Do You Have a Forgiving Heart?

Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker

Jessica Chastain did a great job capturing the depth and soul of both Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker in the latest movie, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Expecting a sound thrashing and bashing that the secular world inflicts on those self-proclaimed Christians who live like the devil, I was amazed at how Chastain captured the life path and process that started with the innocence of faith and loving the Lord, led to fame and fortune, that all finally crashed and burned.

The sweet faith of these two who would later found PTL (Praise the Lord) was evident from the beginning of the film. Young and new in the Lord, both Tammy Faye and Jim sought an audience among the children, using puppets to proclaim the power of the Gospel. They went on the road and their fame quickly grew.

But as the tens of millions of followers all over the world fawned over PTL and the two witnesses, the temptations that come with money and fame led to sexual sin and corruption and finally jail time for Jim, and later the collapse of the entire empire. Jerry Falwell tried to salvage PTL, but to no avail. And somewhat interestingly his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr. later would fall just as hard, as he was accused of watching the pool boy have sex with his wife in some sort of sordid sexual sport.

Trashed and broken, Tammy Faye and Jim became persona non grata in the Christian world, unable to get anything new and significant going for them. The film ends with Tammy Faye ultimately invited to sing at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. We watch as the audience looks generally perplexed and skeptical, but as the Lord carries her song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, the audience is clearly moved by the Holy Spirit. They begin to slowly stand, bow their heads, and reach their hands toward heaven in worship.

Though Jerry Falwell was strident in his stand against sin, Tammy Faye showed love and acceptance to homosexuals and excluded no groups. None. She sought to love on everyone. And the takeaway of the film is that although another human being who represented the God of all Creation fails and falls hard, her legacy will be the message of the importance of loving people, regardless of who these people might be.

Job’s Wife

Job was a good man, loved the Lord, trusted and obeyed, and did his best to live a life of faith and to please God. Unbeknownst to Job, Satan, a fallen Cherub, sought to put Job to a real test, telling God that of course Job would trust God, for he had been so incredibly blessed.

The test was tougher than anything you and I will ever face. His children were all killed, his possessions stolen or destroyed, and he himself was stricken with painful, bleeding boils from head to foot. He scraped the boils with a shard from broken pottery. The picture is grim.

Job’s friends were of the ‘health and wealth Gospel’ variety, and insisted Job must be hiding some sin or his life would not have taken this turn for the worse. He spent a great deal of discussion trying to convince them that he had nothing amiss. They weren’t buying it, but finally gave up and accused Job of trying to justify himself before God.

Interesting that though Job lost everything, though his wife was spared. As she watched his suffering she just shook her head and concluded with this disparaging remark, “just curse God and die.”

In the end God honored Job’s integrity and rebuked Satan. He restored more than Job had lost earlier, and the takeaway for us is that suffering does not mean we have some unconfessed sin in our lives, that is simply untrue. The lives of people like Jesus and Paul are a testimony to the difficulties that Christians will face if they choose to walk with God. Except for John, all the apostles were hideously executed when they could have saved themselves. All they needed to do was to deny that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Lot’s Wife

Lot was the nephew of Abraham and a good man. But he was drawn to a prosperous town called Sodom, and became one of the respected leaders there. Sodom had been judged shot through with evil, except for Lot, no upstanding and upright righteous people lived there. It would be destroyed just as a pack of rabid dogs need to be put down because there simply is no means of saving them. Nations can cross a line when their sin is so dominant in a culture, that the suffering and sin prevent anyone from breaking out and calling on the Lord for His help. An entire nation can give themselves completely over to sin and darkness and will suffer terrible lives, the consequences of sowing to the flesh and following Satan rather than God.

Two angels led Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the city as fire and brimstone rained down and utterly and completely destroyed lives and property. Though the four were warned, “don’t even look back,” Lot’s wife stopped, turned, and looked back at the holocaust that was occurring. She became encrusted in salt, and the archeologists have today found such large quantities of salt in this area that they suspect either a meteor or volcanic activity accounts for such massive devastation on such a large scale.

The boyfriends of Lot’s daughters, and Lot’s wife, had succumbed to the lure of sin city and found they could not extract themselves nor free themselves from the bondage of the sin that dominated the culture. Sin blinds. Sin numbs. In the end it destroys.

Balaam & Balak

Balaam was a prophet of God. Balak was the King of Moab. Moab had become surrounded by Israel, which had grown in numbers and military might. Balak heard about Balaam and was convinced that if Balaam would pronounce a curse on Israel, the nation of Israel would suffer as a result. Balak sent a contingent to Balaam’s home, offering him a lot of money.

God did not approve of this, of course, but the smell of so much money put Balaam on his donkey and off to Moab he rode. But when he tried to curse Israel as Balak watched, the Lord put in the mouth of the prophet only blessings. He tried several times, but always blessings.

But as we see many times, the determination of man, when it comes to his own will versus the will of God, finally leads man to get his own way, a seemingly successful result, but ultimately ends in destruction. Balaam moved into the Moab neighborhood and counseled Balak how to get the beautiful Moabite women to intermingle, marry and lead the Israelites into their own rites and rituals of idol worship. This finally led to the weakening of Israel as a nation and their own defeat and destruction.

Balaam became a wealthy man, just as was Lot, but was ultimately killed when Moab fell.

Samson & Delilah

Samson was a Nazarite, set apart from birth to serve God as a ‘judge’ over Israel. His strength was legendary and unrivaled, and on several occasions the Philistines learned some pretty tough lessons as he could stand against a great number of them all by himself, holding his own and taking his stand, while thrashing scores of Philistines with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey.

He did not heed the Word of his Lord when it came to his choice of women however, and missed the opportunity to select a wife from among his own people. This led to the enchanting Delilah, whose fealty was first and foremost to the Philistines. They paid her to learn the source of Samson’s strength.

Samson tired of her constant nagging and finally confessed that as a Nazarite he could not cut his hair. So the time came when he was sleeping; she snuck up close to him and cut his hair. It wasn’t the hair itself that gave him power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through the obedience of his people that was the source of the power. Nevertheless, the disobedience meant his strength was sapped, and the Philistines gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him.

Yet just as the anointing on the final song sung by Tammy Faye at Oral Roberts University, the final act of Samson was to wipe out more Philistines in one fell swoop than all the others he had killed when his strength was with him. What today media might call a ‘suicidal religious terrorist attack,’ the Philistines were gathered together to celebrate their god Dagon. After bringing out Samson for entertainment, Samson though blind, felt the large pillars of the temple within the reach of his arms.

Samson prayed to his God and God returned the strength he needed to push mightily against the pillars and collapse the temple, killing 3,000 Philistines, along with Samson that day.

David & Bathsheba

David was loved by God and called ‘the apple of His eye.’ Wherever he went, whatever he did, the Lord gave him success and victory. Though he had been hiding in caves and running from the former King Saul, the Lord protected David and always helped him escape the wrath of Saul.

Once David was finally anointed King after Saul’s death in battle, peace and prosperity prevailed and all the nations feared the power of mighty Israel. But just as in peacetime and prosperous times we may finally relax and enjoy, that is when testing and temptation take their turn at trying to topple the child of God.

Joab, David’s military leader, was off in battle while David stayed home. One evening as David walked about on his roof he saw a naked Bathsheba bathing on her roof not far away. He was smitten and had his servant fetch the beautiful woman. He slept with her and she became pregnant.

David instructed Joab to setup Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, to be killed in battle so he could marry Bathsheba and raise the baby. Needless to say, the Lord was displeased. And consequently the seeds of violence that were sowed brought a whirlwind of violence into David and his family’s life after this. And the baby died soon after being born.

Yet David loved the Lord and continued walking in faith, making plans to build a great temple dedicated to God. With his bloody track record, God forbid that David should build this temple, but was touched and pleased that David had this in his heart and mind to accomplish.

So it was Solomon, another son of David and Bathsheba, that took the plans for the temple and later completed this amazing architectural wonder, filled with gold and silver and so awesome that leaders from all the nations would visit just to see it and to meet Solomon.

Solomon

God spoke to Solomon, instructing him to avoid mixing with nations whose gods were counterfeit gods and whose practices would lead the Israelites astray. But much like Samson, Solomon was tempted through his power and riches, and slowly but steadily lost his anointing and close relationship with God as a result. He married 700 women and enjoyed the company of another 300 whom he didn’t marry. He became involved in business with nations that God had forbid him to trade with. Though he was once intimately close to the Lord, and his prayer dedicating the new temple is one of the sweetest odes in the Bible, he became depressed and despondent in the twilight of his life.

His later writings would declare that all of his knowledge, all of his accomplishments, everything that he had done now seemed to him empty and meaningless, as he would die just as any other man, and would never know what became of all that he left behind. This failure led to a national fracture, and Israel would become separated during the time of Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam. Yet the Lord continued to bless the Israelites and kept for himself a people he loved and had promised through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to shepherd and protect.

Reverend David Hocking, Calvary Church, Santa Ana

Locally here a popular pastor fell into an adulterous relationship and was drummed out of his church. Humbled and broken he approached Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel for work. Many people at Calvary Chapel were appalled and preferred to prevent David Hocking from ever becoming a part of Calvary Chapel.

But Chuck Smith had pastored a long while. He used to say that as time went on he found himself less and less judgmental, and more and more willing to forgive, even some of the more egregious sins. Christians are “becoming” more like Jesus as they grow in faith. Their strident and judgmental posturing gives way to softening and tender, forgiving hearts that see that the truth is we all have a sinful nature. All of us want to love and be loved, but none of us measures up to a standard of “deserving” such love, as we all fall short in some areas of life.

These stories are to demonstrate a common thread. Christians will find themselves on a road that includes many of their personal and inevitable faults and failures. But these are meant to strengthen us, to humble us, in order that we seek God with all our might, knowing that we are incapable of becoming good people with loving hearts through our own efforts. Only by seeing the sinful nature of ourselves can we love others in spite of their shortcomings. After all, everyone is an image-bearer of their Creator, and truth be told, we want to take as many to heaven with us as we possibly can.

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 Corinthians 3:18.

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15.

America in Decline

Yesterday I watched the new documentary, ‘Jesus Music,’ chronicling how these songs written relate to faith, God, and spiritual ups and downs. The genre and growth have radically changed over the years.

It begins with the ‘Jesus Movement’ that began in the early 70’s. Jesus people, also known as Jesus freaks, were disenchanted young people for the most part. They witnessed the emptiness and harm of the sixties sex, drugs, and rock and roll, of which Woodstock was probably the best example in terms of the Cri de Coeur of the 60’s.

Stumbling half-drunk out of a bar one rainy night in April 1972 I walked down a small side street and peered into a window. I saw several long-haired hippies strumming a guitar and singing. They looked happy and the scene was lit up and inviting. They beckoned me ‘come in’ and later that night I ended up praying to accept the Lord in that little coffeeshop in my small midwestern hometown.

Years later I found myself among the young barefoot, shirtless, long-haired men, some with vacant stares from years of LSD trips and drug experimentation. I sat at the feet of a man named Chuck Smith, at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was to spend the next 25 years learning from him, as he taught the Bible from cover to cover. He took many years to get from Genesis through Revelation, but his mission was singular and focused. He just taught. His mantra was “simply teach the Bible simply.”

Bands such as Love Song and artists like Phil Keaggy, Wickham, Chuck Girard, were invited to sing at the church. Chuck baptized Lonnie Frisbee, a spaced-out whack-job of a new Christian, to become a pastor to help him as the church was growing so fast people were sitting outside what was first a huge tent and later to become a large church. Maranatha Music was birthed in 1971 and began to record the rock and roll of holy rollers filled with the Holy Spirit. The bands were good, many of the songs came from their secular days when drugs were a part of their gigs.

When it came to baptisms, Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach was filled with the faithful (including me). Over the years tens of thousands were baptized there by Chuck Smith and his fellow pastors. The ‘Jesus Music’ film shows Chuck Smith and the baptisms that occurred there. 

If 1972 could be symbolized as the left bookend, then 9-11 is the right bookend. Here we will discuss why these two dates were so important.

“The Christian Woodstock”

Expo ’72 was the most visible event of the 1970s Jesus movement.’ It was held in Dallas, Texas from June 12 to June 17, 1972, at the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl featured bands, well known preachers, and pro players from various sporting teams. Billy Graham spoke on six different occasions. The festival was held on a huge open swath of land just north of downtown Dallas that had been cleared for construction of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. People from 75 different countries attended the event. The event drew an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 mostly young people. Newsweek described the crowds as being “militant Christians.” Featured artists were Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, The Archers, Children of the Day, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.

Following this “Christian Woodstock,” Jesus Music came to be known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). A great many that attended the event went on to become ordained ministers or joined Christian organizations such as Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Mercy Ships. When I was finishing up my 7-year tenure with Texas Instruments, rather than returning to Texas, I left the company, and they gave me a $5,000 bonus for the work I did in Southern California.  I prayed what to do with this unexpected money and ended up sending it to Mercy Ships in Florida.

Mercy Ships was docked in Florida in 1984, and though they had the people and the necessary gear, including medical supplies, they needed just exactly $5,000 to fuel the ship. Two women from Mercy Ships visited me in California later that same year. They told me the Lord answered their prayer and told them the money was on the way. They just wanted to meet in person the guy whom the Lord used to set their ship a‘sailing to Haiti.

The popularity of interdenominational (or non-denominational) churches exploded, even as the denominations began to suffer empty pews much as Europe had experienced earlier. The study of the Bible became not just paramount, but the primary objective of the Calvary Chapels and similar movements such as Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and ‘purpose-driven’ life. The young hippies who studied under Chuck Smith went on to build large churches of their own. People will recognize names such as Greg Laurie and a dozen others in America, but the Gospel continued to expand throughout the rest of the world and today almost 2,000 Calvary Chapel churches can be found throughout the world.

Somewhat strangely, Chuck Smith never asked for donations, never begged for money. He didn’t have members in the strict sense as he didn’t have a Christian denomination. After much study myself I have concluded that the teaching comes closest to that of John Calvin.

Calvary Chapel holds, somewhat loosely (or flexibly), the following views on the five points of Calvinism:


  1. Regarding total depravity, Calvary Chapel affirms that “apart from God’s grace, no one can be saved,” and that “mankind is clearly fallen and lost in sin.”
  2. Regarding unconditional election, Calvary Chapel affirms that God, “based on his foreknowledge, has predestined the believer,” and that “God clearly does choose, but man must also accept God’s invitation to salvation.”
  3. Regarding limited atonement, Calvary Chapel affirms that Jesus died “for the whole world” and that the “atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ was clearly sufficient to save the entire human race.”
  4. Regarding irresistible grace, Calvary Chapel affirms that “God’s grace can either be resisted or received by the exercise of human free will”.
  5. Calvary Chapels “believe in the perseverance of the saints (true believers) but are deeply concerned about sinful lifestyles and rebellious hearts among those who call themselves ‘Christians’.”

If 1972 was the left bookend, then September 11, 2001, is the right bookend. Following 9-11 another revival took place in America. Americans converged in churches across the country as another revival was unfolding, though this time the revival was short-lived. Michael W. Smith released a choir-assisted album, “Worship,” that interestingly came out on September 11, 2001. He stated that after the choir sang together, they all went to a back room to pray and cry.

Ten Years After this we are once again at a crossroads in America. What happens next will be anything but dull or life as usual. Those opposed to God are growing in numbers and their voices are increasingly angry and demanding we put a stop to Christianity. The remnant the Lord has have become mostly quiet. Social media no longer tolerates Christian posts and I have been thrown off these platforms twice, censored and censured for nothing more than trying to edify and expound on faith and encourage those who may be seeking.

As a nation America is weakening in direct proportion to its apostasy, and as it turns from God our national problems are growing worse and worse. The list of problems is getting longer and the nations who view us as their enemy are a growing number as well. Here are just a few examples that seemingly defy resolution, and are consistent with the history of failed nations that forget that God is our Creator and apart from him we can do nothing:

  1. Daily news has every sector of society shot through with rampant and pervasive corruption. Churches are hiding places for pedophiles and the perverse, and colleges and universities are selling student acceptance to the highest bidder. Businesses have become so corrupt that it is virtually impossible to compete if you choose to do so honestly and ethically. The stories of Boeing and Wells Fargo have become daily fare.
  2. Subject matter experts are becoming a despised group, doubted, and their expert opinions supplanted with conspiracy theories and those so enraged that they are willing to punch a disabled Walmart greeter who asks the customer to please mask up.

    Today groups have banded together and even go into hospital ICUs to urge those dying from Covid19 to leave the hospital as the virus is a hoax. Upwards of 3/4ths of a million people have died in America because we cannot get to herd immunity with so many misinformed and angry anti-vaxxer’s who believe they are smarter than infectious disease specialists, immunologists, and virologists.

    The mob would like to lynch the most recognized leader of the effort to stop the pandemic, Dr. Fauci, calling him evil while threatening him and his family.
  3. Each subsequent war results in increasing failure relative to our military goals and objectives. Today we have a startlingly large number of soldiers committing suicide. The soldiers know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They know we cannot defeat an asymmetric enemy in places like the caves of Afghanistan.

    We left both Vietnam and Afghanistan humiliated, having lost these wars, and left our fellow soldier-partners who trusted in us, to be tortured and killed by the Viet Cong and Taliban.
  4. Get-rich-quick schemes from meme stocks and cryptocurrency have replaced any desire to find a job and work hard, so many jobs go unfilled. Today we have more open positions than we have unemployed people.

    The stock market has become a gambling casino, and social media facilitates large groups capable of moving any given stock price up or down simply due to the large number of willing and jubilant participants. Zero-commission trading platforms such as Robinhood have created a video-game atmosphere and venue to buy and sell stock as young people are using student loans and money borrowed from parents to bet in the stock market.
  5. Natural disasters are increasing. Drought, heat, hurricanes, fires, all increasing in frequency with disastrous consequences. People simply don’t know what they personally, individually might do as the climate change debate is filled with arcane data and inconsistent opinions, as well as false information and conspiracy theories.
  6. The wealth gap has never been greater as billionaires own most of the assets and over half the population doesn’t have $5,000 for an emergency.
  7. Crumbling infrastructure is evident in roads, bridges, utilities, as America not only doesn’t move forward with mass transportation such as mag-lev bullet trains, but increasingly appears to have the look and feel of a third-world country. Sleeping homeless are hit by trains, new high-tech cars burst into flames, the ubiquitous car keeps people driving from point A to point B hundreds of hours each year.
  8. We are becoming isolated in a world with strong nations such as Russia and China declaring that the U.S. is their enemy.

    Rather than be seen as the model of how democracy, capitalism and freedom can be adopted for the benefit of other nations seeking to become strong, we are today seen as a global bully, corrupt, dangerous with our freedom being used to be wretched rather than virtuous citizens.

    Politics have become divisive, extreme, and polarizing, as populism pushes people toward either socialism or fascism, to the extreme left or the extreme right, and the only product of this populism has been anger and rage, along with the eruption of violent protests.
  9. Our greatest influencers are the actors and billionaires, high-tech gurus, people who popularize hedonism, sex, money and power, fame and influence, as mainstream people are lonely and lost in a world where they see their own lives as so far removed from these influencers that they must be losers lost with no reason to love, as selfishness and narcissism increasingly replace empathy and compassion.

We don’t know how all this will end for America. Will we fail and fall like so many empires before us? Or will we turn back to God, have yet one more great revival, and allow him to heal our sick nation? Many nations of antiquity are nonexistent now, having brought God’s judgment upon themselves for their sin.

Edom (Jeremiah 49:17–22), Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13–15), Sodom (Genesis 18:20), and Babylon (Jeremiah 51) were all wiped out, according to the biblical prophets, for their evil in the sight of the Lord. There remain no representatives of the Hittites (Exodus 23:23), Moabites (Zephaniah 2:8–10), or Philistines (Zephaniah 2:5) due to their stubborn rebellion against God.

Romans (Chapter 1:18-32)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

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The Painting and Music of Your Life

“There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In.” (Leonard Cohen).

Our earliest memories of life are painted in bright vibrant colors of joy and happiness. The world is a tabula rasa, a blank slate, and every single thing in it is surprising, fascinating, beautiful and awesome. We hop, skip and jump to music light-hearted and jubilant, cheerful and carefree.

Some troubles begin to sound in the instrument of our minds and body, friends say cruel things to us, parents and teachers scold and reprimand us, and the new keyboard you wanted so badly you were never to receive it.

As life presses on we find an admixture of light music, but sometimes life plays in a minor key as the painting of our lives begins to show darker oils, streaks and confusing images no longer bright, sharp and clearly discernible as before.

Further along the path we hear low, ominous harmonies from something like a pipe organ out of our sight but somewhere up ahead. Anxiety grips us as more paint colors of gray, white, red and black, evoking thoughts of dread and death, melancholy and angst, rather than the favorable and exciting emotions these same colors elicited in our childhood. The music in the distance is a dirge, a mournful lamenting dove down the path that beckons us to continue our journey through life in spite of increasing reservations and fear of what the future may hold.

When we can see we are nearing the end and considering eternity, we look at the mostly completed painting of our life. The frightening colors and cacophonous accompanying sounds dominate the painting. Many regrets, few memories of those things that brought lasting perpetual joy and fulfillment. We wonder about what lies beyond and we remember what we thought about when we considered the God of all creation.

It dawns on us that God was with us the entire time, working through the conscience of our heart, whispering to us to listen to our better angels, showering us with waves of joy whenever we did yield to our instincts of empathy, compassion, humility, honesty, generosity, kindness and other virtues. Now the time has come to focus on Him. He will accept us with the dark and foreboding character of our life’s painting and the music that fits the scene. He can because he found the Way to accept us no matter how terrible our life was.

ONE THIRD   ///   ONE THIRD   /// ONE THIRD

God has the power to make a creature that only loves Him and never turns away in rebellion. But the very notion of true love involves choice, if we buy a new Artificial Intelligence robot that continuously reassures us of its love, is that meaningful to us? If that’s all we want to hear in our pride and narcissism, I suppose that is all we are willing to tolerate.

But angels and men were created with the capacity for choice. They were subject to temptations to disobey their Creator, and when they did, they lost their connection to a perfect, holy and just God and His Kingdom that permits no evil anywhere in the territory.

Ever notice that we seem to have three kinds of people among us? A group that builds up, adds to the overall well-being of earth and life, shows compassion for others, and serves rather than is self-serving?

A second group tears down. They soil the nest they were born in, pollute and harm, while also harming animals and mankind as a result of both selfish motivations, and a lack of caring for others around them. This group goes further than criminals and violent people. It includes those wrapped up in themselves and lacking empathy and compassion for others. They take but they don’t give.

In the middle are many people who could best be described as neutral overall, somewhere in the middle They live a life later having a lot of regrets, having made selfish choices and bad decisions, but along the way performed some good works that they see as justifying themselves and the lives they chose to live.

ONE THIRD   ///   ONE THIRD   ///   ONE THIRD

This is not mathematically nor historically a calculation anyone could defend. But throughout Scripture you see the distinction and separation in many places. A few examples follow:

Revelation 9:18

A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.

Zechariah 13:8

“It will come about in all the land,”

Declares the Lord,

“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;

But the third will be left in it.

Ezekiel 5:2

One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.

Ezekiel 5:12

One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.

Zechariah 13:9

“And I will bring the third part through the fire,

Refine them as silver is refined,

And test them as gold is tested.

They will call on My name,

And I will answer them;

I will say, ‘They are My people,’

And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Revelation 8

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!

Revelation 9

And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

John writes, “His [Satan’s] tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Rev. 12:4).

“many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Which of the three groups are you a member of? The “OVERCOMERS?” 

This is the third that remain steadfast through trials. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (John 5).

Overcomers are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of the world’s system. An overcomer is not sinless, but holds fast to faith in Christ until the end. He does not turn away when times get difficult or become an apostate. Overcoming requires complete dependence upon God for direction, purpose, fulfillment, and strength to follow His plan for our lives (Proverbs 3, 2 Corinthians 12).

Christians must recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground designed for entertainment and our pleasure. Our ability comes from His power, the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts and sparks the Word whenever we are facing problems with temptation. The Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayer are weapons against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, the world system, and the devil. “Apart from Him we can do nothing.”

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8).

Overcoming is enduring. Jesus encouraged us to “endure to the end” (Matthew 24:13). Jesus promises rewards to those who overcome. Those are not the rewards offered by the world, but rewards that will be your treasure in heaven.

The destroyer group will be cutoff and cast out, along with Satan and a third of the angels that went with him. They will be relegated to a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This will be an eternal sentence, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”

The middle or neutral group will be judged according to whether they received forgiveness of sins through the gift of faith in Christ. If so they will be citizens of heaven as the blood of Jesus Christ will have been a sufficient ransom paid for all their sins. Most of these people will have struggled on the fence as double-minded, serving both God and themselves at various times and in different ways.

But many will have rejected Christ while clinging to their own alternate ideology, whether a manmade religion or some other philosophy that was the invention that came from the imaginations of men throughout history. These people will be judged according to their works, and a great many will find that their works will not stand up to divine examination and scrutiny. 

Examined closely they will be shown that the good that they would was done for the adoration of the public, the praise and the accolades were their reward, and they have therefore no more reward beyond these self-serving and self-righteous acts of charity and philanthropy.

Search yourself and take personal inventory. If you have hardened your heart against God, your destination is fixed and certain — it won’t be heaven. If you are counting on your ‘good works’ to justify yourself you may experience this when you make your appointment with death and arrive at the Judgment:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7).

Are You a Good Person?

Are you a good person? Do you do good? If so, do you do good based upon opportunity or is it because of duty or obligation?

Likewise, do you love your neighbor? What kind of love is it? Is it love for those who share your views, religious, political and ideological? Do you have exceptions in terms of those whom you feel you cannot love? What are the reasons for the exceptions? (You can pick more than one)…

  1. Religios beliefs
  2. Political position
  3. Other

Perhaps Other might consist of…

  1. Loud and boorish people
  2. Arrogant know-it-alls
  3. People who are selfish and only self-serving

None of these? Great, doing well so far! But can you love those who…

  1. Betrayed you, stole from you, harmed you or someone you love?
  2. Convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison?
  3. Found guilty of pedophilia, mass murder or random acts of violence?

Do you see where this is going? I submit that our goodness and our love; our willingness to forgive and to genuinely love, and to love unconditionally with a heart that can quickly forgive, is a very small, stunted and skewed version of the possibility of loving unconditionally.

If you love someone, truly love them, you will do good for them and even do so anonymously. You won’t be seeking credit for your good works. If you can honestly see your own shortcomings, the deceitfulness of your own heart, your many flaws and foibles, you can forgive those you see in others, including those faults that you may not personally have.

Every one of us is an image-bearer of our Creator. Every one of us is a sinner, coming up well short of holy perfection. Yet every one of us has the hope of heaven if we can overcome and love both God and man…

It really is just that simple.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.— Leviticus 19:18

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.— Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Jesus was asked a question, “what is the greatest commandment,” by a Pharisee who was considered to be “an expert in the law” (Matthew 22:34–36). Jesus answered by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).

REVIVAL :  to become strong, healthy, or active again; to bring back into use or popularity

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out”

Beatles.

“A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.

The coming revival must begin with a great revival of prayer. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundance of rain will first be heard. An increase of secret prayer with ministers will be the sure harbinger of blessing.

There is need of a great revival of spiritual life, of truly fervent devotion to our Lord Jesus, of entire consecration to His service. It is only in a church in which this spirit of revival has at least begun, that there is any hope of radical change in the relation of the majority of our Christian people to mission work.”

Andrew Murray

America. A Culture of War & Violence. 

Our last just war was WWII. Following that war each subsequent war fell further and further behind in meeting our strategic aims and objectives. The final two, Vietnam and Afghanistan, we were soundly, roundly and profoundly defeated in spite of our vast superior military and technology and our willingness to parlay trillions in treasure and tens of thousands in tragic deaths and disabilities toward victory.

America. A Culture of Domestic Terrorism. 

Recently, Chris Wray, the Director of the FBI said domestic terrorism has “mushroomed” within the U.S. in the past year. Thus far over 600 rioters in Washington DC have been arrested and charged for the attempted insurrection on January 6th, aided, abetted, even encouraged by our own President Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Mass shootings, like the ones that killed 8 at spas and massage parlors in Atlanta earlier this year, and 10 at a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., just days later, are a fraction of the nation’s gun deaths. As COVID-19 spread across the United States last year, murders spiked 21 percent, a one-year record.

America. A Culture of Narcissism. 

Many people around the world claim Americans have an unusually high opinion of themselves. 

Americans and non-Americans alike share “the belief that the typical American is grandiose, callous, and self-centered,” write a team of psychologists led by University of Georgia professor Joshua Miller in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 

The rise in narcissism corresponds with the cultural emphasis on ‘self-love,’ claiming we are incapable of loving others until we can sufficiently love ourselves. And proportionately we are experiencing a decline in empathy and compassion. Concern and care for others’ feelings are virtues we seek to instill in our children, yet they are sorely lacking in many adult Americans today. There’s scientific research to back up the notion that Americans are caring less for others and more about themselves, according to Sara Konrath, PhD, an associate professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University and director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research.

America. A Culture of Corruption.

As bribery and corruption appear to be getting worse in countries throughout the world, people are also losing faith in their governments’ ability to fight such acts, a survey from Transparency International found. In the United States, 60 percent of people said that corruption has increased over the last two years. 

Corruption has moved well beyond the purview of a minority of greedy people and pernicious practices in business dealings. Today we find rampant corruption in the church, with wealthy televangelists owning yachts, jets and mega-mansions, at the same time enjoying tax free status as a ‘church,’ colleges and universities bribed by wealthy parents to accept their undeserving children as students, and corruption at all levels of government.

America. A Culture of Entitlement.

If you worked hard and saved, eschewing debt and paying your bills on time, you missed out on most of the rewards our government and policies offered to the American people. If you gambled on risky investments rather than researched the investment possibilities across the companies that showed great promise in terms of future growth and earnings, you were richly rewarded.

The smartest guy in the room over the past year and a half did not make his or her monthly payments on rent, car loans or student debt, but readily accepted government largesse such as three stimulus checks, and parlayed those into purchases of meme stocks, options, cryptocurrencies and even non-fungible tokens. Today we are having trouble filling over ten million open jobs in spite of having less than that claiming unemployment benefits.

Demands for more free money and a government who won’t say no, have resulted in a record mountain of debt across government, business and households. The promise of government assistance to pay off accumulated ‘debt forbearance,’and to backstop any losses on risky investments has created the potential for an economic collapse. You cannot replace the productivity of hard work and capital simply by printing money or giving out loans that are later discharged and forgiven.

America. A Culture of Apostasy.

Billy Graham said that the word apostasy is derived from two Greek words. Putting them together they mean “to stand away from,” or “to abandon” one’s faith. The Biblical teaching about apostasy goes far deeper than that. It means to “fall away.” The Apostle Paul wrote about this to the church at Thessalonica. It affected every area of life. The word is so strong and so emphatic that it suggests a complete breakdown of morals, ethics and spirituality.

A Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted recently found 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. But are almost 2/3rd’s of Americans Christian in the eyes of God? The Bible says a person becomes a Christian by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. This is known as being saved or born again. The Bible teaches that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless they are born again.

But can you truly have ‘faith’ in a person you don’t follow, don’t even know, while you are pursuing your own interests according to your own will? Matthew wrote, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'” I would submit that precious few Americans can search themselves and honestly conclude that this command applies to them, and that they are living according to its meaning. Most Americans calling themselves ‘Christian’ today are in love with the rites, rules and rituals of their manmade religion rather than intimately familiar with Jesus Christ. If you’re not reading Scripture, you don’t even know Him, for there is where He has been revealed. 

We need a Great Awakening to carry out the Great Commission before our nation goes the way of all other previous failed empires. I fear our nation may have devolved into a place where the Lord cannot work, for our people are blinded to the truth and numb with their sins of all stripes. We are treated daily to news dealing with all manner of violence, crime, corruption and evil, while our media salts the stories with advertisements characterized as soft porn, and the latest actress or rock star that has released a porn video that folks can watch for free. We are teaching every combination of sexuality our imaginations can conjure, and pushing this coursework all the way down into elementary school.

Without a revival we are on our own. Without God, in whose hands is our very breath, we are doomed to destruction and death, as we flail helplessly in the darkness desperately determined to resolve what is an increasing number of seemingly intractable national problems.

Paul wrote to the citizens of Corinth, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” Our lives are short however you choose to measure them, when compared to eternity. Wisdom is setting your goals on eternal results, sin for a season ends in despair. As you are breathing your last and staring out toward eternity, will you experience mostly regrets? Will you wonder why all of what you did and all of what you got means nothing now as you will go out just as you came in? –Naked & alone?

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;”

“Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, Cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Wilt thou not revive us again: That thy people may rejoice in thee?”

“For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

Psalms & Isaiah

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late – and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.” ~ A.W. Tozer

Can a Good God Allow Evil?

Over the years as I studied the possibilities that it was a Celestial Dictator rather than random chance factors that account for all of creation, a small number of seemingly intractable, apparently irreconcilable, utterly exasperating conundrums dogged my pursuit with doubt and despair. A journey that consisted of three steps forward followed by two back.

There was an underlying driving motivation that kept up my momentum and it turned out to be the Holy Spirit living within me ever since I was born again. Urging me to “follow Him,” many times I took the puzzles that were best characterized as “wait, that doesn’t make sense,” and filed them away in my mind under ‘Wait for Further Information.’

I’m glad I did, for as I grew spiritually and learned more and more, I came to a place of vastly improved understanding in terms of how good and evil could exist side-by-side in a system that a good-God created, an all-powerful God, “…behold I am the Lord, is anything too hard for me?” This newly built foundation of knowledge came in handy when my season of trial and testing, along with a healthy dose of Karma (sowing and reaping the fruits of wayward and wrong decisions), saved me from completely giving up on my life altogether…turning to angst and bitterness, hardening my heart against God and man, and concluding the existential nihilistic philosophy that nothing matters for all is random and good and bad happen to both good and bad people. No wonderfully neat, embroidered and flowery explanation, just down and dirty awful things happen without any explanation as to why they happened to me.

My life unraveled beginning just a few years ago. After two decades my marriage blew to pieces, my kids grew up and became mostly estranged, aging meant my competitive running, my career in tech, my teaching, my global travel, everything that brought purpose and meaning to my life seemingly disappeared. I was diagnosed with debilitating illness, even sleep was elusive as oftentimes I would lay wide awake exhausted with nothing to do but think.

My decades of investing experience worked solidly against me through a frightening pandemic as the stock market turned into a gambling casino, and clever charlatans became ‘influencers’ as these pied pipers led tens of millions of innocents into recklessly dangerous and terrible investment choices. But it was my portfolio that suffered, and today almost a third has virtually disappeared. All around me on the national stage the rage and violence were on the increase, natural disasters such as massive fires and earthquakes became commonplace, and the rest of the world seemed to be increasingly despising the America I grew up to cherish and respect.

Finally, my ten-year old dog died, and I was absolutely, utterly, abysmally, left barren and desolate, alone, defeated, despairing and desperate; and that is when I looked up and asked, “why God?”

So, I returned to one of my favorite books, the Book of Job. He suffered far more than I did, but the important distinction is absent was the “sowed to the wind you reap the whirlwind.” Job was a good man and deserved none of what was happening to him. I was foolish and made some wrong turns, doing things that if someone had prophesied to me I would grow up to do such things later in my life, I would have dismissed them as nonsense, “I could never do those things!”

Does your cherished partner love you? How do you know? Do they have many alternatives to choose from, putting you in a kind of beauty contest and competition you somehow just happened to win? What is it that you call love anyway? Is it the willingness of your significant other to understand and help you with your own life’s goals and objectives? Would you still love them if you a) concluded your dear heart no longer is adding anything of value to your future, and b) you found someone new that is far more likely to take on that role for you? Is that what you call love?

The horrible things that happen to us can be divided into two broad categories. First off — our own mistakes. We should have known better. We should have paid attention to the commands of God. Karma’s a bitch. Second, is that all the undeserved evil that hits us in the form of trials and tribulations for which we cannot fathom how we might somehow be responsible bringing these down upon us.

This second broad category we seek to truly understand in order to parse this complex and enigmatic evil that besets us whether we resist it or not. That is the set of things that happen that cause pain, grief, and suffering, even when we are not to blame. Experiencing a betrayal, being cheated, fired without cause, death of a loved one or even a pet. A random attack on us by a stranger, verbal or physical. This is evil, but it is a different set altogether and we cannot lump all these categories into one common denominator. If our aim is to understand how God can tolerate, even allow, evil, we must constrain our definition to just exactly what kind of evil we are speaking of.

Note that sinless Jesus experienced this second category of evil though deserving none of it. From one end of the spectrum: sadness, rejection, exhaustion, being misunderstood and falsely accused, all the way to the other extreme: spat upon, punched, sharp thorns piercing his brow, flailed with a whip that has bits of glass and metal to rip the flesh off the back, stripped naked, nailed to a cross and publicly displayed in the worst sort of humiliation and pain imaginable. Deserving none of this, Jesus endured it, even though he could have avoided it. How can we understand and reconcile that an all-powerful God needed for this very thing to happen to his only son, and to such an extreme and horrible extent?

It starts with who God is. And for that we must define who he isn’t. He isn’t a genie that grants your wishes. In his kingdom everything that has value comes at a cost, not too different from our own experiences, right? Those things freely given to us may be gladly received, but the most precious things we treasure came at some cost to us. The cost may be what we gave up getting these things. In finance that cost is called an “opportunity cost.” You gave something up, you sacrificed, you worked hard, you spent money, you gave a lot. And for all that you received a valuable reward, and your life is made better as a result of this reward, the sacrifices of which cost you a great deal, including other things you could have attained instead.

We were made in God’s image. What happens in his kingdom has parallels in the world he created where he placed us. God is just, and because of the highest level of perfection in his kingdom, the justice required to punish evil must be commensurate and proportionate to the good that all who are enjoying his kingdom have received and thrive in.

No pain no gain. Ever notice that the people most fascinating and fun to be around are those who have had a lot of experiences, many of which were terrible trials and tribulations, suffering and hardships? The people who had to overcome the adversities of disabilities or discrimination, the people who suffered disease, those who were denied their due, the lives of survivors who bear the scars of many setbacks, defeats and even witnessing the destruction of the things they cherished most in their lives?

The insufferable are those born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Natural talents they credit to themselves rather than God, they are blessed with good health, physical beauty, many talents, and a whole lot of wealth. Spoiled narcissists worried only about how to learn to love themselves more, these are the people who angrily demand their ‘rights,’ who have no patience for anyone getting in their way or somehow making their life more difficult. They lack virtues such as humility, character, integrity, and generosity. They scheme only for the things that they crave, and their lusts can be characterized as “I must have that and I must have it NOW!”

It turns out that the evil that befalls us is the fire of the kindling that strengthens us and drives us toward virtue, to become wiser, better, more useful, helpful, and capable of genuine love for others. The tough life will produce a battered and scarred hero, while the easy life will only give society an unlikeably selfish and troublesome child that never grew into full adulthood, contributing nothing of value to the rest of society.

We can see that two things must be present in order for true love to be manifested:

  1. Difficulties must come and must be overcome to strengthen us into what we are to finally become, and
  2. The cost of the worthwhile goals and achievements must be paid. Jesus paid for the sins that should have resulted in our being completely cutoff from a Creator who has no evil whatsoever in Him or His kingdom. There was no other way, the result of the means of exploring alternatives in order to see if we would willingly seek out God among all these choices is clear. And the need for a Devil to tempt us toward the alternatives, diving into a season of sin, is the testing that will demonstrate our turning toward God was our own choice, our own volition, our trust, and love for Him.

This is why we don’t live in world where entropy has taken us to a steady state. Quite the opposite. Stark dichotomies exist side-by-side and they never yield one to the other but continue throughout time. Good and evil. Love and hate. Light and darkness. Life and death. Zero and one. Yes and no. True and false. Yin and Yang. Wheat and tares. Sheep and goats. 

The challenge is to decide which of two paths you will take. One path leads back to your Creator, through an intermediary that had to first pave the way by making you appear as spotless as the rest of the citizens of heaven. The second path is wide, filled with so many uncountable alternatives, from the religions of mankind to the temptations of rebellion, pride, and lust. Most people find themselves on the latter broad path. Few find the narrow path as it is too rigid, specific, and inflexible for them to realistically consider in a world that is their oyster. 

But those few are the overcomers, and those are the ones God has chosen to add to his kingdom and allow them to enjoy all of the beauty and perfection, the fullness of a life of purpose and joy, through eternity, without tears and suffering any longer.

How do YOU define LOVE?

I love peanuts, but I especially love peanut butter and chocolate combined. I loved my Boxer, Patton, who recently died just two weeks before his tenth birthday.

Love can be a noun or a verb. Love can range from amorous sexual embrace to unselfish loyal and benevolent feelings and emotions that include concern for a person or humankind. We don’t have all the shades and nuances that other languages and cultures have when it comes to expressing precisely what we mean when we invoke the term. In the Greek, for example, four terms parse the many forms that our intended meaning of love might take:

1. Eros

Eros translates directly from Latin as “Passionate Love” or “Romantic Love.” It is often thought of as the type of love that people “fall” into, often characterized as erratic, passionate, possessive, and highly superficial.

2. Agape

Agape or universal love is the purest form of altruistic love directed at strangers, nature, or God, akin to the unconditional love that God has for everyone. This kind of love manifests itself in selfless acts and acting entirely out charity or concern for the world other than yourself. Agape is not motivated by pleasant feelings or results such as physical, emotional, or logical attractiveness. It is a conscious choice of self-sacrifice for the benefit of another.

3. Philia

Philia is the love between very close friends such as David and Jonathon in the Bible. Philia directly translates to “affectionate regard.” Friendships founded in mutual goodwill have trust, reliability, and companionship. Philadelphia means ‘the city of brotherly love.’

4. Storge

Storge is a type of philia that is specific to families. It is often referred to as familial love, or the love between parents and children. This type of love is often unbalanced and dependent, which is entirely true of a parent’s unconditional love for their newborn child. This is the type of love that is said to make an imprint on our brains so that we know what love is for later in life when we develop. While we are growing up, our networks of oxytocin and vasopressin (neurotransmitters partly responsible for trust, social interactions, fear of others etc.) are developing based on the examples provided to us by our parents, based on the particular Storge that is available to us.

For at least a generation, ‘self-love’ has been written about, advocated, counseled in and encouraged. American culture espouses the belief that until and unless you can truly love yourself, you are incapable of loving others. But confusion arises when our self-obsession begins to take on the hallmarks of selfishness, and pride and narcissism finally rule and reign in the psyches of many Americans today as a result. It is interesting to note that as narcissism, especially ‘malignant’ narcissism, is increasing in society lately, empathy and compassion are proportionately decreasing.

Someone once asked Jesus what was the ‘greatest’ commandment. In the Books of Moses (or Torah or Pentateuch) the ten commandments are extended much further in terms of additional commands involving everything from behavior to food to personal hygiene. The Mishnah (almost 1,000 pages translated from the Hebrew into English) seeks to expound on the oral traditions of the Torah). Before we get to the answer Jesus provided to the question of which commandment was greatest, take note of this Bible verse. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10), indicating they’re all important.

Now the answer to the question. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind,” and then went on to say, “the second is like the first, love your neighbor as yourself. In these two are ALL the law and the prophets.”

I have often wondered about what it means when I read that the chief characteristic of God is love. Two others appear almost as often: light and life. Sometimes we can illuminate our understanding by looking at the opposites of what these three represent as meant by God. 

  1. Hatred. 
  2. Darkness.
  3. Death.

Jesus said that He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. He promised us eternal life in fact. He said we should know the truth (truth/light/knowledge) and that it would set us free from the power of sin and darkness. His death on the Cross paid the celestial just requirement for ungodly behavior. While we were most unlikeable, and dead in our sins and trespasses, God showed his version of love, sending His only begotten Son to suffer and die in order to ransom and redeem us back to Himself, back to our Creator. “God so loved the world that he GAVE…”

This is Agape Love. Unconditional. Patient. Long-suffering. This is the type of love all of us who trust in our Lord long to acquire in our own lives and to express to our family, friends and neighbors. Our neighbors may be soaked in sin, but we love them because just like us they are made in His image and need the love of God and redemption to gain the hope of heaven. 

Do you possess such love? Search yourself. Test yourself. Have you ever performed a kindness for someone who will never learn who it was that did this thing for them out of the goodness of their heart, without taking credit? Or do you love the one you’re with as long as he or she is helping you meet your personal goals and objectives, only to move on or trade up when that is no longer the case? 

“Deep within us — no matter who we are — there lives a feeling of wanting to be lovable, of wanting to be the kind of person that others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” – Fred Rogers

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” – Nat King Cole, “Nature Boy” lyrics

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” – Elbert Hubbard … “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.” 

–William Shakespeare.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.” 

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that loveth not — knoweth not God; for God is love. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

–Bible.

Cleanness & Filth

The Middle English alliterative poem ‘Cleanness’ was written in the late 14th century. The author (anonymous) sought to illuminate the dangers of personal defilement and the joy of a life dominated by virtue. The author is likely the same person that wrote the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” another deep dive into the powers of deception, delusion, deceit and the wiles of the devil contrasted with the precious and eternal pillars of a life well-lived, governed by good character, impeccable integrity, honesty, humility, compassion, self-denial and delayed gratification.

The history of the Jews began with the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Bible threads the broken lives of men and women living in a fallen world where good and evil exist side-by-side. The exhilaration of living in the land of Goshen in Egypt was followed by slavery. After 400 years the Jews were led out of Egypt and into Canaan. The trials and testing throughout this history is remarkable. At times when the people turned with all their hearts and strength to their God they prospered and were secure, their lives had meaning, purpose, peace and contentment. At other times as they drifted away from God, generally when they had been blessed with good times, their experience went from spiritual vexation all the way to horrific destruction, much as the Canaanites they displaced had experienced as a result of their insistence upon embracing false gods that led them even to sacrifice their newborn babies by burning them alive.

The Israelites had good kings and bad kings, Godly men and women lived out their lives alongside evil people as both spiritual realms of good and evil fought a battle for the souls of mankind. This history of the Jews is a story of extremes. From the experiences of the miracles of God and the wonders and fulfillment that came from yielding to Him, all the way to the destruction of their temple (twice) and displacement out of their homeland, and even to the present day Holocaust and the existential threat of their nation today surrounded by 99% of a region that desires their complete annihilation.

Today in America we have the very same corollary. Blessed of the Lord most of the nation embraced and worshiped, the United States became strong and was feared by the evil powers around the world. We sent missionaries to preach the good news of Christ and the Cross, while providing food and medicines to those nations in need. Our universities were the training grounds for the missionaries and hospitals and philanthropy flourished as we followed our God-given inclination to love our neighbor and do good.

But just as Israel we began to see our greatness as a result of our own achievements. Our science even began to replace the miracles and the truth of the Creator who had endowed us with our increasing knowledge. We began to ‘explain’ the miracles of creation and somehow managed to conclude that meant these complex and amazing designs were ordinary and could be characterized, measured and modeled in great detail. God was ejected from His place as the author of all that He had created.

After God gave us a moral and complete victory over evil in World War II our pride and national hubris had grown to the point where it was increasingly crowding out any place for God in our lives. We relied on our wealth, our military, our technology, and our education and no longer needed anything from God. We had become self-sufficient and had determined mankind could, should and would determine our own destiny. That was the point when God began to leave us to our own devices and to allow us to pursue our own path toward what we thought would certainly be successful prosecution of ending wars, ending hunger, ending crime, and indeed virtually eliminating pain and suffering.

But just as history teaches, the opposite occurred. Each successive war following WWII increased our national humiliation. Korea was fought to a stalemate. Vietnam ended with us scrambling to make our exit while our partners in the south were rounded up, imprisoned and executed. The reasons given for Iraq were the inventions and imaginations of a group of government men still drunk with the hubris of world dominance, hegemony and sole superpower status. Iraq upset the regional balance of power, enabling ISIS and emboldening Iran. Finally, in spite of a failed decade Russia experienced before leaving Afghanistan precisely as they found it, we took twice as long to get to that same point. Today Afghanistan is an entire nation filled with terrorists, from Taliban and Al Qaeda to ISIS and warlords. Afghanistan is today a safe harbor for any terrorist or terrorist group that desires the freedom to train and to plan their evil intentions. Their exports are terrorism and opium.

From widespread STI’s to HIV and today a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, health has taken a turn for the worse and life expectancy is decreasing in spite of the greatest medical technology and resources on the planet. Obesity is embraced as fat shaming is verboten. Heroin, Fentanyl and drugs are cutting short many lives as our role models themselves succumb to the temptations. Media posts new pictures of actresses nude or even in porn videos. Hundreds of genders have replaced a man and a woman, and marriages have become risky long-term contracts with mostly deleterious consequences. Sexuality dominates education and has even permeated grade school. Websites offer the means for a sexual rendezvous with a stranger in your zip code. Pornography is now free and the admixture with violence in movies has numbed the conscience and senses of everyone exposed to it.

Religion has taken on the bifurcation that accounts for the majority involved in it. Either one is ridiculed and despised for the idiocy of their religious faith, or they cobble together their own ethos according to their desired lifestyle. Politics, health and wealth, mysticism and many other extra-Biblical alternatives and counterfeits are available, and each of us can find the groups to join online in a matter of minutes.

We struggle and strive to ‘explain’ the demise and downward trajectory of our nation. History provides the best explanation. We embrace science and seek to turn back the impact of climate change. We vaccinate people so the virus cannot harm them. We continue to finance our lavish lifestyles through an enormous accumulation of debt. We pursue get-rich-quick schemes and dismiss hard work as unnecessary. Our educational system is focused on our post-truth subjectivity and fads of the time. From sexual and gender peculiarities to the desire to cancel our egregious and shameful history, even our President spent a lot of time worrying about how restrooms should be labeled and how the rest of the world can embrace our version of sexual transparency and complete acceptance of all the combinations and permutations imaginable.

Just as the Lord poured out His spirit for revival following the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll vexation of the sixties, He did so again following 9-11. But each revival lives a shorter period of time than the last. Our hearts are hard today. We are filled with rage and violence. Will the Lord send another revival? Or have we crossed the line where there is no longer any possibility of turning back to Him and being healed? The rites, rituals and rules of manmade religions never saved a single soul. Only the Cross of Christ can do that.

For America the writing is on the wall: “Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin” … We have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.

Psalm 103:9

Christian Goofus & Gallant

Goofus: The Lord says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Gallant: The Lord says to love our neighbor, to go down into the valley and preach to the demon-possessed, for it is the sick that need the physician, not those who are well.

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Goofus: Abortion is murder. We need strict laws forbidding the practice of abortion.

Gallant: The law may send a frightened teenaged girl into the hands of a butcher who ends up killing both mom and baby. Instead of demanding what is right under threat of legal prosecution, reach out to those with a serious challenge and tough issue and counsel them about their choices, including adoption.

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Goofus: Liberal Democrats are atheists and are destroying our country.

Gallant: Extremist politics of all stripes take our eyes off our Lord and instead focus us on the politics of the world.

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Goofus: A fascist government is trying to force me to get a Covid vaccination.

Gallant: In the past vaccinations for polio, rubella, mumps and other dangerous diseases were readily accepted and required to get into public school.

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Goofus: Our state government won’t allow us to hold church services because they are insisting public gatherings are spreading the virus. But God will protect us from the virus and we should have faith and freedom and continue to go to church.

Gallant: Jesus even told Satan not to put the Lord your God to the test. Superspreader Sundays have been responsible for significant local viral outbreaks in many communities.

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Goofus: I don’t need to read and study the Bible. I already believe, and my understanding is that believing is sufficient for salvation.

Gallant: In whom do you believe? If you haven’t read the Bible how can you say you know God? And how can you believe in someone you don’t even know?

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Goofus: All roads lead to God, all religions converge upon the same truths, and we should not pick and choose one while excluding others.

Gallant: Religions teach contradictory and mutually exclusive doctrine. Some teach one God, some teach no God, and others teach millions of Gods. Some require accomplishing more good works than bad, while others teach we are all sinners and all the good works in the world cannot save us. The Bible teaches that there is one faith, one God, one salvation, and one path: that is through faith in the Cross of Christ.

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Goofus: Evolution teaches us that man evolved from lower life forms over billions of years.

Gallant: The Bible teaches us that we were created along with separate and distinct species. Although the species demonstrate evidence of adaptation over the years, there is no evidence of any species evolving into another species.

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Goofus: Science has replaced religion.

Gallant: Science is the wisdom God has revealed to humans. It is useful, helpful and indispensable to our way of life. But in addition to learning science, we worship the Creator, not creation.

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Goofus: The church is shot through with corruption, from pedophiles and sexual predators, to the rich who are constantly begging for money.

Gallant: Scripture teaches us that the world and the devil would indeed invade the church.

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted you may well put up with it!” (2 Cor. 11:3,4)

False doctrine is the principle way in which Satan seeks to gain a foothold in the church. It is not, as so many suggest, false religions existing without that threaten the life of the church – it is false doctrine within (Acts 20).

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Goofus: The Bible teaches that if we have faith we will attain health and wealth. If we are suffering it is due to sin in our lives that must be addressed.

Gallant: ”Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

In Philippians, written from a prison — not a plush office or the Rome Hilton — Paul said, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (1:29). He then depicted Christ as the suffering Servant, whose ultimate prosperity came after his life on this earth, not during it (Phil. 2). Indeed, had Jesus laid claim to prosperity in this life, there would have been no crucifixion, no atonement, no gospel, and no hope for any of us.

Paul described his daily adversity, his persecution for Christ, and his nearness to death (2 Cor. 4:7-12). Two chapters later he refers to his troubles, hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights, and hunger, as well as the experience of nearly dying, and being sorrowful and poor (2 Cor. 6:3-10).

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2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test?