Tuesday, September 13, 2016

To All Ignorant People That Desire to be Instructed

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

William Perkins, 1558-1602, a moderate Puritan who earned his BA and MA degrees at Cambridge University in England, was one of the teaching “fellows” when John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims to America, was a student there in the 1590s. Though Robinson wasn’t a Puritan, he was a Separatist, one who had broken with the Church of England over its adherence to many of the Catholic practices and beliefs. Robinson, a university professor himself, wrote many tracts and books before he died in 1625, and you can see the surprising (for that time) amount of compassion and grace that contrasted with the grim hellfire sermons of his contemporaries.

My attention was attracted to William Perkins by this image of a 1682 reprint of his 1591 book. The title is hilarious, because it insults the potential reader and book buyer, and the art seems to show a pagan (or Native American) of tropical climes. Imagine, if I used this for a shingle to attract piano students. 

But if you’re like me, curious with a quirky sense of humor, you’d pick up this book in Ye Olde Bookshop, or do an archives search for the title.

I grew up in a fundamental Christian denomination that now has a spectrum of believers, from those who take the King James Bible literally and quote church writings by the full paragraph, to those who intellectually or culturally assent to the creed, but don’t really practice the specifics in their lives. 

When I was in denominational elementary and high schools, I heard that novels were evil, and full of lies, and that we should spend our reading energies in religious works or the Bible. Please note #14 below, about Skoggins' jest books.

When I began reading Perkins’ book, which is not funny at all, I saw a few things that I’d disagree with, but many that I’d say have held up remarkably well over 425 years. Perkins lists 32 sentences that “ignorant people” have said regarding their spirituality. They can be summarized in a person who says that they attend services, and because they believe in God they can live any way they like, and confess on their deathbed, and that is sufficient for salvation. (Believing in God’s love and grace, and learning from the thief on the cross with Jesus, that’s certainly a possibility—but the better choice is to live such a life of compassion, mercy, love, justice, humility, and grace that you can be confident that you’ll meet the Lord with joy rather than fright.)

Perkins goes on at length, to give scriptures that refute or refine the 32 ignorant sayings. But what I thought was most sensible was this:
“I answer again, that it is not sufficient to say all these without book, unless ye can understand the meaning of the words, and be able to make a right use of the Commandments, of the Creed, of the Lords-Prayer; by applying them inwardly to your hearts and consciences, and outwardly to your lives and conversations. This is the very point in which ye fail.”

Boom! Yes, that’s it!  You might live long enough to luck into a deathbed confession and absolution, but what about the life between now and then, learning to be a disciple, learning to be God’s child and trust his leading, and learning the joy of a personal journey with the One who bought your eternal life? Rather than dying a “good death,” live with high morals and ethics that lift up other people.

It’s the difference between an ignorant person and a wise one.

Perkins' book, 1591 version
that Rev John Robinson
would have read or studied in university

The foundation of Christian religion: gathered into sixe principles. And it is to bee learned of ignorant people, that they may be fit to hear sermons with profit, and to receiue the Lords Supper with comfort (1591)

PSAL. 119. Ver. 133.
The entrance into thy Word sheweth light, and giveth understanding to the simple.

By William Perkins.
Printed by Samuel Green, and sold by Mary Avery near the Blue Anchor in Boston. 1682.

TO ALL Ignorant People
That desire to be INSTRVCTED.

Poor People, your manner is to sooth up your selves, as though you were in a most happy estate: but if the matter come to a just tryal, it will fall out far otherwise. For you lead your lives in great ignorance, as may appear by these your common opinions which follow.
1. That Faith is a mans good meaning and his good serving of God.
2. That God is served by the rehearsing of the ten Commandments, the Lords Prayer, and the Creed.
3. That ye have believed in Christ ever since you could remember.
4. That it is pity that he should live which doth any whit doubt of his salvation.
5. That none can tell whether he shall be saved or not certainly; but that all men must be of a good belief.
6. That howsoever a man live, yet if he call upon God on his death-bed, and say, Lord have mercy upon me, and so go away like a lamb, he is certainly saved
7. That if any be strangely visited, he is either taken with a Planet, or bewitched.
8. That a man may lawfully swear when he speaketh nothing but the truth, and swears by nothing, but that which is good, as by his faith and troth.
9. That a Preacher is a good man no longer then he is in the Pulpit; They think all like themselves.
10. That a man may repent, when he will, because the Scripture saith, At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sin, &c.
11. That it is an easier thing to please God, then to please our neighbour.
12. That ye can keep the Commandments as well as God will give you leave.
13. That it is safest to do in religion as most do.
14. That merry Ballads and Books, as Skoggin, Bevis of Southampton, &c. are good to drive away the time, and to remove heart qualms. [There was a physician of the time who said that laughter with Skoggin's "jest books" was good medicine to heal illness.]
15. That ye can serve God with all your hearts; and that you would be sorry else
16. That a man need not hear so many Sermons, except he could follow them better.
17. That a man, which cometh at no Sermons, may as well believe, as he which hears all the Sermons in the world.
18. That ye know all the Preacher can tell you: for he can say nothing, but that every man is a sinner, that we must love our neighbour as ovr selves, that every man must be saved by Christ: and all this ye can tell as well as he.
19. That it was a good world, when the old Religion [Roman Catholicism] was, because all things were cheap.
20. That drinking and bezeling in the Ale-house or Tavern, is good fellowship, and shews a good kind nature, and maintains neighbour-hood.
21. That a man may swear by the Mass, because it is nothing now: and by our Lady, because she is gone out of the countrey [because there was no mass or praying to the Virgin Mary now that the Church of England was established].
22. That every man must be for himself, and God for us all.
  [there are 32 points of ignorance]

These and such like sayings, what argue they, but your gross ignorance? now where ignorance raigneth, there raigns sin, and where sin raigns, there the devil rules; and where he rules, men are in a damnable case.

Ye will reply unto me thus: that ye are not so bad as I would make you. If need be, you can say the Creed, the Lords Prayer and the ten Commandments: and therefore ye will be of Gods belief, say all men what they will, and you defie the Devil from your hearts.

I answer again, that it is not sufficient to say all these without book, unless ye can understand the meaning of the words, and be able to make a right use of the Commandments, of the Creed, of the Lords-Prayer; by applying them inwardly to your hearts and consciences, and outwardly to your lives and conversations. This is the very point in which ye fail.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Words that mean something

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

"This terrified wild donkey would not leave the firefighters sides yesterday
at the Willow Fire in Mohave Valley. Photo taken by my neighbor and friend,
Chief Bill Weber of the Desert Hills Fire District. The firefighters
sprayed the donkey down and he was safely removed from the danger.
Way to go guys!!!" --
Karen Kuehnel‎, to
Lake Havasu Living Magazine, August 9, 2015
When my friends and I were kids in Christian school, we weren't allowed to say "ass" unless it was the equine kind, and we were quoting from the Bible, as in "Balaam rose up and saddled his ass," or Joseph and Mary and the ass were traveling to Bethlehem. It was fine to say "donkey," of course, but where was the fun in that?

This photo came up in my Facebook "On This Day" app, and my comment was that "If you remember the story of Balaam and the donkey in the Old Testament, donkeys know angels when they see them."

The story is found in Numbers 22:21-35. Balaam was a non-Hebrew follower of Jehovah who lived in Moab, part of modern Jordan. The Moabites were distant cousins of the Hebrews (Moabites were descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham). The Hebrews, who had left Egypt 40 years before, were now conquering Canaan, their Promised Land. The Moabites were understandably nervous about such a large group trampling and possibly making war or claims on their land, and they refused to allow the Israelites to enter their territory. So they called on Balaam, the Moabite prophet of Jehovah, to sacrifice to God and curse the Israelites. Curses and blessings weren't just words. They were calling down God's actions on someone.

Balaam was willing to make some money off the Jordanian and Syrian kings, so he agreed to make animal sacrifices and talk with God, though he didn't promise what he could do or say. On his way to the rendezvous with his contact, Balak, the ass had some problems.

Unknown to Balaam, the donkey could see God's angel blocking the road, and in fright, she pushed up against a stone wall one time, and against a fence another time. Balaam beat her to make her move. Again with the scary angel, and the donkey refused to move, and lay down right under her rider. He beat her again, and that's when the donkey spoke human words to him.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
He didn't seem very surprised at the donkey speaking his language, or perhaps that he understood the braying of hee-haw. Then God opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel with the sword, who told him to go on to meet Balak, but not to speak negatively about the Israelites--only what God told him to say.

Anyway, when I was a child, that was the end of the lesson. The moral was, be gentle and kind to animals. When I was older, the moral was not to disobey God and try to profit from a spiritual gift. 

But as a middle-aged adult who loves to find God's grace in a story, as I read the next chapters, I find that Balaam performed the requested sacrifices and then asked God what he should say about the Israelites, who he could see camped in the distance. He was told not to curse them, but bless them. He said that they were a strong people who would be victors in their conquest. On a different mountain with another seven bulls and seven rams sacrificed (the ass must have been worried at the bloodletting and burning of her barnyard colleagues), Balaam said,
Behold, I received a command to bless:
    he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
    nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    and the shout of a king is among them.
22 God brings them out of Egypt
    and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23 For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
    no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
    ‘What has God wrought!’
On a third day and a third mountain with another 14 animals sacrificed, Balaam gave a similar oracle, even more complimentary to the Israelites. He deeply disappointed the kings who had employed his services, and they refused to pay him. But Balaam, the independent prophet of God, seems to have found "his" people, and he left the kings and went to the Israelites. We don't hear of him again, probably because they had a priesthood, seers, and temple sacrifice system already in place.

So what love do we discover in this lesson from 3,300 years ago?
  • That God loves to love on us, for no other reason than that we are his children. 
  • That though we may think we're in crisis, God has not seen trouble. It's what God sees that counts, not what we see. 
  • That if someone blesses us (by prayer, or laying on of hands, or speaking God's words to us), it can't be revoked. 
  • That God is with us to fight our battles for us, not with us. For us. In our place.
  • That we are already victors, even when it's not immediately apparent. 
  • If God can bless us, we can bless others. We should want the best for God's children, and seek the blessing of God for them.
Words mean something. And Jesus was called the Word of God, "word" meaning an active verb, not a noun or nickname. God does, God acts, God is (one of the meanings of YHWH, "I Am.")

God has been blessing us, he is blessing us, and he always will bless us. It cannot be revoked. The curse of sin and death has been removed, and we are held in the tender arms of a Father who loves us.

Be like the little ass. Pay attention to the angels in the path, and if you can put a firefighter between yourself and the conflagration, or better yet, be the lifesaver, do it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Laid Bare: Bathroom-bedroom police are after your money

© 2016 Christy K Robinson 
When the American Family Association boycott of Target began in May 2016, it was not about who uses which restrooms (because Target has locking restrooms for baby changing and disability access), it was about *FUNDRAISING* for the AFA. 
It's not about transgender people threatening your vulnerable daughters in a public restroom, or exposing their genitalia to impressionable children, somehow twisting children to an inevitable fate of gender reassignment. Do you know that in the AFA-generated hysteria about predators in the ladies' room, the AFA sent straight (but obviously pervy) men into women's restrooms to prove it could be done? Well, they had to send operatives in, because transgender people are not preying on others--they're answering nature's call behind the stall door, like everyone else.
As a public relations and marketing writer earlier in my career, I was told how effective fundraising works, and this AFA campaign is classic. The AFA's "philanthropy" strategy is to:
1. Create fear and outrage (Perverts! Deviants! LGBT! The gay agenda! They're coming for your children!);
2. Organize a petition from which to build a database;
3. Put the petition signer into an appeal cycle so they get hit again and again for ever-larger donations;
4. Ask for money (Urgent! Now! We must stop this outrage!);
5. Suggest giving amounts starting with a high figure and ending with a blank ($1000, $750, $500, $250, $___) and offer credit/debit card convenience or a special envelope for direct mail;
6. Cha-ching!
From the May 13, 2016, WaPo article: "The AFA is also asking for a “tax-deductible” donation of $5 to reach those “who have not heard about the boycott” in an attempt to gain two million signatures. The statement contains a claim that one anonymous donor gave the association $50,000." 

Right. That last statement about the anonymous donor? See Number 5 above. Because the $50K is from "Anonymous," there's no accountability. Maybe there was a donor, or maybe the figure is a planted suggestion. Again, classic fundraising tactic.

When fundraisers and marketers discuss that database, they talk about "giving units," not human beings who are giving sacrificial individual donations or pledging their estate to a charitable trust. Yes, it's that cold.

The AFA reported to Charity Navigator that $25.3 million of their $28 million income in 2014 was from donations. Do they spend those donations on improving family life or feeding/housing/teaching/medically treating children (that would be a big, fat NO), or do they spend their millions on getting their extremist candidates elected, lobbying legislatures, and creating bathroom laws? You know the answer.  
The AFA is not the only fundraising operation that uses the above strategy. Recognize the steps I've outlined above, and give responsibly, where your donations can have the best effect.
When you make donations or support charitable trusts, do so with a heart for the people Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, the people who are "the least of these," or the poor widow who has only mites to put in the offering. Like the men and women Paul thanked in his epistles, support the poor, and support the pastors and missionaries as they spread the gospel. And as a responsible adult who knows that bills must be paid, please support your local church. 
But fear mongers and bigots? No. Deprive them of the fruits of their greed. Don't be a sucker.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Joy among the tax forms

 So I was doing my tax return, as usual at the last minute. As a self-employed person, I never get a refund, and always have to pay double employment tax since it's not shared by an employer, so the government doesn't get my payment until the last few hours before the deadline. I did all my business bookkeeping in the week of Christmas, so in mid-April, it's just inputting it to the online tax service.

I'd saved the 1099 miscellaneous income forms and the charity receipts that came in January, and there was one I was dreading to open because it was from a financial institution to which I was indebted when my father died. Time's up, though, so I had to look at the numbers to deal with the situation.

 "Debt discharged." Not paid by his estate, not charged to me (as I thought). No interest as I feared. Just erased. This is one of those "too big to fail" banks, and they just don't do that. And yet, that's what the letter said. Debt discharged, and the amount.

That's not a bank thing. That's a God thing. I can't and won't tell details in a public blog because no one but me has a right to that information. But when my father died several years ago, there was no inheritance; not one item of antique furniture, family heirlooms, or anything from my father's and mother's estates came to me from my dad's second wife. Nothing except this shared debt. It deepened the grief at losing my dad, knowing that he didn't leave a letter or phone call, didn't bless us, didn't make a will or provision for my brother and me, but put everything in his wife's name. A not-nice person who constantly undermined relationships and treated us badly at every turn. 

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children." Prov. 13:22

But my *other* Father made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. He took my burden onto his own yoke. And he's given me hope. He's proved himself as the Father who has an inheritance for me--both someday, in heaven, and now, in his kingdom. Debt discharged. I'm free.

"You, O God, sent abroad plentiful rain; You confirmed Your inheritance when it was parched and weary." Psalm 68:9

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Going nowhere fast

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

I'd say I'm speechless, but I can't be. My jaw has dropped open in shock, but I definitely have things to say.

Ben Carson said (defending his endorsement of Trump and Trump's bomb blasts of misogyny, racism, religious oppression, and hate) that "...when you're very nice, when you’re very respectful, you talk about the real issues... where does it get you?” Carson asked. “It gets you where it got me: nowhere.”
--The View, 3/24/16

"It gets you nowhere." Bitter much, Dr. Carson? Goodbye to integrity, kindness, compassion, respect for others, not to mention Carson's profession of Christianity, which is supposed to be about compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and taking care of the downtrodden and helpless.

Being "nice" and "respectful" isn't supposed to convey you somewhere, or bring praise or votes or financial success. Being kind is something you do because it's something you ARE
Carson perhaps wants to go "somewhere" after his failed bid for the White House, so with his endorsement, he hitches his wagon to the Trump warhead.

"He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." Prov. 13:20.

An English proverb says that "A man is known by the company he keeps."

Let me be found with the kind, the respectful, the compassionate, the inclusive, the thinkers, the wise, the grateful, but especially the lovers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Are you voting with your middle finger?

Why Christians should not support this man:
"Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas."
"You're known by the company you keep."
We are transformed by what we behold:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8
"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3:18

Thursday, December 31, 2015

What it took me 5 decades to learn

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

I've always been thankful. When I receive a gift, I say "thank you" to the giver, or write a thank-you note before I use the item or spend the money. It's just good manners, as I was taught from infancy. I guess I thought that was enough: acknowledging the gift and telling the giver I liked it and they were very kind to give it. Not any more.

Gratitude is something deeper, I believe. The word comes from the Latin "gratus" or "gratia." We often use the word "grace" in faith settings, and it's usually defined as undeserved favor, or even as extreme as showing mercy to a known enemy. Gratitude is the condition of being thankful for a gift.

If the money or thing was earned, there's no grace about it--it's payment. But gratitude acknowledges that the giver owned something of value and relinquished it forever to the recipient with no expectation of repayment or reciprocation.

There's also a providential time element to consider. When I've been down to the wire on figuring how to get by in a financial situation (had to replace the tires on my car as they crumbled in the Arizona climate, website renewal came up, the air conditioning bill was $225, and my teaching income was next to nothing), I received gifts in the snail mail. Sometimes they come in the form of a freelance job (that I work for), sometimes as a gift card marked "With love from Jesus," sometimes as a "just because" gift, and sometimes a random stranger decides he likes the research articles on my history blog. But there's no accident that they came at exactly the right time. The givers may or may not recognize the whisper of God in their minds. But I do. That's another difference between feeling thankful and being grateful. I know the source of the generosity.

Something I've learned, again and again, but perhaps in a deeper way recently, is that gratitude is a lifeline out of despair. It doesn't make a lot of sense to be grateful for adverse circumstances, but I've found that being grateful that I'm beloved of God, and that I have the respect and love of friends, lifts me up from the pit where the Adversary flung me.

Rather than a rational explanation, the miraculous answer is that when I set my eyes on God, instead of my miserable circumstances, he has the opportunity to remind me from whence my blessings flow--and then sets them in motion. It's not that I deserve the blessing by my actions, but that he loves me and is liberal with his gifts.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, educator and philosopher, passed away in late 2015. His daughter Serena Dyer Pisoni wrote of a sensation of her father's presence in her car when she was feeling burdened by stress, and the lesson she took from it:
"I don't have to wait for ... the stress and the turmoil to go away in order to feel peace. In fact, it's just the opposite. I have to feel peace inside in order to get ... the turmoil to go away. I cannot control what's going on outside of me. But I can control how I react to it. I can choose peace at any time despite what is happening around me."
As mentioned in the video "Just Be Held," if my eyes are on the storm, I'm not seeing the one who's saying "Peace, be still."

So being thankful, nay, being grateful right down to my core, is what I hope to be, and hold in my heart in increasing measure, in the new year ahead.


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