Traditions, Tombs and Tomes

There’s a great ongoing debate on the value and propriety of preserving selective manmade reminders of our national heritage. In a diverse society such as our own, there are bound to be some major differences of opinion on this subject – so whose opinion should win out? Should the offended segment of our society always rule the day – in the name of assuring total peace and harmony within our ranks? I’m convinced that every statue, monument or symbol that instills pride in one segment of society is going to be hurtful and distasteful to another segment. Some argue that there is intrinsic value in the preservation of every tradition, tomb and tome – if for no other reason than to learn from mankind’s past – both the good and the evil.

This is not a new debate confined to American history. It’s one that’s been going on from time immemorial. But the practice of seeking out and preserving the relics of by-gone eras that provide us with snapshots of where we have come from as a species, is actually fairly new in earth-time. In fact, the father of archaeological excavation was William Cunnington (1754–1810). In ancient times it was common practice for a conquering people to destroy all religious and political symbols of the conquered – so as to demoralize and control them. Also, in past centuries, the primary concern was survival, not intellectual understanding or moral maturity – so historical markers were often destroyed – new civilizations were built on top of older decaying ones, re-using whatever retrieved materials could be salvaged for the new construction.

Even in modern times a former American President seemed to discount the importance of the symbols of our heritage. In the heat of his first campaign, he constantly criticized his opponent’s supporters as “bitter clingers.” He saw them as stubbornly clinging to their traditions, clinging to their patriotism, clinging to the symbols that adorn their public buildings, monuments and money, clinging to the Constitution and the rule of law, clinging to their Christian faith and its demands on their private and public lives, and clinging to the principle of American exceptionalism which justifies every person’s right to life, liberty and happiness.

While it may seem that this characteristic of “clinging” to our traditions and our past is more typical of modern social and religious conservatives, I believe that it’s innate to every culture to search out the relics, objects and symbols of by-gone eras that define humanity’s history. A desire to understand and retain a part of one’s past does not presume adherence to or agreement with the creed represented by the objects our predecessors created. That’s why even non-believing explorers enter remote and dangerous terrain, from ice-covered Mount Ararat to the arid deserts and militarized zones of the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking the “lost” articles referenced in ancient “Sacred” documents. That’s why societies build churches, temples and shrines over the supposed sites of significance, like the grave of Christ, or where Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord or where Mohammed received a message from his god. That’s why some encapsulate and venerate artifacts and relics of supposed holy men and women and why artists of every era and culture have sculptured marble statues of their “saints” and enshrined them within their local worship centers or captured their likenesses in paintings and in stained glass. And that’s why even those humans less “spiritual” over the ages have bonded with and sought to honor their nationalistic and ethnic heroes by erecting museums and statues and set aside monuments and battle sites for future generations to study and appreciate those who came before them and their values and belief systems.

But every age also has some misguided souls who, in the name of political or social or religious correctness attempt to erase from history the evidence of our past. Fortunately most of the world stands up and puts a damper on such destructive efforts when they occur. At the beginning of the new Millennium the world was outraged when the Taliban (Islamic fundamentalists) blew up two giant 1700 year-old statues of Buddha at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan and destroyed all Buddha statues in the Kabul Museum. And fourteen years later there was similar outrage when the Islamic State began to destroy and steal much of the cultural heritage of Iraq, Syria, and Libya, including Christian, Hindu and other places of worship and historical artifacts. And when in “civilized” North America, a PC culture at the highest levels of government, educational institutions and the media sought to erase all memory of many of the early explorers of the New World, of others who tamed the West, and of course, the leaders of the former Confederacy, men and women on both sides of the political spectrum rose up to limit the damage that others sought to impose. Mankind as a species seems to understand that preservation of its history in no way constitutes universal agreement with our ancestors’ politics, mores or religions.

Since at least the 18th Century, some of the most influential people of their time have taken pride in and used their personal and governmental resources to preserve these memories for future generations. While it may be human nature to value and protect a civilization’s traditions, tombs and tomes – is it always appropriate? Traditions, symbols, places where historical events occurred, articles used in those events, and written discussions of the same, all take their value from the object of their focus

As a Christian, my first instinct is to search God’s written Word for guidance on this topic.  And I find that God’s people were encouraged, sometimes even directed to memorialize events that typified His divine intervention in their world. Moses and his sister memorialized in song God’s defense of the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea. Forty years later when their children crossed the Jordon on dry ground opposite Jericho, Joshua directed each of the leaders of the twelve tribes to carry a large stone from the middle of the Jordon, and to transport a corresponding 12 large stones from the Promised Land and pile them in the middle of the crossing point as a memorial to God’s power and faithfulness to His promises. Samuel, Jacob, and other men of God established pillars and anointed them as reminders of situations in which God intervened on behalf of His people. Furthermore, God sanctioned the celebration of festivals and various accompanying traditions as constant reminders of His work in His people’s lives. And of course the celebration of communion was established by the Son of God to be performed frequently by His people in remembrance of our Lord’s shed Body and Blood for their salvation.

I’m convinced though that some evidence of past Truth is lost or hidden forever – specifically to test mankind’s willingness to accept and believe in God’s love, grace and mercy toward His primary creation. I appreciate the efforts that so many archaeologists of every faith put into a constant search for such “lost” evidence of God’s intervention in men’s lives, or in trying to prove what may be unprovable. But I wonder if the discovery of Noah’s ark or other such sought after relics of history would actually advance Judeo-Christianity in the eyes of the world, or lead souls into the Kingdom of God. I think the Bible is clear that memorials sanctioned by The Almighty are intended to increase the faith of the People of God, not to draw unbelievers into the Kingdom.

In one of our Lord’s stories, Jesus told of an unrighteous rich man who found himself in an after-life of torment in Hades. Realizing he could no longer change his own plight, he sought to save his living brothers from a similar destiny. He begged Father Abraham to send Lazarus back from Paradise to warn his brothers. The Patriarch explained that the rich man’s living brothers had the writings of Moses and the Prophets; that if they didn’t pay attention to the sacred words, not even a person sent back from the dead would be sufficient to convince them to change their lifestyles. We see this principle demonstrated in the last hours of Jesus’ life, as the very people who had witnessed miracle after miracle performed by Jesus, still joined in the chant “crucify Him.” If a witnessed miracle does not change a hardened heart, neither will any statue or monument or church building or relic of a saint.

No! Traditions, Tombs and Tomes don’t “prove” anything to the man or woman who has no interest in pursuing and knowing Truth – whether that’s religious truth, social justice truth, or whatever. Still, all memorabilia have some value to both the adherent of the principles that it represents and to all who seek to understand his/her past. On the other hand spiritual memorabilia are specifically for the comfort of the believer and follower – to provide a firm foundation, to cement their confidence and to provide that assurance of the revelation they’ve already received and in the One they already Love and in Whom they already have expressed their faith.

Nothing Covered that will not be Revealed – but by whom?

 

 

 

 

During one break in Jesus’ preaching to the people, He took his disciples aside and warned them about avoiding all hypocrisy in their lives and ministries, explaining that “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2) Every Christian, especially Church leaders, has been put on notice that hypocrisy will not be tolerated by God. A hypocrite’s true colors will eventually be revealed. But who is the one who will uncover that person’s secrets? I think most Christians believe it is God who will reveal all evil behavior performed under cover of darkness or behind closed doors?

But isn’t it the nature of God to deal directly with the sinner – through their conscience? Isn’t it God’s desire to convict the sinner of the need to repent and change, long before they destroy their reputation, their ministry and the ones whose lives they are touching? God has no desire to shine a light on anyone’s sins, and only does so to warn His children of impending harm. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17)  Most “born again” believers have secrets (what some of us prefer to call “youthful indiscretions”) that we’re grateful God mercifully has allowed to remain hidden, which were a part of a past life that we left behind to follow Christ.

It’s in God’s nature to give second, third, fourth and chances innumerable to correct our ways, and He always stands ready to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) His mercy and patience is so great he will put up with such behavior much longer than we would ever put up with another that we observed doing the same. But whether or not we are found out, His mercy and patience neither removes us from the responsibility to reconcile with the one harmed and make recompense for the harm we have caused, nor from the legal and spiritual consequences of said behavior.

But if God is not the revealer of the evil behavior and thoughts and attitudes that we would rather remain “hidden,” who is? Some of course will blame the devil. He is after all called the prince of darkness for a reason. He prefers to operate in deception, with his true motives hidden – for if his plan to destroy God’s highest created beings were revealed, few would listen to him. While the devil is our condemner – he operates most often within our minds, to get us to follow a path that will lead to our own destruction.

I’m convinced that in most cases it is the unrepentant hypocrite who thinks he or she has covered over their evil behavior, who is the revealer of the darkness of their own heart. Evil behavior by its nature is addictive. If one does not actively seek to restrain an addiction and seek to control it (something only possible through repentance), it will always drive one to greater and greater risk-taking and aggressive thrill-seeking. This is true whether the addictive behavior is drugs, alcohol, porn, debauchery, gluttony, sadism, thievery, blasphemy, pride, gossiping, etc. As a result, it is only a matter of time before the one who refuses to repent and restrain his or her rebellious nature who ultimately shines the light on their true evil selves.

Who You quote tells a lot about You

What is your primary source for spiritual inspiration and direction? Is it your denomination’s leading newspaper or magazine? Or is it a book on the lives and teachings of holy men and women, living or deceased? Perhaps you are influenced by the teachings of the leaders and founders of other faiths – the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, or Mohammed. It never ceases to surprise me how “in-name-only” Christians (INOCs) so often opt for Faith Quotes from any number of religious leaders and inspirational web sites and publications to verbalize their moral position on a subject, rather than going to the source of the moral code itself – namely God’s written Word, the Bible.

Who and what a person quotes over social media tells a lot about them and their belief system. It’s clear to me that most INOCs simply have not invested the time and effort to study the Bible and the voluminous evidence (historical, archaeological, scientific and theological) which establishes it as the infallible Word of their Creator, Savior and Sovereign Lord. That’s not to say these are not “good people,” some with virtuous traits that serve their fellow man well. They’ve simply had their minds clouded by the enemies of God.

It may sound prideful that only those men and women who acknowledge the authority and credibility of the Bible have the complete Truth about right behavior and thinking, healthy living, right relationships, eternal life and the like. In reality, we had nothing to do with the revelation we’ve received – for it was only the grace and mercy of God that opened this Truth to our understanding. And it is available to any and everyone who humbles themselves and asks to receive it as a by-product of their commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

If and when a person does this, they will be in a position to test and judge every word and behavior of even the most respected leader of their denomination to determine if they align with the Word and nature of God. Of course, not everyone wants to do this – for they are comfortable remaining in darkness.

Neither Conservatism nor Liberalism is a Virtue

 

How would you describe Western conservatism and liberalism to a visitor from another planet? Some would designate each a political mindset, others a social and/or fiscal construct, and still others a belief system guided by which personal decisions will or will not be tolerated by proponents of the brand. But it only takes a brief review of social and mainstream media to conclude that the core of each category’s adherents consider their particular brand a virtue, and subsequently designate their opposite as evil incarnate.

But a virtue is a condition of the heart that finds expression in behavior showing high moral standards: generosity, modesty, courage, humility, integrity, loyalty, and dignity to name a few. While some adherents of conservatism and liberalism may exhibit one or more of these traits, few if any can claim a lock on all. Still, we citizens of Western culture choose to assign ourselves to either the Conservative or the Liberal brand, then disparage the alternate brand. And those who opt for the brand of “Moderate,” both consider lacking in conviction.

Why do we put ourselves and others into these convenient boxes based on our biased observations and judgments of the other’s behavior, their spoken words and their perceived attitudes? People and their choices are not that simple and the cultural and/or political brand they identify with, (whether conservative, liberal, or even moderate) unlike every virtue which is well characterized and exemplified in Holy Scripture, varies in the mind of the definer.

America – the Greatest Force for Good this World has ever known

This afternoon President Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, and it didn’t take long for the Left to launch its barrage of missiles attacking that decision and blaming not only the Administration, but every American who supports him for every past, current and future problem in the world. As I pointed out to a few of my more-liberal FB “friends,” the Paris Climate Accord was less about dealing with climate change and mostly about redistribution of wealth – and the U.S.A. would have gotten the biggest shaft had we remained in it.

I’m a non-apologetic proud American and I’m weary of those who try to guilt-trip me for my good fortune and blessing of being a citizen of the greatest force for good (outside of our Lord Jesus Christ) that this world has ever known. And the only reason we’ve been able to do as much good as we have, is because of the availability of those blessings – and I’ll fight ‘til my last breath to maintain control of those resources.

In 2004 when a 9.3 magnitude earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean killing 280,000 people, no one dialed 999 Paris for help. No! They called George W. Busch, who sent a flotilla of rescue and medical ships and personnel, plus $350M in aid.

In 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, no one called 999 Berlin. No! They called President Obama who directed the establishment of Joint Task Force Haiti commanded by United States Southern Command. Coast Guard cutters together with 17 ships, 48 helicopters and 12 fixed-wing aircraft in addition to 17,000 sailors and marines flew in relief supplies, flew out evacuees, airdropped supplies, established a field hospital, repaired piers, and provided imagery from satellite, Global Hawk, and U-2 assets. Even the primary charities that responded were U.S. based, including the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities of America and Samaritan’s Purse.

Whenever a natural disaster or conflict destroys cities, homes and markets, or when hunger and disease threaten to spread, people across the globe have learned they can’t rely on the United Nations or the European Union – they all turn to America.  The USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responds to an average of 65 disasters in more than 50 countries every year, providing life-saving assistance to tens of millions of people including those affected by drought in Southern Africa, conflict in Syria and Iraq, and flooding in Burma. They deliver live-saving food assistance, emergency health and nutrition services, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, and relief items to help people facing famine in these countries, and elsewhere around the world – something we could not do as well or as broadly without the blessings of resources available in America.

Forgotten Patriots

It’s that time of year again when Pastors and Rabbis around the nation will acknowledge our active military, our veterans and their families for the great sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of the citizens of the greatest nation in the world. As we rightly honor these, let’s not forget the sacrifices and service of their civilian counterparts, for we are a region which is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the Army’s lead developer of ground systems and its logistics center, an area where a number of our current and retired servants also call our worship centers their home.

Each is extremely proud of the contributions they’ve made to support and protect our men and women in uniform. Yet few outside the DoD fraternity realize the shoulder-to-shoulder sacrifices these dedicated civilians have faithfully endured. During the Vietnam conflict we were subject to the same verbal abuses from our acquaintances as our brothers in uniform, for our support of the military industrial complex. During the Gulf Wars we participated in the same inconveniences and dangers when many of us volunteered to go into the field with the green-suiters to provide logistics support or to gather technical data. We’ve mourned friends who made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield and when the Pentagon was struck on 9-11, and we’ve worked to calm the spirits of those who suffered despondency after they returned home.

Over our careers, which sometimes have stretched across decades, most have spent an inordinate time away from family, especially during periods of crisis. We’ve taken that 3:00 am call and reported immediately to the local Commander or to a distant military installation to devise strategies to defend our fellow citizens. Spending holidays at the Pentagon, at test sites, at black sites or overseas is not all that unusual – something our kids and spouses never seem to understand or get used to.

Few of us have had our contributions recognized outside of our immediate supervision or our fellow comrades in arms. Most of my comrades’ efforts were performed in anonymity.  Yet as this year’s three patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day) are observed this May, July and November, I and my friends will once again faithfully and silently salute all those who once wore the uniform.

May God bless America and may He give peace and comfort to green-suiter and civilian DoD employee alike.

Open Letter to Pastors Everywhere

Dear Pastor:

It’s wonderful that many of our local churches are so youth and child focused – for indeed the future is our younger generations. But when a creative director’s histrionics are traded for spiritual substance, when technological gimmickry become the primary means to generate (or fabricate) that “feeling” of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and when panel discussions replace well-researched and anointed messages from the Pastor, you have reason to question whether something has gone seriously awry. One has to wonder if leadership is aware or even cares that wedges are being driven between Gen-Z’s and their elders who gave/give so much to lay the foundation that others seem intent on fracturing. If it’s the latter, only one thing remains to be answered: will they continue to drive out the seasoned citizen or simply wait to bury us as, one-by-one, we succumb to the adverse effects of theatrical fog and mist? Does leadership even give a wit about our health and welfare, much less our concerns about the spiritual state of the Body?

Rise of the Ezekiel 38 alliance of nations

Anyone who has followed my blog or FaceBook posts for any period of time know of my great interest in Biblical prophesy. To understand any ancient literary work, it takes a lot of hard work, time and research. For each author wrote of peoples they lived among or learned about from others more-traveled than themselves. But kingdoms of the earth were in constant flux. Nations fell and nations rose. Over the centuries and millennia borders were realigned times innumerable as the once-dominated became the dominant force of a later time, and vice-versa.

So when the average reader happens upon futuristic predictions such as provided in the 38th chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, there’s a tendency to skip over them, ignore them or give them little credence, simply because it’s difficult to associate the prophetic utterance with the world as they know it. So in order to help you better understand these and other writings of Ezekiel in the light of current events in the region, here’s a geography translation.

6th Century BC                                    Year AD 2017

  • The lands of Gog, Magog,             *Russia
  • Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal           *Russia
  • Persia                                                       *Iran
  • Cush                                                           Ethiopia
  • Put                                                             *Libya
  • Gomer                                                       Parts of *Turkey
  • Beth-Togarmah                                    Parts of *Turkey,  Armenia & Asia Minor.
  • Syria                                                          *Syria
Is it mere coincidence that the five asterisked nations have formed a military alliance within the borders of Syria? Ostensibly this coalition is to battle radical Islamic terrorism and prop up the Assad regime. I personally find it curious that this is the first time in human history that there has been a cooperative economic and military alliance between these nations.  In fact, just a few years ago this alliance would have been considered unthinkable, because America and NATO had a strong foothold in the region. But the vacuum created by prior American administrations changed all that. Regardless of their reason for being there today, according to the prophet Ezekiel, this alliance of nations will one day mobilize with the intent to destroy the state of Israel.

One of the reasons I study prophesy is because I hate to be surprised. Perhaps it’s time for you too to read “the rest of the story.”

A 21st Century Tower of Babel

The city of Strasbourg (France) is the official seat of the European Parliament. Ever since its completion in December 1999, the main tower structure, called the “Louise Weiss” building has raised eyebrows and questions. Its promoters describe its peculiar appearance as reflective of the “unfinished nature of Europe.” It was intentionally designed to look like the Pieter Brueghel 1563 painting entitled “The Tower of Babel.” The ancient tower which theologians recognize as the unfinished work of Nimrod, who was building a tower to defy God, is an interesting source of inspiration for a modern democratic institution. 

The professed intention of Strasbourg building’s lead designer was that the EU Parliament would complete the original goals of these ancient peoples. I challenge those history buffs among you to research the proposed official poster promoting the Parliament Building. The poster was eventually banned due to protests by numerous groups, but it clearly reveals the mindset of the builders. The poster showed the people of Europe rebuilding a replica of the tower in Pieter Brueghel’s painting. At the very top of the poster were reversed pentagrams (upside down stars.) And the poster’s slogan was: “Europe: Many Tongues One Voice,” inferring that the activity of Parliament would reverse God’s punishment for the idolatry and arrogance of the people of the world. 

Even those of you who see this as a silly religious conspiracy theory must admit that the inspiration behind the Louise Weiss building oddly seems to align with the esoteric beliefs of the world elite and their fractured understanding of ancient scriptures. Just one more thing to think about in the light of recent world events.

The Focus of all human existence is Jesus Christ

Within mere moments of mankind’s fall from grace and our exile from the Garden, we received the promise of redemption and restoration. The third chapter of the Book of Beginnings guarantees that the heel of Adam’s seed would indeed crush the head of the serpent that led them astray.

And for the next four millennia, godly judges, patriarchs, prophets and kings were sent to direct the focus of every seeker of truth to the coming Messiah. Yet not every man and woman on earth elected to seek to understand and establish a relationship with their Creator. Many preferred the camp of the deceiver, and his promise to fulfill every lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Even when Jesus Christ appeared at the apex of human history, putting a face on our God, many, influenced by the theologians of the time, closed their eyes and ears to His acts, words and works that proved Him to be the expected Savior. Now as time winds down, the deniars and the rejecters vastly out-number those who align themselves with the triune God of the Bible.

All this demonstrates is that for all of history, the focus of human existence has been Jesus Christ. No other Name has drawn and continues to draw such pervasive love and such vicious hate from every corner of the earth. Those who deny His and His Father’s authority, teachings, doctrine and existence go to extremes to try to destroy and denigrate those who honor and serve Him. Yet one day ALL will bend their knees to that Name which is above every name, and all on earth, under the earth and in the heavens will proclaim Jesus is Lord.