I WORSHIP GOD! NOT G-d!!

Brief rant here! I’m getting sick and tired of seeing my Lord referred to all across social media as G-d! This must only come from the same superstition that led to the loss of the real pronunciation of YHWH! Yes, it was folk superstition, borne from the belief that God’s name was not to be taken in vain. Leaving aside all that that entails, it became a fear that if one were to mention the name of God out loud, one just might do something bad with it, so… let’s just ban anyone from actually saying it. Once the Hebrew language started dying, Masorete scribes began inserting vowel diacritics into the scriptures, but they deliberately put the wrong vowels into YHWH to prevent it being pronounced. Now, nobody really knows the exact pronunciation.

It’s nothing but fearful superstition, and now the modern marriage of our faith with just about everything Jewish, as if Judaism has wonderful holy insights into the gospel that we mere Gentiles are unworthy to really comprehend; it has led us to this nonsense! I understand my faith far better than anyone from the religion left behind by those who couldn’t see who he was, thank you!

How would we worship? “Oh Lord, our G-d…”??? Or pray? Stop it NOW! Before you lose out to common sense.

And his real name is Jesus. Wonderful, beautiful Jesus. Who calms my raging storm. Rant subsiding… thank you, Lord Jesus.

Grace be with you.

Advertisements

Slavery and ‘the Founding Fathers’

I was looking up some information on the founding fathers of the US, when I stumbled upon this speech, recorded from around 1687, that addressed the petition of a religious sect who were calling for the abolition of slavery. I found it fascinating:

“Have these people considered the consequences of granting their petition? If we cease our cruises, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perform the common labours of our city, and in our families? Must we not then be our own slaves? And is there not more campassion and more favour due to us, than to these dogs? We have now above 50,000 slaves. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If then we cease taking and making slaves of them, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half? and the revenues of government arising from its share of prizes must be totally destroyed. And for what? to gratify the whim of a whimsical sect! who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even to manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient? Will this sect do it? Can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their countries, they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to: they will not embrace our holy religion: they will not adopt our manners: our people will not pollute themselves by intermarying with them: must we maintain them as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage; for men accostomed to slavery, will not work for a livelihood when not compelled. And what is there so pitiable in their present condition? Were they not slaves in their own countries? Are they not all governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception? Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands? No, they have only exchanged one slavery for another: and I may say a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of our religion gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home then, would be sending them out of light into darkness. I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild natives would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers in their own countries, are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged and cloathed. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s pagan throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and hope from the supposed merits of so good a work to be excused from damnation. How grosly are they mistaken in imagining slavery to be disallowed by the Holy Book! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, Masters treat your slaves with kindness: Slaves serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity, clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world and all that it contains to his faithful, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise Council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, to the whim of a few, and dismiss their petition.”

Such was the religious attitude at that time to the differences between the ‘civilised’ believers and the ‘heathen’ slaves. But I confess, I have doctored just a few words and omitted a couple of sentences that would have given away the truth; that this was written by an African Muslim from the Barbary coast (present day Morocco) where there had been pirating of European ships and enslaving of European Christians! It was included in an unpublished letter from Benjamin Franklin to the Federal Gazette on the topic of abolition. The full letter is here: http://franklinpapers.org.

The sect discussed here was a sect of Islam called the Erika or Purists, who opposed piracy and slavery. If you read the speech again, or maybe better, the unaltered version in the link above, there are surely many things that must spring to your mind… about us, our faith, our culture, our history…? I shall make no further comments myself.

Forgive me if this appears to be deceptive, but my device had a purpose, I hope!

Grace be with you.

Sympathy for the Devil

Yeah, I know! The Rolling Stones beat me to that title by a lifetime! I was originally going to title this “I think Satan gets a bum deal!” but something about that didn’t feel right.

Why do I think that? Well, he gets blamed for many things that have nothing or very little to do with him!

My son came to me with a video he came across about Satanic symbolism recently found… on an energy drink can! YES! I could not help but laugh, but not at him… I’ve been ‘around the block’ and seen it all… Proctor & Gamble… The Care Bears… Cabbage Patch Dolls… SpongeBob… Harry Potter… and that’s just off the top of my head! And who of our generation could ever forget backward masking? Though I did know a guy who turned his vinyl record player backwards by hand, and he did hear a message: “You are ruining your stylus!!

[For the younger generation: vinyl records were flat disks that rotated slowly and the stylus was the needle that ‘read’ the ‘memory’ on them.]

Ozzy Osbourne: The Prince of Darkness!! Huh? Have you seen his reality show? These promotions of the ‘dark side’ and the rebellious spirit that goes with it, flipping two fingers to the ‘establishment’ is just that – promotions! Marketing promotions aimed at a demographic, usually the younger generation. And such subtle (or not so subtle) images and ideas do work in advertising or else they’d be dropped.

Satan is showing forth his power over the world by getting his wee symbols on marketed products, yeah! And real witchcraft looks exactly like JK Rowling portrayed it in Hogwarts!

If you wish to go looking for symbols, it ain’t that hard. Only today I noticed one; if you have the new Candy Crush Soda game on your phone, look down at the lower left corner on the home screen – if you’re heavily into ‘Zionist conspiracy’ you’ll latch onto that one! No, I don’t see evil in these markings any more than I could hear ‘Hail Satan’ in “tsud eht siteb eno rehtona” or any other ‘wop woo ebb wah nyek’ sounding recording that those guys kept playing until I was supposed to say “Oh, I hear it now!” just to make them go on to the next church youth group!

Where do I see evil then? Where might the influence of the Devil be found? I see it in individuals and corporations who have ludicrous amounts of money yet spend half their life trying to avoid paying tax on their fortunes (which Jesus unequivocally commanded us!). I see it in politicians who care not one jot for the poor. I hear it when Bob Geldof swears, but not in those expletives: in the incredulity he has at how little major nations are giving to help beat the scourge of ebola! I see it in the relative apathy shown by our press at atrocities in our world when there’s a better headline about The X Factor or Big Brother – it’s only when there’s little to report on celebrities or wannabes that real news takes centre stage. And I also see the evil in wanting to promote bad news above even the slightest good thing that might be happening out there. No wonder Christians today think “it’s all getting worse!”

Now there is something to address: how much of this ‘evil’ is within our churches too? How many preachers promote forms of politics or certain politicians whose record may not be squeaky clean? Right away, I find myself reflective, and is that not how we are meant to be? Recognising the sin within ourselves? If I’m brutally honest, that greed that is so apparent in the billionaire is present in me too. Who would turn their nose up at inheriting a good amount of cash? The apathy that I decry is also right there when I find myself switching the TV channel over from pictures of suffering to see that comedy show.

What exactly is Satan’s role in the universe? What is his ‘job’? His aim? Is it not to ‘deceive the elect’? How did he tempt Eve in Eden? Was it not by saying that she could become greater than what God planned for her? He tempted her to take pride in herself, in her ability to decide between good and evil, and to find pleasure in being able to judge others. It is actually in that recognition of his intentions, that his aim is to get us to look at others’ sins and failings and not our own faults, that we can defeat him. If he wants us to be blind to our own limitations and our need for Jesus and his forgiveness, then surely each of us seeking to change ourselves first and foremost is the most efficient way to defeat him? I shall repeat myself again: Revival is never about them, it’s always about you!

On second thoughts… all those things that Christians love to find and point out, out in the world that show the extent of Satanic influence, all those symbols and children’s shows and pop songs, maybe they are actually his ploys! Carry on as you were…

Grace be with you.

 

P.S. Here’s a wee poem what I wrote as a younger me, many moons ago (forgive the limited blog formatting, please):

DARKNESS

When the darkness falls

The moon has gone

And the stars behind the clouds are hid,

The angel calls

My spirit on

And my anxious fears to death are bid

But will I stand

Against the tide?

Will courage fail me at the test?

Or fate demand

That flight will bide

And put my skittish soul to rest?

 

How can I know

If I’ll be strong

Before the day of judgement dawns.

Time will show

If I am wrong

To think I’m king among the pawns.

Through trying times

I’ll have to learn

To learn from every trial I face

And face my crimes,

Those crimes that churn

Within my darkest, hidden place.

 

The greatest voyage,

It is said,

Has to start with the first step.

But this wise adage

Has conveyed

A truth which in our minds has slept.

To beat the rise

Of evil

In everything I see

I must surprise

The Devil

By seeing the sin in me.

 

Shanky’s Hollow, Mourne Mountains

25/8/95

Things I detest….

Here are 6 things I detest, 7 that I despise [see what I did there?]…

in no particular order…

Ties

Country Music

Inconsiderate drivers

Cold, wet summers

Cruelty to children

Cruelty to animals

People who say that the Bible has been altered and edited by “the church” (as if there ever was only one single ‘church’ on Earth, other than the physically intangible true church known only to God), in order to make it conform to what “the church” wants to preach. Such people know nothing of the Bible or its history, and just repeat what some idiot said, like bleating lambs. There is so much tradition and so many practices within churches that can be wiped away with just one brush of a proper reading of scripture, so my Bible does not serve self-seeking preachers or pedlars of falsehood (or practically any denomination you care to name – not one of them has the monopoly of truth). In fact, self-serving charlatans truly fear those of us who know it well, so keep reading it, brothers and sisters, and challenge them!

These same naysayers of scripture often then go on to say “sure it contradicts itself!” SO, what is it, then? IF it has been doctored and edited, how come there are ‘contradictions’ in it? We certainly didn’t do a very good job, then, did we? These difficult passages that seem to cancel each other out are just the complexities within the mind of God that we see as contradictions, when in fact they are truths that balance to create the universe around us. Nonsense, you say? Ask any quantum physicist about the duality of light, and be prepared for a wacky conversation!

When a Muslim says to me that his Koran goes right back to the seventh century and is attestable, I do not deny that or try to undermine it; I am certain it actually recorded the very words of Muhammad. I can make better arguments against Islam than “oh your Koran is all made up by scholars over the centuries!” Please afford my scripture the same respect since it is all attested back to the first century. That which could not be attested was rejected!

Grace be with you.

P.S. we actually had a pastor in our church recently who converted from Islam. We couldn’t record his face or name since he is in danger in his native Pakistan. He said that he memorised the entire Koran, and nowhere did it say that infidels must be killed, but it has been the interpretation of a verse or verses about the wrath of Allah that has led most of the main schools of thought within Islam to state that such a death penalty should exist. Same problem there, then?

Maturity in the church

Over the years, I became weary of spats and arguments. No church is exempt from them, and no single person within those spats is perfect. However, I have grown to accept this, and try my best to get along with everyone to the best of my ability. I have not achieved this, simply because I am human. Some people just know how to rock your boat or twist your melon, some make an art out of it.

I have beside me here on my desk a DVD that I’m about to lend to a good friend who has become disillusioned with church. It’s a great preacher whose closing address at the Elim Bible Week was about the church and how it is just the only way we are ordained to have fellowship and worship together. One great illustration he made was from Noah’s Ark, which is a good ‘type’ of the church and of Jesus. We can be sure, with all those animals on the ark for 40 days (more than that since it took time for the waters to subside), that it was a stink! Well, at the time, it was ‘stink or sink’, and you know what, the church is the same; it stinks! Because it’s made up of you and me! And we are not perfect. Voilà!

I’ve said this before: we have a condition in this country which has arisen out of the success of the Christian church, in that we are able to decide to move to another church as and when we see fit, and for some this is an ongoing “I don’t agree with that, I’m off!” attitude. Now sometimes such moves are necessary, if there is something particularly rank (biblically or in church conduct) that you find impossible to reconcile, or if you are sure of a ‘call’ from God to move to a different church.

[Discerning the ‘call’ of God is another topic entirely, which I shall avoid for now (and maybe forever!)]

Someone who has constantly moved around churches like a vagabond has issues they need to deal with! I shall venture that their underlying problem is one of maturity, and this is what I have seen so often, and it is this that frustrates the hell out of me! Faults, differing opinions, disagreements, etc. are a part of life, both in and outside the church: dealing with them requires a mature attitude. Regardless of whatever happens, how each one of us deal with or react to such things is down to each one of us!

One of the prime causes of disagreements is change in a church, and it’s all to do with ‘comfort zones’ since none of us like to change from what is comfortable to us (or even just familiar, whether good or bad – a well-documented psychological phenomenon). Comfort zones are for babies! Once we get out of our cot, leave our mother’s breast milk behind and start trying to walk, we may fall down occasionally and bruise our knees and our heads, but we quickly learn that this is the way forward. It’s life.

A friend of mine knows a church historian who reassures him that when our predecessors were trying to introduce church organs, they were met with resistance and hostility! Try now to remove the organ from some churches, just for a laugh!

The person who is unwilling to accept change is being immature. Likewise, the person who thinks that change should just happen and nobody should raise concerns is being immature. There may well be genuine points to an argument against a change, but without a mature discussion of it, and a mature acceptance of other points of view – we all need a little bit of Romans 14 – we get nowhere. Acceptance is a key issue I am discovering for my book on contentment, too.

I fully understand that young people, or people young in the faith, have yet to learn these things and grow. I pray that their path to maturity is level and unstrewn with hazards. Then again, getting around the hazards is all part of the process! If you want to grow, deal with them!

Those with more years to their lives, physical and/or spiritual, really should be more mature. Some are so stuck in their ways, it might be a miracle for them to grow up now!

Praise God, I believe in miracles!

Grace be with you.

Don’t be the elder brother!

I recall a story I heard many years ago. It was related that it happened, but it may very well be an apocryphal urban myth sprung from a joke:

A man was known to a church to be very inconsistent in his ‘walk’ with Christ, and was often backsliding or falling away, only to come back every now and then and repent all over again. Then he turned up at a gospel rally and heard an altar call to come forward for a fresh ‘filling’ of the Holy Spirit.

He walked forward, hands raised, in tears, saying “Fill me, Lord! Fill me!!”

Then a voice was heard from the back: “Don’t Lord! He leaks!”

While we can laugh at it, a serious message is there.

As far as stories go, the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is one of the best ever told. It is many layered, and has rich characters and wonderful applications. I can only imagine how our Lord Jesus delivered it to his audience. Stephen King, eat your heart out! One of the characters given fairly little attention is the elder brother. He was the one who stayed on the farm and worked diligently and loyally for his father all those years the younger Prodigal was away. When he came in from the field after a typical hard day’s work, he asked what all the noise was. When told it was a celebration for the return of his brother, he just took a big huff and decided he wouldn’t join in.

You can understand his attitude, it was only human: “all these years I’ve been faithful and hard-working while he’s been off wasting his entire inheritance on a pathetic life and useless no-good friends, and he is the one to get the fatted calf, a robe, a ring, and a huge welcoming party!”

The father (that great and magnificent father who allowed his son to find his own way in the world, but still stood looking at the horizon regularly, praying for his son’s safe return) went out to entreat the elder brother [ask earnestly or anxiously] to come in and rejoice with them. His reply to his elder son was that he still had his inheritance – “all I have is yours”, but that the return of the brother who was once lost, once presumed long dead, was indeed a time for celebration. The elder brother’s problem was self-righteousness; he saw himself as ‘better’ than the younger, more loyal and faithful, and yes, he was! However, in the father’s eyes, they were both his sons. He could not disown or turn his back on the younger one, especially since he had returned in contrition and humility.

Jesus reinforces this principle of the kingdom (as all parables relate to spiritual principles) with the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). The workers hired at the eleventh hour were paid the same wage as those hired earlier in the day, so those who worked longer grumbled about it. The vineyard owner asked them why they should grumble when they were paid the wage he agreed with them at the start; “Or are you envious because I am generous?” he asks them at the close.

This envy at God’s generosity is unbecoming of those of us forgiven of our sins and solely dependent on that same generosity of grace from him. If God decides to be gracious and generous (as we well know he is!) to another, who looks to us as if they are deserving of no understanding or allowance, who are we to question that grace poured out? Are we any more deserving of that grace just because we have been more faithful to God like the elder brother, or more religious?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

You see, I believe that Mohammad was a typical ‘elder brother’ – he heard the gospel of Christ but rejected it. For him, vicarious atonement was just wrong; he didn’t like it. It’s the mainstay of the Christian faith, dependent upon the grace of God to allow Christ’s death on the cross to atone for all who believe in him. Mohammad was a pious and holy man, and he wanted piety and religious observance to be the means of salvation, so he created his complex religion with its five pillars and all the trappings that go with them. You must observe them all faithfully to be in with a chance of God’s favour. This proves that they do not worship the same God that I worship: my God is gracious and generous, and if he deems anyone that I may look down upon, in my pious pride, to be worthy of the same grace he gave me, so be it.

The plank in my eye

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

– Matthew 7:3-5

We often like to quote these words of Jesus, as long as it applies to someone else, eh? A very strange thing has happened to me this week. Yesterday, I unfollowed a fellow blogger, telling him he was biased and hateful. I had come across his blog as it was highlighting atrocities committed by ISIS that world media seems to be oblivious to. I had a good debate with him, but in the end I realised he was not going to answer points I made about my faith that I thought he got wrong, nor was he going to post a link I had sent him (that he had asked for from someone else!) because it challenged his own bias. I got a bit of abuse for telling him plainly that I was the fool for believing he was committed to truth and not just one side of a story. He had allowed his righteous hatred of the acts of extremist jihadists to become a foil for condemning Islam and everyone who followed it. I may see it as a false religion, but that doesn’t make almost 2 billion people on Earth all evil!

While I was dealing with this hater, I was facing my own jury, unaware of the links and the similarities. My hatred of political doctrines had seared my conscience to become a hater of persons, one person in particular, whose face I cannot see without feeling anger. I had posted a meme of my own on social media, thinking I was just expressing my opinion, which I was entitled to do. Entitlement comes from many sources, but maybe the worst is when it arises from a sense of superiority or pride. That is something very prevalent among Christians, since they know that they do have the truth. I cannot comment for other religions, I only know what I know. Paul addressed the Ephesian church with an admonition:

‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

– Ephesians 4:26

Now the Ephesian church is the one in Revelation that was praised for its correct doctrine; they “hated the practices of the Nicolaitans” but our Lord had one thing against them – they had “left their first love.” I can think of many evangelical churches in this country that fit that description. Why was Paul addressing this to them? Did he know how they had become? So full of their own self-righteousness that they had become little more than a people who knew who to hate, and how and why?

It took many… many fellow believers to rebuke me before I saw clearly (my wife was the first, but I tend not to listen to her enough – ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ – true!). My post was offensive and unchristian, and unthinking (which is the very thing I pride myself on). And there it was… my pride, in my ‘superior’ intellect. Our Lord does not address others with his words, he addresses US!

I look back on the past few days and see a self-righteous man, unaware of the huge plank in his own eye, not even thinking for one second that self-righteousness was a trait he had. Yet in this instance, this area, he was! Now that the plank has been removed, I can see it clearly, and should it present itself to enter my eye again, I should be better equipped to recognise it.

The oft-quoted mantra “hate the sin, not the sinner” is something we need to remind ourselves regularly, while not allowing it to become no more than a twee sentiment, or a mask for genuine hatred.

Forgive me, everyone. My imperfection was laid bare and I was the last to see. This does not feel good right now, but it will in the end. I am grateful for those who can and do address things they see as wrong, and all your comments got through in the end. I always welcome dialogue. Keep addressing sin as you see it, but please beware of your own anger, as Paul admonishes us. Don’t go where I have been; I am a more wary believer now (and more aware!).

Grace be with you.