Our Endgame

The definition of endgame is “the final stages of an extended process of negotiation” (quote source here). For “Avengers” fans, the latest movie in The Avengers” series, titled Avengers: Endgame,” opens in theaters tomorrow (April 26, 2019). I’ve seen bits and pieces of the previous movies, and here’s a brief description of this latest movie:

Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers–Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner–must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos — the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe. (Quote source here.)

Endgames are about showdowns, whether epic or not, and they are found everywhere–in games like chess, in business, in politics, in religion, in the military, in all types of relationships, and, in fact, life in general. It’s about strategies and the age old conflict between good and evil (the lines, of which, have significantly blurred of late).

I remember several years ago reading an article that mentioned Sun Tzu’s famous work, The Art of War,” was required reading in Russia’s military. Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese general and military strategist in the 6th Century B.C. According to History.com:

Sun Tzu’s approach to warfare, unlike that of Western authors, does not put force at the center: indeed, the Chinese character “li” (force) occurs only nine times in the text’s thirteen chapters. This reflects the conditions of warfare in China at the time (force was then in fact of limited utility) as well as Sun Tzu’s conviction that victory and defeat are fundamentally psychological states. He sees war, therefore, not so much as a matter of destroying the enemy materially and physically (although that may play a role), but of unsettling the enemy psychologically; his goal is to force the enemy’s leadership and society from a condition of harmony, in which they can resist effectively, toward one of chaos (luan), which is tantamount to defeat. (Quote source here.)

This type of warfare is not fought with traditional weapons or even out in the open as on a battlefield (as in typical war scenarios). It is about using strategy and deception to conquer an enemy, and it’s base is psychological.

A chess player wrote the following about it’s value in playing the game of chess:

Although Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” was written more than 2,600 years ago and it’s not a chess book, this is one of the books that I would recommend to chess players. This work stands today as a prominent work on military strategy!

This manual is not only about war strategy, but, also about the lessons and knowledge that can be learned within a strategic framework, as is required in many aspects of life, including but not limited to war.

I recommend this book to chess players, as it is a masterpiece in strategy, which can be especially useful in preparation for a chess tournament. This book is an easy read – light and deep at the same time.

Even in this century, many high school and college faculty members use quotes from this book in their lectures. A paradox , given our dreadful advances in the technology of warfare.

That is the greatness of the “Art of War,” it is a book as old as the game of chess, and both, have stood the test of time. For it happens that the underlying science of combat remains little changed – the craft of deception, interpreting terrain, the movement of material and men, the discipline and motivation of troops. These elements are immutable, and those who must carry the sword have always turned to Sun Tzu for enlightenment and inspiration. (Quote source here.)

It requires no superheros to be effective. In an article titled, Sun Tzu’s 31 Best Pieces of Leadership Advice, by Eric Jackson, a tech and media investor, and contributor on Forbes.com, he states:

There was no greater war leader and strategist than Chinese military general Sun Tzu. His philosophy on how to be a great leader and ensure you win in work, management, and life is summed up in these 31 pieces of advice. They can all be applied by you in your job when you go back to work next week:

  1. A leader leads by example, not by force.
  2. You have to believe in yourself.
  3. Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
  4. If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
  5. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
  6. Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
  7. If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.
  8. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
  9. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.
  10. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
  11. Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
  12. Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.
  13. Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.
  14. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  15. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) he will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; (2) he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; (3) he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; (4) he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared; (5) he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
  16. Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.
  17. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
  18. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
  19. Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  20. When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.
  21. Know yourself and you will win all battles.
  22. Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
  23. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
  24. When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.
  25. All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
  26. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
  27. The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
  28. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
  29. Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.
  30. All warfare is based on deception.
  31. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. (Quote source here.)

If you happen to be Christian, as you should know, deceit and deception are not a part of the Christian’s modus operandi,” although we run into it often even in Christian circles, and we are tempted to do it ourselves at times, too. Other bits of advice in “The Art of War” are just some good common sense in dealing with others; but the main premise behind “The Art of War” is how to subdue your enemy using deception and psychological warfare.

As Christians, it never hurts to understand and be aware of what others might be doing to us that is not on the “up and up” whether at work, in social circles, in relationships, and everywhere else. Reading even some of “The Art of War” (as in the 31 points listed above) will at least clue us in on how others might be operating in our lives.

We (e.g., Christians) are taught to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (those are Jesus’ own words in Matthew 10:16). However, too often, we massively fail at the “shrewd” part in that verse.

Why do we so often “miss the mark” on being shrewd? It is probably, in no small part, in an effort to keep harmony with others; to think good about others and not evil. But there is a significant difference between being naively trusting of others and being shrewd.

In answer to the question, “What does it mean to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)?” GotQuestions.org answers that question as follows:

In sending out the Twelve, Jesus said to them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, KJV). The NIV says, “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Jesus was using similes (figures of speech that compare two unlike things) to instruct His disciples in how to behave in their ministry. Just before He tells them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He warns them that they were being sent out “like sheep among wolves.”

The world, then as now, was hostile to believers—not incidentally hostile, but purposefully hostile. Wolves are intentional about the harm they inflict upon sheep. In such an environment, the question becomes “how can we advance the kingdom of God effectively without becoming predatory ourselves?” Jesus taught His followers that, to be Christlike in a godless world, they must combine the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove.

In using these similes, Jesus invokes the common proverbial view of serpents and doves. The serpent was “subtle” or “crafty” or “shrewd” in Genesis 3:1. The dove, on the other hand, was thought of as innocent and harmless—doves were listed among the “clean animals” and were used for sacrifices (Leviticus 14:22). To this very day, doves are used as symbols of peace, and snakes are thought of as “sneaky.”

Nineteenth-century pastor Charles Simeon provides a wonderful comment on the serpent and dove imagery: “Now the wisdom of the one and the harmlessness of the other are very desirable to be combined in the Christian character; because it is by such an union only that the Christian will be enabled to cope successfully with his more powerful enemies” (Horae Homileticae: Matthew, Vol. 11, London: Holdsworth and Ball, p. 318).

Most people don’t mind having their character compared to a dove’s purity and innocence. But some people recoil at the image of a serpent, no matter what the context. They can never see a snake in a good light, even when used by Jesus as a teaching tool. But we should not make too much of the simile. We cannot attach the evil actions of Satan (as the serpent) with the serpent itself. Animals are not moral entities. The creature itself cannot perform sin, and shrewdness is an asset, not a defect. This is the quality that Jesus told His disciples to model.

The serpent simile stands in Jesus’ dialogue without bringing forward any of the serpent’s pejoratives. It is a basic understanding in language that, when a speaker creates a simile, he is not necessarily invoking the entire potential of the words he has chosen—nor is he invoking the entire history and tenor of the linguistic vehicle. Rather, the speaker is defining a fresh relationship between the two things. A quick look at Matthew 10:16 shows that Jesus was invoking only the positive aspects of the serpent. There is no hint of His unloading Edenic baggage upon His disciples. He simply tells them to be wise (and innocent) as they represented Him.

When Jesus told the Twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He laid down a general principle about the technique of kingdom work. As we take the gospel to a hostile world, we must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly). Jesus was not suggesting that we stoop to deception but that we should model some of the serpent’s famous shrewdness in a positive way. Wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and innocence does not equal gullibility.

Let us consider Jesus as exemplar: the Lord was known as a gentle person. Indeed, Scripture testifies that He would not even quench a smoking flax (Matthew 12:20). But was He always (and only) gentle? No. When the occasion demanded it, He took whip in hand and chased the money changers out of the temple (John 2:15). Jesus’ extraordinarily rare action, seen in light of His usual mien, demonstrates the power of using a combination of tools. This “dove-like” Man of Innocence spoke loudly and clearly with His assertiveness in the temple.

In His more typical moments, Jesus showed that He was as wise as a serpent in the way He taught. He knew enough to discern the differences in His audiences (a critical skill), He used the story-telling technique to both feed and weed (Matthew 13:10–13), and He refused to be caught in the many traps that His enemies laid for Him (Mark 8:1110:212:13).

Jesus showed that He was as harmless as a dove in every circumstance. He lived a pure and holy life (Hebrews 4:15), He acted in compassion (Matthew 9:36), and He challenged anyone to find fault in Him (John 8:4618:23). Three times, Pilate judged Jesus to be an innocent man (John 18:3819:46).

The apostle Paul also modeled the “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” technique. Paul lived in dove-like innocence in good conscience before God (Acts 23:1) and learned to deny his carnal desires so as not to jeopardize his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:27). But Paul also displayed serpent-like shrewdness when he needed it. He knew his legal rights and used the legal system to his advantage (Acts 16:3722:2525:11). He also carefully crafted his speeches to maximize the impact on his audience (Acts 17:22–2323:6–8).

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus taught us how to optimize our gospel-spreading opportunities. Successful Christian living requires that we strike the optimal balance between the dove and the serpent. We should strive to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of. We are aware of the unscrupulous tactics used by the enemy, but we take the high road. Peter admonishes us, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). (Quote source here.)

In Titus 3:2 we are reminded “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone,” and that includes those who accuse us of doing wrong or who are acting deceptively behind our backs. Such is the world in which we live, but we are not to act or react as they do.

I’ll end this post with Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you . . .

So you must . . .

Love . . .

One another . . . .

You Tube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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From Good Friday to Easter Sunday

This is a follow up blog post to my last post on this blog titled, Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.” This post will take us from Good Friday through Easter Sunday.

In an article titled, What’s So Good about Good Friday?” by Justin Holcomb, Episcopal priest, author, and teacher of theology and apologetics at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary, he opens by asking this question and follows with the answer:

What is Good Friday and why do we call Good Friday “good,” when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.

Good Friday Bible Verses

Romans 5:6-10 – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Isaiah 53:3-5 – “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Matthew 27 – The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus Christ

Read more Good Friday Bible verses at BibleStudyTools.com. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Where was Jesus between His death and resurrection?” by S. Michael Houdmann, Founder, President, and CEO of Got Questions Ministries, the parent ministry for GotQuestions.org, he writes:

The “where was Jesus?” question understandably becomes very common around Easter. The death and resurrection of Christ being celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday raise the questions: What happened in between? Where was Jesus and what was He doing for those three days? Why three days? Did Jesus go to hell in between His death and resurrection? etc., etc. Answering the questions is difficult because the Bible does not say much about where Jesus was and what He was doing between His death and resurrection. The Bible gives a few details, but even the interpretation of those details is difficult.

The first thing that should be made clear is that when we ask “Where was Jesus?”, the question is referring to Jesus’ soul/spirit. Jesus’ body was in the tomb from the time it was placed there until the resurrection. Jesus’ soul/spirit, however, was not in the tomb. The question really is: “Where was Jesus, spiritually/immaterially, between His death and resurrection?”

There are three primary Bible passages that give us hints to the “Where was Jesus?” question. First, Acts 2:31(see also Psalm 16:10-11), says that Jesus was not abandoned to Hades. Hades is the realm of the dead. Jesus was in the realm of the dead, but He did not remain there. Why was Jesus sent to the realm of the dead? The second passage, 1 Peter 3:18-19, likely answers the question. Jesus went to Hades in order to preach to the spirits in prison. Who were the spirits in prison? According to 1 Peter 3:20, they were those “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” This is referring back to the Genesis 6 account. But, that does not answer the question either, as there is disagreement over that passage as well. Were the sons of God who married the daughters of men fallen angels or human beings? If the answer is fallen angels, were the spirits in prison those fallen angels that God judged for their sin in Genesis 6, or were they the spirits of the people who had been destroyed by the flood? The most interesting and frustrating part of the “where was Jesus?” discussion is that every disagreement leads to other disagreements.

The third passage is Ephesians 4:8-10, which refers to Jesus leading “captivity captive” (KJV) or leading “a host of captives.” What in the world does this refer to? Most Bible scholars believe it refers to Jesus taking all of the righteous dead, who were held “captive” in the paradise compartment of Sheol/Hades, and taking them to heaven. Prior to the death of Christ, the righteous dead were saved, but since their sins had not been atoned for, they were not allowed in heaven. Once Jesus’ sacrifice had been applied to them, they were allowed entrance into heaven, and Jesus took them there. That is sure a lot to read into “taking captivity captive,” but that is how most Bible scholars interpret the text.

So, where was Jesus for the three days in between His death and resurrection? For a time, He was in Hades, preaching to the spirits in prison (whoever they were). Then, He released all of the righteous dead of Sheol/Hades and took them with Him to heaven. But, again, there is controversy on virtually every point.

Ultimately, it seems that the Bible does not go into great detail on the “Where was Jesus?” question because in comparison to His death and resurrection, it is not nearly as important what went on in between. And, maybe that should be our lesson. Let’s spend less time debating the side issues and instead celebrate the core issues. Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave, demonstrating that His death was sufficient. Because of His perfect and complete sacrifice, demonstrated by His resurrection, we can be saved if we trust in Him (John 3:16Acts 16:31). (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, What is Easter Sunday?” published on GotQuestion.org, here is their response:

There is a lot of confusion regarding what Easter Sunday is all about. For some, Easter Sunday is about the Easter Bunny, colorfully decorated Easter eggs, and Easter egg hunts. Most people understand that Easter Sunday has something to do with the resurrection of Jesus, but are confused as to how the resurrection is related to the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny.

Biblically speaking, there is absolutely no connection between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the common modern traditions related to Easter Sunday. As a background, please read our article on the origins of Easter. Essentially, what occurred is that in order to make Christianity more attractive to non-Christians, the ancient Roman Catholic Church mixed the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection with celebrations that involved spring fertility rituals. These spring fertility rituals are the source of the egg and bunny traditions.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matthew 28:1Mark 16:2,9Luke 24:1John 20:1,19). Jesus’ resurrection is most worthy of being celebrated (see 1 Corinthians 15). While it is appropriate for Jesus’ resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday, the day on which Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated should not be referred to as Easter. Easter has nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday.

As a result, many Christians feel strongly that the day on which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection should not be referred to as “Easter Sunday.” Rather, something like “Resurrection Sunday” would be far more appropriate and biblical. For the Christian, it is unthinkable that we would allow the silliness of Easter eggs and the Easter bunny to be the focus of the day instead of Jesus’ resurrection.

By all means, celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Christ’s resurrection is something that should be celebrated every day, not just once a year. At the same time, if we choose to celebrate Easter Sunday, we should not allow the fun and games to distract our attention from what the day should truly be all about—the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that His resurrection demonstrates that we can indeed be promised an eternal home in Heaven by receiving Jesus as our Savior.

To learn more about how Jesus’ death and resurrection provided for our salvation, please read the following article: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior? (Quote source here.)

Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He has risen just like he said he would (see Luke 24). So I’ll end this post as I did on my previous post with these three words . . .

 

 

 

YouTube Video: “Easter Song” (1974) by The Second Chapter of Acts:

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Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday

On Sunday, Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) will begin which is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This post will specifically relate to what occurred between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. GotQuestions.org gives the following information on Passion Week/Holy Week:

Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Holy MondayHoly TuesdaySpy WednesdayMaundy ThursdayGood Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).

Following the trials, Jesus was scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution (the Cross) through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.

It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. What should our attitude be during Passion Week? We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His Gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, What Happened Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday?” by Christian Today staff writer (no specific name is mentioned), the author writes:

One of the things anyone notices about the Gospels is that they each tell the story of Jesus’ Passion in their own way, and that it’s very difficult to square the chronologies (Ian Paul on his blog has a good discussion of this).

There are various things that do appear to have happened, though, in whatever order they might have been.

    1. The Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council) met and agreed to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5).
    2. Jesus was anointed at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). What seems to be a version of this story appears in Luke’s Gospel in chapter 7, 36-50; in John, it happens before the Triumphal Entry (12:1-11) and Mary is named as the woman.
    3. Jesus curses the fig tree, which withers and dies. It’s a symbolic parable of judgment (Matthew 21:18-22, Mark 11:12-14, 21).
    4. Jesus cleanses the Temple (Matthew 21:12-16, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-47). In John 2:13-16 this happens at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; some commentators think it may have happened twice, others that it’s the same story put in a different context.
    5. Jesus debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees and teaches the crowds. Matthew has the parable of the wedding banquet and the parable of the tenants, for instance, the teaching about paying taxes to Caesar (22-23) and a section on the ‘signs of the end of the age’. Mark and Luke have the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1-4). John has a long section of teaching directed at the disciples (14-17).
    6. Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16, Luke 22:1-6); the Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes called Spy Wednesday for this reason.
    7. Jesus predicts his death (John 12: 20-36).
    8. He shares a Last Supper with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22, John 13).
    9. He and his disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1-11). In Luke’s and John’s Gospels the garden is not named. It’s there that Jesus is arrested.

All of these things appear in the different Gospels between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We should be aware, though, that they didn’t have the same ideas about chronology as us: they were writing history, but of a particular type. So they would have thought it perfectly reasonable to shift things around a bit to make it fit the meaning of the story. What seems likely, though, is that Jesus was in the public eye and that there were confrontations with authority. On a purely human level, he must have known that the end was coming. For anyone else, that would paralyze them with fear. But Jesus continued his ministry, preaching, teaching and challenging, when he could have left the city and been safe at any time.

During this week we look forward to Good Friday, quite rightly. But the shadow of the cross was already darkening over Jesus – and he did not falter for a moment. (Quote source here.)

Aerial View of the Temple Mount (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)

The last of five discourses given by Jesus during his ministry occurred in the middle of Passion Week and is known as the Olivet Discourse (Discourse of the End Times) as it was given on the Mount of Olives. The following information below describing all five discourses is taken from Wikipedia:

  1. “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) is one of the best known and most quoted parts of the New Testament. It includes the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship, The Beatitudes are a key element of this sermon, and are expressed as a set of “blessings.” The Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction; they echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality and compassion. They also teach on issues such as divorce, lust, and worldliness; issues pertaining to persecution; further instruction on how to pray; and words on false prophets.
  2. The second discourse in Matthew 10 provides instructions to the Twelve Apostles and is sometimes called the “Mission Discourse” or the “Missionary Discourse” or the “Little Commission” in contrast to the Great Commission. This discourse is directed to the twelve apostles who are named in Matthew 10:2-3.
  3. The third discourse in Matthew 13 :1-53 provides several parables for the Kingdom of Heaven and is often called the “Parabolic Discourse.” The first part of this discourse in Matthew 13:1-35 takes place outside when Jesus leaves a house and sits near the Lake to address the disciples as well as the multitudes of people who have gathered to hear him. This part includes the parables of the Sowerthe Taresthe Mustard Seed and the Leaven. In the second part Jesus goes back inside the house and addresses the disciples. This part includes the parables of the Hidden Treasurethe Pearl and Drawing in the Net.
  4. The fourth discourse in Matthew 18 is often called the “Discourse on the Church.” It includes the parables of The Lost Sheep and The Unforgiving Servant which also refer to the Kingdom of Heaven. The general theme of the discourse is the anticipation of a future community of followers, and the role of his apostles in leading it. Addressing his apostles in Matthew 18:18, Jesus states: “what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”, see also Binding and loosing…. The discourse emphasizes the importance of humility and self-sacrifice as the high virtues within the anticipated community. It teaches that in the Kingdom of God, it is childlike humility that matters, not social prominence and clout.
  5. The final discourse is usually taken to include Matthew 23, 24, and 25. Matthew 24 is usually called the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, and is also referred to as the “Discourse on the End Times.” The discourse corresponds to Mark 13 and Luke 21 and is mostly about judgment and the expected conduct of the followers of Jesus, and the need for vigilance by the followers in view of the coming judgment. The discourse is prompted by a question the disciples ask about the “end of the age” (End times or end of this world and beginning of the world to come) and receives the longest response provided by Jesus in the New Testament. The discourse is generally viewed as referring both to the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the End Times and Second Coming of Christ, but the many scholarly opinions about the overlap of these two issues, and exactly which verses refer to which event remain divided and complex. (Quote source here.)

It is this last discourse, the Olivet Discourse,” that takes place right before Jesus is arrested. In an article published on July 14, 2017, titled, Making Sense of the Olivet Discourse,” by Paul Carter, Lead Pastor at the First Baptist Church Orilla (Ontario), he writes:

Matthew 24 begins what is sometimes called “The Olivet Discourse.” In it, Jesus talks about the near and far future for the church. Bible scholars often point out the importance of recalling the precise question the disciples asked that precipitated this entire discourse: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

There are clearly two parts to that question. Jesus had just prophesied the destruction of the temple, and the disciples asked when that would happen AND what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age.

The trick is that Jesus understood those two events were not concurrent. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, yet Jesus still hasn’t returned as of today—but the disciples didn’t and couldn’t have known that. They assumed that the destruction of the temple would be the climactic event of the end times. They didn’t realize that it would only be the beginning. Therefore, as we listen to what Jesus said by way of response, we have to remember that he is talking about a near future and a far future and we have to understand which is which. There are a couple of key indicators in the text. Look for examples at verse 6 and verse 8. After talking about some things that would happen he says: “but the end is not yet” (v. 6) and “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8).

The end is not yet. This is just the beginning. Jesus seems to be saying that a bunch of things are going to happen that are NOT the end times events the disciples were thinking they were. Things like wars, things like the rise and fall of empires, things like massive natural disasters. Those things are not signals of the end–rather they are more like table setters. They are like birth pangs. They open the door, but they are not the baby.

After these things, you want to watch for a couple of indicators. Watch for the Great Commission to be completed in an environment of increasing persecution, tribulation, false religion and apostasy; then the end will come. Look at verse 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV).

Following that, there will be a short season of intense persecution and tribulation after which: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29–31 ESV)

That is the end. After that, according to Matthew 13:43, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, forever. (Quote source here.)

Aerial View of the Mount of Olives (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)

Jesus visited the Mount of Olives three times during his Passion Week, and again after His resurrection. GotQuestions.org describes these visits:

The Bible records Jesus’ visiting the Mount of Olives three times in the last week of His earthly life, and each time something of significance happened. The first visit is what we call the triumphal entry. The donkey Jesus rode that day was found in the area of Bethany and Bethphage, on the east side of the Mount of Olives (Luke 19:29–30). Then, “when he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (verse 37). While still on the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked at the vista in front of Him, wept over the city, and pronounced a judgment against it (verses 41–44).

Jesus’ second visit was to deliver what has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24:1 —25:46. Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1–37 and Luke 21:5–36. The content of the Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ response to His disciples’ question “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24—25 primarily concerns the coming destruction of Jerusalem, the future tribulation period, and the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. The Discourse includes parables about those who wait for the Master’s coming—the wise and faithful servant (Matthew 24:45–51), the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1–13), and the good servant who uses his resources wisely (Matthew 25:14–30).

Jesus’ third visit during the week of His passion was on the night He was betrayed. That evening began with the Last Supper in Jerusalem and ended in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. During that last Passover meal, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and then revealed Judas as the betrayer (John 13:1–30). At the conclusion of the meal, Jesus established the New Covenant and instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26–291 Corinthians 11:23–26). Then He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (literally, “Garden of the Oil-press”) located on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. There Jesus prayed in agony as He contemplated the day to come. So overcome by the horror of what He was to experience in the crucifixion the following day that His sweat was “like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) and God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43).

After Jesus prayed, Judas Iscariot arrived with a multitude of soldiers, high priests, Pharisees, and servants to arrest Jesus. Judas identified Jesus by the prearranged signal of a kiss, which he gave to Jesus. Trying to protect Jesus, Peter drew a sword and attacked a man named Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the man’s ear, displaying the miraculous power of God (Luke 22:51). Nevertheless, the mob arrested Jesus and took Him to face trial, while the disciples scattered in fear for their lives.

After the trials, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus once again stood on the Mount of Olives. During His final post-resurrection appearance, Jesus led His disciples “out to the vicinity of Bethany, [and] he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:50–52). Acts 1:12 specifies that “the vicinity of Bethany” was indeed the Mount of Olives. 

Immediately following Jesus’ ascension, two angels told the disciples on the Mount of Olives that “this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). According to the prophet Zechariah, Jesus will return not only in the same way, but to the same place. In a prophecy related to the end times, Zechariah declares, “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (Zechariah 14:4). The very location where David wept in defeat and where Jesus was betrayed and rejected will be the place where Jesus returns in triumph over all His enemies. (Quote source here.)

Regarding Good Friday of Passion Week, GotQuestions.org provides the following information:

Good Friday, also known as “Holy Friday,” is the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. It is celebrated traditionally as the day on which Jesus was crucified. If you are interested in a study of the issue, please see our article that discusses the various views on which day Jesus was crucified….

Why is Good Friday referred to as “good”? What the Jewish authorities and Romans did to Jesus was definitely not good (see Matthew chapters 26-27). However, the results of Christ’s death are very goodRomans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday with a subdued service, usually in the evening, in which Christ’s death is remembered with solemn hymns, prayers of thanksgiving, a message centered on Christ’s suffering for our sake, and observance of the Lord’s Supper. Whether or not Christians choose to “celebrate” Good Friday, the events of that day should be ever on our minds because the death of Christ on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the paramount event of the Christian faith. (Quote source here.)

While this post ends with Good Friday, Easter Sunday is coming. And Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He has risen just like he said he would (see Luke 24). So I’ll end this post with these three words . . .

 

 

 

YouTube Video: “Easter Song” (1974) by The Second Chapter of Acts:

Photo #1 credit here (full view of graphic and PDF available here)
Photo #2 credit here (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)
Photo #3 credit here (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia)
Photo #4 credit here

Still Being Still

Three days ago I published a blog post titled, Be Still and Know,” on my blog, Reflections. The subject of that blog post comes from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The full text of Psalm 46 is stated below the following definition.

“Be still” has a broader meaning then just to “be still”. Here is a definition as stated on GotQuestions.org:

Be still. This is a call for those involved in the war to stop fighting, to be still. The word “still” is a translation of the Hebrew word “rapa,” meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that the warriors can acknowledge their trust in God. Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” While quietness is certainly helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still. For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help (cf. Exodus 14:13); for God’s enemies, being “still” would mean ceasing to fight a battle they cannot win. (Quote source here. A longer quote is available on the blog post mentioned above.)

Psalm 46

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Yesterday I read Psalm 19 and the first five verses of Psalm 20 (I quoted those five verses in Psalm 20 at the end of my last blog post titled, The Right Response), and both are a great companion to go along with Psalm 46. Here are those two psalms:

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold,
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 20:1-5

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

May these psalms be a source of inspiration and encouragement especially if you, like me, are still in the process of “being still.” I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 113:3From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name…

Of the Lord . . .

Is to be . . .

Praised . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still” by Hillsong Worship:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
Photo #4 credit here

The Right Response

Five days ago I published a blog post on my Reflections blog titled, The Upside of Anger.” If you haven’t read it, you might wonder about the title, but you might be surprised at the content. You can take a look at it by clicking on this link.

This morning I read a verse I received in a “Verse of the Day” email that quoted 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. Paul states the following in these three verses:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m hard pressed for whatever reason my first response is not often love, and depending on what is or who is causing it and if it continues unabated for what seems like a never-ending period of time, love tends to fade. But be aware that it is the intent of whoever or whatever is causing us to be hard pressed to make us want to push back in anger and other destructive and/or self-destructive ways. You might want to listen to the 12-minute YouTube video I published on my The Upside of Anger blog post titled, The Christian’s Guide to Anger Management,” at this link.

My blog post, The Upside of Anger,” came about because I was starting to develop a crusty edge regarding my current set of circumstances which I won’t go into because the details aren’t important. However, when one is hard-pressed day after day after day, the urge be angry at some point rears it’s head; but, again, this is exactly the type of response these types of situations try to bring out in us. And while I have not displayed any anger on the outside, I knew what I was feeling on the inside, and I was letting it build up.

What I discovered while writing that blog post helped me to see that there is an upside to anger, but we humans have a tendency to use the destructive side of anger far too often. Think of road rage as just one example. Turn on the TV, go to a movie, or go on social media for any length of time and you’ll see plenty of examples of anger that is destructive. It’s about revenge, retribution, hate, destruction, and it’s absolutely not about forgiveness, understanding or love. That kind of anger just wants to get even in some way.

In a blog post I published on September 9, 2017, titled, That Thing Called Love,” I published the following quote by Joyce Meyer:

I read a quote that Joyce Meyerone of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:

A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

“The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

“But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum!” (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in “Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015.)

When we are hard pressed, the root cause of it goes back to the words of Jesus in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6:10-18 what is the true source of all of our battles in life (see verse 12).

The following also comes from that same blog post which are the words of Jesus taken from Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Even Jesus got angry on several occasions. GotQuestions.org states the following regarding Jesus’ anger:

When Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers and animal-sellers, He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13Mark 11:15-18John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house (John 2:17). His anger was pure and completely justified because at its root was concern for God’s holiness and worship. Because these were at stake, Jesus took quick and decisive action. Another time Jesus showed anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).

Many times, we think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion that we should eradicate from our lives altogether. However, the fact that Jesus did sometimes become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is amoral. This is borne out elsewhere in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us “in your anger do not sin” and not to let the sun go down on our anger. The command is not to “avoid anger” (or suppress it or ignore it) but to deal with it properly, in a timely manner. We note the following facts about Jesus’ displays of anger:

1) His anger had the proper motivation. In other words, He was angry for the right reasons. Jesus’ anger did not arise from petty arguments or personal slights against Him. There was no selfishness involved. 

2) His anger had the proper focus. He was not angry at God or at the “weaknesses” of others. His anger targeted sinful behavior and true injustice.

3) His anger had the proper supplement. Mark 3:5 says that His anger was attended by grief over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. Jesus’ anger stemmed from love for the Pharisees and concern for their spiritual condition. It had nothing to do with hatred or ill will.

4) His anger had the proper control. Jesus was never out of control, even in His wrath. The temple leaders did not like His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:47), but He had done nothing sinful. He controlled His emotions; His emotions did not control Him. 

5) His anger had the proper duration. He did not allow His anger to turn into bitterness; He did not hold grudges. He dealt with each situation properly, and He handled anger in good time.

6) His anger had the proper result. Jesus’ anger had the inevitable consequence of godly action. Jesus’ anger, as with all His emotions, was held in check by the Word of God; thus, Jesus’ response was always to accomplish God’s will.

When we get angry, too often we have improper control or an improper focus. We fail in one or more of the above points. This is the wrath of man, of which we are told “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Jesus did not exhibit man’s anger, but the righteous indignation of God. (Quote source here.)

Those six points above and how Jesus responded are so important for us to consider when we find ourselves getting angry over any type of situation.

Also, in Matthew 5:21-26 (MSG) Jesus addresses the subject of anger as follows:

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother “idiot!” and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell “stupid!” at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.

Those words should give us pause to consider our own anger tendencies and learn to curtail them before they get the better of us; and when they do, make the first move and seek forgiveness whenever it is possible to do so.

Sometimes our anger might come from the fact that we just want someone to stand up for us in the midst of our current battle instead of trying to fight it or figure it out all alone. I know in my own situation I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked God to send me just one real life, flesh and blood human being who will come to my aid to help me resolve this situation that has gone on for years now without any resolution. Just one. It reminds me of a devotion I read in a small book titled, Experience the Power of God’s Names (2017), by Dr. Tony Evanspastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder ofThe Urban Alternative.” He writes the following on page 61:

When you were a kid, did anyone stand up for you whenever another person was mean to you? Maybe a big brother or sister or a trustworthy friend went to bat for you. Or a parent or teacher helped protect you from harm. You may have fought some battles on your own, but at other times the problem was too big for you to handle alone. That’s when you relied on that trusted sibling or friend or adult to step in for backup.

Life is filled with battles. Sometimes we’ve brought on the problem ourselves, and we need to take action to improve the situation, At other times, we’re not at all to blame. Heartbreak, pain, and difficulty seek us out, and we feel unequipped to fight on our own. No matter who or what is to blame, we can always call on Elohim Tsebaoth, the God of hosts, to join us in the battle.

In a culture that commands us to take action on our own, we tend to go about our daily business with no regard for others–including God. When we’re struggling to overcome our emotions or lamenting that we’re being treated unfairly, we keep the focus on ourselves. Instead, we need to allow God to lead the charge and follow His instructions. With God on our side, we will always win the battle. (Quote source: “Experience the Power of God’s Names,” page 61.)

While I’m not quite sure how to end this blog post, I think I’ll end it with the following blessing from Psalm 20 for everyone who is waiting for an answer but they haven’t received it yet. Here is that blessing from Psalm 20: 1-5:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices

    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart

    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory

    and lift up our banners in the name of our God, [and]…

May the Lord . . .

Grant all . . .

Your requests . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Message is Love” by Arthur Baker & the Backbeat Disciples (ft. Rev. Al Green):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Persistence of Hope

About a month ago I wrote a blog post titled, The Persistence of Memory,” which was named after one of Salvador Dali‘s most famous paintings which he completed in August 1931 when he was 27. At the time he was married to his wife, Gala, and he was “penniless and outcast from the community which had inspired much of his art.” (Quote source here.) Obviously, over time he didn’t stay that way.

Yesterday I got to thinking about the subject of hope. One of America’s most famous poets, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), wrote a now famous poem on the subject of hope titled, Hope is the Thing with Feathers“:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me
(Source here.)

Hope . . . Vocabulary.com defines hope as follows:

“Hope” is something that you want to happen, like you hope to visit Paris this summer, or the feeling that good things will come. If you make it to the final round of a tournament, that gives you hope.

Hope can also be a verb that means “strive for or wish,” as in your hope to become a doctor someday. To hope is to want something to happen, but if instead you said that you intend to become a doctor, that suggests becoming a doctor is more of a goal than a dream. Hope, on the other hand, is more emotional. In fact, some scholars believe it’s linked in meaning to “hop,” in that someone who hopes “leaps in expectation.”

Definitions of hope include: (1) a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; (2) a specific instance of feeling hopeful; (3) grounds for feeling hopeful about the future. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical definition of hope:

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25Hebrews 11:17). Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). Without hope, life loses its meaning (Lamentations 3:18Job 7:6) and in death there is no hope (Isaiah 38:18Job 17:15). The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped (Psalm 28:7), and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help (Jeremiah 29:11) and are free from fear and anxiety (Psalm 46:2-3).

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises (Matthew 12:211 Peter 1:3). Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25). It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1).

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:23-25), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:26). Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3Hebrews 6:11). Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:13).

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:1215:13). Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-141 John 3:3). (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org also states the difference between faith and hope:

Faith and hope are distinct yet related. That there is a difference between faith and hope is evident in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Two of the three greatest gifts are faith and hope, listed separately. That faith and hope are related concepts is seen in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for.”

Faith is a complete trust or confidence in something. Faith involves intellectual assent to a set of facts and trust in those facts. For example, we have faith in Jesus Christ. This means we completely trust Jesus for our eternal destiny. We give intellectual assent to the facts of His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and we then trust in His death and resurrection for our salvation.

Biblical hope is built on faith. Hope is the earnest anticipation that comes with believing something good. Hope is a confident expectation that naturally stems from faith. Hope is a peaceful assurance that something that hasn’t happened yet will indeed happen. Hope must involve something that is as yet unseen: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24). Jesus’ return is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—we can’t see Him yet, but we know He’s coming, and we anticipate that event with joy.

Jesus said He is coming again (John 14:3). By faith, we trust Jesus’ words, and that leads to hope that we will one day be with Him forever. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That is the basis for our faith. Then we have Jesus’ promise: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). That is the basis of our hope.

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope.

Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith. Christians are people of faith and hope. We have “the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 2, 2011, titled, How to Find Hope in Any Situation,” by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, she writes:

The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson‘s (1952-2013) book, “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” (published by Zondervan).

When life is going well for you, it’s easy to feel hopeful. But when this fallen world brings trouble into your life, feelings of hopelessness can come in, too. Thankfully, the hope that God offers is much more than a feeling: It’s the reality of His presence with you. You can experience that hope in any situation–even if your health fails, you lose your job, your spouse leaves, or some other tragedy hits you. Here’s how to find hope in any situation:

Stop simply surviving and start thriving. Don’t let difficult circumstances stop you from making the most of each day you’re alive. Realize that even when times are tough, you can do much more than just endure your current situation. You can actually enjoy life to the fullest–even in the middle of the worst circumstances–when you remember that life if a gift from God and decide to embrace it. Ask God to help you notice His presence with you in every situation, and rejoice when you sense Him nearby. Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can have the positive attitudes you need to thrive no matter what is going on in your life.

Choose to trust. When something bad happens in your life, don’t respond by arguing with God or rebelling against Him. Instead, trust God to keep His promise to use all circumstances–including the bad ones–to accomplish good purposes in your life. Remember that God is perfect, so He can’t make any mistakes, and whatever He chooses to do is for a good purpose. If He has allowed something difficult to happen to you, there’s a reason.

Learn and grow from your struggles. God allows you to experience challenging circumstances so you can learn to love and trust Him in deeper ways, and so you can grow more mature, developing a strong character to become more like Jesus. Keep in mind that God is more interested in your lasting holiness than your temporary happiness, because holiness will help you learn to choose what’s best for you. Ask God to help you see your struggles from His perspective. Let your struggles teach you whatever God wants you to learn from them. As you deal with the difficulties in your life, stay focused on what matters most–eternal values–so you can grow into a stronger person in the process.

Resist temptations to sin. Don’t turn to sinful behaviors to try to escape the pain of the tough circumstances you experience; doing so will only make your pain worse. Instead, pray for the strength you need to resist temptation, and pour out your feelings to God. God will respond by giving you comfort that you can’t find from any other source.

Attract others to faith as they watch you. Other people are watching you as you deal with difficult situations. If you respond by being faithful to Jesus, they’ll be drawn to Him themselves because you’ll show them what real faith in action looks like, and that’s attractive. So rather than complaining about your struggles or compromising your values as you try to deal with them, invite Jesus to shine His light through your life, and reflect His character qualities so other people can see how a relationship with Him can help them when they face their own struggles.

Want what God wants for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God doesn’t care about you if He doesn’t give you whatever you ask Him for. Realize that God loves you so much that He gives you what you need, even when it’s not what you want. Keep in mind that, because of your limited perspective on life compared to God’s unlimited perspective, sometimes you ask God for something that seems good but can actually harm you. Trust in the fact that God knows what you need to have the life that brings you the greatest good. Ask God to bring your desires in line with His will for you.

Overcome fear. No matter what kind of situation you may find yourself facing, don’t be afraid, because God will always be with you and have your best interests in mind since He loves you. Whenever feelings of fear creep into your life, turn to God for the help you need to overcome them and successfully navigate your circumstances. Whenever you sense God calling you to do something that requires taking a risk, move forward without fear because God will empower you to do whatever He calls you to do.

Keep heaven in mind. Remember all that awaits you in heaven at the end of your life here on Earth. Let the anticipation of the wonderful experiences you’ll have in heaven motivate you to meet your current challenges with the hope, which will lead to the strength you’ll need to get through any situation. As you think about heaven, focus your mind on what truly matters and let distractions go so you can live life to the fullest right now.

Don’t give up. Whenever your sense of hope starts running out, ask God to renew you with a fresh dose of hope so you can continue to faithfully deal with the difficult situations that come your way. Be confident that at the right time, God will reward you for your faithfulness if you don’t give up your faith in the middle of challenging circumstances. Count on God to give you more hope whenever you ask Him for it.

The above was adapted from “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” by Dr. Ken Hutcherson (1952-2013), who was founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church, a multicultural community of faith in the greater Seattle area. A former professional football player, he played for the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Isaiah 40:28-31: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength . . .

They will soar on wings like eagles . . .

They will run and not grow weary . . .

They will walk and not be faint . . . .

YouTube Video: “Good Fight” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

On Being Humble

As virtues go, humility is pretty unpopular,” states Patty Onderko in her article, Do These 6 Things to Be More Humble,” published in the December 2015 issue of Success.com. She continues with the following:

Being paid the ‘humble’ compliment can be worse than when a woman gives her romantic partner the “you’re a nice guy” letdown. But many positive psychologists feel that humility is due for an image makeover.

Part of the reason humility has been so overlooked as valuable and honorable is practicality. After all, it’s hard to measure how humble a person is. If researchers ask someone to assess her own humility and the self-rating is five out of five stars, how humble can she really be? This paradox of humility is why you probably haven’t heard of it as a ‘regular’—up there with gratitude, optimism and compassion—in the science of happiness. It’s difficult to quantify and study.”

Humility also has another public relations challenge: It’s not exciting. We might appreciate the trait in others—we don’t feel threatened by unassuming people—but in ourselves? Eh. We’d rather be confident and bold. We’ll take that spotlight, thank you very much. Humility doesn’t have the Oprah-worthy, leather-bound gratitude journals, nor does it feature optimism’s sunny, iconic smiley face, nor the heartwarming imagery of compassion.

But humility could effect just as powerful a positive change in your life as the other pillars of well-being. Higher levels of humility have been associated with a higher sense of life purpose, better (self-reported) health, increased workplace harmony, longer-lasting marriages and greater generosity—all of which contribute to stronger communities. And that’s sort of the point of humility: It’s for the good of all, not just oneself (another reason it’s been a tough sell). “Humility is a very pro-social quality,” says Joshua Hook, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas. (Quote source and full article available here.)

So what is humility? Paul summed it up in Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” It shows up in our actions and our attitudes towards others. It is, as Paul states, valuing others above ourselves. And that’s not easy to do in our materialistic, money-driven, and “Me” oriented society.

In an article published on February 3, 2018, titled, Ten Characteristics of a Humble Person, by Craig Finnestad, pastor of The Water’s Edge United Methodist Church, he lists those ten characteristics as follows:

  • A humble person is teachable. Humility believes it can always learn from the education and experiences of others. A humble person is a growing person who is quick to read, invite feedback, and ask good question.
  • A humble person is at peace with themselves and others. Humility embraces contentment and simplicity. It doesn’t need to have the nicest or be the best. Humility puts relationships before the need to be right. Humility enjoys balance and harmony.
  • A humble person is grateful. Humility isn’t entitled. Humility believes it doesn’t deserve a darn thing and is thankful for the many blessings received in life.
  • A humble person is slow to offend and quick to forgive. Humility is keenly mindful of the grace it has received and is quick to extend that grace to others.
  • A humble person asks for help. Humility helps us know who we are and who we are not. Humility allows us to live authentically. Humility sees assistance and support as an opportunity to develop and not as a sign of weakness.
  • A humble person treats everybody with respect. Humility teaches us to believe that we are not much better or worse than anybody else, all people have great value, and all people deserve to be treated as such.
  • A humble person is patient and doesn’t easily get frustrated with the imperfection of others. Humility knows that mistakes and inadequacies are part of life. Humility is tolerant of self and others when deficiencies appear and failures happen.
  • A humble person recognizes their own limitations. Humility doesn’t have a negative view of self. Humility has an accurate view of self. Humility leads us to the powerful and beautiful place of living out our strengths and passions in life.
  • A humble person celebrates the accomplishments of others. Humility sees others as co-pilgrims and collaborators and not competitors. Humility genuinely rejoices when others prosper and triumph.
  • A humble person is open to a deep relationship with God. Humility knows God is the creator of the world and people are the created. Pride elevates self over God. Pride leads us to worship the idols of control–sex, money, and power. Humility leads us to Jesus. (Quote source here.)

I came across a short story titled, True Touching Story to Humble Ourselves,” which is actually a thread started by #Deepthireddy (no author name attributed to it). Here is that story:

I was parked in front of the mall wiping off my car. I had just come from the car wash and was waiting for my husband to get out of work.

Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes, and no money.

There are times when you feel generous but there are other times that you just don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times.”

“I hope he doesn’t ask me for any money,” I thought. He didn’t. He came and sat on the curb in front of the bus stop but he didn’t look like he could have enough money to even ride the bus.

After a few minutes he spoke. “That’s a very pretty car,” he said. I said, “thanks,” and continued wiping off my car. He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came.

As the silence between us widened something inside said, “ask him if he needs any help.” I was sure that he would say “yes” but I held true to the inner voice.

“Do you need any help?” I asked. He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. He spoke the three words that shook me.

“Don’t we all?” he said.

I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above a bum in the street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun.

Don’t we all?

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to get a warm meal and shelter for the day.

We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help, too.

No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded down you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it’s just a compliment, you can give that. Maybe that man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets.

Maybe he was more than that…. (Quote source here.)

There is a difference between genuine humility and it’s counterparts, false humility and pride. In an article published on November 15, 2013, titled Five Ways to Tell if Humility is Real or Fake,” by David J. Bobb, author and president of the Bill of Rights Institute, he writes:

You know the type. In meetings with the boss, your co-worker is deferential and winsome, but back in the office he’s full of bluster and condescension for all around him. In public, he wears humility like it’s a comfortable hat; in private, he’s all about his own self-interest.

Whether in business or politics, on the athletic field or in the classroom, there are lots of people who feign humility but in fact care only about their own agendas.

How can we tell if humility is genuine or fake? Here are five ways:

1. Real humility leads a person to be curious about and concerned for others, not fixated on how others can lead to one’s own enrichment. Humility is putting others first in thought, word, and deed.  It resists the temptation to self-aggrandize.

It’s easy to feign interest in another person if there’s something in it for you, like a job promotion or increased recognition. A person with humility is in it for the long-term common good, not short-term self-interest. Examples include helping  colleagues because of who they are, not because of their position, or writing a great letter of reference for a young person.

As a young man, George Washington had an enormous ego and insatiable appetite for renown. Once he recognized that he had to be ambitious for goals beyond his own advancement, he was better able to check his ego and resist the allure of power for its own sake.

2. Humility is about true service, not self-congratulation. Fawning, fake humility is ingratiating, not giving. It pretends to be generous, but in reality it’s self-centered. Take the humblebrag. When asked to identify a personal weakness, a humblebraggart might say, “I’m always working too hard for everyone else.”

Humility is often erroneously portrayed as poor self-esteem, but in fact it’s the arrogant who have a distorted sense of self. Arrogant people have an exaggerated view of their own contributions, and limit the good they might do by clamoring for credit.

3. In admitting an error or acknowledging that one is wrong, the humble person not only apologizes but also changes course. A person pretending to be humble might say a halfhearted “sorry,” but stubbornly continues down the same path.

Throughout his career, Abraham Lincoln was willing to learn from his mistakes. Like George Washington, Lincoln was a man of immense ambition, but as he made humility his habit, he was able to see with greater moral clarity.

Whether in political or military decisions, Lincoln was willing to own up to his errors.

“I now wish to make personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong,” Lincoln wrote Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Referring to the General’s decision-making, and ultimate success at the critical Battle of Vicksburg, Lincoln admitted that his own strategic advice had been incorrect. He thanked General Grant for “the almost inestimable service” he gave the nation in making the right decision.

4. Real humility builds up; false humility tears down. The same person who is quick to claim credit for a project done well is often first to blame others whenever there is a problem. When the results aren’t good, Jim Collins writes, a humble leader “looks in the mirror, not out the window.”

5. The more responsibility or power one has, the more humility they need. Often those who have displayed false humility in an upward climb reveal their arrogance when they’ve reached the top. We can be confident that George Washington’s humility was real because when he was at the peak of power he relinquished it—twice—first as general in returning to civilian life and then again as president in leaving office after two terms.

It’s hard to read what is in another person’s heart, but false humility has a way of revealing itself. First Lady, before the term existed, Abigail Adams gave her son advice that rings true even today, “If you begin to think yourself better than others, you will then become less worthy, and lose those qualities which now make you valuable.” (Quote source here.)

I also came across the following chart titled, Distinguishing True Humility from It’s Two Extremes: False Humility and Pride,” on a website titled, Child of Grace.” The chart below was created by Don Schwager, and it is also available at this link:

This chart was created by Don Schwager.

In closing, a 3-Part article titled, How to Be Humble,” on WikiHow, states the following:

“It’s hard to be humble,” says an old country song, “when you’re perfect in every way.” Of course, few people actually think they’re perfect in every way. But it can still be pretty hard to be humble, especially if you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. Yet even in such a culture, humility remains an important virtue. Learning to be humble is of paramount importance in most spiritual traditions, and humility can help you develop more fully and enjoy richer relationships with others, as well as create opportunities and earn you respect.

Part 1: Accept your limitations (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Admit you are not the best at everything–or anything.
  2. Recognize your own faults.
  3. Be grateful for what you have.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  5. Admit your mistakes.
  6. Avoid bragging.
  7. Be considerate in conversations.
  8. Don’t take all the credit.

Part 2: Appreciating Others (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Appreciate the talents and qualities of others.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  3. Don’t be afraid to defer to others’ judgments.
  4. Seek guidance from written texts.
  5. Remain teachable.
  6. Help others.
  7. Go last.
  8. Compliment others.
  9. Apologize.
  10. Listen more than you talk.

Part 3: Rediscovering a Sense of Wonder (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Rejuvenate your sense of wonder.
  2. Practice gentleness.
  3. Spend more time in nature.
  4. Do yoga.
  5. Spend time around children.

Warnings:

  • Don’t confuse being humble with being sycophantic (being overly-praiseful of someone for your own profit). This is a common misconception, but the two attitudes are completely different.
  • To be humble isn’t the same as being humble, and often people who pretend to be humble do it in order to seek out praise. Other people will recognize this, and even if you fool some, you won’t derive the same benefits as you would through actually developing humility.
  • While humility is a good thing, don’t take it too far, thus becoming a doormat. Remember, everything in moderation. Humility is not a weak trait, it is actually a very strong one in the same way kindness is strong. Standing up for yourself with humility is entirely possible and just takes some practice. Be prepared to need to practice this, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the balance right initially. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Paul in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

Forgiving one another . . .

As God in Christ . . .

Forgave you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here (chart)
Photo #4 credit here

All Things New

Lately I’ve been longing for something new, and not just anything new but a change in my circumstances. Once again in the past couple of days when I inquired about how long the wait might be to secure a low income apartment in a senior apartment complex I was told “up to two years.” After all this time (five years now) of searching for an apartment in low income senior apartment complexes, I want to hear a different answer–a “yes” instead of a “wait” or a “no.”

I came across the following two verses in Isaiah 43:18-19 this afternoon as I was contemplating doing another online housing search:

Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

The opening verse took me back to ten years ago in April when I lost my job in Houston, and after a massive years-long job search I never found another one. And almost five years ago, I lost my last apartment when the house where it was located was sold and the new owners wanted to use my apartment for their own purposes. Since then, I’ve been living in hotel rooms as my only source for housing due to my low income on Social Security (I started received it in mid-2014 when I turned 62) while conducing my low income senior housing search. I never dreamed after losing my last apartment in March 2014 that a housing search would take years and end up like my years-long job search which produced zilch. It’s almost as if a brick wall has been built in front of me as I haven’t been able to move forward in any direction (jobs, housing) no matter how hard I try.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”

These past ten years have been some of the toughest ten years of my entire life. It’s very hard to forget the circumstances around what happened to me back then that caused me to lose a job that I only had for seven months, but has lead–for reasons still unknown to me to this day–to long term unemployment as I never found another job in my field again. I moved a thousand miles for that job, never dreaming it was going to end a scant seven months later, and I lost a whole lot more then that job when I lost that job, too.

It’s been hard to not be able to get any type of closure on what happened back then and why it has essentially left me unemployed for the past decade–a full ten years before normal retirement age. The financial loss alone over these past ten years has been staggering, but even more than that, it affected my lifestyle and it touched every area of my life.

The major corporation that owned the institute (a college) where I was employed ten years ago (they owned over 100 for-profit colleges and universities nationwide) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 2, 2018 (source here), after several years involving some major lawsuits (click here for just one example from a 2015 lawsuit resulting in a $95.5 million dollar settlement), huge financial losses, and several rounds of layoffs over a five-year period of time starting in 2012 (click here for an example of layoffs in 2016).

Due to the circumstances surrounding that job loss, three months after I was fired I found some physical evidence on my laptop of what had been going on behind my back while I worked there, and I sent that evidence along with a four-page letter to my lawyer who I saw a few days after I was fired in order to have her review the separation agreement I had received. The evidence I found and sent to her six months later was rock solid, yet I never heard back from her. I did receive a certified notice from the Post Office that my letter had been received in her office. From my one meeting with her for an hour regarding my separation agreement six months earlier, she didn’t strike me as the kind of person who would not at least acknowledge receipt of my letter especially in light of the information I provided in that letter.

If I had found another job shortly after losing that job I would have considered that experience to be a “bump in the road” and I would have moved on. I’d still have my career and still be earning a salary, and I would have continued to contribute into my Social Security account and a small retirement account I started in my 40’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t find another job, and the lack of a steady paycheck from the day I was fired was crushing. I stopped counting the number of jobs I applied for when it reach 500 two years later (but I didn’t stop applying for jobs). I was single and self-supporting, and nobody was going to pay my bills but me, but I couldn’t find a job.

So it’s been hard to forget the past, especially looking out of a hotel room window now for over four and a half years that I never dreamed I would be looking out of ten years after I lost that job. Sometimes the things God wants us to forget are really huge and still ongoing and impacting our lives.

However, during this time my faith has grown exponentially in ways I never expected. God has seen me through some incredibly tough stuff I never thought I would encounter and in some cases, survive, on more than one occasion. He has made me strong in areas that were my weakest, but it’s been a long and sometimes arduous journey over time, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. And it’s still ongoing.

My story doesn’t look like a typical Christian “success” story of the kind we so often like to hear in America–re: the “rags to riches” stories that happened because we (1) faithfully tithed or (2) “fill in the blank” with the happy kind of stuff we hear in those rags to riches stories. Living in a hotel room for over four and half years on a Social Security income and receiving financial help from my 95-year-old father to pay for it doesn’t look or sound very “successful” to probably most Christians or anyone else living in America today. We tend to have a somewhat warped view of what “success” is supposed to look like as Christians in America. It resembles our culture’s view of success and not God’s view of success.

“Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

During these past ten years, God has been showing me many things I was too busy to notice during all those years I worked. I have learned the incredible value of fasting, and I don’t say that to sound “spiritual.” I’m not the type to put on pretenses or play “religious” games. And I’ve learned just how incredibly important even a few words from the Bible can be at just the right time to guide and direct. And when I haven’t known what to pray, the Psalms became my prayer book. I look back over all the stuff I’ve gone through; all the places I’ve traveled by car; and how the little money I had to live on was stretched in ways that sometimes seemed impossible to believe; God has come through for me each and every time in the most amazing ways that only I would recognize. During this time I went through three years and two months between when my last unemployment check arrived ($275/wk) in May 2011 and my first Social Security check began ($1000/mo) in July 2014 with no income at all, and God guided me through it. In fact, there are no words to describe all I have learned about trusting God over these past ten years.

I’ve also learned much about what is going on in our society that I didn’t really notice when I was working. Outside of Christian circles I’ve been sometimes shocked at how belief in God (as in the God of the Bible) is often seen as a joke by some (not a small number) especially in the younger generations. Since I never married and I didn’t have children, I wasn’t aware of how fast things were changing in our culture especially in the generations starting with the children of Baby Boomers (my generation). Also, when I was working my friends were mostly Christians, and the Christian community can very insulating when it comes to noticing what is really going on in our society outside of Christian circles (or in some cases inside of them, too).

Also, over these ten years I’ve acquired many new interests and renewed some older interests, like writing. In fact, I started this blog as a way to record my experience with long term unemployment back in 2010, and it has broaden considerably from that subject over these years. I now have almost 600 blog posts on this blog, and I started a second blog in April 2018 that has almost 50 blog posts on it to date.

I cannot begin to put a dollar value on what I’ve learned and experienced and seen God do first hand in providing for me and guiding me through these past ten years. While I’ve had some considerable material and financial losses from losing that job ten years ago and never finding another job, I have gained a whole new world that has opened up to me through my writings, and my travels, and my experiences that the “brick wall” that I’ve constantly run up against in my job search and housing search can’t stop. And no job or any amount of money can replace all that I have learned.

Also, I’ve learned to let go of the anger I had for so long after losing that job when–no matter how many jobs I applied for or how many interviews I sailed through at the beginning of my job search–I never found another job. I was sure back then God was going to lead me to the right job as He knew I was single and self-supporting, but He had something different in mind as stated in Isaiah 55:8-9.

And, I’ve learned a lot about what is going on in America today that I didn’t know was going on, and much of it has come from when I started traveling by car to different cities starting in 2012 to look for work, and also when this “hotel saga” got it’s start in late September 2014. I had no idea how many people are forced to live in hotels as their only housing option (which has been my only housing option, too, since it started in 2014). It is an entirely different world living in hotels with all kinds of people coming and going. It is also living in very close quarters in a very small space with complete strangers living only a few feet away in any direction from your own room. It’s been a real learning experience, and I don’t see people my age living in hotels, so it’s not a social outlet. By it’s very nature it is a transient way to live.

So, I guess you could say that the “new thing” God has been doing in my life over this past decade has been to broaden my world and to get me to really see what is going on out there in it. I had no clue about most of it when I was still working.

“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Now we come to the part that I’m still waiting to find out about. I’m not sure what it will look like when it finally arrives as I’ve learned over these past ten years that God is always full of surprises. Ten years ago I thought it would be a new job. Five years ago I thought it would be a new apartment to live in after losing my old apartment to the new owners. And neither of those things happened.

While I am still waiting to find a more permanent and affordable place to live that isn’t just another hotel room, who knows but that God might have something totally different in mind that I haven’t even thought about, or maybe that I have only thought about in passing. He can break down a brick wall with no effort at all, but it has to be in His timing.

Over this past decade I have learned to take each day as it comes. It’s all any of us get anyway. God knows us thoroughly, inside and out, and far better then we know ourselves. He knows how I’ve grown a bit weary of living in a hotel room, but then He reminds me that there are probably a bunch of other folks living here who wish they could move on, too. So I am grateful to have a roof over my head, even if it is still a hotel room, and I will continue to wait and see what that “new thing” is that He will bring into my life.

I’ll end this post with the same two verses I began it with–Isaiah 43:18-19: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way…

In the wilderness . . .

And rivers . . .

In the desert . . . .

YouTube Video: “(God Makes) All Things New” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

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Photo #2 credit here

Cultural Christianity

I read a Tweet on Twitter the other day that mentioned a new book coming out on March 5, 2019, titled, The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel,” by Dean Inserra, founding and lead pastor of CITYCHURCH in Tallahassee, Florida. Information on the book including the Table of Contents and the first few pages of the book (Preface, and a few pages of Chapter 1 titled, “Help Them Get Lost: The Case for Reaching Cultural Christians”) is available on Amazon at this link (click on the book icon on the Amazon page to examine parts of the book).

Click on book pic above to go to Amazon.com order page

The topic is certainly an interesting and relevant one in America today. The Amazon page provides the following information (as well as much more) regarding the book which includes 15 chapters (chapter titles are listed), a Conclusion, and Appendix. The first three chapters are titled: Chapter 1: “Help Them Get Lost: The Case for Reaching Cultural Christians”; Chapter 2: “Religion without Salvation: Characteristics of Cultural Christianity”; and Chapter 3: “Civic Religion: Generic Faith That Demands and Asks Nothing of Its Followers.” The Appendix includes a listing of the types of Cultural Christianity the author includes in his book with definitions of each category in a grid as follows:

Country Club Christian (see Chapter 7)
Christmas and Easter Christian (see Chapter 8)
God and Country Christian (see Chapter 10)
Liberal Social Justice Christian (see Chapter 10)
Moralistic Therapeutic Deist/Good Guy Next Door (see Chapter 11)
Generational Catholic (see Chapter 12)
Mainline Protestant (see Chapter 13)
Bible Belt Christian (see Chapter 14)

As of the publishing of this blog post the book isn’t out yet (but it will be in a few days on March 5, 2019), so I’ve listed the information above for anyone who might be interested in this topic or in reading the book.

In defining the term Cultural Christian,” Wikipedia states:

Cultural Christians are deistspantheistsagnosticsatheists, anantitheists who adhere to Christian values and appreciate Christian culture. This kind of identification may be due to various factors, such as family background, personal experiences, and the social and cultural environment in which they grew up. Contrasting terms are “biblical Christian”, “committed Christian”, or “believing Christian”.

Outspoken English atheist Richard Dawkins has described himself in several interviews as a “cultural Christian” and a “cultural Anglican”. In his book,The God Delusion,” he calls Jesus Christ praiseworthy for his ethics. (Quote source here.)

In an August 13, 2018 article published on Public Discourse titled, Apatheism is More Damaging to Christianity Than Atheism and Antitheism,” by Paul Rowan Brian, freelance journalist who writes on culture, religion and politics, and Ben Sixsmith, a writer living in Poland; here are a few excerpts from their article:

Today… the greatest threat to Christianity is found not in the arguments of the atheist but in the assumptions of the apathetic. The danger is not a hostile reception of belief in God but an incurious indifference to the idea.

Although humanity’s concept of God or the gods has changed and progressed throughout history, as recounted in Robert Wright’s book,”The Evolution of God,” human beings have always cared whether or not there is a divine power ruling over them and wanted to know the attributes and nature of that divinity. Today, increasingly, that is not the case. With roots in the practical atheism and deism of the Enlightenment, “apatheism” is embodied in French philosopher Denis Diderot’s famous remark that “it is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.”

Church attendance in America has been on a steep decline for the past decade, with especially eyebrow-raising numbers among the young. A full 33 percent of twenty-one-to-twenty-nine-year-olds report that they are non-religious, and lower numbers of Catholics attended weekly Mass between 2014 to 2017 (average 39 percent) than between 2005 to 2008 (average 45 percent). Only an estimated 25 percent of American Catholics between 21 and 29 years old attend weekly Mass. Europe is even more secular, with a majority of sixteen to twenty-nine-year-olds reporting no religious beliefs. As the Public Religion Research Institute notes, there has been a growing “rise of the unaffiliated” in America. Many people don’t specifically disbelieve in the supernatural or God: they just don’t care and don’t want to talk or think about it. In the United States, apatheism is especially prevalent among the young, where “overall, religiously unaffiliated Americans are significantly younger than religiously affiliated Americans.”…

We have all met the apathetic. Their response to the question of God’s existence is a shrug, a sigh, or a grin. There are two main kinds of apatheists: apathetic agnostics and apathetic atheists. Apathetic agnostics believe it is not worth debating whether or not God exists; perhaps because human beings cannot know the answer and perhaps because if God exists, He does not care whether one believes in Him. What’s true is what you make true, as represented metaphorically by “ideas” like the devil or God, according to them….

Apathetic atheists believe it is quite obvious that God does not exist, but that there is no point debating it, either because they believe that the argument has already been won or because their “live and let live” philosophy entails a mild tolerance of belief in God…. Many apatheists have no more respect for arguments for the existence of God than do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennett; they are simply more polite. (Quote source here.)

That quote might seem to be a bit off topic but it gives us a broader perspective of where we as Christians find ourselves in the mix of our culture. With that understanding of the broader culture, we better can address the question, What is Cultural Christianity?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

Cultural Christianity is religion that superficially identifies itself as “Christianity” but does not truly adhere to the faith. A “cultural Christian” is a nominal believerhe wears the label “Christian,” but the label has more to do with his family background and upbringing than any personal conviction that Jesus is Lord. Cultural Christianity is more social than spiritual. A cultural Christian identifies with certain aspects of Christianity, such as the good works of Jesus, but rejects the spiritual aspects required to be a biblically defined Christian. Some people consider themselves “Christians” because of family background, personal experience, country of residence, or social environment. Others identify as “Christian” as a way of declaring a religious affiliation, as opposed to being “Muslim” or “Buddhist.” Famed scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins refers to himself as a “cultural Christian” because he admires some of the ceremonial and philanthropic aspects of Christianity. Dawkins is not born again; he simply sees “Christianity” as a label to use.

In free nations, the gospel is often presented as a costless addition to one’s life: just add churchgoing to your hobbies, add charitable giving to your list of good deeds, or add the cross to the trophies on your mantle. In this way, many people go through the motions of “accepting Jesus” with no accompanying surrender to His lordship. These people, who do not “abide in Christ,” are cultural Christians. They are branches that hang around the True Vine but have no true attachment (see John 15:1–8).

There was no such thing as cultural Christianity in the days of the early church. In fact, to be a Christian was to more than likely be marked as a target of persecution. The very term “Christian” was coined in the city of Antioch as a way to identify the first followers of Christ (Acts 11:26). The first disciples were so much like Jesus that they were called “little Christs” by their detractors. Unfortunately, the term has lost meaning over the years and come to represent an ideology or a social class rather than a lifestyle of obedience to God.

Cultural Christianity is not true Christianity. A true Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Christ’s death and resurrection has been appropriated to that person as his or her substitute for sin (Romans 10:8–102 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit indwells that person (Romans 8:9). “Receiving” Christ is far more than a mental acknowledgment of truth. Satan acknowledges the identity of the Son of God (Mark 5:7). The faith that saves us also changes us (see James 2:26). Jesus said that anyone who wishes to become His disciple must “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). While we cannot earn salvation by sacrifice or good works, a lifestyle transformation and desire to please the Lord are direct results of being “born again” (John 3:3).

The following are some identifying marks of cultural Christianity:

Denying the inspiration of Scripture or parts of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:21).

Ignoring or downplaying true repentance as the first step toward knowing God (Matthew 4:17Acts 2:38).

Focusing on Jesus’ love and acceptance to the exclusion of His teaching on hell, obedience, and self-sacrifice (Matthew 4:1723:33Mark 9:43Luke 12:5).

Tolerating or even celebrating ongoing sin while claiming to know God (Romans 1:321 Corinthians 5:1–21 John 3:9–10).

Redefining scriptural truths to accommodate culture (Numbers 23:19Malachi 3:6).

Understanding Jesus to be primarily a social reformer, rather than God in the flesh who is the sacrifice for our sin (Matthew 10:34Mark 14:7).

Claiming God’s promises while ignoring the requirements included with them (Psalm 50:16Jeremiah 18:10).

Denying or minimizing Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to God (John 3:15–1814:6).

Performing enough religious activity to gain a sense of well-being without a true devotion to Jesus (Galatians 5:16–17Romans 8:9).

Talking much about “God” in a general sense, but very little about Jesus Christ as Lord (John 13:1314:6).

Seeing protection and blessing as goals to be achieved, rather than byproducts of a love relationship with God (Mark 12:30Deuteronomy 11:13–17).

Choosing a church based upon any or all of the above (Revelation 3:15–17).

Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21–23 should be a wake-up call to cultural Christianity: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 14, 2018 titled, The Challenge of Being a Christian,” by Matt Nelson, chiropractor, author, apologist, and Assistant Director of the Word on Fire Institute, and speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries, here are a few excerpts from his article:

One of the greatest obstacles to becoming a committed Christian is that Christianity is challenging. The task of living a fully God-centered life is no walk in the park, as the lives of the greatest and most fully converted Christians who have ever lived—the saints—will attest. Indeed, Christianity lived to the fullest involves struggle. But is the struggle worth it?

Often the skeptic will see the struggle and be deterred. What he may not see—perhaps a result of self-inflicted spiritual blindness—is the outflow of joy that permeates every saint’s struggle; and if he does see it he will not want it—not because he does not want joy but rather because he does not want joy enough to give up his old ways. But, of course, even the most hardened skeptic cannot be considered a total write-off. Indeed some skeptics are eventually compelled to change their mind. This is the hopeful realization that drives evangelization.

The rejection of God today, however, is often not caused primarily by philosophical argument. Usually it is a result of indifferentism towards religion—a result of what Bishop Robert Barron has called the “Meh” culture. The question is: Is this popular religious indifference warranted? Are Christians who toil for the cause of Christ wasting their precious time? (Read the rest of his article for the answer at this link.)

In an article published on September 23, 2017 titled, The Dying Away of Cultural Christianity,” by Brett McCracken, author and senior editor for The Gospel Coalition; he also writes regularly for Christianity Today and on his website, BrettMcCracken.com; here is an excerpt from his article:

The “God” of Cultural Christianity

For most of US history, to be American was to be “Christian.” National identity was conflated with religious identity in a way that produced a distorted form of Christianity, mostly about family values, Golden Rule moralism, and good citizenship. The God of this “Christianity” was first and foremost a nice guy who rewarded moral living by sanctifying the American dream: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., a substantial 401(k), a three-car garage, and as many Instagram followers as possible). This form of Christianity—prominent in twenty-first-century America—has been aptly labeled “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” a faith defined by a distant, “cosmic ATM” God who only cares that we are nice to one another and feel good about ourselves.

This faux God—stripped of theological and historical specificity and closer to Santa Claus than Yahweh—began to flourish amidst the gradual “death of God” narrative advanced by philosophical, literary, artistic, and scientific elites from the Enlightenment to postmodernity. In this context, mainstream Christianity became less about truly believing in God and supernatural events like the incarnation and resurrection; it became more about the rites and rituals of Christianity-flavored morality: a convenient, comfortable, quaint system of personal and societal uplift. Thankfully, and predictably, this sort of toothless, “nice,” good-citizen Christianity is on the decline.

Why? As Terry Eagleton observes, it’s because Christianity is fundamentally disruptive rather than conciliatory to polite society and powers-that-be:

The form of life Jesus offers his followers is not one of social integration but a scandal to the priestly and political establishment. It is a question of being homeless, propertyless, peripatetic, celibate, socially marginal, disdainful of kinsfolk, averse to material possessions, a friend of outcasts and pariahs, a thorn in the side of the Establishment and a scourge of the rich and powerful.

What we are seeing in American Christianity is a healthy pruning away of the mutant and neutered forms of it that are easily abandoned when they become culturally inconvenient or unfashionable. As Russell Moore observes, “A Christianity that reflects its culture, whether that culture is Smith College or NASCAR, only lasts as long as it is useful to its host. That’s because it’s, at root, idolatry, and people turn from their idols when they stop sending rain.”

What It Means to Follow Christ

Rather than being a cause for alarm, the dying-away of cultural Christianity should be seen as an opportunity. It used to be too easy to be a Christian in America; so easy that one could adopt the label simply by being born in this “Christian nation” and going to church once or twice a year (if that), in between relentless attempts to swindle the stock market, accumulate beach properties, and build an empire of wealth and acclaim.

To be sure, and especially in contrast to much of the rest of the world, it’s still easy to be a Christian in America. But it is becoming less easy and certainly less normal. And that’s a good thing. Christianity, founded on belief in the supernatural resurrection of a first-century Jewish carpenter, has been and always will be abnormal. Again, Russell Moore:

The Book of Acts, like the Gospels before it, shows us that Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction. Only a strange gospel can differentiate itself from the worlds we construct. But the strange, freakish, foolish old gospel is what God uses to save people and to resurrect churches (1 Cor. 1:20–22).

Following Christ is not one’s golden ticket to a white-picket-fence American dream. It’s an invitation to die, to pick up a cross. Christians are those who give themselves away in love and sacrifice to advance a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36).

As C. S. Lewis writes: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” (Quote source with footnotes for author quotes above at this link.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls . . .

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “Come to Me” by Jenn Johnson | The Loft Sessions:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

 

The Persistence of Memory

One of Salvador Dali’s most famous paintings is titled, The Persistence of Memory.” It was completed in August 1931 when Dali was 27; and at the time he was “penniless and outcast from the community which had inspired much of his art.” He and his wife, Gala, “settled in a small fishing settlement, Port Lligat, buying a single-room fishing shack,” and it was there that he painted “The Persistence of Memory.” (Quote source here.) Here’s a brief background on the painting:

“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali, Museum of Modern Art, New York City

However we interpret this small 9 ½ X 13 inch (24.1 x 33cm) work, its influence on the wider art world cannot be in doubt.

First shown in Paris at Galerie Pierre Colle in 1931, the painting was also exhibited at the first Surrealist exhibition in the United States, at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, in 1931, then, in 1934, by Julien Levy in New York.

Dalí and his wife Gala accompanied the painting over to New York in 1934, travelling third class with the financial assistance of Pablo Picasso.

By this point Dalí had been formally expelled from the Surrealists, partly due to his political opinions, but also thanks to his enthusiasm for American popular culture, something… his fellow European Surrealists disdained.

The irony remains that, in coming to America with his most famous painting, Dalí became the moment’s most famous artist…. “The image of the famous soft watches had been widely diffused–and caricatured–to the point where it had acquired a cult status by the time it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York [in 1934].” (Quote source, Robert Radford, lecturer, writer and exhibition curator who taught Art History for many years at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.)

An anonymous donor passed “The Persistence of Memory” on to MoMA [in 1934], where it remains to this day. “It was there that Dalí gave a lecture in which he reportedly said that the public could rest content with their difficulty in understanding the work, since the artist himself did not know what it meant either.” (Quote source: Robert Radford.)

Though, of course, one meaning is plain: the painting’s success meant that Dalí’s stardom was assured, and the painting’s place, as the acme of Surrealism, was, unlike the painting’s time pieces, equally concrete. (Quote source here.)

For all of the analysis taking place over the years regarding Dali’s most famous painting, I find it amusing that the artist, himself, admitted that he did not know what it meant. Yet, the persistence of memory in our own lives can and does have both negative and positive effects on our lives.

In an article published in 2011 titled, Do We Remember Bad Times Better Than Good?” by Colleen Cancio, contributor on HowStuffWorks.com, she writes:

Ask people where they were when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, and it’s a good bet that they’ll remember without hesitating. They may even recall specific details about the day, such as exactly what they were doing just before they saw the news reports of the terror attacks. This remarkable ability to conjure up even the smallest details surrounding a tragic or traumatic event is directly related to the intensity of the event itself. In other words, the more emotionally disturbing the experience is to us, the more likely we are to commit it to memory [source: Science Daily]. This is because memory and emotion are inextricably linked in the human brain.

But while people seem to easily remember tragic events and the seemingly insignificant details associated with them, many would be hard-pressed to recall the minutia of their happy times. For example, mothers often have trouble summoning the specifics of their children’s birth, but are amazingly accurate in recounting the duration and intensity of the labor process. It begs the question, “Do we remember the bad times better than the good?”….

In modern society, very bad memories can be psychologically debilitating. For example, war veterans sometimes experience flashbacks of being in combat zones when they return to civilian life, which can be extremely distressing.

“Strong memories often have an emotional impact that can be more pervasive, even causing physical symptoms, especially when it comes to traumatic events,” explains Tanya Clausen, clinical social worker in Washington, D.C. “Unfortunately, some people re-experience the memories of traumatizing events for years after the fact. It’s common to experience a biological response when these memories play out, including heart palpitations and shortness of breath.”

The good news is that people can also benefit from reliving positive experiences, such as remembering the overall sense of well-being that comes from being deeply happy. This is because good memories can cause the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure [source: Lang]. Clausen suggests that happy memories can also positively affect our mental health and can be used therapeutically to reduce the symptoms associated with bad memories….

Some people seem to have an uncanny ability to downplay negative experiences in their lives and magnify the positive ones. We all have that friend who, when life offers lemons, manages to make lemonade. Are these individuals also remembering the good times more than the bad? If so, is this skill a matter of mind over memory? Or is it that some people are hard-wired with a more pessimistic perspective? According to Clausen, the ability to minimize the negative impact of memories takes a learned and conscious effort. (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2016 titled, Why Are Bad Memories Good? Here’s How You Can Get Something Positive Out of Painful Recollections,” by Marissa Higgins, a writer based in Washington, DC, she writes:

Let’s be real: I know no one likes to dwell on the bad, painful parts of our lives. But can bad memories actually be good? Generally speaking, the hard parts are the aspects of our lives we try to bury deep and “move on” from; however, a lot of research shows that there’s much to be gained from digging deep and understanding our bad memories. Here’s how you can get something positive about some of your more painful recollections, according to science.

Basically, our brains (and bodies) process information in a way that hinges on our survival: if we have a negative experience, or an experience that, for example, brings us a great amount of fear, our body begins to teach itself to be wary of the same event happening again. While this is useful if you’re, say, hunting in the wilderness and need to be super in-tune with nature, “Hunger Games”style, it is not so useful if a memory you’re repressing is preventing you from experiencing an otherwise enjoyable part of your everyday life.

But still—if you could just get rid of the bad memory, you would, right? That is, of course, way easier said than done. While it may feel easier to just repress hard things or try to push them out of our minds, reflecting back on, processing, and learning from bad memories is how we develop and grow as people.

It’s important, too, to draw a clear line between reflecting back on painful memories in an attempt to process and learn from them, and experiencing reoccurring memories which negatively impact your life….

At this point the Higgins states five ways of working through a bad memory which are available at this link. I will mentioned three of the five ways below:

(1) You Gain Understanding: Sometimes our bad memories stem from places that we don’t fully understand. Either we don’t entirely remember what happened, or we understand the logistics, but not the why behind it. Having unanswered questions, or have information that feels unsatisfactory, can feel incredibly frustrating, especially when something negatively impacted your life or the life of someone you care about. When bad memories take control over our minds and hearts, it can make you feel helpless and vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to get to the root of your hard memories and therein, the root of the issue. Sometimes, though it can be really tough, the only way out is through.

(2) You Learn Some Important Lessons: That’s right: Confronting hard memories may help you learn some pretty important life lessons. I know it sounds cliche, but we’re all basically shaped by our past experiences, including the negative ones. Whether your bad memories are rooted in decisions you actively made, or things that happened to you over which you may not have had much control, it’s important to work through them and process them fully. This allows you to have a distance from the situation and learn from it; either in terms of how you’ll handle a situation differently in the future, or by seeing the strength you have through surviving a traumatic event you were a victim of. No matter the scenario, there is always room to recognize growth anlearn from an experience.

(3) You Can Confront People From Your Past: Sometimes we come to the realization that we simply can’t make sense of our bad memories on our own—that there’s some missing information we simply aren’t privy to—and in order to feel a piece of mind, we reach out to others. Now, it’s important to remember that just because you want to talk about something doesn’t mean other people are ready (or will ever be ready) to, so there’s a point in which you need to work on finding closure in any way you can, even if it isn’t the ideal circumstance. However, if you can get in touch with someone and they’re OK talking to you about what’s been on your mind, it can be really beneficial to hear someone else’s perspective and their version of what happened. This may reinforce what you thought and help you feel valid in your feelings, or may lighten the burden of what you perceived was on your shoulders.

So, there you have it! Working through bad or traumatic memories isn’t going to be easy, but overall, it’s definitely going to be worth it. We all only have one life, and it’s important to understand what goes in our lives as fully and richly as possible, so we can better understand ourselves and our decisions, hopefully leading us to more health and happiness in the long-run. (Quote source here.)

In a devotion published in 2017 titled, Overcoming Bad Memories,” posted by Glenda Rhodeman, she writes:

“Do not…ponder the things of the past.”Isaiah 43:18 NAS

To overcome bad memories you must: (1) Reframe them. Looking back, Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NAS). (2) Reject them. The next time a bad memory resurfaces, refuse to entertain it. “Do not…ponder the things of the past.” (3) Refocus your thoughts. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13 NKJV). You say, “I can’t help remembering.” If you can recall your troubles, you can recall your blessings. The most effective way to overcome bad memories–is to replace them with good ones! And here’s some good news: Every promise God gives you contains the power to fulfill it. So meditate on these words and personalize them: “Fear not…do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth” (Isaiah 54:4 NAS).

“The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind… be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create” (Isaiah 65:17-18 AMP). Notice the word “create.” God can create beauty out of ashes and order out of chaos–but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll do a lot of growing and forgiving along the way.  In some cases you’ll forgive others; in other cases you’ll forgive yourself. You say, “But all those promises are from the Old Testament!” Yes, but the Bible says, “He carries out and fulfills all of [His] promises, no matter how many… there are” (2 Corinthians 1:20 TLB). So bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.

This message taken from: Daily Devotional–The Word For You Today (Quote source here.)

All of us have some bad memories caused by ourselves or by others or a combination of the two as in the case of divorce, but it is what we do with the bad memories that is most important. As the devotion above states at the end–“Bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.” After all, God stated in Isaiah 43:18-19: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness . . .

And streams . . .

In the wasteland . . . .

YouTube Video: “All Things New” by Hillsong Worship:

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