Fighting Fire With Fire

abstract fire on black“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays 2, 1926-29

One of the most important things to a Christian is spreading the “Good News” of the Bible, or the Gospel if you prefer. However, it seems to me that many Christians go about this all wrong.  Instead of showing how Jesus is the answer to their questions about life and its meaning. They attempt to show how what others believe is wrong instead of showing how what they believe is right, complete and the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Instead of fighting fire with fire they attempt to fight fire with the inept smothering of the facts with Scripture verses, dogma, doctrine and tradition which for those that don’t believe in them in the first place is totally ineffective at best and totally offensive and repellent at worse.

I remember having lunch one Sunday after church with a group of my church friends and a visiting missionary-in-training. We were at the only Chinese restaurant in town, enjoying our meal, when the missionary, related a story about how he had visited another Chinese restaurant and had been highly offend by their Buddha statuettes.  He stated how he had just wanted to throw them on the ground and stomp them into dust. He then related a story about a group of missionaries in India who had taken all the idols from the local temple and made a huge bonfire out of them.  I was both appalled and disgusted. To me this was not only disrespectful but downright rude and not representative of God’s love and compassion toward all His creations.

The great Indian liberator and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi, said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  And, I believe that it is actions like the ones listed in the previous paragraph that caused him to make this comment.  So then how are Christians supposed to spread the “Good News” how do we tell others about God’s great love for us and the eternal life He has planned for us? It’s really very simple, you fight fire with fire.

One of the greatest teachers in the Bible the Apostle Paul knew this and he put it to practice when he preached to the ancient Greeks. He did not go to Athens and throw down their idols and make a bonfire out of them. Instead, he showed the Greeks how the god they had been worshipping, the one they called “the unknown god” was in actually our God, Jehovah, the god of the ancient Hebrew children, the god of the New Testament in His son Jesus Christ, and our same God today.  This not to say that he was not disturbed by their beliefs, rather he used their beliefs to show them how the Gospel fulfilled and perfected those beliefs.  He did not shove Scripture down their throats which they would not have believed in anyway. Instead, he took their beliefs and compared them to what had been written throughout Hebrew history. (Acts 17: 16-22) He fought fire with fire.

Jesus said this of His own nature when He stated, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17) It is interesting that some of the meanings for the Greek word “fulfill” used in this translation mean: to complete, to consummate, to accomplish. And some of the meanings for the Greek word used for “law” mean any precept or injunction. Now, we have the natural law that which concerns the physical world and how it operates, and we have God’s law concerning how we act in the natural world, and most non-Christians frequently see these as being diametrically opposed to each other. But if Jesus came to fulfill the law, did He come only to fulfill the Judaic law of the Old Testament, or did He come to fulfill all law both natural law, the law governing all of creation and Judaic law? It seems to me that since all things came into being through Jesus, see John, Chapter 1, then Jesus came to fulfill natural law as well as Judaic law since He is the source of the first and the solution to the second. That being the case, then in order to spread the Good News we need to show non-Christians how Jesus is the answer to life’s physical riddles as well as spiritual ones.

Therefore, instead of quoting Bible verses to non-believers show them those things in nature that point to and verify God’s existence. We live in remarkable, amazing and wonderful times where a world of scientific evidence, daily discoveries and experiments, and an abundance of knowledge is available to each and every one of us with a few computer mouse clicks. Once you are armed with facts that they will believe then quote the Scriptures and show them how God is the reason for this world, its creation and its continuing existence. It will take a little time and effort. It will take some restraint and patience.  But, it will be much more effective and achieve greater results.  But above all preach with your actions first. Walk the talk because that will open the door for of reasoned discussions which will be based on mutual respect, admiration and understanding.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Galileo

abstract fire on black

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Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Blond woman lying in fieldOut beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and right doing,  there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

I have always liked poetry, but I am particular about the types I read. I am not a fan of Sylvia Plath, but I do like Robert Frost. I also have recently discovered Rumi – a poet from ancient Persia, and the above quote caught and captured my attention.  The more I pondered it, the more meaning it seems to hold.

I may not be interpreting it correctly, but it seems to me to offer a sense of freedom, a freedom to be who you are, to believe what you believe and to allow others to be themselves as well.  It made me wonder what the world would be like if we could set aside our thoughts about what was right and what was wrong, and just accept people as they are.  If we weren’t so set on insisting that others view the world in the same way that we see it, would the world be a more peaceful place? Would religious wars cease when we quit enforcing our particular worldviews onto others?  Would we finally be able to accept others as they really are?

This does not mean that I believe that right and wrong are relative. It does not mean that I do not hold concrete beliefs in absolute values of the nature of good and evil. It does not mean that I do not firmly believe that there are some things that are simply wrong and some things that are simply right. It also does not mean I can be swayed from these positions on wrongdoing and right doing. Quite the opposite! I have a solid foundation in my faith of what is good and what is evil. However, what it does mean is that I will not judge others by my standards. And this is what Rumi’s poem means to me.

Whether you consider Jesus as the Son of God and humanity’s Savior, or you consider Him just to be a good teacher, or maybe you don’t consider Him at all, He did make an excellent point. He said: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged“  Luke 6:37 KJV.  It seems to me to be the same point that Rumi is making in this poem. Don’t judge right and wrong and it will set you free from having your own actions as being judged right or wrong.  In that freedom, you can accept others as they are even as they accept you as you are. You can meet them in a field of love, joy, peace and freedom.

It doesn’t mean that you are free to do as you please. You still need to adhere to your own standards and morals. It just means that you allow others to hold to their personal morals and standards without judging them. Jesus also said, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matt 7:2 KJV;   meaning that if you judge someone by your standards then those same standards will be applied to your own behavior.  I don’t know about you, but I frequently fail to live up to my own moral goals and aspirations, and I would hate to be judged for these failures. However, it does seem only fair that if I hold others to these standards, then I should also be held accountable to them.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”  – Lao Tzu

The Storms of Life

Photo By;
Andi Chewning – Norway 2012

“We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor.”
―  Bram Stoker, Dracula

I am not really sure where I am going with this today, my anchor has been lifted and while I am not adrift, I have not really navigated this course before. I want to write what is in my heart without censoring it the way I usually do. I censor my thoughts in an attempt to please others, to impress others and/or to avoid offending someone. Today, I just want to write what is on my heart.

I saw a picture on the news in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy of a seven ton cargo ship that had been tossed on shore a mile inland. The ship was huge, and it was beyond my ability to imagine what kind of force it must have taken to move it a mile away from the shore. I knew its anchor must have been tremendous yet it was not sufficient to save it, and I got to wondering about anchors and their purposes.

Storms come in many shapes and sizes from super storms  like Sandy to a cooling shower on a hot, humid day. They can cause great physical damage or emotional upheavals. They frequently bring death, destruction and pain.  And, anchors, those things which we use to negate some of that damage are not always sufficient.  That tanker’s anchor certainly didn’t protect it very well, and while a storm shelter may provide protection from a tornado what happens in its aftermath? How do you survive, cope and rebuild? How are all those people on the East Coast of the United States making it through the long, dark, cold days and nights without food, lights and heat? What keeps them going? What keeps any of us going when we lose someone we love, when we get divorced, when our friends betray us, when “life happens?” For me it is faith. Faith is my anchor and without it I just drift through life without purpose or direction at the mercy of the whims of fate.

I have raised five children and not all of them had he benefit of a strong faith, but I have noticed that the ones that I raised with a belief in a power greater than themselves had less traumatic teenage years than those that did not. They had an anchor that steadied them against the floods of peer pressure, drugs, low self-esteem and the Hollywood stereotypes of success.  Their faith, I believe, steadied them, and provided them with a secure knowledge of a power greater than themselves and their peers, and a larger worldview than their narrow, short lifespans provided them. This empowered them to stand firm and fight against the storms of life.

So too, in my own life, as I have battled depression, anxiety and stress, my faith – storm mangled as it is – has seen me through, provided me with an anchor and kept me safe to journey on toward new horizons in my life. It is my hope that all of you find a faith with which to anchor your lives and souls, a faith that will lead you to new adventures, larger horizons and more glorious manifestations of the Creator’s love in your lives.

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
―  Paulo Coelho, Brida

The Next Big Thing

 “I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.” 

 Alexandre Dumas – The Count of Monte Cristo

 

Photo by: Keven Law

The title of this blog is in no means an indication of how I feel about my work-in-progress. I was invited to participate in this event by my author friend, Pauline Conolly. Therefore,  I will use this time to introduce my work: SHINE!  which is scheduled for release next Spring by Faith and Reason Publishing.

 
That being said, here goes:
 
 
 
 
1.) What is the working title of the book?
                     SHINE!
 
2.) Where did the idea come from:
                     A sincere desire to share with others my life’s journey to find spiritual wellness.
 
3.) What genre does it fit into?
                   I think it most closely resembles spirituality and  personal growth works.
 
4.) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of your work?
                    Well, since this is an autobiographical, spiritual development book with no characters except myself, this  really doesn’t apply. 
 
5.) Can we have a one sentence synopsis of the work?
                     To be a spiritually mature you must SHINE and bring light to the darkness wherever it is found.
 
6.)  Will it be self-published, or represented by an agent?
                    It will be published by Faith and Reason Publishing with no agent involved.
 
7.) How long did it take to write the first draft?
                   Not long, just a  few of weeks, but the editing process has been going on for a long, long time.
 
8.)  What other books would you compare it within your genre?
                    Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer and Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, but I am not saying that  SHINE!  is anywhere as near motivating, profound or as well-written.
 
9.) Who or what inspired you to write the book?
                    All my college studies in spirituality and spiritual formation left me with a desire to better myself, and grow in my faith, to really SHINE.
 
10.) What else about the book might pique the readers’ interest?
                    It is a brutally honest look at the pitfalls we all become trapped in and that lead to darkness in the soul. I hold nothing back in the process of exposing my own shortcomings to the Light with the hope that it might help others avoid the same traps.
 
Authors invited to participate include:
 
Jody A. Kessler – www.jodyakessler.com
 

Vincenzo Bilof –  http://vincenzobilof.blogspot.com/

 
 
 

“If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”
Walt Whitman
 
 

All Dogs Go To Heaven….Or, Do They?

Photo by: Collin Key

“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

Mark Twain

STOP!!  If you think I am going to answer this question, then quit reading right now because you will be disappointed. Better brains than mine, better educated people, and more learned Biblical scholars have attempted to answer this question, and not succeeded, and neither have I. Unless you have been to Heaven and lived to tell about it, you cannot say for sure what happens there. However, you can have a well-developed and well-founded opinion, and I would just like to add my to the mix and hope it provides you with some insight.

I once heard  Joni Eareckson Tada speak about animals not having souls, and therefore not being in heaven to greet us. She quoted  this verse from Ecclesiastes,  “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” Eccl 3:21 – KJV She implied that this difference of direction meant that there would be no animals in Heaven. I tend to disagree with this strongly, as did many of her listeners.  She later retracted this statement.

However, when I look at the verses that precede this verse, one things becomes clear, not only do animals have spirits but they are, according to Scripture, quite similar in that they both are created by God and destined by God for other things. Ecclesiastes 3:19 states, “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.” – Eccl 3:19 KJV As I mentioned above, I am not a Biblical scholar, I have no training in Greek, Latin or Hebrew. Yet, to my simple mind the message seems pretty clear. All of God’s living creatures breath, die and are destined for other places. There is some debate on what those places might be, and therein lies the heart of the problem.  If animals do have spirits, as Scripture states, where do they go after death.

If you are a Hindu or a Buddhist, or a Native American you are raised to believe that animals have spirits or souls unlike European/Western Christianity where animals are, or were, considered simply an inferior life form. For example, in the Hindu faith all living creatures have an Atman, or soul, and that this soul is continually evolving growing and changing from one incarnation to the next. The Buddhist believer basically agrees with this but also believes that animals possess a spark of the “Divine” and can teach humans many things by their example of gracious living. Most Native American Nations also believe in the spirit or soul of the animal with many tribal religions calling upon animal spirit guides to help them as they walk upon this earth.  Even Islam and Judaism believes that animals have souls, although they do disagree as to their final destination. Which brings us back to the question of are there animals in Heaven.

Lots of people like to use the verse from Isaiah about the lions lying down with the lamb to provide Scriptural support for the view that animals will be in heaven. However, I am not so sure this particular verse applies. It reads, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isa 11:16 KJV. However, when you look at this verse in context with its neighbors it tends to lend itself more to an interpretation of the events during the Second Coming of Christ, or what is called, “The Millennial Kingdom.” A thousand year period of peace and happiness on earth where Christ rules as king.

In my mind, there are two strong verses that support the existence of not only animals in heaven, but the souls of our beloved pets as well. Both of these verses can be found in the Book of Revelations, which is interesting as it speaks specifically of the “End Times” and of the existence an d nature of Heaven. The first verse reads, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” Rev: 19:11. Okay, so here we go. John has a vision of Heaven and he sees Jesus on a white horse. How could this be if there were no horses in Heaven? Now, it could be argued that if they had Hummers or other motorized vehicles in those days, John might have seen Jesus arriving in a jeep, or a tank, or an airplane.  However, they did have carriages, chariots, camel caravans and other means of transportation, and John did not see Jesus sitting in one of those. Instead, he saw him astride a horse. I find this interesting and it tends to lend credence to the argument that there will be animals in Heaven.

However, the most compelling argument, and the one that most people know is the verse in Revelations that speaks about no more tears. It reads, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”Rev 21:4 For many people, this is all the proof that is needed. No more tears, no more pain, no more death. Heaven simply will not be Heaven if it does not contain the souls of all our beloveds including our pets.

To give Joni credit, when she retracted her statement, she did agree that Heaven in order to be Heaven must include replications of our pets so that the pain of their passing would no longer exist. However, I am willing to take it one step further and say that, “We will see all our love ones in Heaven including our pets for our God is a good God and He desires more than anything else to fulfill the desires of the hearts of His children.”

I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he’ll be there.

Rev. Billy Graham