a ministry blog.  Perhaps you found yourself repeating the same quote I opened with, or some variation of it.  Maybe you would prefer that the increasingly sickening world of politics be left out of Christian ministry completely.  Know that I sympathize with these and similar sentiments, but alas- There is a season for all things.
We here at WarriorSoul believe firmly in the Christian's duty to arm oneself with the weapons of spiritual warfare, and to equip the full armor of God.  As you may recall, we have been encouraged to take up the sword of truth, but ironically, truth is the belt of the armor of God- It is what holds on the rest of the armor.  In the Bible, we are told that knowing the truth sets us free.  Hard truth is truth nonetheless, and we must be prepared to know it no matter where it comes from.
Having laid this foundation, it is time to reveal the truth of religious freedom in the United States, from the standpoint of Thomas Jefferson.

In October of 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to President Jefferson congratulating him on his first year in office.  In the letter, they also outline a growing concern of theirs- A concern mirrored in our modern society, though not as eloquently. (The hysteria over the Chick-Fil-A veep's comments are just a small example.)  They wrote:
"...That religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man that works ill of his neighbor.  But sir, our Constitution of our government is not specific.  ...Religion is considered as the first object of legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inaliable rights.  And these favors we receive at expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistant with the rights of freemen.  ...If those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and religion, should reproach their fellow men an enemy of religion, law, and good order ...he will not, dares not, assume the perrogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ."
In other words, the men and women of the Danbury Baptist Association were concerned that the government may look upon religion's free exercise as a favor granted by the ruling body, and in the excuse of it being for the good of both government and religion, create laws restricting the free practice of it.  They were foreseeing the events of our modern age, where public prayer now requires a permit; where ministers cannot preach on the street without express permission; and where every day Christians many times cannot witness because it is "disruptive."  Today, there are even calls to remove any sort of Christian belief from the governing body, meaning that Christians would no longer be allowed to serve in public office.

The draft of Jefferson's letter
to the DBA. Click for full size.
Friends, Jefferson is quoted regularly now as having said that there is a separation of church and state, as if to affirm the encroachments upon religious freedom that are seen today.  This is not so, and could not be further from the case.  He writes back in January of 1802:
"...that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American People which declared that their legislature would 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state.  Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

Jefferson believed that religion and its free exercise was beyond the reach of the federal government, and from other letters we see that he believed any attempt to control that practice was akin to treason.  For folks to use an erroneous quote in defense of the erosion of religious liberty; or to suggest men and women of faith cannot serve as public servants; these are an affront to everything Jefferson stood for.  Where we read "respecting an establishment of religion," Jefferson clearly saw that no law could be formed with respect to religion, because religious practice was not beneath the rule of government.  This is a far cry from today's twisted and perverted understanding, which would seek to destroy businesses, schools, churches and lives over speech covered by the First Amendment, but which is deemed "offensive" or "inconvenient" by the whiners and criers of society.

Now you know the truth.  Defend it.

(Author's Note: There is an excellent article written about the letter to the DBA that can be found here.)

(Note To The Reader:  Andrew is currently working on a project regarding the proper understanding of the religion clause of the First Amendment.  Upon completion, it will be offered on Amazon for Kindle, and possibly also in hard copy form as well.  We will keep you updated on the progress of this work.  In the meantime, we hope you got something from this foretaste.  God bless you all!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finding The Balance (or, Pick the Jesus in the Middle, Stupid)

(NOTE: This entry originally appeared on Renegade's Rants, April 3, 2008.  It is being re-shared here because the message is more important than ever.  It is our hope that you are able to take something away from this that edifies, encourages and strengthens your resolve to know Christ for yourself; intimately and thoroughly, allowing no one to bring things out of balance!)

...I'd like to spend some time sharing my thoughts which sprung to mind after reading the following comment from a dear, dear friend of mine. He stated:

"I just don't like the intellectualism that so many live in that seems to crowd out the working of the Spirit... ...I think there's a better way then a Sunday morning sermon and not much else."

Indeed, I too have seen this brain over God approach. Sadly, many who follow this way are being led astray. They study and study the Bible, but without the Spirit of God providing understanding, it becomes just another book, albeit a rather ornate, expensive one.

My initial thought, then, is that we must rush to the Spirit. I'm sure this is where some folks now stand, honestly. If you were hurt in the church of the Dry Word, than you must immerse yourself in the Holy Spirit River.

The issue with these approaches, however, is vast, it is large, and most importantly, it is exceedingly dangerous.

You see, each of these approaches takes a bit from the Word of God, and runs the full field, not realizing that they are scoring for the rival team. Intellectual study has a very firm place in the church, or we would not be encouraged time and again to do so. The oft quoted verse is "study to show thyself approved."
However, we are also told not to study too much, because, as it says in Proverbs, "Too much study wearies the body."

We are told several times to listen to the council and follow the instruction of the Holy Spirit. However, we are also cautioned against false prophets, and perhaps the most direct, brutal and shocking caution regarding taking things out of context is found in Galatians 1:6-9, which reads so strongly I simply MUST quote it directly:

Galatians 1:6-9 (New King James Version)
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

As you can clearly see, changing the Gospel to say what it does not say is to be taken very seriously. From the very beginning, the words of God were considered sacred. Nowhere is it better shown than when Israel put the pieces of the tablets into the Ark of the Covenant. It was then carried by priests, defended by the nation, and by God Himself. He takes His word seriously, as should we.

What has this got to do with anything? Plenty.

You see, when people go to the other end of the spectrum and believe that the Spirit is the be all end all, certain issues arise. For one thing, the Holy Spirit is not the extension of God which is to be worshiped. When the Bible speaks of the Spirit, it speaks of a Helper and a Guide. All praise given the Spirit of God is deflected to God the Father.
The wonder working power which many are so earnest for is not meant for a special parlor trick or to tickle a fancy- It is meant for two things: Those who need it's touch, and drawing those folks to Christ, and through Him, to salvation. It is a physical manifestation of God's power.
Craving this power, to the exclusion of God, is not only wrong in that we seek the gift and not the giver, but also in that it GRIEVES the Holy Spirit. More to the point, dear friends, it is dangerous.

Take the example of Simon the Sorcerer. Here was a man who saw the wonders of the Spirit moving mightily through the followers of Christ. He saw it, saw what it did, and he wanted it. So, he went to Peter and said, "Give me also this power," and offered him money for it. He was refused, rebuked, and told that the reason the Spirit would not rest upon him was because of his heart condition.
Many of those who go actively seeking the Power without thought to the Giver do not have the right heart condition. This is the reason that, when the Spirit ministers to those it came to minister to, its physical manifestations leave and go where it is needed, even when those who are seeking the power are still claiming it.

The fact of the matter is that this life requires BALANCE.

Balance is not something that we as humans can do alone- We can balance a bike, we can balance to walk, we can balance our checkbooks... Most of the time. However, we cannot balance ourselves. As it states in the Word, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) This fact is echoed throughout the Bible, such as in Mark 7:20-23, "...What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

However, YHWH is a God of order, of balance. It is through Him and His power that we are able to achieve balance. To seek one aspect of Him alone is to once again go out of balance, falling out of His will, out of His grace, and as such, out of His protection.

Seeking the Spirit of God is a wonderful journey- But it is not one to be taken without the Word of God to guide you. Furthermore, the study of the Word in one's own private time is glorious- But only when the Spirit is with you.

A gifted author by the name of Ted Dekker once stated in his book THR3E that there are three persons in each of us- The good, the Evil and the soul caught in the struggle.

So it is with our search for God. We can seek His words, and die for lack of His Spirit. We can seek the Holy Spirit, and die for lack of guidance. Or, we can seek after and follow the example of Jesus the Christ, Jeshua, and achieve that balance which He embodied.

Scripture and Spirit; Works and Faith; Law and Grace- It is all modeled for us in the life of Christ Jesus.

I'd like to leave you with a quote from another good friend of mine, one who has walked some very dark paths in his life, and so is keenly aware of the Light:

There are three Jesus' out there.
The first Jesus is the one people invoke when in a theological debate.
{the Word alone}
The second Jesus is the one people invoke when their car won't start. 
{the Spirit alone}
The third Jesus is the one who calls us out of darkness.
{the balance}

Which Jesus do you serve?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Palette of God

(Author's Note: After completing this entry, I ran across a site that argues for segregation as a moral must.  I have linked to it here, and may very well craft a rebuttal some time in the future.  In the meantime, consider this entry as an extremely generalized argument against such views.)

Fair warning to those who are racially challenged; to those who believe the KKK and other such organizations are correct; and those who view skin color  differences as a clear sign that people should not mix interracially:  This entry will offend you.  You have my word on that.  (NOTE: All links open in a new window/tab)

I'll mainly be focusing on white and black colors, but believe me when I say that this entry is geared towards all discriminatory thoughts towards all races and nationalities.  I've addressed the equality of women in the Bible here on WarriorSoul, as well as the proper place of men and women in the home.  Now, we will address race.

One of the major reasons given over the centuries for differences in skin color, especially black, is that of the Biblical curse.  Beginning with the early Catholic Church, the first instance provided was the so-called "Mark of Cain."  For those who need a refresher, God placed a mark upon Cain after the murder of Abel to set him apart.  The theory set forward in those early years of Church existence was that black skin was the "Mark of Cain," thus making all blacks descended from the first murderer.
There are several things which cause this idea to fall apart, however, and from a strict Biblical standpoint, to boot.  The first is that the mark was not actually to set Cain apart, in that he was not to intermingle- That would violate the first command given to humanity.  If Cain was truly the first black man, and if interracial marriages were forbidden, then God would have forced Cain to violate the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  Secondly, it states in the account that it was a mark, not a covering.  Thus, a localized pigment change, such as a birthmark commonly called a "cask stain," would be far more likely than claiming he was completely black.  Finally, the mark was not a curse, but God's physical sign upon Cain to symbolize to all people that he was under Divine protection- The mark was a blessing, not a curse.

The second instance is that of Noah's curse upon Ham.  This was a severe misreading of the text, but we will come to that momentarily.  In case you can't remember what happened: The theory is based upon Noah's son Ham walking in on his father, who had passed out naked after drinking, and making sport of him.  When Noah was informed of what happened, he cursed his son for his insensitivity and dishonor. Look at the curse, though; examine the wording in Genesis 9:25.  Noah actually places the curse, not on Ham and thus all of his offspring, but upon Ham's firstborn, Canaan.  Thus, the curse rested upon one son and his descendants- Not all of Ham's. If dark skin were the result of some sort of curse that Noah pronounced, then wouldn't the people of Sheba and Dedan be under that curse?  After all, they had dark skin!  Yet Sheba and Dedan were the grandsons of Cush, not Canaan, and thus not under the curse.  No, after careful study, skin color cannot be attributed to any curse.  Instead, it is the result of prolonged exposure to a location specific environment and ecosystem, among other natural factors.

If interracial marriage was a sin in God's sight, then it would have been punished accordingly.  Yet Moses married Zipporah; daughter of Jethro, priest of Midian- And from the land of Moab.  Study the genealogy, and one discovers that Zipporah was the black woman that Miriam and Aaron would later speak against.  When they did, God Himself stood against them, shutting down their objections for good.  (Miriam was struck with leprosy.)  Yet for all of this, nothing ever happened to Moses on account of his marriage.
Another example is that of Ruth, who was a Moabitess.  Indeed, the book of Ruth uses this term to refer to her nearly as often as her own name!  The book of Ruth also refers to her dark skin in the original texts, though this is glossed over in most modern translations, including the King James.  This aside, she marries Boaz and they are blessed, not punished.
As a brief third mention, Rahab was most likely dark skinned also, as well as being covered beneath the curse of Noah- Jericho was in Canaan, the land of the descendants of the cursed son of Ham.

Now, there are three more points to make.  The first is that Jesus wasn't white.  Historical accounts of that time indicate the Jews were a great deal darker, resembling more the people of India rather than the Romans- Much less modern day Caucasians.  Secondly, Christ's lineage comes through at least two black women, (Rahab and Ruth), if not more.  Thirdly, Christ will return to take and marry His bride- and His Bride is made up of all races, colors and creeds.

With this said- If you still have a problem with interracial marriages, and other races in general, it's YOUR issue- Not God's.  The people who call you racist and bigot- They are right.  The proof you think you have does not exist.  You are 100% wrong on this issue, and God DOES NOT stand with you on it.

So... Maybe it's time for a change?  The only alternative is to continue spitting in the face of God.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quotes: Voltaire

"A good book corrupts bad taste." ~Voltaire 

I have personally been very surprised at how many people of formerly questionable character seem to turn around after an encounter with a really good book.  Whether it be a classic, such as Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; or more contemporary fare, such as Ted Dekker's Blink, Frank Peretti's Prophet, or Joel C Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam, a good book works wonders in the reader.

Some books transport us to places of fantastic adventure.  For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien's immortal Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Some take us to the high seas, such as in Treasure Island; or pit our wits against nature itself, such as in Robinson Crusoe.  Some are filled with very obvious moral lessons, such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, while others trim theirs with magic, sword fights and fantasy, as seen in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series.

What is amazing is that some books which garner controversy today would have been commonplace in years past; likewise, classics from yesteryear are met with heavy criticism today- Declared as being insensitive and intolerant unless heavy revision is made.  Prime examples of this include the Harry Potter series- Which garnered a great deal of harsh words from many sources, not just Christians- As well as the Series of Unfortunate Events books; both of which would have been well received if written fifty or so years ago.  Many of the classics which people today deem worthy of massive revision include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Conversely, certain things which are now well received would have, and did, cause controversy a mere thirty years back.  The book Lolita, for instance, was roundly denounced in many circles when it was written- Even being banned in two countries the same year it was published!  Yet today, somehow, it is finding its way into mainstream society's acquiescence. More recently, the book Fifty Shades of Grey was published to critical acclaim- But society in general would have rejected it for its subject matter thirty years ago.

In light of his quote, I believe Voltaire would be suffering from massive heart palpitations, (and possibly stroke), were he alive today.  Rather than good books corrupting bad taste, bad taste has corrupted good books.  Perhaps it began with the sanitation of classics, as I've heard one professor suggest, but it has certainly culminated with a mass loss of good taste and decency.
The "Slippery Slope Argument," which some will no doubt accuse me of making here, is only a fallacy when one ignores the fact that history proves it to be accurate, albeit simplistic, in many cases.  The decline and ultimate dissolution of of common society can routinely be traced to an at large societal decision of now questionable nature.  While I cannot say for certain if that decision was the revision of classic literature, it is clear that the over-sensitivity of society to foolish things, while remaining apathetic to things which demanded their concern, began somewhere.

An example of the vehemence directed
at the Bible
The number one book on the revisionist's hit list; the greatest transgressor of offense and political incorrect subject matter; is the Bible.  What is the reason?  Slaves in the Bible were not solely of darker skin- They were of all different nationalities.  The youth of married women, perhaps?  This was a custom that held even one hundred years ago; however, with all fringe movements aside, the majority of modern Bible followers agree such a marriage to be damaging today.  Perhaps it is the warfare, adultery and bloodthirsty actions of the kings within the pages of the Bible?  How so, when one look at the reception that modern entertainment receives shows not a one victim of the same vehement vitriol as is directed at the Bible.  Not a one is demanded to undergo revision for "insensitivity."

So, what could be the cause of the spite and anger revisionists direct at this single text?  Why is the demand for revision not extended to books such as the Qur'an, or the Mack Bolan series?  Why are shows such as The Shield not dealing with the same call?  Why are movies such as 300, Pathfinder, or Sin City met with demand for more, rather than a wall of silence?  What about music by such bands as Slipknot or Cannibal Corpse?  What makes the Bible such an offensive book?

The only conclusion I've been able to reach, my friends, is that which rests in a common nickname for the Bible itself: "The Good Book."  It is the best sort of book, where every evil is punished; where every wicked deed is answered for; and wherein is found a solid, concrete code of moral conduct.  The Bible is the ultimate enemy of a society consumed by bad taste, because it is the ultimate good book.  Because it stands as the last unflinching standard of unwavering morality.  Because it reminds all who read it that there is a final judgment; that they are responsible for the actions carried out in bad taste, or against anything else contained in that moral code.

Because, as Voltaire so accurately observed, "a good book corrupts bad taste."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things I've Learned From Blogging

I've been blogging in one form or another since 2001- Perhaps earlier, now that I think about it.  In the time I've spent doing this, I've discovered some interesting facts about myself, blogging in general, and life on the whole.  Considering how long it's been since I last posted consistently, I thought it may be a good idea to write about the lessons I've learned.

Some of these are very recent lessons, and others are not.  I hope that you get a good laugh out of these, and possibly learn something as well.

-Do Not Announce A Series Unless It Is Already Written.

I would like to say that I am always so passionate about what I'm writting that I do not need to write a great deal in advance, but frankly, that is simply not the case.  I've started several series in my time blogging, and in most cases, I've fizzled out.  Much like a fire log, I start out slow, burn brightly, and then for some inexplicable reason...  I go out befire the fire actually starts.  Anyone who has ever used generic fire logs knows exactly what I'm talking about!
SO- This more recent lesson is quite simple: Write the series ahead of time, and then announce it.

-Do Not Write An Opinion Piece Without Supporting Facts.

It is absolutely without question that if one has any sort of readership, opinions will be questioned.  Unless one is an expert on a subject, one MUST ALWAYS have supporting facts at the ready.  Cookie Monster may write a blog on cookies, and no one will question his expertise in the matter- But if he writes about garbage, you know Oscar will come along shortly to question him.
Object Lesson?  I'm not Cookie Monster, so I'd better have my facts straight.  Even if there's a difference of opinion, the facts can concievably support mine.

-Do Not Write An Opinion Piece Without All The Facts.

Never have I been so humiliated than when posting a retraction.  Writing about a news article, current event or similar issue is fine, but make sure that all of the facts have been examined- Or at least all those which are available at the time.  It is not always possible to get every detail, and in these cases, it is best to say something like "at this time," as opposed to "I was wrong on this."
Moral of the story?  Contrary to popular belief, words can hurt you, and most often, those words are in the form of retraction!

-Write About What One Enjoys.

I have attempted to write on several sorts of subjects, and without fail, any piece I start that does not have my full interest falls to the wayside.  This is often because I start thinking "I can do this," and wind up falling asleep- The subject was simply too boring to keep me focused.
So with that said...  Write about what interests you most, and success will most often be yours.

-Make Use Of Search Words And Phrases.

I once wrote a blog about what happens when I deal with insomnia.  In it, I detailed the trouble of getting my brain to quite firing on all cylinders; and how these times of sleeplessness often led to seemingly random thought patterns which wound up being rather profound.  I titled the blog "Random Thought Generator."  That one blog has more views alone than the majority of my other articles combined.  Why?  Because for some reason, when people are searching for "name generator," or something similar, my entry comes up.
Lesson: Use search phrases- but use them wisely.  Stringing them together can get you blacklisted faster than Lady Gaga's meat dress at a vegan convention.

-Write About What You Believe.

I once knew a gentleman who used to state repeatedly that if something was worth believing, it was worth discussing.  This is very true of blogging.  The articles that are written for a blog are, in effect, your half of a conversation.  Written properly, the article will garner attention and comments; written poorly, (say, written about something one does not believe in), will cause the entry to simply sit there, taking up space on the internet.
What to learn from this: Belief changes everything.  Write about what one believes, and watch it become pure gold.  Write about what one does not believe, and watch it wax archaic faster than the term "world wide web."  (Which, ironically, is all that your piece will gather.)

-Be Careful What And Who You Write About.

I once wrote a piece on the political leanings and donations of one Mark Z. while I was on Facebook.  Within a month of that piece, my account was shut down.  I probably spent far too much time on it anyway, so they actually did me a favor.  With that said, however, it really made me realize just how far some folks will go to keep their activities secret and hidden.  Needless to say, I've begun to pay as much attention to the individual's past practices when dealing with opposition as I do the story itself.
The lesson here is simple: Write about a person no one knows, or write a favorable piece on a public figure, and no one will care.  Write a story on what you witnessed the Mob doing last Friday, and be prepared for cement shoes.

I hope that you've enjoyed this little piece as much as I did in writing it.  If you actually made it this far, even more kudos to you!

If you're still reading, allow me to make a suggestion: Go write a blog of your own.  You never know just what may come out of you!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fathers- Recognized Beyond Father's Day

“He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” 

I can think of no better way to start an exposition such as this than by these words spoken by Clarence Budington Kelland.  Though the human experience is one of differing relationships, running the gambit from excellence to tragedy, there is one truth that shines forth clearly: We all, every one of us, need a father.  A father is not merely a name in the home, regardless of how we’re brought up.  A father is the pattern by which we adjust our own lives, and it is to his influence that we bend.

When I see this quote, I often think of my own father, who in spite of his downfalls provided me with an excellent model to follow after.  As with all children, I did not pay close enough attention to all of those lessons.  Some of us must simply learn the hard way, and that’s that.  Yet when I look back, I know that there are many things about me that are completely thanks to his part in my life.

My father was a hard worker, and even when accusing me of being lax or lazy, (which I was), nevertheless instilled in me the desire to always move forward with my nose to the grindstone.  I am not work obsessed, but I do know the value of a hard day’s work- And that is thanks to my Dad.

My father also taught me respect.  Respect for women, and respect for authority.  Respect also for those with less than I, and for those who are my peers.  When speaking out of line with an elder, I had only to catch his eye to remember my place.  When teasing my younger sisters, or one of the neighborhood kids, I’d only need to think of him to bring it to an end.

Yes, my father had his shortcomings- So do we all!  He overcame those, though, simply by living.  Though he stumbled on the road of life from time to time, he showed by example that a life well lived is not about how few times one falls; rather, it is about how one chooses to carry on.  Like my Dad, I too have stumbled along this winding path; but I have learned well from him this lesson, and I refuse to be defeated.

This quote also reminds me of the words of Jesus Christ.  In John 8:28, He says that He did only as His Father taught Him.  Then, later on in verse 38, He says that He was speaking only what He saw His Father do.  Not a single person on the planet can say that Christ was anything but good- Not when speaking truthfully.  Some may doubt His existence, but they cannot deny the Gospels show Him to be, if nothing more, a good man.  Christ tells us that all which He said and did came as a result of His Father.

The beauty in this concept is awe inspiring.  Christ’s Father is also our own, for those who know Him.  For those who do not, He waits as the father of the prodigal son; ever watching from His hill, so that when we broken and battered souls take that first step, He can run to us and bring us the rest of the way.  He forgives the past, strengthens our present, and grants hope for the future.

He is the ultimate role model for fathers everywhere.

There are some of us today who have never known a true father.  My father, for all of his examples, was also absent a great deal.  When he was not out working, he was home working, and I look back on those times and wonder what things would have been like otherwise.  Looking back, though, never does anything for us; not unless we wish only to see how far we’ve come.  Still, many of us with less than ideal childhoods will gravitate, once or twice a year, to the greeting cards section.  Why?  Simply to read those lovely words, wistfully, and to dream.  Sometimes, we dream of what might have been, but other times, we dream of what we hope will be.

Someone once said, “Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”  Some of us have never known that guiding hand.  Others of us have known only a hand too heavy, and too hard.  While some wish for the fond memory of such a tender feeling, others wish to escape the sense of their father’s hand.

Here too, we find that God the Father is perfect.

We are told in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  His hand on our shoulder is never too heavy, and never too hard.  It is never rough, but always gentle and kind.  He is not the father some of us knew growing up- The one just waiting for us to make a mistake.  Rather, He is the father who knows mistakes will happen, and waits instead for the opportunity to make things right. 

The difference is slight, perhaps, but oh so vital!

Geoffrery Hill summed up the trouble all fathers face quite succinctly.  He said, “Finally coming to terms with Fathers Day. I blow as a Dad. I get it. No, I'm not an evil, abusive Father, it's just that while all my intentions and thoughts have been out of love for my kids, my actions and behaviour never measured up.”  Somewhere in the live of fathers was a father who gave up; a father who became so profoundly frustrated with himself, he simply stopped.  Perhaps for some of us it was even before we were born- Perhaps some of us had a father who never was.  Perhaps some of us knew a father that we wished were not.  Others may have earnestly desired a father of some kind, while others prayed for a father of any other kind.

What I’ve come to realize as I’ve grown older is that not every father is entirely responsible for his weaknesses.  Oh, they are responsible for their own decisions, and no doubts about that!  However, when a father makes a “bad call,” it is rarely due to their being absolutely evil incarnate.  Most times, it seems due to a flawed decision structure.  It is due to the fact, that somewhere down the line, a father gave up.

Here again is the beauty of God the Father, for He has stated “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  He is not the giving up kind.  He is the type of father that will always be a phone call away; always ready to lend a helping hand; always ready to comfort; and always ready to forgive a hasty, angry word.  He is the Father that never stops.

There is something I find so comforting in this.  The fact that, though I fall a thousand times, He never quits picking me up.  Though I become angry, He never takes offense.  Though I ignore Him, He never stops listening for me.  He is the ultimate Father, and the ultimate role model.

“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”  -- Abbé Prévost

The very center of every child’s universe truly is the father- While mothers nurture, it is the fathers who provide the atmosphere; the sunlight, if you will, for the young to grow strong.  A single word from a father can affect the child directly, whether spoken to them, or to their mother.  The power of a father is tremendous and yet vital; for he who wields it, perhaps it is also a bit terrifying.

So, with this in mind and in closing, let me address the fathers in this room- All the fathers, those who are and those who will be.  The Lord has given us a clear model for fatherhood: firm discipline, amazing grace, abundant mercy, and never ending love.  This is the model every father should strive for, and the model that I would hope every father seeks to attain.  It is a worthy goal, and one that all should reach for.

Yet, with all of this said, there is one thing I believe is greater than even this; greater, only because it is absolutely imperative.  Only because it is required, if one is to ever achieve this goal.

Fathers, if I may pass on a single word of advice to all of you; a single statement that will make the difference between a failure and a father; it would be this:

Never Give Up.  The getting up is ultimately more important than the failing.

This has been an excerpt from an excellent book that was recently published with much more on the importance of fathers.  It is titled Fatherly Reflections, and I personally recommend it highly.  Along with this very post, one will find many other anecdotes, poems, advice, and memories of other fathers.  You can find it for Kindle as well as in traditional format.  If you like what you see, consider getting a copy for yourself!