Category: Culture

The Scourge of the Double-minded

pushmi-pullyu    I’m intrigued by various approaches taken to seek the promises, the blessings and the help of The Almighty. Some use ritual prayer, repeating over and over again a string of words approved by their hierarchy, as if the phrases themselves have some magical influence on our Creator-Provider-Healer. Others cry out with heart-felt expressions laced with abundant scripture for whatever duration they feel is necessary to get their Lord’s attention. Then there’s the “prayer” of one who can’t seem to separate his or her appeal to the Kingdom from the realm of the superstitious. Some of these forward every chain letter that comes their way promising whatever; while others “claim” their blessings, as if Jehovah God is required to heed their commands. In contrast, those who seem to lack confidence in their personal relationship with the Father and His Son are more likely to make requests for community prayer support. Some even appear embarrassed by their appeal for supernatural intervention, so they incorporate a degree of lightness to the request: “Please pray for X, and toss in some pixie dust for good measure.”

Marvelous Grace overlooks our silliness

So what is the “best method” to submit our requests to the throne of God? Clearly the Bible publishes guidelines for successful prayer. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that our God’s mercy is so vast, His grace so marvelous that He overlooks a lot of the silly performance things His kids think they need to do to approach His throne. All He wants is for them to come to Him in whatever means is natural to them.

Barrier to answered prayer

But when I say silly performance things people do, in no way am I justifying sin; for His righteous and holy nature will never sanction such rebellious behavior with blessings. But besides sinful behavior, there are some attitudinal barriers to answered prayer: things like selfish motivation, an unforgiving and bitter spirit, pride, self-righteousness and something the Apostle James called “double-mindedness.”

The term “double-minded” comes from the Greek word dipsuchos, meaning “a person with two minds or souls.” It’s interesting that this word appears first in the book of James (James 1:8 and; 4:8). For this reason, some scholars conclude that James might have actually coined the word.

Jesus probably had such a person in mind when He spoke of the one who tries to serve two masters. See His teaching in Matthew 6 where Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Double-mindedness raises its ugly head when half of you knows you need God and desires to lean on Him, while the other half worries about what others think about what you stand for and believe in. We’re either going to be focused on God’s expressed desires or we’re going to be focused on what other people think.  These are at such opposite extremes that it is impossible to satisfy both. Those who try will become unstable in all their ways, which simply means unsteady and wavering in both character and feelings.

The term unstable is analogous to a drunken man unable to walk a straight line. He sways one way, then another. He has no defined direction and as a result goes nowhere. A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. He’s always in conflict with himself. One torn by such inner conflict can never lean with confidence on God and His gracious promises; which is why many of his prayers will never be answered as he desires. According to James, a doubter is one such double-minded person.

A doubter just doesn’t have the faith spoken of in Hebrews 11:1, 3. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It’s impossible to be both certain and doubting. A person’s words may declare he believes the promises of God, while his thoughts and his actions say otherwise. Most of us carry some degree of doubt into every serious trial we face. It’s human nature that only God can help us overcome. But the “doubter” spoken of by James has a more serious case of lack of trust in our Lord’s promises. All the while he asks for God’s intervention he’s checking around for a second opinion. He’s double-minded.

As a minister of body, soul and spirit healing, nothing grieves me more than a person in need refusing to let loose of double-mindedness. I’ve prayed for numerous people, and seen many healings and miracles. But all too often I’ve left a session with a confidence and trust that God was intervening in their specific circumstance, only to later learn that they subsequently opened the door to another minister or priest to counter my message of hope with one of doubt and expectation of the worst. One of the fruit of double-mindedness is – when you expect the worst you’ll never be disappointed.

Trust in God and God alone

Deep within the soul of every believer is the desire to live fully for God. That desire was planted inside us when we were converted through faith in Christ. At that moment, the Holy Spirit took up residence within our body. And we immediately began to experience the desire to do things God’s way. That desire will always be there within the soul of a Christian, even the one who is double-minded. But the only way to experience the complete joy and peace God intends is to enter into a single-minded approach to our thought life.

Until we settle our relationship with God we’ll continually find ourselves in a state of inner turmoil. A double-minded life will circumvent much of the good which the Holy Spirit wants to work in us and through us. What every believer desperately needs is to fully surrender their heart and mind to the Lord. Only then can God work miracles in his or her life. We either do or we do not fully trust God and God alone. Once we settle this we’ll be confident, at peace, in power and our prayers will have a purpose that lines up with the will of God.

Thoughts as we approach the precipice of Super Tuesday

  Debate Though there are some nations that have existed for centuries, even millennia, there are none that have been as successful, as unselfish, as peaceful and which have accomplished as much good as the United States of America has in its brief 240 years. Barely ten years ago it would have been unthinkable that its run as a world leader was about to end. Yet that’s where we stand today. And as 35% of the electorate prepare to cast their votes for a nominee for President, the choices are unfortunately between various degrees of imperfect, fallible human beings.

The citizenry and media always seem to place so much faith and hope in such a man or woman. In probably the first recorded election in history, the people of Israel expressed similar expectations. When they looked out over their available candidates, who did their eyes light upon? It was the tall, handsome, muscular and fair-haired Saul. Most of us know how that turned out.

I often read on social media how some believe that this term’s choices in candidates are a reflection of God’s judgment upon this nation – that we’ll get exactly what we deserve in a leader – someone who will continue to lead us down that path to destruction. Although there is some scriptural basis for that assessment, my personal belief is that there is still hope. God can turn even the sourest grapes into the most delectable wine. But He doesn’t work in a vacuum. He expects cooperation – both from the eventual winner and from a lot of us citizenry. No longer can we ignore, if not out-right reject God’s authority and His offers to guide us out of our self-inflicted troubles. Together we must turn from our wicked ways, and back to Him.

My faith and hope is not in the man or woman that’s elected, but in the godly man or woman that they can become – if they allow Him to operate in their life. So let’s join together in prayer for that miracle change.

To whom have You turned in times of Trial?

Political Promises   I’m sure many of you are amazed if not perplexed by the Donald and Bernie shows. One political pundit after another has tried to explain the phenomena. The most common theory for their success is that our citizenry are outraged by the state of affairs in Washington and around the country that have negatively impacted every aspect of their personal lives. They’ve watched helplessly while the nation’s influence around the world has been degraded by their leaders and, at the same time they’ve seen their personal wealth, freedoms and protections within their own borders stolen from them. So they’ve cast all their chips into the buckets of these unorthodox candidates for President.

I guess I’m less concerned about the specific choice of nominee for each party than about the attitudes of our citizenry that is driving them to these choices. Almost across the board in the 2016 Presidential nomination process, the base of support for each party’s leading candidates seems more than willing to ignore and/or accept their use of deception and dirty tricks if it results in a “win” for the man or woman whom they anticipate will be their savior. It’s amazing that the lessons of the last three millennia of history have failed to sink in. Like one nation after another of the past, the citizenry of the good-old-U.S.A. are turning to fallible men and women for solutions to their problems, instead of their infallible Creator and His clear guidelines.

Just one simple example from ancient history to make my point. “We have heard of the pride of Moab – he is very proud – of his haughtiness and his pride and his wrath; but his lies shall not be so.” Pride, anger, deception – these summarily describe the attitudes and behavior of the citizenry and leadership of 2016 America much as they did that of the nation of Moab 2,700 years earlier when Isaiah announced and explained its impending destruction.

The capital vices that pervade our modern society will not be tolerated by God indefinitely. In Moab’s case, the ultimatum was eventually given that they had but three more years to turn around their situation. But as history reveals, they ignored the warning and judgment fell. King Sargon of Assyria conducted a major operation against the Arabians in 715 B.C., and presumably took the opportunity to devastate Moab as well en route. The few who escaped the sword only did so by being absorbed into other kingdoms of the region, and their national identity was erased from the history books. Will our fate be the same?

As a side issue, it’s noteworthy that Moab once regarded themselves as friends of Israel, but abandoned their former allies when the relationship proved inconvenient politically and culturally – another ill-advised action our nation seems to be flirting with. And this, if carried to fulfillment, will be one more nail in this country’s spiritual and natural coffin.

Compassion versus concerns for safety – can these be reconciled?

Compassion vs Security      Recent terror attacks within the borders of democratic nations have spotlighted the need to find better solutions to the growing numbers of people who seek the refuge that our free societies provide. The concern of nearly every U.S. citizen whether Christian or not is that Islamic terrorists will use our heritage of compassion toward displaced populations against us to gain entry to our borders in this time of crisis. The process of vetting begins with the UN which seems to have neither the ability nor the incentive to effectively screen for terrorists masquerading as refugees. Clearly the screening process to date has proved a failure, as magnified by the recent San Bernardino massacre. If anything, it’s demonstrated that, while the majority of people fleeing danger and hardship in their homelands may be no problem, it only takes the failure to identify a couple of those who intend harm to result in a calamity.

In the face of this very real danger, Christians especially are being challenged by many church leaders and by their Biblical principles to exercise compassion for these suffering people. In my own local church one of our pastors recently called upon our congregation to reassess our attitudes in this regard, and spoke of each crisis as actually being an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and to reach unbelievers.

Unbridled compassion cannot serve as a national security policy

Some insist that those who advocate a pause in welcoming these refuges into our nation are simply cold and heartless. But it’s much more complicated than that. Not only are there valid issues about security and safety, just as valid are people’s concerns with the availability of jobs or the lack thereof, the current state of homelessness among children and veterans, the reality of an ever-growing national debt and many other complex factors. Increasing the rolls of the unemployed, those living on the street or in shelters, and those fully dependent on government assistance by the tens of thousands, if not millions makes no sense.

Then of course the topic of religion can’t be ignored, in spite of our nation’s historical tolerance of all brands. In years past most Muslims who legally immigrated to America weren’t much different from any other legal immigrants – I don’t think they cared what religion others were because they were too busy trying to put food on their own tables and survive the daily turmoil of life. In contrast, for centuries religion has been used in the Middle East as a tool of power to divide people and give them an enemy to fight to distract them from problems such as poverty, government corruption and lack of opportunity. Only recently has the latter strategy begun to be imported within our borders.

The U.S. military learned the lesson the hard way. It’s why both the Iraqi and Afghan Armies have been so difficult to train and lead. No matter how much an American leader vetted their counterpart soldiers, he knew that at least one man in his company was likely to be an Islamic terrorist, someone who would shoot him in the back or blow him up. The other 199 of his soldiers knew it too, and they could never fully trust each other because of it.

This fact forces every responsible person to look at their association with the Islamic community differently than in times past. The message of “always looking over one’s shoulder” is now being translated to every urban and suburban community. Every man and woman must ask themselves, “How well do I really know my neighbor? What was in that last shipment of boxes they received from UPS? Does he or she have plans to kill me and my family?”

There’s a fine line between fear and the exercise of due care

Biblically fear is presented doctrinally as the opposite of love. Fear is one of the enemy’s tools to isolate each of us. 1 John 4:18 announces “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” Yet that does not imply that we are not to exercise due diligence and care to avoid the enemy’s snares intent on entrapping us and putting us in dangerous situations unnecessarily.

Instead of feeling guilty about efforts to shelter ourselves and our loved ones from unnecessary danger, we need only consider how historically the people of God approached similar circumstances. The great apostle Paul, who could hardly be described as one who let fear captivate his life and keep him from performing God’s work, still used wisdom in his decisions of who to allow into his ministerial circle. In one instance when he became aware of a plot by Jewish leaders to kill him, “They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death,” he listened to the advice of his disciples who convinced him it was better to run and live another day than face the danger head on, for he had much more to do for the Lord. They “took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.” (Acts 9)  Years later, following his arrest in Jerusalem for preaching Jesus, Paul himself heard of a plot to murder him in the morning when he was scheduled to be brought down for a hearing. He sent for and convinced the Roman centurion to escort him to Caesarea at night with an armed guard. Eventually he made his way to Rome from which he wrote much of his New Testament letters. (Acts 23 – 26)

While Jesus was the most compassionate person to ever walk the face of the earth, He didn’t put Himself or His friends in any unnecessary dangers – until it was time for His work to be concluded. Early in His ministry the people tried to stone Him for blasphemy, but He disappeared out of their midst. A few times Jesus even told people that he had healed to keep silent about what He had done for them. Jesus was sensible of the dangers that surrounded him and thereby usually avoided large cities, seeming to prefer the country and small towns. In fact there was a long period of time, perhaps as much as eighteen months when he avoided going on any pilgrimage to Jerusalem. About six months before the end of His ministry, his relatives pressed him to go there for the Feast of Tabernacles. “Depart hence, and go into Judea, that your disciples also may see the works that you do. For there is no man that does anything in secret, and he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” Jesus suspected treachery and initially declined their invitation to join them. Only after the others had set out did he start on the journey, unknown to everyone and almost alone. Most of His disciples didn’t meet back up with Him until He reached Judea.

And the Old Testament gives us several examples of what happens when God’s people foolishly ignore the warning signs and are thereby deceived by the tactics of the enemy to destroy and weaken them. Such was the story of the Gibeon nation’s deception described in Joshua 9. God’s warning was clear: “Be careful not to make a covenant with the people living in the land where you are going, so that they won’t become a snare,… It will cause you to go astray after their gods and sacrifice to their gods. Then they will invite you to join them in eating their sacrifices, and you will take their daughters as wives for your sons. Their daughters will prostitute themselves to their own gods and make your sons do the same!” But Israel apparently didn’t take the warning serious and unwittingly set into motion a whole series of events that would trouble them as a nation throughout their history. These idol worshippers from Gibeon became thorns in the side of the people of Israel, frequently drawing them away from their covenant with God.

We have to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the leaders of Israel who relied on their own wisdom and misread the intents of these “peace-seeking” foreigners. The kind of treaty they signed, called a Suzerain, seemed beneficial to them on the surface. This vassal treaty set up Israel as the superior party and Gibeon as subservient. How could they possibly go wrong? But the people of Gibeon didn’t prove their loyalty to Israel in order to establish a relationship; they simply used lies to trap Israel into a treaty that played on Israel’s out-of-balance view on the value of a vow in comparison with the basic value of following God’s commands to begin with.

Most societies in the world have much different rules and views concerning making agreements and what constitutes fair play than we are familiar with in Western culture. In Middle Eastern culture, lying and cheating, if done cleverly and affording the liar an advantage, is seen as something to brag about; it is a badge of honor worn proudly. It is simply outsmarting your opponent. That may not play well in Western society where fairness and honesty is at least propounded as an expectation; but truth-be-known, we are the exception to the rule.

Until we as a united people begin to acknowledge that not everyone plays fair and, like our own Savior become sensible of the dangers that surround us, the lives of our loved ones will remain at risk. The same Bible that says “seek first the Kingdom of God” also directs that our first order of business after service to our God, is to protect and provide for these very ones God has given to us to care for.

A Trial – a Test – an Opportunity to validate your beliefs

Which way.jpgAccording to “Worldometers” there will be 7.4 billion people on the earth by the end of this decade. It’s amazing that among so much humanity that we’re all so unique. Our uniqueness results from the people, environment and culture where we’re born and raised, how we’re governed, our race, ethnicity, education level, health status, economic status, religious affiliation, age and every personal experience past and present. Even though in terms of DNA sequence every human is 99.5% similar to every other human, it’s that other ½ % of variances in our genome which make us even biologically unique.

Our uniqueness takes expression in what we believe about and relate to a variety of subjects. Surveys reveal that some of the strongest beliefs a person has concern his or her understanding and degree of acceptance of things, events and beings that transcend our natural world (i.e.: humanity’s beginnings, its purpose for existence and its future, the supernatural realm, morality, etc.)

From the 1st Century AD on, evangelical Christians like myself who today make up barely a tenth of the population of the earth seem to have successfully usurped the term “believer” to define us. At the same time we characterize the 90% outside our circle as “unbelievers.” In reality, every one of the persons that currently inhabit this earth, as well as all those that have preceded us throughout history and those that will someday replace us are “believers – in something.” Even those who do not affiliate with any religion as well as those who claim to deny the existence of anything outside of the natural realm “faithfully” adhere to their persuasion.

And in the midst of these 7.4 billion unique persons, it’s amazing that most “believe” that theirs is the one and only true truth. In reality, none of us has the total truth – for we’re all imperfect beings. But clearly, some of us are closer to true truth than others; in fact, much closer. But how do we know which of us?

If only there was a way to “test” the validity of our beliefs!

I’m convinced that most people are satisfied with just believing they have the true truth. They have no interest in testing or validating those beliefs. In fact “testability” troubles a lot of people. Because it implies that their or someone else’s doctrine might be proved wrong, or that their “faith” is so incongruous to the real world that it will reveal their need to compartmentalize and segregate their belief system life from their natural life.

Personally though, I’m on a quest to understand and grasp true truth. If I’m on the wrong path and have an opportunity to get my life on a more accurate track, then that’s what I want to do. If there is some means that a human being with an open mind can avail himself or herself of to test the validity of their beliefs, then I want to find and pursue it.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve found at least one such means, and I found it in the most unexpected of places. In the midst of our billions of unique experiences and unique constitutions, there is at least one common thread.  It’s a factor that every human being on this earth must deal with – and that common element is referred to by many names. In the Christian vernacular it’s often referred to as “tribulation.” But “tribulation” is just a synonym for the difficulties or challenges or trials that every being faces throughout our days on this earth. No one born on this earth is immune from tribulation; not even an incarnate spirit-being which Jesus claimed to be.  In fact it was one of the last things Jesus cautioned His followers to prepare for when He said: “In the world you will have tribulation.” In other words, at the same time as He was trying to convince people that following Him was a good thing, He didn’t want them to get the false impression that it would immunize them from the troubles and evils of the world around them.

How can the trials of life be a revelator and validator of our belief system?

Regardless of the monotheistic, multi-deity, pantheistic or no-theistic belief system each individual identifies with, he or she must still function in the natural world. A “true-true” belief system must be able to deal with every known fact in the past and present universe and even have an answer for what awaits us in the future. Human reason demands it.

As a result, the truest belief system is the one that provides the closest world view “fit”, i.e.: that paints a picture of the world that matches the way the world really is. As such, it must be based on real evidence. It’s the one that allows me to live a non-compartmentalized life, a holistic life where my belief system (be it religious or non-religious) and everyday life come together.

Tribulations (or trials) present us with the opportunity to test and validate our belief system whatever it is. However who amongst us has the courage to subject both our belief system and our personal “faith” or trust in that belief system to an independent and fair evidentiary hearing? Many do not. In fact, there’s a great investment in society (evolution theory, religious pluralism, social engineering, post-modernism, etc.) to discourage one from pursuing such a validation effort.

Instead of seeing these difficulties and challenges as learning opportunities, society would have us (1) try to explain the problem, including why it exists, (2) try to fix the problem, or (3) assign blame for the problem. Unfortunately most of life’s complex problems are neither accurately explainable nor fixable to the affected party’s satisfaction; and it rarely if ever accomplishes anything to assign blame. But assign blame many of us do nonetheless.

And who do we blame? We blame ourselves and our past indiscretions. We blame our parents, siblings and the circumstances of our upbringing. We blame society, the education system, our business relationships and our leaders for failing to meet every personal desire or need. Many religious people blame the devil and some even blame God or gods. Some of our difficulties are of our own making – bad past decisions and choices; but most we have little to no control over.

Though there may be some value in knowing the reason for each difficulty we face and its source, I believe it’s more important how we respond to each. We have the choice to look at a trial as an inconvenience or a hardship that we pout or fret about. But what good does that do? None at all! Or we can choose to look at that same trial as an opportunity both to learn from and to validate or disprove our beliefs. It becomes an opportunity to prove our faith, our character and our commitment in a particular area.

Let’s consider a few examples

Every parent faces trials that test the consistency of applying their belief system to some deeply troubling personal circumstances. No matter where you reside in the world, every parent, whether Hindu, Muslim, atheist or Christian, at some point in their life is going to have to deal with pain and suffering. How does their belief system and their personal trust in that system contribute to their response to these real-life situations?

Will the Hindu father adhere to his faith’s teaching when one of his children faces sickness and disease and its accompanying pain and suffering? His faith claims that all pain and suffering is a natural consequence of the moral laws of the universe in response to some negative behavior of a soul’s past-life. If his ailing child asks “why me?” or feels her circumstances are “not fair,” will the father reply as his Hindu “faith” demands, that the child’s current situation is the exactly correct situation for her to be in, given her soul’s previous actions in a former life. Or will that father take the path of human normality and try to comfort his child and seek medical help to alleviate the pain and suffering?

Will the Muslim parent whose child is struggling with emotional and behavioral problems stick to his Qur’an’s teachings? His faith claims that “all of life is a test and that those who fail this test shall see the evil consequences of their sins and corruption?” The conclusion is that the all-great but “impersonal” Allah allows suffering to occur when one or more of his laws are broken. Will the parent explain to his child that he or the child has somehow failed Allah and thereby must learn to cope with his deserved lot in life? Or will that parent also do what comes natural to fathers and mothers everywhere; namely seek to help their child improve his circumstances?

How would the atheist mom respond to similar circumstances and still adhere to her “faith principles” which proclaim that her child is merely a conglomeration of evolutionized molecules with little or no intrinsic value. Will she even recognize the conflict between her “faith principles” and her motherly instincts to protect and care for her young, traits which have been engrained into her being by One greater than herself?

Will the Christian father faced with economic hardship continue to trust in the promises of his God to meet all of his loved ones’ needs as he puts the Kingdom of God first? There is no “or will he” alternative that will ever yield a better and more compassionate result. For Christianity addresses every part of life. It’s not a religious thing; it is true-true.  Every fact in the known universe confirms Biblical truth. And that bothers a lot of people too and they’ll use every means available to prove it ain’t true.

Every non-Judeo-Christian religion forces its adherents to separate their religious life from their everyday life – then they rationalize the religious part – since it doesn’t make any sense otherwise.  They have a religious life over here and an everyday life over there.  When you talk to them about religion, it’s as if the law of non-contradiction doesn’t apply. It never makes sense, and it really doesn’t matter to them.  However, in their everyday life they have to do the same kinds of things you and I have to do.  (e.g.: look both ways before crossing the street; balance a checking account; feed a baby.)  Rationality and the laws of logic apply.

Most Eastern religions identify things such as pain and suffering as illusory. They teach that mankind is called to “transcend” pain and suffering.  Is this the way real families deal with it?  I think not!   Just tell a person who lived through the Holocaust, or who’s child was murdered or who’s suffering in the hospital that it’s only an illusion.

As Christians, we know pain and suffering exists; we identify with it; and we’re called to deal with it in particular ways; and be with those who do suffer. Christianity brings our belief system life and our everyday life together.  “Come let us reason together,” is God’s challenge to all of mankind. I worship God with my mind, as well as my heart.  My faith is not blind, but is based on real evidence.

Christianity is indeed testable and verifiable.  There is actually objective evidence, both for it and against it.  Each of the primary doctrines of Christianity can be tested as to whether they are true or not.  In fact, many of the writers of the Bible challenge people to do the research and find out if there is or is not corroborating evidence for the claims made. The Christian apostles did not back away from even the most controversial doctrines of faith, such as the resurrection of the dead. What other religion links their faith to a historical event (especially a miracle) that could be checked out? None that I know of! Yet, the apostle Peter told the early Christians, “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  That’s the nature of Christianity – to be willing to seek the truth and to give an answer to its harshest critics.

Contrast this with Buddhism, where the test is the experience of enlightenment.  It takes 10 to the power of 63 (or 1 followed by 63 zero’s) reincarnations to reach enlightenment. That’s a long time to wait to see if it’s true!

Trials come to all mankind – but for the Christian believer they are of special significance

“Why must all men endure trials?” I can’t answer that question. It’s beyond my pay grade. But if you ask me, “Why should a person’s belief system be tested?” I can take a stab at that one. For every one of us faces difficulties, tribulation, trials, whatever title we give them, and it sure would be nice to have the confidence that my belief system has some value in helping me understand and deal with such trials. Absent a strong belief system that we can place our trust in, we’ll view every impending trial with fear and hopelessness and/or an attitude of rebelliousness. Instead, if we’re going to be able to help ourselves or our families or associates get through these times of tribulation, we’re going to need to approach them with courage.

Whether the trial comes from God, from the world, or from the enemy, it’s really not relevant. In fact, some come precisely because we are or claim to be followers of Christ. No one relishes a trial when it enters their life. It’s human nature to try to avoid such circumstances. But is it better that our lives be comfortable and safe, or that they be rich and purposeful?

What we say and how we act when things are going great have little meaning to the casual observer. But when we are going through a trial – our response is noted by all. So what should be our response?

If we’re one of His followers, God expects us to not shrink back from any trial; rather to persevere through each one. How we respond will not be a surprise to Him. Still, our response to the test validates each of His true followers before the court of heaven and it becomes the basis for God justly rewarding us for staying faithful.

Our response also declares to the world and the enemy the degree that we believe God and trust in Him and His Word and promises. These observe our response to each trial and assess our position in the Kingdom and whether we believe our own proclamation of our beliefs. Our response serves as a witness – both of our genuineness and of God’s miraculous power to deliver those who believe in Him and His Son.

As strange as it may sound, we are also observers of our own responses. Without testing there would be no way for our faith, character and commitment to be refined, to be strengthened or to be proved genuine. Testing begets blessing, because only through testing can these be strengthened, thus hastening our spiritual growth and the blessings that accrue to that growth.

And a successful conclusion is God’s glory, our confidence and increased strength.

Prepare yourself for times of tribulation

The worst thing a person can do is not be prepared for challenging circumstances in their life. Not only have we all been put on notice that struggles will come, it’s also simple common sense to expect to face difficulties from time to time. So here are a few simple suggestions.

  1. Don’t preach to others what you don’t believe. For the word you speak to others will be “tried.”
  2. Validate your belief system and once you are confident in that system adhere to it. I have done this with my Christian faith. Have you? If yours doesn’t yield the same degree of confidence that it will take you through any trial you may face in the future, then check out mine.
  3. Don’t look back to your past mistakes and failures. Every time the people of Israel were faced with a test, they looked back at Egypt. It just made things worse.
  4. Don’t take an opinion poll before you act. At the border to the “Promised Land,” 10 out of 12 supposed representatives of God voted to turn back and not enter because their eyes focused more on the appearance of the enemies they’d have to fight and less on the promises of God (the Author of their belief system).
  5. Every trial appears like we’re in a desert (like we’re facing it alone). There’s nothing further from the truth if we have confidence in our belief system. Being “alone” just forces us to acknowledge the presence of and our dependence on the One greater than yourself.
  6. Predetermine to whom you will turn to when faced with a trial. Decide whether it will be God or yourself?

One last thought

In one instance described in the 16th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus demonstrated for His disciples how to address tribulation. He first took His disciples’ attention off both His impending personal crisis and off the “tribulation” that was coming down the pike in their lives. Then He refocused their attention on (1) believing in Him, (2) removing the guilt they would experience for abandoning Him in His hour of need, (3) relying on the Father and His faithfulness, (4) having inner peace and being of good cheer regardless of the circumstances, (5) and trusting in Him for He had overcome the world.

Legislating Morality

It irritates me whenever I hear the phrase “you can’t legislate morality.” That’s nonsense! Of course you can, and it’s done all the time. Anything can be legislated and just about everything has been over the ages.

The issue is not what man can do (for as God said at the tower of Babel, “nothing that men propose to do will be withheld from them.”), but what he should do. Most of our problems today can be traced to a very bad decision of God’s “chosen people” as recorded in 1 Samuel 8. When the ones who should have known better looked around and saw how other nations were governed and how they maintained law and order, they decided to emulate the modus operandi of the godless rather than that of the Moral-Law-Maker. To their demand, “Give us a king to judge us,” God responded with a summary list of the behaviors and appetite for power of said imperfect human leader and the negative consequences each would have on their personal lives.

Man-run governments have always made and redefined laws that run counter to the moral law of God – and the consequences for their citizens have always been and continue to be devastating. The 20th and 21st centuries’ socio-economic declines, increases in crimes of violence, and lowering of educational standards and mankind’s corresponding disinterest to grow in knowledge and things intellectual can all be directly linked back to some unprincipled, immoral or amoral decision fostered and executed by one or more of the three branches of our democratic government. Whether it be the judicial branch’s opening of the abortion-on-demand floodgates or the legislative and executive branch’s redefinition of marriage and their ever-broadening legalization of mind-altering and mind-controlling substances, we see each one’s devastating effects on today’s fractured individuals, families and society.

Unfortunately there are many so-called “liberal Christian” churches which have not only accepted these bad decisions, but have even done much to foster their expansion, totally ignoring or denying any and all obvious relationships to our nation’s decline in greatness. In contrast, many individual “Bible-believing Christians” put their heads in the sand and prefer to hold their tongues all the while their neighborhoods are burning around them. Some react this way out of fear of ostracization, others because they truly believe that even talking about the negative issues of our time represents a lack of faith in God’s Word and promises for his people.

Jesus and His disciples talked about the negative issues of their time and of the times to come. They did so not out of fear that the evil around them would overtake and destroy them, but to warn the unsaved and to provide encouragement to the followers of Christ that these events were prophetic signs of the soon return of their Lord and Savior. Wake up Church! It’s time to take a stand on these important issues. Love the one who has been dragged behind the enemy’s lines. But know that your voice is the cannon God has given you to fire the ammunition of the Good News and the Name of Jesus so others can be set as free as you.

On display – America’s failed public education system

I had one of those Watters World moments yesterday. Jesse Watters is an interviewer on Fox News, who frequently appears on the O’Reilly Factor. He’s known for his on-the-street interviews. Time and time again this segment on the show reveals the failure of the American public education system to actually educate our kids.  When Watters goes to some of the nation’s premier college campuses and asks questions about rap music, or movie stars or the Kardashians, nearly each interviewee receives an A+ grade.  But switch over and ask these same young people about world events, politics, history, or any number of other subject of substance, they are hard-pressed to earn a D–.

 Anyway, my Watters World moment came yesterday when I was talking to an acquaintance and made the clever (so I thought) observation that it was the Ides of March. When I got a blank look I added, “You know, the 15th of March.” When that too didn’t seem to register, I continued, “the day Julius Caesar was murdered.” “Oh,” was the response, “You mean the movie.”

 The Ides of March – or – the “Grand Experiment” didn’t just happen yesterday

 It’s been a long time coming – this grand experiment we call our Public School System. It’s taken at least fifty years for the nation to fall to 36th in math, science and literacy of the 65 countries recently tested by the Program for International Student Assessment.  Though we are all the way up to 19th when it comes to measuring educational efficiency, i.e.: the best value for the money spent. Classes in social revolution and so-called diversity now dominate our grammar schools, high schools and universities. Instead of studying subjects that are relevant to earning a living for the benefit of their future households, our kids are taught to question traditional values and to reject the history and the ideals that once made our nation great.

 Just for the record: The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the old Roman calendar. The Romans didn’t number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day like we do. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October.

 I once questioned the real value of the Latin that I was forced to take in parochial high school. I thought its single virtue was that it gave me the ability to communicate with the Pope every time I talk with him. I’m thankful now that it also strengthened my knowledge of ancient Roman history; and not just the Gallic Wars.

 Yes Kids! Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Pompey, Augustus, Cicero, even Brutus, these were all real people. They weren’t characters invented by Cecil B. DeMille, or even William Shakespeare. They lived and made their marks in their world 2000 plus years ago. And for those of you with an interest in Biblical studies, when Jesus, held up a Roman coin and said, “Give unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s, and to God, that which is God’s,” He was referring to an image on that coin of a real live Roman ruler. Not Julius Caesar, but one of his successors. Unlike Las Vegas, what happened in Rome didn’t always stay in Rome. Much of ancient Rome continues to influence our lives and culture today, even down to the structure of our government, our public institutions, our language and art. And by no means should we forget their excellence in plumbing.

 So is it too late to turn this downward trend around? I hope not! And what possibly can one individual do, when that individual is not per se an educator? Well yesterday, while speaking on the subject of service, my Pastor again reminded our congregation that we have an obligation to share anything and everything that we’ve been blessed with. That extends to sharing our knowledge and talents. It clicked that I owe it to all the recent graduates of our wonderful public school system to plant some knowledge of history, something most are apparently lacking. So what follows is the planting of my first seed into that ground.

Gaius Julius Caesar

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Julius Caesar [July 100 – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general, statesman, consul, and notable author of Latin prose. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest military commanders in history.

 He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that was to dominate Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power through populist tactics were opposed by the conservative ruling class within the Roman Senate.  Caesar’s victories in Gaul (now France and Belgium), completed by 51 BC, extended Rome’s territory to the English Channel and the Rhine. Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine and conducted the first invasion of Britain.

 These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of another great general, Pompey. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with a legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Italy under arms. Civil war resulted, and Caesar’s victory in the war would put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence.  By the end of 48 BC, Caesar had pushed his enemies out of Italy and pursued Pompey into Egypt, where he was eventually killed. There, Caesar aligned himself with Cleopatra, with whom he had a son.

 After assuming control of government, Caesar greatly transformed the empire.  Caesar began a program of social and governmental reforms. He reformed the Roman calendar creating the Julian calendar. [FYI: The difference in the average length of the year between the Julian (365.25 days) and our current Gregorian (365.2425 days) calendars is 0.002%.] He centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity,” giving him additional authority. He relieved debt and reformed the Senate by increasing its size and opening it up so that it better represented Romans as a whole. He reorganized how local government was constructed. In addition he resurrected two city-states, Carthage and Corinth, which had been destroyed by his predecessors, and he granted citizenship to a number of foreigners. He also proved to be a benevolent victor by inviting some of his defeated rivals to join him in the government.

 Caesar was also careful to solidify his power and rule. He stuffed the Senate with allies, and required the same body to grant him honors and titles. He was allowed to speak first at assembly meetings, and Roman coins bore his face.

 Yet the underlying political conflicts had not been resolved. Envy and concern over Caesar’s increasing power led to angst among a number of politicians who saw in him an aspiring king and Romans had no desire for monarchical rule. By the time Caesar came to power it had been five centuries since they’d last allowed a king to rule them.

 Caesar’s wish to include his former Roman enemies in the government helped spell his downfall. Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus were both former enemies who’d joined the Senate. The two of them successfully conspired to assassinate Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC.

Where do you get your Wisdom?

As a math and science major at U of D, most of my close friends were engineers.  We were always poking good-natured fun at each other.  My favorite was the display of a bumper sticker with Alfred E. Newman, the face of Mad Magazine, saying “I usTa cuDnt speL enjinere, noW I aR wuN.”

Alfred E. Newman

People on social media quote from a lot of unusual sources – and I often wonder if they too are using satire as a lesson for their readers.  Then I find out later that they too frequently buy into or are being deceived by the philosophy that’s being sold, and I wonder – should I say something to enlighten them – or just let it go?  After all, it is their FaceBook page or Twitter account!  But I usually come to the conclusion that I have an obligation to my convictions to speak truth – even when it hurts (them and me.) Often they don’t receive it very well. I guess it’s a pride thing. I just wish that some of my friends would be more careful about where they get their wisdom.

 I understand that God can use any created thing to communicate tidbits of truth, including plants (a fig tree), animals (a donkey) and inanimate objects (a shepherd’s staff).  Likewise the ungodly will occasionally be tapped by God to reveal knowledge or speak an encouraging word to mankind.  There are lots of such examples, including the pagan king Cyrus, the agnostic scientist Thomas Edison, the naturalist and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau and the New Age guru Deepak Chopra.  But it’s a dangerous thing to go back to those wells again and again.  Yet that’s what I see many of my acquaintances doing in their posts.

 Things that sound good when our egos are looking for a boost or our emotions are frazzled often are not good at all.  In fact, anything that “tickles our ears” needs to be tested against the written Word of God.  We’re warned about this throughout Scripture.  One only needs to remember that the same people that patted Jesus on the back and cried “Hosanna in the Highest,” barely a week later were shouting “crucify Him.”  The Apostle Paul warned his pastor-in-training Timothy that “the time will come when [the people] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.”  I don’t think there’s much question that the time he spoke of is now.

 Not that this is a totally new thing – for it’s human nature to want to hear things that make us feel good.  Even Isaiah of old identified this as one of the greatest problems of his time. He said even God’s “chosen” people demanded of their prophets and judges to “speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,” in lieu of the truth, which was not so rosy.

 There’s no question that the “sound doctrine” that Paul spoke of included some warm fuzzies: God loves us; He prospers us; He sends angels to minister to and protect us. But the True Gospel also contains some uncomfortable truth that the rebellious will never accept: that no one is “good” but God; that we are all sinners; that the wages of sin is death; and that rejection of God’s sole remedy for sin leads to eternal separation from God.  The latter are some of the most critical doctrinal truths that few “believers” would debate.  Yet even followers of Christ often fall for unsound doctrine and there are always dire consequences (spiritual and natural) whenever we do.

 Everyone and every place we turn to for guidance must be tested for congruence to Biblical truth – because the enemy seems to have infiltrated even previously “safe sources.”  Just yesterday I picked up a popular “Family” publication to help me pass the time as I worked out at Fitness 19.  For some strange reason, over the weekend someone had purged out all copies of my usual favorites: National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.  Anyway, as I scanned through this “Family” magazine I started to read an article on nurturing children, written by a renowned child psychologist.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the woman was selling a brand of Buddhism as a way to help children cope with stress and other of life’s problems.  This included how to choose and use a mantra while meditating.  I decided I’m going to have to start bringing my own reading material.

 We all need to be very careful about what we expose our minds to – but even more careful about what we expose others to.  The prophets of old, Jesus Himself and the writers of the Biblical books often spoke of how God placed a greater degree of accountability upon teachers and others in leadership positions.  The writer Voltaire said it this way: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I understand that few of us typing at our laptops, tablets, smart phones, and smart watches truly recognize the power we possess – but we’d better learn real quickly. With the advent of social media, each of us who participates stakes a claim to the role of teacher and leader whether we like it or not.  Others rely on our opinions and “the weakest among us” will believe anything they see or hear over this or any other media.

 Where you get your “wisdom” is extremely important.  And what portions of that “wisdom” you share with others is even more crucial – especially when the “others” can number in the hundreds and thousands by the time it is re-shared over and over.  Take the time to do the research to verify the truth claims. Never respond to either something you agree with or something you disagree with before you ascertain that truth.  And never-ever post anything when you are feeling your lowest; for it is at those times that your mind will be most clouded and least able to judge fact from fiction, truth from deception.

Is it true that there is no such thing as a Stupid Question?

 As you can imagine, several decades into a lifetime I’ve had a lot of teachers: in school, in higher education, on the job, and even in the church.  Time and again I’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions – there’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  As I’ve trained others over the years, I too have used that same phrase, not anticipating how wide that opened the door to some students, some trainees, some new employees or some recent converts to make some pretty outlandish inquiries.  Still, good teachers appreciate good and not-so-good questions – for they present opportunities to delve deeper into a subject matter.  Good teachers ask good questions for much the same reason.

 Good teachers ask good questions

 Jesus never asked a question because he needed to know the answer.  He used questions the way a surgeon uses a scalpel, to delicately cut into a new level of understanding – of God and of themselves.

 “But who do you say I am?” Jesus asked His disciples.  He wanted them to really think about what they believed about Him and His claims that He was the Son of God and the Messiah to mankind.  The question forced each of His disciples individually to think about and make a decision: did they really accept those statements as true or not?

 “The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?” Jesus asked the Pharisees.  He forced the Jewish religious leaders to look into their own hearts, to talk amongst themselves and consider what they really thought about John and his ministry work, something they had previously rejected.  These leaders revealed that they knew the truth, yet they refused to speak it, for to do so would expose their own hypocrisy and evil hearts to the people.  Their odd declaration of ignorance even had the secondary effect of revealing to the people how their leaders were two-faced.

  “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?”  Jesus asked the Synagogue leaders before healing a man with a shriveled hand.  As men knowledgeable in the scriptures, they knew God’s compassion for hurting people.  Yet, they chose to keep silent.  He exposed the hardness of their hearts.  They were without excuse for their attitude.

 “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”  Jesus asked the people in His Sermon on the Mount.  He prefaced the questions with a discussion about love toward all men and concluded it by telling them to strive to be perfect as their Heavenly Father.

 There are Stupid Questions – namely those that intentionally trigger strife

 One thing Jesus did not do was ask a question to trigger a debate, or cause dissension among His followers.  The only time He spoke of division was in terms of those who would receive Him as Lord and Savior and those who would reject Him.  “Do you think I have come to give peace to the earth? No! Rather, strife and division!  From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or perhaps the other way around.  A father will decide one way about me; his son, the other; mother and daughter will disagree; and the decision of an honored mother-in-law will be spurned by her daughter-in-law.”  In all other cases Jesus sought to resolve differences.  For example, when most of His disciples were upset that John and James had asked to have seats of importance in the Kingdom of God, Jesus used the opportunity to teach about servanthood – something they (and we) all need to strive for.

 Sometimes the kinds of question we’re asking – or not asking – reflect a great deal about our attitudes toward others and our motives in communicating with them.  Are we out to help a person arrive at a correct answer, or do we just want to demonstrate our superiority and win a debate?  People who consider themselves leaders need to be especially careful of the words they use – in one-on-one conversations and in the public domain – and for most of us the latter implies social media.  It’s so easy to rationalize a harsh word or question: “I just like to make people think about and reconsider their core beliefs.”  If we don’t take care with the use of language, instead of helping a person our words may well cause the other to entrench themselves deeper in their unhealthy opinions, values and lifestyles, closing the door to all other options.

 There is an art to asking the right questions without appearing abrupt

 One ministry I’ve studied for its success in conversing with people who hold strong positions contrary to my own, calls its approach the Columbo tactic.  It’s named after the 1980’s and 90’s seemingly bumbling TV detective whose remarkable success was based on an innocent query: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” or “What do you mean by that?”

 The general topic can be just about anything. Some people hold beliefs for no reason whatsoever – it’s just something they heard or that someone they liked or trusted vocalized it and they accepted it without giving it much thought.  Others hold strong convictions and simply don’t recognize the weaknesses, flaws, or contradictions in their position – for if they did, they probably wouldn’t continue to adhere to it.

 The Columbo tactic is most effective when delivered in a mild, genuinely inquisitive fashion. If you are patient and polite it’s usually very easy to probe even further, gently guiding the conversation in a more productive direction.  Simple follow-up questions such as, “How did you come to that conclusion?” graciously assume the other person has reasons for her view and is not just emoting. It gives her a chance to express her rationale (if she has one), giving you more material to work with.  If someone actually responds, “I don’t have any reasons; I just believe it,” then it’s genuine and appropriate to ask, “Why would you believe something when you have no reason to think it’s true?”

 In the end, if even this approach fails, then we must be willing to respect the person’s final decision, even if we feel it’s to their physical and spiritual detriment.  Arguing, insulting, even mildly debating after a person has obviously “dug in” is of no further value, and is not Christ-like.  If we’ve been respectful and loving in our approach, then we must trust that the little pebble we put in their shoe during the conversation will one day make them uncomfortable enough to cause them to seek relief by making further inquiry on their own – either of us or from another akin to ourselves.

Social Media – the heart of man revealed

About 2600 years ago Daniel wrote down his visions of the end times.  At the conclusion he is directed by the revelator: “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”  Today we live in the season where knowledge is not only increasing; it is exploding upon our world.  For such a time as this we are seeing a massive number of technological advances.  And social media is no doubt the one that impacts more people than any other.

 Social media are fascinating phenomena.  Barely a couple years ago if you’d have recited to me any of the six general types of social media I’d have given you a blank look.  Now I’m at least generally engaged in each area: in social networking (via FaceBook and LinkedIn), in bookmarketing sites, in social news, in media sharing services (like YouTube), in blogging (via my Christianityalloverthemap.com website) and in microblogging (via Twitter).

 Social media empowers average individuals in ways that few of us could have imagined just a few years ago.  A local pastor friend of mine cited an instance a little over a week ago where he tweeted a comment to a news event impacting churches in the Houston area.  The next day his tweet was republished in some national news outlets.  Then just a couple days ago he posted another one liner congratulating a federal court for their decision which was favorable to a moral issue he supports.  Within a very short time he had several comments, some positive, some negative, from a wide range of people around the country, including a highly insulting reaction from a person that was in his Bible college graduating class.

 Throughout history, anyone who has had access to a preacher’s pulpit, a professor’s lectern, a politician’s platform, a newscaster’s microphone, a publisher’s newsprint, or a judges gavel has wielded great power.  It takes a wise person to manage power. And so I’ve heard many a person in positions of controlling such instruments speak of the caution they take before yielding access of those instruments of power to another.  Yet social media has removed most of these protections.

 Social media makes everyone a potential evangelist or preacher or teacher, a potential news reporter or commentator on the social and cultural issues of our day, or a potential reviewer and critic of anyone who dares to publish or say anything in the public forum.  I believe there are God-ordained purposes for social media; but as with anything good, it has the inherent possibility of being abused.  So as I participate in the phenomena I find myself constantly asking, what is it about social media that so often removes a person’s natural inhibitions, that causes them to throw caution to the wind, that looses the tongue of one who might otherwise wisely cogitate and remain silent on a controversial issue, at least until they’ve taken the time to develop a well-thought-out response?  If we believe, as many of us do, that in the spirit realm, whatever is said becomes a reality, then why do even Christians feel the need to say whatever we like, knowing there will result an immediate manifestation?

 While Holy Scripture has much advice to give on the subject, those who restrict themselves to secular reading can hardly avoid the common sense guidance of our fellow humans.  Mike Bell, author and photographer reminds us that “The chatterer reveals every corner of his shallow mind.” American poet and author Anthony Liccione wisely asks, “Does giving your piece of mind, bring a peace of mind? Or is it better to be silent and let the war inside subside?”  Even best-selling contemporary Christian fiction novelist Donita K. Paul comments that “Not all tongues that wag cohabit with a brain.”  But perhaps American Author and Novelist Richelle E. Goodrich provides us with the best recommendation of all when she says: “Okay, let’s put this another way – if what you’re about to say wouldn’t look good permanently engraved on your tombstone, bite your tongue.”

 When I ask myself why God would allow the development and advancement of a social media product like FaceBook in these “Last Days”, I come up with at least three logical answers.  First, these are clearly tools capable of reaching the masses with the Gospel.  Second, they each serve as a test of our own heart and beliefs (namely how we will respond to words and ideas that offend us and/or to God’s Word).  And third, they reveal the heart of each man and woman (serving as a warning to others of who can and can’t be trusted.)  It’s the second and third reasons that I want to explore further.

 Social media reveal the heart of man (and woman)

 Throughout the Bible the “heart” is spoken of as the seat of our personality.  It’s that with which we think, trust, plan, lust, understand, rebel, deceive, and which becomes heavy, sorrowful, bitter, cheerful, proud and envious.  It’s the whole of our inner self, the real you.  That’s why Solomon in Proverbs 27 says: “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”

 Jesus often said that, “by their fruits you shall know them.”  That is, our words and our actions reveal the true attitude of our hearts towards God and toward our fellow man.  I find it interesting that people try so hard to camouflage the person and the family that they desire others to view on social media.  Yet, as hard as they try, their true self often is revealed.  Think for example, when you post a message, or when you read a message posted by another, do you respond like the Roman centurion (with such deep faith that Jesus hadn’t seen even among His own people), like the harlot (who humbly sought and received forgiveness and went and sinned no more), like Paul (whose love and compassion for the people of his own race was such that he said he’d rather be cut off from Christ if they could be saved), or like the proud and haughty Pharisee?

 When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus into the Temple to present Him to the Lord as required by the Law, the old man Simeon who had been waiting years for that day, met them, blessed them and prophesied, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken againstthat the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  In other words, if our thoughts are at all different or at odds with the thoughts and promises and will of God, we’ll be offended by them in some way and it will be revealed.  And I observe such revelations on FaceBook each time I’m on.  It’s impossible to hide forever.  And that’s a good thing.  For once it’s revealed, either to us directly, or to a brother or sister that will work with us to help us, then we can be reconciled to God and to His Church.

 Hear and heed what the Bible says about the heart of mankind.  It is the heart that concerns the wise man.  As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.  Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  Guard your heart with all diligence, because out of it spring the issues of life.  It is important not that you sing to the Lord, but that you sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  It’s important not merely to do what is right, but that truth be in the inward parts.  A heart that is honest is what delights God.  Indeed, it is only the pure in heart that shall see God.  God will write his law on the heart, to cause the man to want to follow the Lord.