Saturday, January 28, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance

© 2004 and 2017 Christy K. Robinson

Holocaust Remembrance Day is kept every year, in thoughtful commemoration of a very dark period in human existence, the 1930s and 40s obliteration of more than 13 million people, six million of them European Jews. We particularly remember the attempt to exterminate the Jews, because it was a war on their religion and culture. 

Though we think such a hideous, inhumane atrocity might never happen to us in modern times, we have only to remember the Bosnian genocide of 1992-95, where 8,000 Muslims of Yugoslavia were massacred in a sanctuary town by Serbian Orthodox Christians.

We live in a frightening, blood-soaked, war-crazed world, even now, decades after the Holocaust. It’s one thing to read the news of war and genocide in another hemisphere or era, but it’s another thing to realize that there’s warfare all around us: police officers and children are shot to death because of drug trafficking or domestic violence; pension funds are lost and home mortgages swallowed up by bankers because of callous greed. Crazed shooters rampage through schools and businesses. Dare we say that we’re living in a spiritual Holocaust now? The flames feel pretty hot, don’t they?

In 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NIV, God “anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” The Holy Spirit guarantees our salvation and protection of our souls. The seal of God is the Holy Spirit Himself!

Christians and others of many faiths pray every day for those with family problems, for relief from pain and sickness, that people will get a job or victory over addictions, or that they will discover God’s will for their lives. There are battles going on all the time. We don’t have divine promises that we’ll have miraculous deliverance from these temporal pains and struggles.

But Jesus has won the war. He loves us so much that He voluntarily laid down His life for our salvation. He came to live in our skin, and paid the death penalty of sin so that we could have an infinity of forevers, living with Him. We live this life with hope of eternal salvation because Jesus rose from His tomb, triumphant and victorious over sin and its effects.

So while we soberly remember the Holocaust, and vow that its evils should never be repeated, we must remember that we are living—right now—in the spiritual Kingdom of God, as citizens. Our Savior has promised that one day soon, He will return and personally wipe away our tears. We will spend eternity with Him, in perfect peace and joy.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
There is none other commandment greater than these
.”
Mark 12:31

UPDATE, 2017:
I wrote this article in 2004, for a daily devotional book called We Shall Be Changed. At that time, we were saying, “Never forget” so another Holocaust would be impossible. In solidarity with Jews around the world, we mourned the loss of millions, and try to recognize the seeds of racism, oppression, and fascism, to root them out before they can flower and produce seed. We thought a repressive, fascist regime could never come to America. Even if we were not of the same political party as the President or Congress, we all trusted that America had a good system of checks and balances; prejudice and bigotry, virulent hate, and ignorance would be overcome by the rule of law and the Constitution.

And then came Donald Trump. In his army of admirers he counts white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, those who fear and/or hate Muslims and foreigners with brown skin, those who impose their narrow religious beliefs on all people, those who gravitate to a powerful leader, violent thugs who punch black people at Trump rallies, those who shame women for their appearance, those who tear off a Muslim woman’s hijab and threaten her life, and sexually assault women and then laugh about it. Perhaps most surprising is that millions of right-wing Christians support Trump and his policies.

The Christian Right are unconcerned about Trump’s lies and “alternative facts” because some fundraising mega-millionaire religious leaders (James Dobson, Jerry Fallwell Jr., Franklin Graham) say Trump is born again, God is still working on him and we need to give him a chance.

The proof of change is in a changed life, changed speech, changed behavior. Trump hasn’t changed a bit in the year and a half since they decided he was born again. He said himself that he has nothing to confess! The lies, the insults, the threats and the dog-whistle incitement to assassination say he hasn’t changed.

On the one-week mark of his new presidency, Trump signed an executive order that was almost certainly written by his adviser, Steve Bannon, a white supremacist. The order bans Muslim refugees (including women, children, and the elderly) from the war-torn Middle East, and it favors Christians, which violates the Constitution’s first amendment, where the US government can’t establish or favor one religion over another. Even permanent residents with “green cards” will be exiled if the Supreme Court doesn’t stop it.

The order seeks to prioritize refugees fleeing religious persecution, a move Trump separately said was aimed at helping Christians in Syria. That led some legal experts to question whether the order was constitutional.
One group said it would announce a court challenge on Monday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the order targets Muslims because of their faith, contravening the U.S. Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
"President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security," said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-refugees-idUSKBN15B2HL

Trump and Bannon are planning to deport millions of Hispanic people who were born elsewhere but brought here by their parents, and who know no other country or home but this one. Homes and lives will be ripped apart so Trump can build a fence or wall that’s easily tunneled or flown over.

On the same day as Holocaust Remembrance, January 27, 2017, the anti-abortion March for Life was held in Washington, DC. Vice President Mike Pence was there, and said triumphantly, “Life is winning in America.”
A Syrian refugee weeps at the loss of one of his children.

But it’s not winning in Syria for those fleeing war and death, the same grieving, horrified, helpless people we were told by Jesus that we must visit in their confinement, tend when they’re sick, feed, and clothe because they were the “least” of his brethren (siblings). He said to love the “stranger” (foreigner) among us as we love ourselves. He said that those who do care for the helpless will enter his kingdom. 

Many conservatives claim to be Christians who are pro-life for fetuses (and that's fine), but when it comes to their own countrymen, much less the foreigners among us, they’re remarkably callous and cold. Because their health insurance is high-priced, they’re angry that they have to help subsidize other peoples’ health insurance. “Let ‘em die!” they shout at political rallies.

In addition, Trump and his temporary ally, Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan, are overturning the Affordable Care Act, to drop 30 million Americans from healthcare. Without diabetes or cancer meds, how many millions will wither and die? Without care for burns, or small tumors, or without flu shots, how many people, how many seniors in delicate health, will die? The mind boggles. These people who care only for themselves are not worshiping the real Jesus Christ—they’re following the money idol, and false messiahs. "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” Matt. 7:15

Here's a verse you may have learned as a child, and thought it was only about cursing: "Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain." That's not about cursing. It's about the way you represent God's character ("name") to the world.

You know what, conservatives? The world is watching you. They’re observing your testimony of Christianity, and they’re rejecting it. Atheists are sickened by your attitudes and your false prophets, and they throw your false Christ on the dung heap. Who else is sickened? The liberal (which means "generous and open-minded") Christians who do follow Jesus’ commands. And it’s highly probable that without a change toward Love, you won’t be found in the Book of Life.

It may require a change of local church or denomination, and deprogramming the lies you’ve been taught on TV and radio. It may mean changing party affiliation. But ask yourself if the conservative ethos is biblical, if your eternal life is worth following such unloving fake Christians off the cliff.

For there is a holocaust waiting for people who are not loving others in the same way God has loved you. There's a four-letter word for that.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Those with whom he is pleased




“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

With whom is he pleased?

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:10,11

That means you. God is pleased with you.
PEACE.

Friday, December 23, 2016

All We Like Sheep

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Every December, I listen to hours of Christmas music in a mix of styles on an mp3 player hooked up to my speakers. I have a huge variety of artists, from Celtic bagpipes to Mannheim Steamroller, James Taylor and Steven Curtis Chapman, Brooklyn Tabernacle and Casting Crowns, Harry Connick Jr. and Point of Grace, Sting and Barbra Streisand, and probably 20 other soloists or groups. I don’t like the Santa, snow, or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” party music, but I do have medieval to contemporary music from numerous countries, so it doesn’t get stale or repetitive.

But as beautiful and touching as the songs are, the best are the choruses from Handel’s oratorio Messiah. One album is a traditional choir with soloists and string ensemble, and the other is an album from the traveling show in the late 1980s, Young Messiah. The latter has Christian contemporary artists doing the solos and duets, with a choir singing the choruses. (When the show came to my city, I sang in the chorus, and it was fabulous!)

I love the Messiah’s choruses for their majesty and drama, and how their repeated phrases allow us to think of familiar scripture verses in different ways.

One of them is “All We Like Sheep.” The chorus parts, so merry and cheerful and unmindful, chase each other around like spring lambs—let’s do whatever we want because we have no cares, and no one's the boss of us. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.”

Then the tragic consequence of selfish hedonism, and the sudden change of tempo and mood. It’s like a lightning bolt, or a sudden death: “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Instead of running off the cliff onto the sharp rocks below, we are saved, pulled back by the crook of the Shepherd. But he saves us by taking our rebellious sins upon himself, being separated from the Father in death, and then rising from the tomb to assure us that he is victorious over death.

Handel wrote the oratorio in three weeks’ time. That doesn’t seem humanly possible. Many people, including me, believe that the music was given to him by the Holy Spirit. And for 30 years, I’ve had a sort of time-space continuum notion that when Jesus returns in clouds of glory, the victorious trumpet sound (predicted by John in 90AD) we’ll hear will be from Handel’s oratorio, “The Trumpet Will Sound.” And then we millions and billions who are changed into glory will sing Hallelujah from Handel’s pen.

It may be a fanciful notion, but one never knows… 








Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Simple gifts, deep gratitude

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

At New Year's in 2015-16, I wrote of my intention to be more than thankful--I wanted to be grateful. Some people would argue that thankful and grateful are the same. They may be. But to me, grateful goes the extra distance and recognizes the giver for giving up some "thing" of value, whether time, talents, advice, hugs, or of a tangible nature like a service, physical object or money.

Accepting a gift with grace and gratitude is not easy for some of us.
  • Maybe we've taken pride in self-sufficiency and being able to work hard and earn the things we need, so taking "charity" feels shameful. 
  • Maybe we think so little of ourselves that we don't believe we deserve a gift.
  • Maybe we think others need the gift(s) more than we do. 
  • Maybe accepting grace upon grace is overwhelming and the emotions are too powerful. 
  • Maybe we've been given so much and so often that we're a bit jaded. 
  • Maybe we've been given something we didn't want or that didn't suit our tastes. 
If we have a modicum of good manners, we'll say "thank you" at least once, and possibly write a note of thanks.  To live in a state of gratitude is different.

As a recipient who understands the grace and love of the giver, and recognizes that they want the gift to encourage us and give us hope for better times, that they sacrificed something of value (time, money, work, empathy, etc.), we enter into communion with them. We set aside our pride and submit to their grace and mercy, and we return their love with a grateful heart. We "come down where we ought to be." We remember that if we'd earned it, it would be wages; but a gift is given in love and can't be earned.
Ephesians 2:4-9: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." 
I think gratefulness recognizes that gifts come out of love. Love of a friend or family member. Love of a church or nonprofit that takes up special collections or cultivates special donors for extraordinary needs. Love of God who has done his utmost to save everyone who will accept the gift. As the song says, "To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed."

To be grateful is to accept grace that we couldn't earn or deserve--it's a gift from a loving heart, a gift they won't take back.

Learning to be grateful has opened my eyes to not only the value of the gifts I've received, but it's shown me the multiplicity of gifts I've been given. And, of course, when I'm feeling rich in love and awash in goodwill, I have a greater desire to give, and be a blessing to others.

Because giving or receiving gifts is never about the thing.  It's the experience between us. 

'Tis the gift to be simple  'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hitting the pause on Christian values

© 2016 Christy K Robinson
2011-2016: Do Christians think it's OK
to back an immoral politician?

He's done it again. The man who is known for his career as a world-famous neurosurgeon and advocate for education has said that electing a terrible person to office means laying aside your Christian principles for a time. It hasn't even been six months since he said that being nice gets you nowhere

Dr. Ben Carson is not alone in lowering his standards to put politics over personal ethics and religious beliefs.             


Days after this article was written, the New York Times
wrote a tiny, obscure correction, 
saying that 
Carson didn't actually say these words. However,
if you read his words transcribed from the videotape,
he absolutely implied them. He said he'd love to bring
back Judeo-Christian values at another time, but not now.
Following a week of controversy surrounding Donald Trump's admission of grabbing women's genitals, and a steady stream of women coming forward to say they'd been groped or assaulted or leered at while in a changing room, Dr. Ben Carson, who has defended Trump's many unChristian actions and words, implied that the women were lying about Trump. When the CNN co-host, Katty Kay, asked if he thought the victims were lying, Carson raised his voice and sneered at the anchor, shouting that her microphone should be turned off for arguing with him. And he asked if there was a plug for her mouth (to stop the journalist from speaking). He said,
“Listen, it doesn’t matter whether they’re lying or not. What matters is that the train is going off the cliff. We’re taking our eye off of that and getting involved in other issues that can be taken care of later. I love the fact that all of a sudden you want to talk about morality in our country. I would love us to bring back our Judeo-Christian values and begin to teach those things and emphasize them at a time other than a political election. Let’s do that. But right now, the train is going off the cliff.”
So it doesn't matter if Trump assaulted women, if he's lying about it now, or if the victims are lying about it. It's not as important as defeating the hated Democrat on Election Day. And if that offends your political correctness, or your godly principles of morality--hey, lay them aside and vote for the Republican.

Many of the comments below online magazine articles said, "It's Christians like Ben Carson that turned me into an ex-Christian."

I don't know what happened to Dr. Ben Carson. In addition to fame for his professional career, he was a celebrity in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, where he gave sermons and speeches all over the world, testifying how God took him out of a potential thug life and into the halls of academia because his godly mother forced him to read as a boy.

Carson co-wrote several books. I met him at one of his book tour speeches in 1990, and he signed my copy of Gifted Hands, his autobiography. His mother gave me their address and phone number when I inquired about having him speak for an organization I was a board member for. (But the nonprofit couldn't afford to fly and chauffeur and provide first-class accommodations for Dr. and Mrs. Carson and his mother to our event.)
For years, Carson enjoyed the attention for his career, and Christians flocked to his events and to hear "their" celebrity teach a Bible class or preach at a convocation. On a different book tour, he visited the church I attended in California. I didn't follow him online or in print, but at some point he retired from Johns Hopkins. He wrote in one of his books that his hand slipped when injecting a rat with cancer, and he injected himself, and had a reaction. Then he was successfully treated for prostate cancer (he seemed to connect the two incidents). I think the next time I heard about him, it was at the rise of the Tea Party, when they used his "blackness" to oppose anything and everything to do with President Obama and universal healthcare.

He started getting media attention again. Then we learned that Obamacare is worse than slavery, the Egyptian pyramids were used to store grain against famine, straight men go into prison and come out gay, he's more offended by gun control than a body with bullet holes. Worst of all, in my opinion, is his belief that government and religion should be blended because America is a "Christian nation," though he opposes another religion--especially Muslim (a dig at President Obama's African father)--in the Oval Office.
ADDITION: On March 6, 2017, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration, Carson said, "That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue happiness and prosperity in this land."  
What? Slaves were not immigrants with dreams. They were forcefully abducted from their home and country, separated from their families, imprisoned until a slave ship with manacles could be filled with them, then transported while lying in chains in their own waste, then sold at auction, forced to work under the master's lash for the rest of their miserable lives in the hot sun or freezing cold, knowing that their children were also property and were doomed to the same fate for unknown generations to come. 
So, is the man mentally ill? In 2015, Rolling Stone wrote that fame is an addictive drug for Carson.
Even his speaking demeanor drips with disregard: the total unconcern with being audible, as if anyone who has trouble hearing needs to lean closer; the endless dilations delivered with eyes almost fully closed, as if eye contact or even the presence of others is immaterial; the answers that engage topics of interest to him at a plodding pace regardless of your available time, ending at a terminus of his choosing, the journey intelligible only to himself. More pointedly, almost the only time Carson raises his voice, opens his eyes and looks directly at someone for a response is when he's angered. 
That's not the man I met in the 1990s, the man who urged people to get an education, and to have dreams and goals to pursue. The younger Carson certainly had an ego, but not the bitter, nasty temper. He still had Christian values then, that included being nice to people, telling the truth, and having some personal integrity. Maybe some compassion for victims of assault or trauma. Now he's a heap of rubbish to both Christian and non-believer, because that's where he's publicly laid his Christian values, without regard to what that says to unbelievers about ALL Christians, right, left, or center.
There it is at my church in Arizona:
Drumpf support on a car in the
parking lot. Even AFTER the
revelations of sexual assault and
unrepentance.

This is the type of comment that appears under articles that include Carson, Fallwell, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, and other religious right leaders.
  • Hypocrisy is the foundation of xianity.
  • The christian right actually believes the rest of us are persecuting them on a daily basis. I sure wish we did.
  • "Religious right suddenly decides morality's not important in politics:  How in the world did this happen?" That's because the so-called religious right had decided some time ago that morality is not important in their version of Christianity. 
  •  Grace is a cheap commodity with them.
  • The religious right, the "Moral Majority" as they like to call themselves, are, and always have been, about money and politics - it's never been about morality or doing what's right. I thought that was pretty obvious decades ago - it's damned undeniable now. 
Imagine what the witness of Christians could be if we upheld the standards of the Beatitudes or the Love-Your-Enemies thing in our own lives, and stopped trying to impose Old Testament Jewish law on our modern, secular culture? What if, in an election, we supported people of honor, and in the absence of that choice, did the best we could by studying the voter guide, or withholding our vote for that one office?


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.
BOSTON IN NEW-ENGLAND
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.

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