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    To stand on the Word, one must understand the context in which the Scripture is used.  Many people claim a Scripture without fully grasping the intent of the presented Word.  To fail to recognize the true meaning of a verse or section of verses is to open the door to potential confusion and the challenging of one’s faith.  To pluck a Scripture out of its context and adopt it as part of our faith package is to build our faith on assumptions rather than facts.

     

    Years ago, the prayer of Jabez was publicized as the prayer of fulfillment. (I Chronicles 4:8, 9)   Pray that prayer and the benefits that Jabez experienced would be at the threshold of your life.  Books were written expounding people to “piggyback” on that prayer and their lives would be changed.  Pray that prayer and God would increase their possessions while, at the same time, extending His hand to keep them from evil and anything that would grieve them.  All across the country, churches caught the vision of the Jabez prayer and petitioned Heaven with their requests for blessings.  To add to the excitement, stories began to abound about people who prayed his prayer and received phenomenal results.  The question is why, of the 222 prayers in the Bible, was the prayer of Jabez centered out for adoption?  What people thought was that if God could bless Jabez with his request, why couldn’t God bless them; after all, God is not a respecter of persons!  The Jabez prayer was a giant shot in the arm of the “prosperity group.”  What lengths Christians go to experience materialistic abundance!  Too bad the Apostle Paul wasn’t exposed to the humanistic interpretations of the Word, for instead of learning to be content with what he had, (Philippians 4:11) he could have reigned as a chief financial officer at a highly respectable mutual fund organization.  He would not have had to make tents on the side, (Acts 18:3) but could have been the owner of the “nomad tent company.”  What should be noted is that through Jesus we have already received everything we will ever need to lead an abundant life.  So why would we go back to Scriptures under the Law and pray for what we already have!

     

    Another area of Biblical misunderstanding is the Upper Room exchange that Jesus had with His Apostles.  Jesus told them that God’s house was filled with many mansions, and that He was going to prepare a place for them.  Many take this Scripture as an assurance that everyone has a mansion that is reserved for them.  Many funeral messages are based on this discourse.  We need to put that exchange in its proper context.  James’ and John’s mother had requested a positional role for her sons in Jesus’ futuristic Kingdom.  Jesus told her it was not up to Him, but up to God whom special seating would be given to in Heaven. (Matthew 20:23)  In the Upper Room, Jesus told His men that they would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29)  Some time before that, He told Peter that the Apostles would sit upon 12 thrones judging Israel. (Matthew 19:28)  During the Last Supper, He told them that His departure would have a direct effect on them in the afterlife.  He shared with them that in God’s Heavenly domain (house) were places (mansions) where the Apostles would reside.  He told them He was going to make ready (prepare) for their eventual arrival.  There would be an area (place) where they would be in a position of authority.  All I know is that when I leave this life I will be with Jesus, and that’s all that matters.  The “housing” arrangement is up to Him.

     

    There are many Scriptures that we have interpreted to benefit our comfort zones.  Let the Holy Spirit, instead of our human spirit; show us the intent of the Word.

     

  2. Chuck Kralik
    Latest Entry

    “The third time (Jesus) said to Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

    Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’

     

    Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’ ” (John 21:17, NIV).

     

    When Peter and the other disciples arrive on shore, Peter soaking wet from his swim and the other men sitting in the relative comfort of their fishing boat, Jesus already has breakfast warming over a fire.  As the heat of the dancing flames warms Peter’s skin and the smell of fresh fish and bread fills the air, Peter can’t help but think back to several years ago, to his calling as a follower of Jesus.  That instance had also involved a huge and miraculous catch of fish.  But that was well before Peter’s recent denial of Jesus.  Now, Peter’s sin is at the forefront of his mind.  As he pulls the fish-filled net onto shore, Peter hopes that he can still be of use to Jesus, that he can once again “ ‘…fish for people’ ” (Luke 5:10, NIV) as Jesus had called him to do.

     

    I imagine there is some level of uncomfortableness on the part of Peter as he shares the meal with Jesus and the other disciples.  Peter knows all-to-well that he has hurt Jesus and wonders if their relationship, their friendship, will ever be as it once was.  The laughter of the group of men around the fire calms Peter’s anxiety to some extent, but it doesn’t change the fact or the cruel consequences of his sin. 

     

    But then, following their meal, there’s a moment in time, an exchange between Peter and Jesus, where Peter’s doubts are diminished and his hope is restored.  Jesus asks Peter a series of questions, three times in fact, the same number of times that Peter had denied knowing Jesus, “…do you love me?” (John 21:15-17, NIV).

     

    Each time, Peter affirmatively responds with an answer of “yes” and each time Jesus tells Peter some variation of the phrase, “…feed my sheep…” (John 21:15-17, NIV).  Jesus is not finished with Peter, even though Peter has given up on himself.  Jesus has forgiven Peter, despite his denial, and now Peter needs to forgive himself.  Peter, who had been called to fish for people is now being called to feed Jesus’ sheep, his lambs, a calling that will ultimately cause Peter to lose his life.  But it will all be worth it.  Peter will lead and fish and feed Jesus’ people the remainder of his life, and his confession of faith will outlive his denial in doubt.      

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  3. They say, "Take the Christ from the Cross",
    Paul embraced the beams; Moses lifted it up.                                                    [1]
    Resurrection gave the willing the right                                                                 [2]  
    to look at the Cross, say, "It is alright!"
    Cause holes in His hands and His feet and His side
    keep the message from slipping, widens our lives.
    Be glad Thomas pressed the issue so far,                                                            [3]
    evidence  of holes in the Risen One fills up whom we are.

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    [1] 1 Corinthians 2:2 and 1 Corinthians 1:18; Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-15
    [2] John 3:16 and Revelation 22:17
    [3] John 20:24-29    

     

  4. 5ac33a46a760e_TheArtOfForgiveness.png.036c75ae2d33028d7d8e0b7f3ec7d70d.png

     

    By Victor Remes

    You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin.
    Psalms 85:2 NKJV

     

    Forgiveness the dictionary definition is to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.

     

    I know many of you including me do struggle with forgiving others that have done wrong, and whoever it is and whatever they have done I know forgiveness isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. To be honest with you; writing this piece has been prompted by my own experiences with forgiving others including myself.
    Let me be straight and honest with you all; this post was the hardest piece I’ve ever written. The last few weeks I have been through some tough and painful challenges even the people that truly know me don’t even know.

     

    This season God brought me through has shown me that I have been holding grudges since I was a young kid. It could be grudges about myself or about people that have done me wrong. But I never actually let it go; all I done is slip it under a rug and literally forgot about it and carried on with life. How many of you are doing this?

     

    In the New Testament, the bible reminds us that God has forgiven all of our sins through Christ’s death. And time and time again; Christian are commanded to forgive as well.

    And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

     

    What I found is the grudges I have been keeping were holding me back and if this was holding me back its also holding you back as well the reason I say this is because some of you may have thought that holding a grudge against somebody makes you strong but it doesn’t it makes you bitter; and that forgiving makes you weak it doesn’t it sets you free.

     

    God showed me that forgiveness is important, because when we truly forgive that’s when healing starts to happen inside us. The thing is ‘nobody is prefect’ we all make mistakes; we all know this saying very well but we all say this and still expect perfection from the people that are in our lives, the ones we speak so highly about but then they disappoint you, they hurt you, break your trust and abused the love you gave them. Well if we truly want to LOVE we need to FORGIVE.

     

    Christ died on the cross for me and you. Why? because He loves us knowing that we may not even love Him back. Reading the story of Jesus before He died on the cross. He didn’t expect anything back from the people that He shared His Time, Love and Trust to. They either praised Him or accused Him but He still loved them and forgave them. Jesus Himself forgave the people that done wrong to Him and why shouldn’t we forgive the people that have done wrong to us as well.

     

    I found that some of us are blaming ourselves for the lost of others, even the people that we know that have passed. Stop blaming yourself for the things you did bad and good or didn’t do while they were with us. You need to forgive yourself because really those that left have gone to live their life and the ones that have passed their death, their pain has been lifted and they are free from the world and its struggles.

    You shouldn’t take the responsibility for their passing, you can’t carry the weight of their death on your shoulders like a lead blanket dragging you further and further down.

     

    There is way more to forgiveness than this but I just want to say to truly release yourself from the painful burden you need to forgive just as Christ Jesus forgave you. You may feel like that you’re the problem to everyone’s pain at times but you are not. Forgive yourself and let yourself be free from the pain and find the truth about the true love through Christ Jesus.

    Now to those that are reading this now knowing that I may have done something against you; I ask that you forgive me. Not for me to feel better but that you find peace in your heart. To those that have done wrong to me I forgive you all, I’m done with feeling this pain and being disappointed in myself for holding onto this. I’m letting go of the things that have been holding me back. I pray that this will help you to let go and forgive.

     

    Prayer:

    Jesus! thank you for forgiving me, thank you for dying on the cross for me, you have shown your love to me and I thank you for it, I pray that you will show me how to forgive myself and those that have hurt me a lot as well and start your healing in my heart with your love. In Jesus Name Amen.

  5. Super peaceful day in the ancient village.

    Greetings with the locals, and a warming sun.

    Good life.

    And blessings to all.

  6. Lester Carney
    Latest Entry

    The people had recently received the 10 Commandments, spoken by God himself.  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  “You shall not make any graven images.”  All the way to “You shall not covet.”  Ten simple, easy to understand laws to help them better love God and love man.  The people had responded that they would do everything that God had said.  Moses had then been called up on the mountain, and he had been gone for weeks and weeks (40 days in Bible terminology).

     

    The people became impatient.  They didn’t know what had happened to Moses.  Perhaps he had left them and wasn’t coming back.  Perhaps he was dead.  They went to the brother of Moses, Aaron, and asked him to make a god to lead them.  Aaron asked for their ear rings, and he melted the rings and formed a calf.  This wasn’t quite a god.  In Egypt, a calf or cow or bull was not a god, but was the seat of a god.  The calf would not have been  worshiped, but they would have worshiped the figure seated on the calf.  Aaron didn’t go so far as to make what he thought was a god; he only make the seat for a god.  But it was a significant compromise anyway.  He tried to move the people’s thoughts back to God by building an altar in front of the calf and telling the people that tomorrow they would hold a festival to worship God.

     

    But the people could not see past the calf, and they worshiped, not God, but…a chair.  Holy Cow!

     

    They forgot how God had lead them during the past several months.  They forgot the way he had protected them from the ten plagues in Egypt.  They forgot how he had made a way through the Red Sea, so they could leave the Egyptian army behind them.  They forgot how he had miraculously fed and watered them—how miraculously he was feeding and watering them every day.  They forgot the 10 Commandments.  They forgot their promises to God.  They forgot God.  In forgetting God they became stupid and started inventing their own gods.

    When we lose sight of God, what will hold us true to him is the memory of what he has done in the past for us.  He certainly died on the cross for you and me.  He was certainly raised from the dead to give us the hope of an eternal future.  He certainly has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us through life.  He certainly is preparing a place in heaven for each of his children.  He certainly loves you and me.  Let us continue to focus on God’s blessings so that we can avoid becoming stupid and worshiping something of our own invention.

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    I heard this story on K-LOVE radio.  A woman had the devastating experience during Christmas of having her husband announce to her and the rest of the family that he was planning on divorcing her.  Nice guy!  A week later she had done little more than lie in bed and cry.  Her four-year-old finally decided to act.  He opened her bedroom door and said, “All right, mom, that’s enough!  It’s time for music and pancakes!”

    She was so surprised that she stumbled to the kitchen, turned the radio on, and there was a song waiting for her with just the message she needed to hear.  She baked the pancakes, added plenty of syrup, and she and her four-year-old ate pancakes and danced to the music from the radio.  She made the difficult decision to move from existing to resuming living.

    During these holiday seasons, many people are depressed by reminders of their past losses.  Lost family members.  Lost relationships.  Lost friends.  Lost jobs.  Lost pets.  Lost property.  Lost self-respect.  Lost opportunities.  So many losses.  Few people have managed to avoid loss.  Some of these losses may be recent, while others may have occurred years ago and are still acting to prevent one from living a vibrant life.

    Whatever season you find yourself in, whether the holidays or winter or a particular time of life, it is time to move beyond the losses.  Refuse to just exist, going through the necessary daily chores, but finding little joy in life.  Make the difficult choice to seize life and make the best life possible for yourself.  Stop waiting for the concert to come to you; go to it.  Cook a fancy meal just for yourself and use your best china.  Go to the salon and get your hair or nails done.  Wear your best clothes.  Plan activities that help you look forward to the future.  Make new friends.  Buy yourself the gift you’ve wanted.  Actually spend time looking at nature and listening to it—a bird, an animal, a sunset, water running over rocks.  Pop the question.  Take time for “music and pancake” moments.  These little acts will become treasures that fill your mind with good memories rather than sad thoughts.

    Above all, remember the two anchors to a steadfast life.  Anchor one is knowing beyond question that God loves you unconditionally and is your friend.  Anchor two is daily committing to loving God and being his friend.  With these two anchors firmly grounded, you will no longer exist, but you will truly live.  Today, choose life.

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  7. Holy Week: Monday…No Turning Back!

     

    And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words. (Luke 19:41-48 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    What a beautiful picture of the purity of Jesus, both human and divine. What a profound illustration of His great love. To see the Son weep over the city of His Father, and to watch Him drive out those who were violating the Holy Temple brings me to tears and distress as well. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew there was no turning back. It was all part of His Father’s plan for salvation, but still He wept over the city He loved and cried out against those who had turned His Father’s house into a den of thieves.

     

    Most of the time in my life, my “no turning back” moments have brought me sorrow. I can be an impulsive person and my cries of anger have often been from selfishness instead of righteous indignation. And even though I have committed my life to Christ, there have been times when I have wondered if I am truly all in for Christ. Sometimes my Christian walk has felt like some holy poker game: I have put all my chips on the table, but inside my hand was a little weak. What if God asked me to lay down my life for Him? I would die to protect my family, but when I am fearful about speaking to a coworker about my faith, how can I be sure I am ready to go all in for Jesus?

     

    Thanks be to God that HE provides the strength I need to accomplish my goals for Him. Each day, as I move closer toward heaven, I can take comfort in the fact that it is God who has sovereign control over my life. My “job” is to tune my heart to Him more and more so I can learn to listen to what He is calling me to do. I need to tune my heart to hear those things that should raise righteous anger or holy sorrow. Only then can I pray about how I can respond to what I experience. Is there a cause worth winning? Is there a lonely soul in need of comfort? Are there poor or sick or prisoners who could use my finances? Are there brothers and sisters who could use my time, talent, or treasure? And what about the gifts God has given me – in my case, words: am I using them for Him, not just in writing, but in my daily interactions with others? All of these become the challenge that today’s reading raises for me.

     

     

    When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    Jesus never shrank from His purpose. Though He was tempted in the wilderness, at every encounter with His enemies, in the Garden, and even on the cross, He never gave in and He never gave up! Until He cried from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), Jesus continued His lifework and completed the task He had come here to accomplish. He accepted pain, humiliation rejection and the agony of taking upon Himself all of humanity’s sins as He fulfilled perfectly what was required. No one else could have accomplished our salvation except the perfect Son of God!

     

    When I am feeling inadequate over my calling as a Christian, when I feel alone or misunderstood, outmatched, overwhelmed, or totally lost, I can look to the cross and see the One who satisfied of the debt I owed and opened the way for me to spend eternity in heaven. It is there that all those doubts will be swallowed up in that perfect victory, that perfect resolution of spirit, that perfect love!

     

     

    Father, this will be a time of no turning back. To contemplate just what your Son did for the world means I must examine who I am. I know that I fall so short, but I also know that Jesus has won the victory I could never win. In that I find comfort, strength and joy! As I continue the journey to the cross this week, may I honor you with my thoughts, my prayers, my deeds and my life. I offer them all, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

     

     

     

     

     

    Holy Week: Tuesday…Curing a Fig Tree, Lamenting a People

     

    In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matthew 21:18-19 RSV2-CE)

     

     “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (Matthew 23:37-39 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    Some years back, I wrote a novel called, Jacob’s Dream, about a man who helped prepare the earth for the return of Christ. Throughout of the story, Jacob lamented over those who would be lost when Jesus returned and all was said and done. It was an intense struggle for him, to know that, in the end, there would be many who would reject the Lord and be condemned to the everlasting fires of hell. He had to let go and move forward in obedience to the One who had saved him from a sentence of death. I found it to be one of the hardest parts of the story to write because it was something I too was reluctant to face as a believer. I understood it in my mind because God’s Word said so, but this made it no easier to write that kind of resolve into the main character. But I knew that it was exactly what I needed to do.

     

    Some will accept Jesus’ message and others will reject it. Those who receive the Good News will find heaven. Those who reject the Good News will end up in hell. It is as simple as that. Jesus understood this all too well, He wept openly for His people, but it did not prevent Him from walking into the Holy City and all the way to the cross as He completed the task His Father had given Him to do.

     

    After the cleansing of the temple, the stage was set for the crucifixion. Jesus’ enemies began to seek a way to capture Him and condemn Him to death. The hour of darkness was approaching and what was Jesus doing? He was in the temple teaching the people He loved! But His teaching had a strong message of condemnation for those who would reject His message.

     

    In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told a series of parables, all meant to convey the same message to those who believed they held the power. They had challenged Jesus’ authority in an attempt to shut Him down and trap Him, but Jesus saw into their hearts and He delivered a scathing sermon of denunciation to those who were supposed to be the guardians of the People of God. The first story was The Parable of the Two Sons. A father asked one son to work in the vineyard. He answered, “I will not!” but later had a change of heart and went. The father asked the second who said, “Yes Sir!” but never went. The teachers had said “Yes!” to God but had refused to follow His direction. The prostitutes and tax collectors and other sinners had said, “No!” but had a change of heart in the presence of the One who offered them hope. It was they who would enter the Kingdom, rather than the teachers of the law.

     

    The second story was The Parable of the Tenants. A landowner had leased out a vineyard to tenants and it was time to collect His share of the Harvest. He sent servants, but the tenants abused and killed them. He sent his son but the tenants said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.”  They took him outside the vineyard and killed him. Jesus certainly knew what the leaders were planning to do to Him; and they certainly understood that He was accusing them of rejecting the Father’s messengers and ultimately, rejecting Him.

     

    The next story of was The Parable of the Wedding Feast. A king threw a wedding banquet for his son and invited all the right people; yet they rejected the offer and never came, and even abused and killed his servants. So the king invited the people on the highways and byways and they entered the feast, though even then, some were still not properly dressed for the occasion. Jesus was making it clear that the Kingdom was being taken from those who rejected His message and given to those with hearts open to receive it, even the sinners.

     

    Jesus had come looking for a harvest among His people and they were unwilling to yield to his message. So, like the fig tree, they were cursed, never to yield any fruit in the world. Later in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus condemned the Scribes and Pharisees with a series of “woes” (Matthew 23). His condemnation was so clear and complete that there was no room for doubt what was to come. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, the city He loved so much. He had longed to spread His love over them, but they rejected His message again and again. Their house would be left desolate, and the people would be condemned, though one day they would cry, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” whether they wanted to or not! This was a difficult but necessary part of the journey to the cross for our Lord. He continued to teach the people, knowing it would lead to His own death at the hands of the Jewish leaders. He did this because of His great love for us, a love so powerful that it led Him to speak the prophetic words of condemnation at the same time He spoke the eternal words of hope.

     

    As you continue the journey to the cross with Jesus, take time to let this truth sink in. Jesus’ death meant heaven for some, and hell for others. It was part of the pain He faced. May it spur us on to reach out to others with that same love while today is still today, before “too late” comes!

     

     

    Father, I know that there were those who rejected you then and there will continue to be those who reject you right up until you come again. May I ponder in my heart the great love you had in walking the journey all the way, facing the pain of rejection and the knowledge that many would be lost. Help me to reach out to as many as I can with the message of the Gospel while it is still called today. May I learn the lesson of the fig tree and may my own life yield the fruit of the Spirit in all I say and do! Thank you for your Son and for His atoning death on the cross. I offer you my life this day, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

     

     

     

     

    Holy Week: Wednesday…The Silent Day

     

    Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”…

     

    …Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Laz'arus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:21-27, 39-44 RSV2-CE)

     

    Many commentators call Wednesday of Holy Week “The Silent Day.” They speculate that Jesus, after two exhausting days of ministry, spent time in Bethany at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. I wanted to look at the story of the raising of Lazarus from a different perspective. This is a story that speaks with subtle silences against the silence of the grave.

     

    When the messenger came to Jesus to tell Him that Lazarus was sick, He responded by saying, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.” (John 11:4 RSV2-CE) But then He delayed two more days – no explanations, just silence. When He said it was time to go to Judea, His disciples reminded Him about the Jews and their attempt to stone Him, but Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10 RSV2-CE) Most likely this was not quite the answer the disciples had expected. One can imagine that the trip to Bethany was filled with silence as well.

     

    When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was confronted by Martha and Mary. His response to the two sisters appeared incomplete, but what Jesus did not say spoke volumes. He intended to raise their brother, but He wanted to impart to them the mystery and majesty of the Resurrection; and that mystery was that He, Jesus, was the Resurrection and the Life. Then came the time before the silent tomb. Jesus filled the silence with tears and prayers to His Father, and then He brought life back to Lazarus! The brother of Martha and Mary stood up and walked out of the grave, still bound in the wrappings, most likely silent and standing still, in awe of what the Lord had done for him.

     

    The story ended with Jesus commanding that Lazarus be unbound. After that, it was the authorities who were doing all the talking. They plotted to kill Jesus, and later, plotted to kill Lazarus as well. But the very next scene in the Gospel is what completes the story. Jesus friends held a dinner and Mary anointed the feet and head of Jesus with expensive perfume. There was an angry voice in the crowd, Judas, who complained about the cost of the perfume and waste it was to use it all up on Jesus. Jesus, however, silenced him by saying, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:7-8 RSV2-CE) The silent actions of Mary spoke truth that Judas could never see. She understood what was coming and was preparing her Lord for the day of His burial. It was so profound, everyone was silenced by it.

     

    After all this, it is not so hard to believe that Jesus spent time with His friends in Bethany and I find it quite wonderful that the Gospel writers choose to keep silent about it. It expresses truths that give me hope. I like to believe that Jesus found supreme comfort in spending these precious hours with His friends and seeing their surrender to His impending death. I can imagine that much of their fellowship was spent in silence, the kind of silence where words were not needed and love was shared through looks and touch and the beauty of being present to each other. I imagine they talked of their love and concerns, said their goodbyes, and prayed about what was to come. And in the end, whatever was unclear to the three friends was pondered in silence until the time when Jesus rose and it all began to make sense.

     

    There are only traditions about what happened to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus after Jesus ascended to heaven. The Bible is silent on that. And I think that is a good thing. It leaves me to ponder their lives and their love for the Lord in the silence of my heart. It also leads me to think about my commitment to Jesus and what that means. I challenge you to take time in the silence of your own hearts to contemplate what the death and resurrection of Jesus means to you.

     

     

    Father, there are many silences in the Bible, many times when we must look in faith to what the stories of Jesus’ journey to the cross means for us. In taking time to think about those who encountered Jesus, I am challenged to think about my own relationship to my Savior as well. Thank you for this day of silence where I may do that. And thank you for sending your Son, who went silently to the cross for me! I offer my thoughts, my prayers and my life to you today, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

     

     

     

     

    Holy Week: Thursday…The Last Supper

     

    Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”

     

    When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.. (John 13:1-15 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    Every year, I read through the Passion stories and hear them at church. When it comes to the Last Supper, I love reading about how Jesus offered the bread and wine as His Body and Blood, just as I love receiving the Eucharist today. It takes me back to the Upper Room and to the cross where He made the ultimate sacrifice for me. But it is John’s account of the washing of the Disciple’s feet that brings me to my knees in awe. For whatever reason, John chose not to focus on the bread and the wine. Maybe it was because it had all been said in the other Gospels. I like to believe that this story moved John so deeply that he chose to include it in his Passion story. It speaks so powerfully to the love and purpose of Jesus. Imagine the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the Second Person of the Trinity, stooping like a slave to wash the dirty feet of His friends! It was His example of perfect service that found its greatest fulfillment in the cross!

     

    The Church has a foot-washing ceremony on Holy Thursday as part of the worship service. There have some Christians who say that, just as Communion is a Sacrament, foot washing should be a Sacrament as well. While I do not agree, I do believe Jesus commanded that we serve others, even to the point of washing their feet! Over the years, I have worked in hospitals and group homes with physically and mentally handicapped individuals. I must confess that there were times when I found myself put off at having to wash and clean up after them. I have since come to understand that this is a powerful way of sharing in the love of Jesus, who humbled Himself to care for me, especially when I was dirty from all my sin!

     

    I would not to want to leave out the institution of the Eucharist. Our Lord took the bread and wine of the Passover and offered it to His Disciples saying, “This is my Body…This is my Blood! Do this in memory of me!” I know there are different beliefs about what Communion is. Some believe Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the elements of bread and wine, while others see a spiritual presence, and still others see it as a symbolic act to commemorate the event and celebrate the death of Jesus until He comes again. I find it hard understand how anyone after reading John chapter 6 could not see Communion as a Sacrament – a sacred sign of Jesus. Eucharist is a way to experience Christ in an incarnational way. Some see that as superstitious or silly. But when I think about how the Son of God took flesh and came to “pitch His tent among us” I find it quite reasonable. Jesus came to gaze into our eyes with His, to walk the dusty roads of life with His feet, and to touch the sick and the crippled, the blind and the deaf, with His sacred hands. I find the things that others call symbols to be places where I can connect physically to the One who became a physical being for me.

     

    The Last Supper is made complete in the wonderful words of Jesus that John has recorded in chapters 13 through 17 of his Gospel. Jesus was going to His death and He wanted to leave His disciples with words of comfort, strength and peace. It was His final testimony to them before He walked the final road to the cross. I used to wonder what it would be like to be there and hear these words in person, but as I think about it, I realize that these are living words. All I need to do to travel back to the Upper Room is to read the passages once more with an open heart. These words are forever, spoken in both time and eternity. I will list what to me is the most moving of those sacred words:

     

     

    As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another. (John 15:9-17 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    What else could anyone say that could fully express the deep meaning and the perfect love expressed in those words? What better response can we give to the great love of Jesus Christ than to love one another as He has loved us? Ponder that today and seek ways to live it out every day of your lives!

     

    Father, I marvel at the love of your Son, the Word incarnate, who stooped to wash the dirty feet of His disciples. It was the ultimate expression of submission and servanthood! I thank you for the Great Sign Jesus left us in the Eucharist, a way to taste and touch Him and carry ourselves back to that Upper Room as we remember – we relive – the great sacrifice He made for us all! Help me to take His perfect love into my heart and let it spill out into love for others, wherever you may send me this day and every day. Thank you for the Resurrection. Thank you for Jesus. It is in His name I pray, Amen!

     

     

     

     

    Holy Week: Friday…Words from the Cross

     

    I invite you to celebrate Good Friday in your church with other believers and to take time to read the Passion and meditate on its message. I would like to offer some brief commentary and prayer on the final words of our Blessed Savior from the cross…

     

    And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 RSV2-CE)

     

    Forgiveness for enemies, from the cross – the cruel cross! Such love from the Savior is unfathomable and overwhelming! He could have spoken condemnation and rebuke, words of righteous anger and indignation to the foolish people who were putting to death their Savior. But instead, He offered forgiveness and love. How the rulers failed to put a stop to the whole thing then and there is astounding! Yet they were blind to the great Son of God, pouring out His love and lifeblood before them.

     

    Forgive me Lord, for the sins of my life that placed you on that cross. I hear my mocking voice among the crowd yelling “Crucify! Crucify!” and I am put to shame. Thank you for forgiving me and saving me…

     

     

    And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 RSV2-CE)

     

    The two men who had been crucified with Jesus had been mocking Him; when suddenly, one of them came to his senses and rebuked the other man. He knew that they were getting a just punishment for their deeds, but Jesus had done no wrong. With the exception of the Tax Collector in Jesus’ parable (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!), there has probably never been a more concise plea for salvation. The “Good Thief” asked that Jesus remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus assured the man that “this day” he would be with him forever in paradise. At that moment, Jesus was both comforted and comforter! At the moment of His death He found joy in the repentance of one more sinner.

     

    Lord, the grace and love that you extended to this man is incredible; and yet I think it would be too easy to overlook just how profound it really was. Thank you for hearing my pleas for forgiveness and for welcoming me into your kingdom as well…

     

     

    When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27 RSV2-CE)

     

    Two strong souls stood at the cross, unafraid of the Romans and the Jewish authorities, held there by their great love for Jesus. Even in His agony, He still took a moment to see to His mother’s care. And, He raised her up in honor before His beloved disciple. This was His mother and the disciple He loved so dearly. Now, in Him, they were together as family as well.

     

    Lord, may I honor your mother and the great gift she gave in giving birth to you and suffering the sword that pieced her heart when she watched you die for the sins of all humanity. And thank you for my brother John who cared for your mother and who gave us His Gospel, that great love letter from you to us all…

     

     

    And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach'-tha'ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 RSV2-CE)

     

    Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22, and in quoting the first verse, He was calling the whole of the psalm to mind. The leaders failed to understand and thought He was calling out in Hebrew to Elijah instead of submitting to His Father. But Jesus was showing that He was the Great Suffering Servant, the One who was despised and mocked, whose bones were out of joint and whose heart was poured out like wax. But perhaps the most profound thought in all this is that, at that moment, the Father turned His face away from Jesus because the weight of all the world’s sin was upon Him. Jesus became sin so that He could free us from all our sin.

     

    Lord, I weep at the thought of your Father turning His face away from you. I cannot comprehend the agony you suffered for me. I recall the words of the 22nd Psalm in its entirety and I weep for the rejection you experienced at the hands of men. Yet, you endured all this so that we could experience salvation in you….

     

     

    After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28 RSV2-CE)

     

    Jesus had lost so much blood and he was dehydrated. But how much more so, did Jesus thirst in His soul and long to fulfill His purpose on earth, to complete the task His Father had given Him to do. It was almost complete. It was almost at hand.

     

    Lord, you thirsted for my salvation; you longed for my redemption from sin. All your lifeblood was drained away. You had given your all for humanity! I am in awe. I weep for you and rejoice in the great gift of your life given for mine…

     

     

    When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished… (John 19:30a RSV2-CE)

     

    The Greek word for finished (or completed), “tetelestai,” which means “paid in full.” Jesus was saying that the great debt of humanity that had been posted upon the wooden cross was now cancelled and ink had been wiped away. The purpose for which Jesus had come had found its fulfillment in this moment, this holy and profound moment!

     

    Lord, thank you for cancelling my debt, a debt too immense for me to pay. You took that debt and paid it yourself with your very life. It is only in this that I am set free. No work, no prayer, no words and no deeds could have secured for me my salvation; but your great sacrifice on the cross paid it all…

     

    Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 RSV2-CE)

     

    To the very end, Jesus placed His life into the hands of His heavenly Father. He did not despair on the cross but surrendered everything to the will of His Father. With a loud cry of triumph, in victory and joy, He laid down His life on that cross for us all!

     

    Lord, you died – you gave up your life – for me! You submitted yourself to your Father’s will perfectly and completely – never once deviating from the divine plan! Thank you for dying for me, so that I can be with you forever in heaven! I love you and I thank you – AMEN!

     

    Have a blessed Good Friday!

     

     

     

     

    Holy Week: Saturday…Sealed in the Tomb, Free from the Pit

     

    I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up,

    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

     O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,

    and you have healed me.

     O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol,

    restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 

     Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,

    and give thanks to his holy name.

     For his anger is but for a moment,

    and his favor is for a lifetime.

      Weeping may last for the night,

    but joy comes with the morning.

     As for me, I said in my prosperity,

    “I shall never be moved.”

     By your favor, O LORD,

    you had established me as a strong mountain;

      you hid your face,

    I was dismayed.

     To you, O LORD, I cried;

    and to the LORD I made supplication:

     “What profit is there in my death,

    if I go down to the Pit?

      Will the dust praise you?

    Will it tell of your faithfulness?

    Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me!

    O LORD, be my helper!”

    You have turned my mourning into dancing;

    you have loosed my sackcloth

    and clothed me with gladness,

    that my soul j may praise you and not be silent.

    O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you for ever. (Psalm 30 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    The Lord had been laid to rest in the tomb, wrapped in a cloth and left in silence. The stone had been rolled in front of the entrance, a seal had been set, and guards had been posted. Even in His death, Jesus caused the rulers to fear. They worried someone would steal His body. Or was it that they worried that the prophecies might just be true? The Sabbath had come and all had to depart. When the Holy Day had passed there would be time to anoint the body with spices. But not today.

     

    The beauty of Christianity over any other religion is that our Savior actually rose from the grave. No other religious system can say that about its founder. No other faith has their god coming to earth to pay the price for our sins. Only Christianity has the Creator of the universe leaving His throne to enter this life in poverty in order to be with His people and love them in His humanity as well as His divinity. No tomb could hold this Savior. Every other religious leader is either in the grave or someday will be. Jesus is the only One who could not be held in the tomb.

     

    What happened between Good Friday and Easter? 1 Peter gives us a clue:

     

    For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22 RSV2-CE)

     

    It is said Christ went into Hades or Sheol or Hell to preach to the souls there. Some say His preaching was to invite them to repent. Others say it was to pronounce judgment. Still others say this was all symbolic. The Apostles Creed – the one we use today – says that Jesus “descended into hell.” Whatever happened during this silent time, I know one thing for sure. It did not last. The grave could not hold Jesus. The Father would not abandon His Son. Jesus conquered sin and death and on the Third Day rose in victory!

     

    How can you honor the Savior on this silent day when Jesus was in the grave? One way is to meditate on things that Jesus said and did when He walked the earth, or to contemplate how the psalms and the holy prophets speak of Christ and His purpose for coming into this world. Perhaps you can pray for those lost souls who need the Savior’s tender touch and commit to living your life more and more for the Lord. Maybe you can visit a graveyard and think about the difference between dying in sin and dying in relationship with Him. And is there someone today with whom you may share the Good News of salvation? Remember, there may be lonely lost souls coming to church on Easter who need a gentle voice welcoming them into the family of faith this day.

     

    The Feast of the Resurrection is coming. Have a blessed day and prepare your heart for all that it means!

     

     

    Father, as I think of your Son in the grave, I find its silence stirring my soul to deeper contemplation about salvation and all that Jesus did for me. In His time in the tomb, He conquered death itself and became the just judge of the universe. Thank you, Jesus,  for saving me. Thank you for your great love, the love that spoke from eternity into time, the love that went through hell and back so that I could have the victory in Christ. Thank you for the Resurrection. I offer you my love and my life, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

     

     

     

     

    Easter Sunday

     

    As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

     

    Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49 RSV2-CE)

     

    The ground had shaken and the angel had rolled back the stone. His appearance was such that the men guarding the grave fell down as though dead. The women had gone to the tomb and found the body gone. They saw a vision of angels telling them not to seek the living among the dead, but to go to Jesus’ disciples and tell them the wonderful news of His resurrection! Peter and John had looked into the tomb and saw nothing but the burial cloths folded and left in the place where the body had been. Jesus had appeared to Mary in the Garden and to the two believers on the road to Emmaus. Hearts were burning and minds were racing. No one completely understood. How could they? The Spirit had not yet been given.

     

    It is in this context that we enter into the reading above. This was no ghost they were seeing. This was a real man with flesh and bones, breathing, eating, touching and speaking. Jesus was resurrected. His body had no more limitations. He could enter the room through the locked doors. He had no more pain or distress. He had conquered the grave and come back to open the minds and hearts of those He loved. The dark night was over and the new day had dawned. Nothing would ever be the same again.

     

    There are so many readings we could look at: sayings from our brother Paul on life in Christ and the power of the cross and resurrection; prophecies and types from the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in Christ. We could recall with great joy the parables and healings and miracles that led to this day of days! But I would rather sit in the Upper Room with the Disciples and marvel at my Savior suddenly appearing, smiling with love, breathing on me and calling me to receive the Holy Spirit. I would rather listen to Him calling me to be a witness and to wait for the power from on High to descend on me in days to come.

     

    Jesus is risen. Halleluiah! What more can we say? This journey has been a lonely one, a lovely one, a deep one, and lasting one; for we have walked that rugged road to Calvary with our beloved Savior. We have seen the old, old story fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our lives are forever changed for God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). And while we may think the story has ended, in truth it has only just begun. With the Disciples, we can remember the purpose for which Jesus came and hear our calling to go into all the world for Him…

     

     

    Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 RSV2-CE)

     

     

    Father, thank you for this journey of Holy Week with your Son. Thank you for loving us so perfectly, so completely, that you sent Jesus to die in our place, to overcome our pride, our selfishness, our foolishness, and our sinfulness. May your Holy Spirit guide us and gift us to go into the world to make disciples, to love our brothers and sisters, and to reshape the world for the love of Jesus. May this Day of days be a new beginning for us, for the rest of this year and the rest of our lives. We offer you our thanksgiving, our praise, our love, and our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

     

  8. I went by the Atlantic Ocean yesterday. As I took a quiet walk by the seashore in that relatively lonely beach, the water was calm but extremely cold. The wind was blowing, the dark clouds of a cold front were rolling in, and there was a lonely bird standing on the sand.

     

    I don't know how you feel about dark clouds, cool wind, unending wave sounds, cold water, and a lonely bird on a lonely beach, but it can make one sort of gloomy. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't turning to salty mush in that scene but stuff like that can suck the joy out of anyone. If nothing else, in moments like those the mind has a way of going the wrong way to places and memories that trigger sad emotions and feelings. It is then that you wonder about life, meaning, where you've been, and where you're heading.

    Isn't it something how those mental trips we take usually end up with a memory of defeat in our past or a tough time we went through or a series of worries we have about what the future holds? We try to convince ourselves that we're an 'immovable rock' but when despair hits, it can squeeze out the best in us.

     

    As I continued to walk I noticed the rising tide creeping up the sand and wondered how far would it reach. Then, a crazy thought: What if it didn't stop gaining ground and went over the sand dune, pass the hotels and onto the road and took over the homes near by? I know, I know... sounds like a ridiculous theme for a horror sci-fi movie.

    But think about this, the only reason the tide doesn't keep going and sweeps over the dry land swallowing everything in its path is because God doesn't allow it.

    The following Scripture is a question God posed to His man Job when Job was questioning God's treatment of his life,

     

    “Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness and barred them by limiting their shores, and said, ‘Thus far and no farther shall you come, and here shall your proud waves stop’?" Job 38:8-11 TLB

     

    In other words, God restricted the waters. Had God not done that, the little island in the Caribbean Sea that I grew up in would have disappeared! And, had the Lord not continued managing that up to this day, all life as we know it would cease to exist. Aren't you glad God is Sovereign and merciful?

     

    You may be wondering, Ok, soooo...where are you going with this, bro? Was there a purpose for your stroll at the beach? Yes, there was!

     

    You may feel overwhelmed by your current situation and difficulty. But remember that God is watching and managing life. And just like the ocean tides, He will not let you or me be taken over anything that will wreck our lives for good. You may wonder sometimes about how much more of a difficult thing you can take or whether God has forgotten you and left you to be utterly devastated by an unstopping wave of awful, lousy stuff. But take courage, God is by the side of those who love Him to help them overcome!

     

    Please allow me to unload a few encouraging Bible verses on you:

    "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." Psalm 34:18 NLT

    "The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?" Psalm 27:1 NASB

    “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3 MSG

    "Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10 TLB

    “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” 2Corinthians 12:9 CEV

     

    Aren't those great comforting words? There's hope for life by the sea shore and in suburbia, not because there's anything special about those places, but because there's something special about God and the hope found in Him!

     

    Thanks for reading. Please leave me a message if you'd like. If you'd like to see the pictures that go with this blog please check my website at writingtoempower.com.

  9. A couple years ago I decided to up my writing game by expanding my Internet presence, signing up on a few writers’ sites and posting some of my work for public consumption. I thought it would be a good way for me to network, point others to my website and build a greater following for my writing. I looked forward to getting feedback and interacting with the other writers, but what I didn’t expect to encounter was a whole sub-culture of teen self-expression that dove deeply into the dark regions of depression and self-harm. As I became more involved in the writing sites, the youth minister in me kicked in and I found myself drawn to reach out to those young people with the love of Christ. And so what started out as a way to build my brand turned out to be a winding journey into the thick of this mysterious and intense world of words. It was a true testing of my faith and ministry skills, and I learned a great deal about how the current social media culture has shaped the way teens view and express their identity, their fears and their pain.

    The Emotional World of Online Teen Writing…

     

    One of the first things I discovered on these sites was that, along with all the vampire stories and fan fiction and teen romance novels, there was a large percentage of poetry on depression, cutting and emotional brokenness. Here, many teens commiserated with one another over the harshness of their lives. These tender, hurting souls were posting brutally honest commentary about their circumstances, beautiful and often dark poetry describing their pain and despair, and rants that raged against the cruel world around them. I found much of it very difficult to read, not so much because of the pain it described but because of the hopelessness behind that pain. For sure, some of what I was reading was an expression of the emotional drama that all teens experience, the kind that can become overstated for effect. But in truth, much of it spoke to the sad reality that our culture has, in many ways, created a climate of loneliness, abuse, and abandonment in the hearts of young people. For the most part, there was very little hope in the words I was reading, but plenty of validation and camaraderie among these tortured teens. However, this virtual sharing of votes and comments in some sense served to perpetuate the whole cycle despondency as sympathetic replies from kindred souls prompted the teen authors to turn out additional chapters, leading to more comments, leading to further writing – and on and on it went – a catharsis with no real resolution.

     

    Sadder too, was the fact that so many of these teens were writing about their struggles with identity – and especially their sexual identity. I noticed that many of the culturally and politically correct terms had found their way into their posts: bi-sexual, bi-curious, pansexual, gender fluid, gender blind, transgender, and so on. Most of what I read expressed confusion or a call for validation of a particular choice made. There were those who wrote long rants about the intolerance of the rest of the world for the LGBT community, expressed in such a way as to leave any discussion on the subject closed, lest anyone with a different opinion be labeled as a bigot. In the comments on these pages, people applauded the person’s choice without ever addressing the confusion expressed in the words. I thought about how heart-rending it was that the larger issue of the identity of people’s souls was completely ignored.

     

    Trust, not Tracks…

     

    In crafting my evangelistic approach, I determined to employ a gentler touch: building trust rather than passing out tracts, so to speak. Instead of launching into some sort of calculated discourse on biblical principles and Christian virtues, I decided to read through the writing and pray to draw out the deeper meaning behind the words. I looked for the needs behind the anger and the longings behind the tears. I used as my model the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:1-42. This woman, ostracized by her village and forced to draw water in the heat of the day, was an individual full of suffering and sorrow. Rather than chastise this adulterous woman, Jesus, the all-knowing, all-loving Savior, chose to engage her in conversation. He offered her living water, though initially, she didn’t fully comprehend the deeper meaning behind His words. But slowly, the One without a bucket or dipper was able to draw up the pain and need from the well of this daughter’s aching heart. Her dialogue went from guarded irritation to awareness of her need; and in the end, she became open to being filled by the Messiah.

    As I prayed over the poetry and prose I was reading, I asked for the wisdom to see each person in the same way Christ saw this woman. Through the words, I began to understand what these hearts truly needed. In the pain of rejection, I saw the need for affirmation. In the despair of abuse and bullying I saw the need for the safety of sacrificial love. Self-loathing spoke to the desire for something to fill the emptiness inside. Self-harm served as a desperate cry for the soothing touch of a trusted hand. Each tear and tragic story tugged at my heartstrings, calling me to spill words of healing onto the reply pages of their posts. A vote was not an endorsement of their ideology, but rather a knock at the door of a wounded heart. Each reply was fashioned to speak to individuals where they were. I pointed to the cleverness of their wordplay, the relevance of each metaphor and the unique stylistic choices they had made. But in those replies I also offered a word or two of wisdom, a sliver of humor and hope, and an overture of friendship without judgment. And as each door opened, I bid the Savior to enter with me into each heart I encountered.

     

    A Listening Ear, a Healing Word…

     

    Building trust was a slow process of acknowledging that I understood the pain I witnessed in the words and recognized the beauty deep down in those broken hearts. As I shared with them, first as a writer and then as someone with a gift for healing, I offered words that served as a spiritual balm to sooth the wounds that cut deeper than any razor ever could. I gave understanding rather than approval for behaviors. I never accepted beliefs contrary to my own, but spent time listening to the other person’s thoughts before expressing my own opinions in a gentle and loving way. Each day, when new writing came out, I commented in the same manner as before, but with a little more familiarity from earlier online conversations. This gentle method led to further conversation and openness.

     

    In my ministry work with teen girls I was very familiar with the tragic realities of suicidal depression, cutting, and eating disorders. From years spent with Christian teens I had come to a deeper understanding of the dynamic behind these self-harming behaviors. But here in this asylum of words I gained new insights into the minds of those who struggled in these ways. These young women saw their bodies as detestable canvases upon which to write the sorrowful story of their lives, and they reflected that despair in their writing. Each cut was like a horrid brush stroke on a dark painting, meant to be hidden from misunderstanding eyes. But at the same time, through the poetry, the hidden cuts were displayed in the relative safety of virtual reality. They wrote about their struggles with eating as a slow, sorrowful walk on a path towards a life wasting away with no one to notice or care. As they posted daily of their trials they clung to the words they wrote, hoping their hypnotic power might hold their lives in place for one more day, but at the same time, they saw themselves inching deliberately toward the edge of the abyss.

     

    A Message of Hope and Healing…

     

     My message became simple: You are worthy. You are unique. You are loveable. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I continued to post daily comments on new writings that came out, and spoke with gentleness and caring in short chats about nothing and everything. Eventually I decided to post my own “dark” poetry, poetry that related to the hurt I saw but presented the love of the Savior as well. I considered that, in order for people to find hope, I needed to move beyond the small circle of trust built around my life and walk with them up the hill of the Skull to the cross. Through my poetic words, I began to introduce these new writing friends to the One who could take the pain and sorrow to Calvary’s tree and free them from their bonds. One such poem that grew out of these interactions and insights was called, “Child of Sorrow.” It spoke of the One who was “cut” for them, upon whose flesh had been written all the sins of the world. Here was the God-Man, who willingly took each bloody stripe of the whip, whose head was crowned with thorns, whose very lifeblood was completely drained in payment for every sin. If anyone could relate to their pain and their struggle, it was this Man of Sorrows. In the poem, a young girl, just like them, took the depths of her despair to the cross:

     

    Child of sorrow, fair of form,
    Traveling through the fiercest storm,
    Sees within the mirror, image dulled with deepest rage.

    Sun will rise, another day,
    Wears her mask, her part to play,
    Walks the path of death, entrapped within a cruel cage.


    No one hears her silent cry,
    Now resolved to daily die,
    Writes upon her battered flesh the bitter words of hate,

    Used, abused, misunderstood,
    Underneath a Gothic hood,
    Sinks within her demon dream and feels her phantom fate.


    Can there be no one who sees,
    Or no ears to hear her pleas?
    Must she now forever live in silent solitude?

    Feels her racing heart retreat,
    Waiting for its final beat,
    Draws the blade her life of empty aching to conclude.


    Wand'ring streets in stinging rain,
    Searching now to end the pain,
    Falls upon a heavy oaken door and enters in.

    Moving past the blessed bath,
    Sacred pews and angel's wrath,

    Now before the altar table draped in sick'ning sin.


    Raises firsts to heaven's throne,
    Bringing out her heart of stone,
    Rages now before the God who mocks her from above.

    Gazes now at tortured King,
    On his brow a thorny ring,
    Body beaten, sacred stripes to testify of love.


    Sees the writing on His skin,
    All of our forgiven sin,
    Blood poured out in full to set now free our dying race.

    Can there be a love so pure,
    Or a payment so secure,
    That His life should so completely take the sinner's place.


    Drops the blade upon the floor,
    Her young flesh to cut no more,
    For the Savior King's cruel death now fills her weary soul.

    Rises now a newborn child,
    No longer to be reviled,
    Weight of sin now lifted, body, mind and spirit whole.


    Looks again upon the cross,
    Contemplates Messiah's loss,
    All so she could gain a place at heaven's open door.

    Tears of joy now freely flow,
    To her knees and bending low,
    Grateful broken heart now free, her blood to flow no more.


    Seeking out the sacred page,
    For her mind now to engage,
    Deep inside the words of hope, a purpose now to find.

    Leaves the sanctuary filled,
    Voices silenced, pain now stilled,
    Now refreshed, renewed, reborn in body, soul and mind.


    Child of sorrow, fair of form,
    Having now survived the storm,
    Sees within the mirror now the face of love restored.

    Sun has risen, new day calls
    Moves outside her broken walls,
    To a world of hurting souls who need her gentle Lord.

     

    Hope Rewritten…

     

    Eventually I began to see subtle changes in the way people responded. They knew someone was listening who understood, who didn’t judge, who didn’t want to run away. Even if they didn’t quite get it, they knew they knew I was praying for them and offering something other than hollow affirmation. Their poetry began to take on a note of hope, especially in the advice they began offering their followers, reminding them to keep on trying and not to give up. They began to write less of their pain and to speak into the lives of others going through the same struggles. In their words I saw reflections of the Savior’s love, slowly piercing through the veil of their pain. They were coming to see that if another person could take the time to walk with them on their journeys, then perhaps this God he believed in might be worth a second look after all. I realized that instead of trying to be a counselor, an advisor, a fixer or a sympathizer, all I really needed to be was a channel for the grace of God. I had entered as a stranger, but without judgment or criticism. I had spoken life into their cutting words and allowed the grace of God to work in heaven’s timing rather than my own. 

     

    Now I would be remiss if I left you without saying that as I continue to minister through my writing, I’m not alone in my mission. I have seen other believers on these same sites, sharing the same hope with these hurting souls. Some I would say are better able to break through the barriers because they too are teens, and because they’ve gone through some of the same struggles but have come out on the other side in the arms of their Savior. They too have posted writings of hope and strength for others to read, and have talked and prayed and shared with these struggling teens, offering perhaps more than I ever could. It has been a joy to see how much the grace of God can shine when His children use their gifts and venture out into new worlds, even the virtual kind.

     

    I can only hope that more and more Christians with a gift for words will choose to share their writings with those who are calling out with their broken words for something more. In this age where it’s so easy to connect online, I hope there are more empathetic souls willing to bring the light of Christ’s love into the dark online worlds of these young people and spread the Gospel message of healing and redemption to those who are lost and looking for a refuge of hope!

  10. In the Bible, James Epistle mentions faith without works is dead.

     

    Many people misunderstand the truth behind it.

     

    Why is that?

     

    Because it leads people to believe good deeds are the entry into heaven.

    What is James saying?

     

    He isn’t implying good deeds equals salvation.

     

    God is precise on the origin of heaven. He used Apostle Paul to convey salvation as His gift of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

    In fact, James is expanding on Apostle Paul message that faith produces works.

     

    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV

     

    James reminds us to carry out good deeds not for receiving favoritism but to radiate Christ’s loving nature.

     

    Christian works are a byproduct of faith.

     

    It’s easy to take scripture out of context. The problem is when I do this I’m taking away from the full scope of the message.

     

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to use part of scriptures.

     

    But sometimes, to clarify its lesson the whole section requires attention. And a prime example is faith without works is dead.

    Here’s what I mean.

     

    Contained within James’ message is 13 scriptures. Each of them by themselves is helpful but when interwoven together they explain the reason behind his message.

     

    For instance, he begins with heightening the connection between faith and good deeds. He gives examples of the way they work together. And used Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac as an excellent illustration (James 2:21-23).

     

    Here’s the interesting part.

     

    James is sharing the same truth spoken by Christ.

     

    Jesus put it this way:

    35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

     

    37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 “ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!  Matthew 25:35-40 NLT

     

    I think you’ll agree with me when I say Christ word is final. Here is Jesus’s blueprint for the way faith and good deeds work together.

    And with Christ as our guide, we can’t go wrong.

     

     

  11. 5a54c4fd95632_RedeemingRuth.png.3c89e10565d8392f20a9c7d16ac404f2.png

     

    From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going.

     

    Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined.

    International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts. Ruth had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her.

     

    Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption. 

     

    Time to Walk

    In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation.

    Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility:

    “[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?” 

     

    A Faith Journey into God’s “Yes”

    Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.

    The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge:

     

    Close the door on worries.

    “I can believe what my mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.”   (149)

     

    Love like a fool.

    “Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203) 

     

    There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven.

     

    “Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201)

     

    The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.”

     

    It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family.

     

    5a54c6754a4a3_WhengodsaysYesMicheleMorin.png.13d2a58cce17f3c0ef5ea9cc3b05baac.png

     

    This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

     

    Additional Resources

    Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here

    A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile.

     

    For more of Meadow’s fine writing, including her blog, be sure to check out her website.

    Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.

     

    Redeeming Ruth is now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

     

    5a54d614789e1_MicheleMorin.jpg.01a98cf774fc363ac393707f80bb0fc0.jpg

     

    Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.  She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”

  12.  

    Daniel Chapter: Clash of Worldviews

    by

    TLD

    (2003)


     

    -Part II-

     Profiling the End-time Little Horn

     

     

     

    Introduction

    This section is dedicated to develop a scriptural composite profile of the Antichrist from the scattered references found in various parts of the Bible.  Interpretation is then made of these various references to understand the nature of the Antichrist in the language of modern age political systems and leaders.[1]  In order to correctly understand the nature of the persecution the Antichrist initiates, the section also develops an interpretation of the abomination of desolation and the sanctuary to be profaned in modern day terms.  After laying down this important interpretative groundwork, the identity of the Antichrist, the sanctuary to be profaned, and  the abomination of desolation is established in a new way. 

     

     

    In Search of The "Little Horn"

    Much has been written on the identity - origin and career of the endtimes ‘little horn’ or the Antichrist. Sundry individuals, institutions, and even nations have been suggested as fulfillment of the prophecy about the ‘little horn’ (antichrist). In this regard, some of the most cited candidates have been, the Roman Caesar Nero, the founder of Islam - Mohammed, the Roman Catholic Church and its popes, Adolf Hitler, Communism and its leaders, and much recently the New Age Movement and the Masonic Lodge. These names are in addition to all those false Messiahs who down the centuries declared themselves to be the personifications of the Second Coming of Christ.[2]

    However, if we let Scripture speak for itself, this will be what will emerge as the profile of the endtimes ‘little horn’ (Antichrist). 

     

    -          It will be a branch to arise from the victorious ‘Greek’ dynasty (Dan. 8: 8-9)[3].

    -          Starting from small beginnings, it will amass political power through intrigue and conspiracy. Literally, it will be a master of intrigue (Dan. 11: 21, 23).

    -          Though it has its roots in Christianity, it will abandon the Faith. It will deny God and Christ. It will be a master of deception, succeeding in misleading many people. The                    Lie it promotes will cause many to fall away from faith in God (Dan. 8: 25; 2 Thes. 2:3, 9-12; 1 Jn. 2: 18-19; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 13: 14).

    -          After it comes to political power, it will establish a policy of controlling and distributing wealth (Dan. 11: 24b, 43, 49; Zech. 11: 16).

    -          Those who acknowledge him and owe him allegiance, they will receive privilege and influence. Merit will have little space in the empire the Antichrist (Dan. 11: 39).

    -          Because of the mighty deeds it is able to accomplish many will be duped about its supernatural strength (Dan. 8: 24; 2 Thes. 2:9-10).

    -          It will be a power, which will be quite marked for its haughtiness and impiety. It will be a cruel dictator, which will inspire terror and sow much destruction                                         (Dan. 7: 23-25,    8:23-24; Rev. 13: 1-10).

    -          It will utter words of arrogance. It will lift IT-SELF up against God. It will attempt to play the role of God in the life of the people, promising redemption for humanity                          (Dan 11: 36; 2 Thes. 2:4). 

    -          Its survival skill will convince the gullible in its invincibility (immortality) (Rev. 3-4). 

    -          It will have utter disregard for traditions and customs of the people, including to the observance of religion (Dan 7:25, 11:37).

    -          The ruler will shun the flirtation (desires) of women (Dan 11: 37).

    -          It will be intensely hostile to religion to the point of desecrating God’s temple. God’s people will suffer unparalleled persecution at its hands.  It will carry out a                                 horrifying act that will leave the sanctuary of God profaned and desolate (Dan.7:25, 8:9-13, 25, 11: 30-31; Rev. 13: 5-7).

    -          It will be called the lawless one, as it will suspend normal rules of governance. Human life and property rights, etc., will be wantonly transgressed against Extra-judicial                 measures will be common (Ps 10; 2 Thes. 2:3; Rev. 13: 10).

    -          It will build up military power, and will engage in territorial expansion. It will attempt at worldwide influence and dominance (Dan. 11:38 –44).

    -          God’s people are advised to be the first to recognize the intentions of the ‘little horn’ as it first emerges in power. When it maneuvers its army in position, it is time to                         leave town. They should flee its presence to safe zone in time (Matt. 24: 15-21; Lk. 21: 19-23). 

    -          The nations that would come under its control will languish under its misrule (Dan. 7:23, 8:24, Zech. 11: 15-17).

    -          Its will self-destruct as it retreats to its homeland. Its demise will be regarded as Divine judgment rather than man’s overcoming it (Dan. 8:25, 11: 18-19).

     

    Based on the foregoing profile, among modern secular ideologies and political systems, few ideologies come closer to fulfilling the profile of the ‘little horn’ as much as atheistic Communism (Marxism-Leninism) does.  It is this ideology, more than any other political/ ideological offshoot of the Enlightenment period, which better fits the picture we have drawn above as the profile of the ‘little horn’.  For example, as history books testify, the revolutionary Communist (Marxism-Leninism) has given rise to despotic totalitarian regimes, to be led by a ruthless leader and party.  In all places it has taken political power, it has overthrown the old custom of the people, and tried to replace it with a culture of its own creation. It has shown itself openly as anti-God and anti-religion force, unleashing widespread persecution of the faithful. It has believed and practiced in military buildup, became bellicose and expansionary in its attempt at world domination.

     

         

     

    A digression: The "other" little horn

    However, there is also another kindred anti-God force of the last days, which we must consider here. The second anti-God ideology, like Communism, also drew its ideological inspiration from philosophers whose stock is in the Enlightenment and from some other dubious philosophical and anthropological works of the 20th on race theory.[4] This second ideology, like Communism again, was a political messianic movement whose goal was the setting up of a secular utopia, for its race. But it, like Communism, proved to be the cause of massive destruction to the world, and a source of untold persecution and suffering to the people of God.

    The second political system, which we consider here was also openly anti-God. It also had a leader of fierce countenance, an evil genius at the helm. This man, also like Communist leaders, was able to make a lie to prosper in his hands and deceive many from the faith. 

    This second ideology and political system we consider here, as the other manifestation of the last days ‘little horn’… is none other than the German Nazism of WWII. We have to consider Nazism here for the sole reason that it under Hitler showed itself a sworn enemy of God’s people, murdering some 6 million Jews in the most gruesome manner.[5] 

     

    We will discuss Nazism before Communism to show how Nazism also fulfilled the prophecy about the Antichrist and the abomination of desolation. However, Communism will still remain for us the main focus of attention, as it is the better fit of the two anti-God ideologies to the prophecy about the endtimes ‘little horn.’  But before, we discuss any of them in their historical career first we have to digress for a while to determine the true identity of the sanctuary/ temple, which the Bible says would be profaned by the Antichrist.  It is only after such digression that we can be establishing the true meaning of the sign of the abomination of desolation, which profanes the temple of God. 

     

     

     

    God’s Sanctuary Profaned

    According to Daniel (8:10-13, 23-27), the ‘little horn’ will become progressively more arrogant and hostile to God. Eventually, it will unleash violent persecution against God’s people, and as the result, God’s sanctuary will experience a horrendous desecration and desolation. 

     

    And it (i.e. the little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host

    and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, "How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?" (Dan. 8: 10-13).

     

    But what is the nature and identity of the sanctuary of God that would be profaned in the last days? Is it the Temple in Jerusalem; or some church building; or as some say, the body of believers, which the Bible also considers as the temple of God? Which of these sanctuaries of God is the one to be profaned by the Antichrist? Which of these possible meanings of sanctuary/ temple meant by God - in the ultimate sense - as the sanctuary of God?

     

    It can be recalled that the commonly accepted schools of interpretations on endtimes Bible prophecy, nearly all associate the sanctuary to be desecrated with the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Only one fringe interpretation school considers the body of believers (churches) to be the sanctuary of endtimes prophecy. However, even this interpretation gives little room to consider an evil political power, which the Bible says, will arise in the last days to cause fearful destruction to the land and to the people belonging to God.  Hence, this interpretation school clearly overlooks the warning given about the intense persecution the political ‘little horn’ will unleash against God’s people (cf. Dan. 8: 23-27).  Did not Jesus warn that God’s people should not waste time, but flee as they see the ‘abomination of desolation’, because unparalleled atrocities and sufferings would follow?  So we cannot deny the fact that the Antichrist would be a secular political power opposed to God’s people, to cause them physical harm and destruction.

     

    At this point, it obliges us to establish whether it is a physical structure or building (temple/ church), which is referred to by Daniel as the ultimate sanctuary of God which will be profaned and left desolate by the Antichrist, or else if it is the mystical/ figurative temple, that is the people of God themselves, who would suffer untold atrocities at the hands of their secular enemies. For many endtimes prophecy students, the temple/ sanctuary of God is the physical place where God’s people gather for worship, whether be it the Temple in Jerusalem, or the synagogues or the church buildings. But even in the true sense of the word even these structures derive their sanctity only because the people of God meet there to worship God.  There is a good Scriptural reason to consider the people of God themselves as the ultimate and true sanctuaries of God, where God’s primary concern lies. Therefore, it is God’s people, either in the collective or in the individual sense that should be considered as the ultimate sanctuary of God. Such an understanding of the believer(s) as the ultimate sanctuary where God takes up His residence and His worship occurs continually. Such a conception is not only in the Old Testament implicitly but also in the New Testament openly.[6] 

     

    Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Is. 66:1-2 RSV).

     

    "But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'  (Act. 7:47-50 RSV).

     

    Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?

    If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are. (1 Cor. 3: 16-17, RSV).

    The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign have you to show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body. (Jn. 2: 18-21 RSV)

     

     

    Hence, when we talk about the temple/ sanctuary of God hereafter it will be primarily in the sense of God’s people and remotely in terms of a physical place or structure. In this case, then the focus of the desecration and desolation of the sanctuary will be acts of cruelty (horror) committed against the people of God by the anti-God secular power.

     

    At the end of their rule, when the transgressions have reached their full measure, a king of bold countenance shall arise, skilled in intrigue.  He shall grow strong in power, shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does. He shall destroy the powerful and the people of the holy ones. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall be great. Without warning he shall destroy many and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes. But he shall be broken, and not by human hands. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” (Dan. 8: 23-26)

     

    According to this word, in the last days would rise a cruel autocrat, a dictator, who would be a master of intrigue and conspiracy work.  This secular power would amass much political power in its hands, and then unleash an act that would astonish and unprecedented in its destructive scale.

     

    The secular power, which would arise in the endtimes, would mislead many through its demagogy, making many to believe the Lie for the truth. It would be able to accomplish feats of endeavor. It would be pretentious in its claims and be impious in its behavior towards God. It would kill many of those who belong to God. God’s people would be openly marked for persecution and destruction.

     

    As we consider the sanctuary of God that would be profaned by the ‘little horn’ principally as God’s people, and not as a physical place like the Temple, synagogue or church.[7] Then the desecration of the ‘temple’ would become the gross violation of human dignity that God’s people will suffer at the hands of the God-haters. Their desolation is then the destruction of their livelihood and even their life. Hence, the endtimes manifestation of Abomination of Desolation is mainly the wanton and barbaric act committed against the true temple of God, which are His people.[8] 

     

     

     

    The Rise of the Last days ‘Little Horn’

    Next let us historically instantiate the ‘little horn’, which we have already profiled above. As stated earlier, in its historic form, the ‘little horn’ would be a godless and authoritarian political system. Among many evil deeds, it will humiliate and destroy the temple of God (His people) in the most horrific manner. Before this could happen, first a spiritual vacuum has to emerge in the people heart so that the general condition for the emergence such a godless and ruthless force to ripe. What Johnson describes in the following lines provides us with an apt description of the condition which led to the rise of ruthless and godless political systems in modern times. The place he describes is Europe, the times, the 1920s.

     

          The greatest event of recent times – that “God is dead”, that the belief in the Christian God is

          no longer tenable – is beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe.’ Among the advanced

          races, the decline and ultimately the collapse of the religious impulse would leave a huge

          vacuum. The history of modern times is in great part the history of how that vacuum had

          been filled. Nietzsche rightly perceived that the most likely candidate would be what he

          called the ‘Will to Power’, … In place of religious belief, there would be secular ideology.

          Those who had once filled the ranks of the totalitarian clergy would become totalitarian

          politicians. And, above all, the Will to Power would produce a new kind of messiah,

          uninhibited by any religious sanctions whatever, and with an unappeasable appetite for

          controlling mankind. The end of the old order, with an unguided world adrift in a relativistic

          universe, was a summons to such gangster-statesmen to emerge. They were not slow the

          make their appearance… [Europe] was in fact embarking on two decades of unprecedented

          ferocity and desolation – moral relativism in monstrous incarnation.”[9]

     

    In this regard, it will be two modern day ruthless and godless systems - Nazism and Communism that we will single out for special scrutiny. First we will consider the Nazis with their unparalleled persecution and murder of the ancient people of God – the Jews. Later, we will look at Communism, in its vicious anti-God career and pseudo-messiah utopia. [10]

     

    Here we consider the plight of the Jews’ for a major prophetic-symbolic reason as well. What we find out about them - the Holocaust and how subsequently that led to the setting up of the state of Israel will have for us an immense symbolic relevance, which we will consider later.  [11]

     

    The Nazis

    In the political and economic uncertainties in post-WWI Germany, Hitler emerged from total political obscurity to set up his Nazi party. In the late 1920s, Hitler ‘established himself as a brilliant and innovatory speaker, a hard-working party organizer and an authoritarian leader of terrifying will-power.’ Those who gathered around him also believed in the necessity of a strong leader, a totalitarian state, and racial purity and world leadership for the German people. To this end Hitler and his henchmen conspired and maneuvered themselves to power. Though they apparently came to power through constitutional means, once they got the power they clung to it in the most unconstitutional manner. The Nazis in power proved to be the lawless ones par excellence. They ruled by decrees rather than by constitutional laws. What the Fuehrer willed, it was the law of the moment. It was the devils that have assumed state power.

     

    Through their skill in organizing and controlling social life, authoritarian rule, and Hitler’s irresistible demagogy, the Nazis were able to impose order, security and industrial efficiency in Germany unseen over the previous two or three decades. The rapid rearmament policy the Nazis followed accompanied by suppression of workers unions, allowed Germany to experience economic boom under the Nazis. This did not fail to make positive impression on many Germans. To many, therefore, Hitler appeared as a miracle worker, working order out of chaos, and bringing optimism out of the national malice. His popularity was not low by any means.[12] The Deception latter to come in the open, for the moment was taking root in the hearts of the German people - that Hitler had the Answer and provides the Solution. But soon the consequences of endorsing the Nazis were to be made apparent to all.

     

    The Nazi party under Hitler was a highly disciplined, methodical, and ruthless organization. The Nazis set up a police state, and they ruled through fear and total allegiance to the State. Their main ideology was racial purity of the German race. They taught that a purified German race is historically destined to rule the whole world. To that end the German nation, had to be cleansed from what the Nazis considered ‘polluting’ racial elements and people of inferior quality. So the Nazis set the stage to make human sacrifices to the ideology they preached.  It happened that it was mainly the Jews and the Slavs who carried the brunt of Nazi hatred and became the major victims of Nazi extermination plans. The Jews were condemned to die, while the Slavs were mainly intended to become the slave-labor class for the Teutonic master race.[13]

     

    True that, Jews have known much hatred and persecution nearly in every nation they were dispersed since the Roman days. However, what they experienced at the hands of the Nazis was unparalleled in its cruelty and magnitude. For Hitler to realize his millennial Third Reich dream, solving ‘the Jewish Problem’ was a centerpiece of his ideology.

     

    The ‘Jewish problem’ was central to his (Hitler’s) whole view of history, political philosophy and program of action.[14]

     

    In the years they were in power, Hitler and his henchmen murdered some six million of Jews in the most gruesome manner. Hitler’s race idea was clearly satanic, and its implementation most horrific. “At Auschwitz, where 2 million were murdered, the process was run like a large scale industrial operation.”[15] Hitler in all his arrogance opened his mouth and uttered obscenities against Jews and their God. His hatred of Jewry and their religion was impeccable, and he mobilized all his power and resources to the total annihilation of the ancient people of God.

     

    Through the sweeping police actions of the ruthless secret service and the army, the Nazi regime herded Jews inside from Germany itself and from many other European lands and sent them to the concentration camps. In these camps, Jews were worked to death, were starved. Many were sent to science and medical laboratories where they were experimented with as human guinea pigs. Millions of them were murdered in the Nazi gas chambers.

     

    …There were no rest periods and anyone leaving his zone was shot, ‘attempting to escape.’ There were floggings every day and ‘several hangings a week.’ Potato-turnip soup was served at midday, a piece of bread in the evening.[16] Fritz Saukel, head of the slave-labour system, had laid down: ‘All the inmates must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the fullest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure.’[17]

     

    “Then they would feel the gas and crowd together away from the menacing columns and finally stampeded towards the huge metal door with its little window. Where they piled in one blue clammy blood-spattered pyramid, clawing and mauling at each other even in death. Twenty-five minutes later the ‘exhauster’ electric pumps removed the gas-laden air, the great metal door slid open, and the men of the Jewish Sonderkommando entered, wearing gas-masks and gumboots and carrying hoses, for their first task was to remove the blood…before dragging the clawing dead apart with nooses and hooks, the prelude to the ghastly search for gold and the removal of the teeth and hair which were regarded by the Germans as strategic materials. Then the journey by lift or rail-waggon to the furnaces, the mill that ground the clinker to fine ash, and the lorry that scattered the ashes in the stream of the Sola.”[18]

     

    Thus was humiliated, desecrated and destroyed the sanctuary of God, His own people – the Jew. Hitler and his race ideology was that abomination which left God’s people desecrated in the most horrifying manner. Only a few of the European Jews who were wise enough to discern the devil in Hitler and his sinister plans for the Jews were able to flee the looming menace in time, to flee to safety to other countries (cf. Matt. 24: 15- 20).

     

    The ferocity and the scale with which the Nazi regime destroyed know little parallel in the history of man.

    The Third Reich…lasted twelve years and four months, but in that flicker of time, as history goes, it caused an eruption on this earth more violent and shattering than any previously experienced, raising German people to heights of power they had not known in more than a millennium, making them at one time the masters of Europe from the Atlantic to the Volga, from the North Cape to the Mediterranean, the end of a world war which their nation had cold-bloodedly provoked and during which it instituted a reign of terror over the conquered peoples which, in its calculated butchery of human life and the human spirit, out-did all the savage oppressions of the previous ages.[19]

     

    The founder and leader of the Nazi party and regime, Adolph Hitler, carried many of the hallmarks of the Antichrist listed above. He was charismatic but deceptive, intelligent but an evil-genius. He was with a cruel heart with infinite capacity to hate and destroy on a mass scale.

     

    The man who founded the Third Reich, who ruled it ruthlessly and often with uncommon shrewdness, who led it to such dizzy heights and to such a sorry end, was a person of undoubted, if evil, genius. It is true that he found in the German people, as a mysterious Providence and centuries of experience had molded them up to that time, a natural instrument which he was able to shape to his own sinister ends.  But without Adolph Hitler, who was possessed of a demonic personality, a granite will, uncanny instincts, a cold ruthlessness, a remarkable intellect, a soaring imagination and – until toward the end- an amazing capacity to size up people and situations, there almost certainly would never have been a Third Reich.[20]

     

    Even what Daniel (Dan 11: 37) alludes to the low-key sexuality of the Antichrist; even this is not lost from the description of Hitler given by some historians. Klein noted,

     

    A man who from very humble beginnings had transformed himself into a demagogue, a man who, as several historians have noted, was much admired by women. Yet, although many theories have been put forward regarding Hitler’s sexual life, whether or not he was impotent for instance, or whether he suffered from syphilis, the truth is that very little is known other than that he had close relations with his niece… and later in life with a woman called Eva Braun.[21]

     

    In Hitler the world saw an abomination that made desolate; he authored the Transgression, which unleashed an awful horror human history ever witnessed. Nazism was evil incarnate, its destructive power energized by the devil. Hitler made the Lie of racial superiority to prosper in his hands, and many were deceived by the Lie and became his agents of desolation. 

     

     

    Communism (Marxism-Leninism)

    Next we will consider revolutionary Communism (Marxism-Leninism) the primary manifestation of the ‘little horn’ and the abomination of desolation. In the following paragraphs we will expound the features of Communism in order to see what a close parallel exists between it and the profile of the little horn provided above.

     

    Communism has its origins in the rational and secular worldview set loose by the Enlightenment. As acknowledged by its proponents, Marx’s communist ideology drew much inspiration from 18th and 19th C. British political economy, French and English utopian socialist ideas, and the dialectical and evolutionary works of F. Hegel and C. Darwin. Revolutionary Communism, more than any other offshoot of the secular-humanist camp, was the most radical and materialistic in its propositions. It openly and actively rejected traditional institutions and customary values, and called for the total and complete overthrow of the old order.[22]  Marxists worked for their political ideal - the establishment of a completely new social, political and economic order organized around an autocratic socialist party and state. Most often, their methods to achieve their goals were conspiratorial, violent and ruthless. 

     

    For example, as Johnson observed about Stalin, the former ruler of the Soviet Union, Stalin was running a Cultural Revolution, an attempt to change the fundamental human attitudes over the whole range of knowledge by the use of naked police power.[23]

         

    Marxism in its conception of history and the origins of the universe was purely materialistic; it has no room for God in the origin of the universe and the affairs of men. For example, the German 19th C. philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach who strongly influenced Marx with his atheism was, “an early and prominent atheist, who denied all supernaturalism and attributed all talk about God to talk about nature. Man, he said, is not dependent on God but on nature.”[24]  The origin of the idea of God and the practice of religion was attributed to the fear man had of the natural forces in his primitive days. Therefore, the idea of God and faith in Him will no longer be necessary once man is able to comprehend the workings of nature. Hence, Marxists reject the idea of God totally as relic of the lower stages of historical development of mankind. Instead they deify the rational, scientific man. Man can liberate himself from all the forces, which hinder it from attaining his perfectibility.

     

    The founders of revolutionary Communism assiduously wrote and agitated against any form of religious belief as an unnecessary relic of man’s undeveloped state.  For example, Karl Marx noted that religion is the opiate of the masses and a drag on progress, and, hence, one of the primary tasks of the working class when it comes to power would be to destroy all religion.[25] Similarly, Lenin expressed his hatred of the church in the most venomous terms. He considered priests as gendarmes in cassocks.  According to Johnson, Lenin’s idea on religion was pure atheism,

     

    Religion was important to him, in the sense that he hated it.  Unlike Marx who despised it and treated it as marginal, Lenin saw it as a powerful and ubiquitous enemy… he had an intense personal dislike for anything religious… From the start, the state he created set up and maintains to this day an enormous academic propaganda machine against religion. He was not just anticlerical like Stalin, who disliked priests because they were corrupt. On the contrary, Lenin had no real feelings about corrupt priests, because they were easily beaten. The men he really feared and hated, and later persecuted, were the saints.[26]     

     

    It was such hatred and rejection of the Divine which took the form of most dangerous policy measures once the Communists started to take state power beginning in 1917 with Russia. As history showed, the Communist totalitarian party and state proved highly inimical and destructive to the organization and mission of the church, as well as to the survival of the individual believer.  The Communists attempt to wipe out the idea of God and the practice of religion, cost the church and the faithful much in the form of martyrdom, long and short term imprisonment, exile and material sacrifice, etc. Communists’ general attempt to set up a secular utopia led them to engage on massive scale social engineering and brutal suppression of all whom they considered opponents. The church and the faithful of other religions fell victim to the grandiose Communist attempt to make the ‘New Man’, which will overcome all natural forces and usher the endless era of bliss.

     

    The communist party is projected as the incarnation of the infallible word of Marxism-Leninism, which everyone has to follow without any deviation.  For example, in the words of V. Lenin, Marxism has a status like that of the Bible among the faithful.

    From the philosophy of Marxism … cast as one piece of steel, it impossible to expunge a single basic premise, a single essential part, without deviating from objective truth… [And] Orthodox Marxism requires no revision of any kind either in the field of philosophy, in its theory of political economy, or its theory of historical development.[27] 

     

    The whole assertion of Marxist theoreticians has therefore been: If the teachings of Marxism-Leninism were strictly followed in statecraft, inevitably would follow the Perfect Society. It was claimed, unlike other social philosophies, that Marxism-Leninism was scientific, therefore, able to provide the Solution to the varied problems of humanity. One need only to follow it thoroughly and apply is wholeheartedly to see its good results.

     

    Since Marxists believed in the inherent goodness and infinite capacity of mankind, they believed in the perfectibility of man. They placed much faith in the assertion of Darwinian evolutionary and Hegelian dialectical laws to believe that mankind was on a course of progress to achieve a higher order of existence. To achieve his Perfect State, man did not need the help of the supernatural.  As Schaeffer observed such view of mankind contradicted the fallen nature of man.

     

    The Perfectibility of Man was the basis of much of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution. Theoretically it was a basis of the Marxist-Lenin revolution in Russia. [However] Each place this concept of the Perfectibility of Man has been acted on it has led to tragedy, to political chains, and to the loss of humanness.[28]

     

    Marxist taught that Communism could usher in a secular utopia, a classless, secure and prosperous society, which would know no end. This assertion placed a direct challenge to the Christian millennial worldview. Projecting their vision of a secular perfect world, the Communists confronted humanity with a stark choice. The choice had to be made between them, the secular messiahs, or the Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ.

     

    Marxism, which provides remarkable evidence of the power of dominant key ideas to inspire and direct man, is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges to traditional religious belief… the thinking of Marx had religious overtones, whether from his own Jewish background or from a Christian atmosphere…Marxism can be called a quasi-religion insofar as it calls from its followers a devotion and a commitment that is in their empirical character resemble commitment and devotion that characterize religious people...Furthermore, like a religion, it has provided themes of fulfillment and hope – a revolution interpreted as the initiation of a Communist world society that would be a final consummation. There are many logical similarities between the doctrine of the Marxist millennium and the Christian doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming. [29]

     

    It should not come as surprise that many were deceived to by the words and deeds of the Communists to believe that the Communist system was the promised Kingdom of God come in a secular form. Therefore, as one Christian philosopher put it, Communism has been a Christian heresy.

     

    The sad fact, however, was this - under Communism the heart of man that was intended at creation to worship only God and to be His sanctuary now was forced to enthrone Man as god, the man-made Communist ideology as savior. To achieve this goal, Communists by terror and persecution, propaganda and economic blackmail, induced people to reject God and embrace dialectical materialism as the liberating Truth. Thus God was exiled from the hearts of many.

     

    Hence, millions were seduced and compelled to believe the Lie that man is his own god and can save himself.  The Lie uttered at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden – ‘You shall be like God’, came closest to its fulfillment through the ideology of Communism. Because, Communism, more than any other ideology has had a very well-thought out atheistic philosophy and attempted for several decades to set up a worldwide Millennial–like Utopia on earth, it more the Nazi ideology comes closer to fulfill the prophecy about the Antichrist.

     

    If the decline of Christianity created the modern political zealot – and his crimes – so the evaporation of religious faith among the educated left a vacuum in the minds of Western intellectuals easily filled by secular superstition. There is no other explanation for the credulity with which scientists accustomed to evaluating evidence, and writers, whose whole function is to study and criticize society, accepted the crudest Stalinist propaganda at its face value. They needed to believe; they wanted to be duped.[30]

     

    If Nazism was a political utopian ideology, a secular messianic aberration based on race theory, Marxism, on the other hand, was an ideology of the zealots based on class warfare.  According to Communists, in order the Perfect Society to emerge, first society has to be broken up through class warfare, and only later it could be made up again according to the Marxism-Leninism blue print. Therefore, old social relations have first to be smashed ruthlessly, the propitiated classes should be dispossessed mercilessly, and the toiling masses have to be empowered economically and politically with little delay. Only class-based revolutionary struggle led by the Communist party would start and then complete the liberation of the masses from oppressing natural and exploiting social forces.

     

    Based on the above theoretical framework, everywhere Communists assumed political power, beginning with the Russian Revolution in 1917, assumed absolute power to organize, direct and control every aspect of social life. Individuals’ rights were suppressed in the name of the common good.  Therefore, individual’s right did not count much under Communism, only the so-called interests of the masses, as defined by the Communist elite. Any disobedience and deviation from the Party dogma and rules, was considered treason to the party and state and was suppressed with outmost severity.  Society had to render absolute allegiance to the Communist state. Acknowledging any other power, like Jesus Christ, for example, as source of truth and guidance in the life of the people, amounted to treason and anti-revolutionary activity.

     

    Under Communism the state was elevated to a god-like status. It was the most centralized State, overseeing every aspect of life in society. Its orders have to be obeyed at any cost and to the State every allegiance belonged. In such a state, Marxist ideology was defied as the objective and infallible truth. The Communist party leaders were seen as the owners of revealed truth, with power to lead the people to total redemption.

     

    Consequently, any allegiance to God or any other customary authority was considered criminal offence in the Communist lands. This inevitably led to conflict between the true believers and the Communist rulers. To true Christians who could only acknowledge Jesus as Lord, the new communist Caesars could not be worshipped and obeyed as Lord without compromising ones faith. As Schaeffer observed in this regard,

     

    The humanist worldview eventually leads in the worship of the state, where the states substitutes God as the solution of every societal ill. This is because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.[31]

     

    The early church carried out their civil disobedience in the only way available to them. They came to the clear issue of worshiping Caesar or not, and rebelled in refusing to do so, though they knew the cost. It seems to me that in most the Iron Curtain countries the Christians are in about the same position as the early church. They are not in a position to change the system because of their low numbers, because as Christians they are systematically shut out of places of influence, and because of the iron control. Thus they must resist, in the manner the early church did, when they were commanded to disobey God…if apprehended, paying the price [meant] being sent to the labor camps in Siberia, which at times still means certain death, and certainly great suffering. The labor camps take the place of the lions.[32]

     

    Under Communism, as under Nazism, the people belonged to the state and not the other way round. Hence, the people were dealt with in every manner in order to make the state ideology a success.  

     

    But what has been the legacy of Communism - this secular messiah, the pseudo-Christ - over the 70 or more years of its existence? Did it bring to its subjects any spiritual liberty and material bounty, as promised? Was peace, prosperity and bliss its legacy?  Is that what its records show?

     

    In the name ideology and economic policy, millions of citizens were killed, interned in prisons, or exiled in Communist lands. As their records show, Communists have been heartless and barbaric to the extent of exterminating and persecuting the populace to fit their ideological ends.  For example, in the 1930s under Stalin’s campaign to collective Soviet agriculture, it is believed that some 10 million rural dwellers and others had perished.

     

    During these years something like 10 percent of Russia’s population passed through Stalin’s penitential machinery…Churches, hotels, even bathhouses and stables were turned into gaols; and dozens of new ones built. Within these establishments, torture was used on a scale, which even the Nazis were later to find difficult to match. Men and women were mutilated, eyes gouged out, eardrums perforated; they were encased in ‘nail boxes’ and other fiendish devices. Victims were often tortured in front of their families… In 1942-45, there were many more Soviet camps, most of them larger than the Nazi ones, and containing many more people… Most of the camps, however, served a definite economic purpose…Lenin and later Stalin built up the world’s second-largest gold industry and huge gold reserves, on the backs of men working a sixteen-hour day, with no rest days, wearing rags, sleeping often in torn tents, with temperature down to sixty degrees below zero, and pitifully with small quantities of food.[33] 

     

    Another major country, which came under the influence of Communism next to Russia, was China. In China Communists took power in 1949. The Chinese Communist leader, Mao tse-Tung indulged in social engineering and politically motivate terror campaigns with consequences not less than that of Stalin in Soviet Russia. For example, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, his attempt to transform Chinese agriculture into a commune system, had a high human cost. It led to man-made famine, which killed some 40 million Chinese.[34] Mao’s rule was a ruthless and autocratic as much as Stalin’s was. Wholesale killings of political opponents, consigning intellectuals and dissidents to labor camps, persecuting and controlling the churches have been a common occurrence in Communist China.[35]  Regarding the policy, which the Chinese Communist followed in relation to the churches, what Aikman notes here is quite revealing.

     

    On coming to power, therefore, what the [Chinese] Communists needed to accomplish in relation to China’s Christian population was twofold challenge.. First, they needed to intimidate into total compliance or cow into silence any prominent Catholic or Protestant Christians leaders who opposed the new regime. Any center of impendent civic leadership, and hence potential political opposition, could not be permitted to survive beneath the new mandate. Second, to avoid totally alienating the entire mass of Christian believers in China while they were still consolidating their power, the Communists needed to co-opt a large portion of the clergy. These were not to be just passive supporters to the new regime, but active enthusiasts…the Communists had planned the infiltration and control of Protestant Christian churches carefully and thoroughly. . It was during this period of mass reeducation all over China that the terms ‘thought reform’ and ‘brainwashing’ first acquired wide currency. The large majority of Protestant clergy in China went with the process. The price for resistance ranged from public denunciation, arrest, imprisonment, and possibly execution.[36]

     

    Aikman ably chronicles what Chinese church leaders had to pay for standing firm for Jesus Christ and rejecting Mao’s secular Utopia propaganda. Many Church leaders and priests were shot to death for so-called counter-revolutionary activity. Many others were sent to labor camps as long as 20 years where they labored under harsh conditions. Police torture and surveillance of churches is still a common occurrence in China today.

     

    Believers faced similar persecution in countries where Communists took power. In former East European Communist block counties, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, Ethiopia, Christians churches were closed, and believers suffered martyred at the hands of Communists.[37], [38] What took place in Cambodia at the hands of Communist in the mid-1970s was horrifying.

     

    The Communist elites, which seized power by force all over Indo-China in April 1975 immediately, embarked on nationwide programs of social engineering, with grave consequences to the population. The models and inspirations were Stalin’s collectivization of the peasants and China’s Mao rural communes. But it was in Cambodia, where the worst atrocities against humanity took place. The most horrifying atrocities against the people were justified in the name of total social revolution, where everything from the past was anathema and had to be destroyed. At the hands of the ruling party, the Khmer Rouge, mass terror was the chosen weapon to hasten history, and realize the envisioned Communist Utopia without delay. Millions of members of so-called parasite classes, undesirable elements and counter-revolutionaries died under the social engineering policies of the Khmer Rouge. Most died while attempting to flee the Khmer devils, got executed by the Communist, or died under the harsh conditions of the rural villages to which they were forced to live after driven out of the cities and towns.

     

    About 100,00 Cambodians were executed, 20,000 died trying to flee, 400, 000 died in the forced exodus from the towns, a further 430, 000 died in the camps and ‘villages’ before 1975, and a 250,000 more in 1976.  Hence between April 1975 and the beginning of 1977, the Marxist-Leninist ideologues ended the lives of 1,200,000 people, a fifth of the population.[39]

     

    The Khmer Communists like their predecessors, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, were heartless ideologues. The human person was an expendable sacrifice on the altar of Ideology. They were prepared to commit mass scale atrocities in the name of ideology. 

     

    Like Lenin, they were pure intellectuals. They epitomized the great destructive force of the twentieth century: the religious fanatic reincarnated as professional politician. What they did illustrate the ultimate heartlessness of ideas.[40]

     

    Communists believe in strong military and police power to impose and control their autocratic rule. This has to be done to use their parlance to protect the dictatorship of the proletariat from internal and external counter-revolutionary forces. So everywhere, Marxist-Leninist parties, inevitably a large-sized ‘people’s army’ characterized each state. The first and leading Communist country, Soviet Russia for long time maintained one of the largest armies of the world and it became one the largest arms producer of the century. It was mainly Russian armament, which was exported to other communist nations to bolster their dictatorial grips on their own citizens. Most of the former and present day communist nations have had the highest per capita number of soldiers and defense expenditures.[41]                                                                                

     

    The virtual strength the Red Army demonstrated in WWII in defeating the Nazis was soon used to occupy many East European countries under the Soviet orbit as satellite communist nations.  Soviet Russia exercised influence in Communist China’s policy until the early 1960s, and was the undisputed controlling force in other Communist oriented countries of the region. Soviet expansionism in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and to some extent Latin America was quite marked.[42] Among other factors, it was helped by the winds of change that were sweeping the developing world in the post-WW II years.  Soviet influence and expansionism was carried out in the guise of supporting national liberation struggles and in the name of assisting developing nations to pursue independent economic and political policies from their former colonial powers. In many developing countries the Soviets supported left wing movements and armed revolutionary insurgencies; engineered coups to bring Communists to power; propped up unpopular socialist governments with massive economic and military aid; and even at times launched direct military invasions in support of their client regimes, etc.[43] 

     

    However, according to Daniel Chapter 11, the pretensions of the ‘little horn’, in our case, that of Soviet Russia’s expansion and world domination will not go unchallenged. Another secular world power will strongly challenge its posturing. Particularly in its latter stages, the Antichrist’s empire would encounter a stronger challenge, which would leave it exposed for its true nature.  The charges it used to hurl on others would return back on it; and it would be made to retreat back to its own homeland (Dan. 11: 18-19). As winds of change sweep against it from various directions, it would try to save its empire, but that would be too late. Once retired and confined to its provinces, it would stumble (make false steps), and as the result meet its demise never to rise up again (Dan 11: 44-45). [44]

     

     

    Conclusion

    Given the scripture-based composite profile developed for the last days Antichrist, only two ideological movements, namely Nazism and Communism fit the billing. Moreover, because of some specific details, communism more than Nazism comes closer to fulfill the prophetic descriptions. The best way to understand the sanctuary to defiled by the actions of the Antichrist is none but God's people, where each the person (i.e., body)  is the true (mystical) sanctuary God dwells in by His Spirit. Primarily Jews in the case of the Nazis and Christians in the case of Communism make the respective of sanctuaries of God ravaged by the actions of this anti-God godless ideologies. The abomination of desolation that profanes the temple of God is understood as the godless ideologies of these systems, or the personal cults of the totalitarian leaders which every one is asked to worship. Refusal to give such acknowledgment on the part of God's people leads to a sacrilege, namely the destruction or abuse of their bodies in the form persecution that includes execution, torture, imprisonment, and starvation.    

     

    There is no other better way to end the discussion on the desecration and desolation of the human person at the hands of 20th C godless ideologies than to look at the reflections of the present Pope, John Paul II. The Pope is one of the few persons of who has witnessed the emptiness and horrors of both Nazi and Communist ideologies. The Pope is also unique in the sense that he as a Christian scholar devoted himself to the metaphysical study of the plight of the PERSON. His deep reflection on the degradation and pulverization of man’s fundamental uniqueness at the hands of modern day godless ideologies is unprecedented.[45] What Naugel notes below about the Pope is quite noteworthy in light of what has been said in this article about the Antichrist and the abomination of desolation.

     

    [The Pope] witnessed first hand the devastating consequences of various humanistic ideologies which promised a utopian dream but delivered a cultural nightmare, stripping away the freedom and dignity of countless multitudes  (emphasis added – Ed.). In due course [he] became convinced at intuitive, experiential, and philosophical levels that the fundamental crisis in the West rested squarely upon false ideas about the nature of persons... [He] was not only concerned about the devastation of those who suffered under the icy grip of the Nazi and Communist regimes, but he also recognized the disfiguring consequences of upon those held in bondage to the excess of Western individualism and selfish capitalism. Regardless of location, for [him] various political and economic systems based upon secular and atheistic assumptions led to a profound betrayal of the true nature and nobility of persons.[46]

     

    The Nazi atrocity against the Jew had at least one positive outcome - the setting up of the Jewish own homeland, the state of Israel in 1948. One of the mottos of the founding fathers of the re-born state of Israel was: No more again. After 2000 years of exile, persecution at the hands of Christians and gentiles, and lastly victims of unprecedented Nazi atrocities, finally God allowed the Jews to set up their own kingdom (state). This God allowed coming to pass so that the Jew will no longer be trampled under the feet of the gentiles. There is a spiritual lesson from Israel’s story.  How the restoration of Israel’s kingdom (state) was preceded by the rise of the godless Nazi regime and its evil deeds, this carries a deep spiritual lesson. The story of Israel is intended to shadow the story of the Christians, how first they would suffer intensely at the hands of another 20th c. ruthless godless power. The fall of this anti-God power would be a harbinger of the rise of the Kingdom of God in the earth.

     

    Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it (he) is near--at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place (Matt. 24: 32-34 NKJV).

     

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    Foot Notes 

     

    [1] The ‘little horn’ is also commonly known as the Antichrist (2 Thes. 2: 2-12; 2 Jn 1:7) and the (Red) Beast (Rev. 13).

    [2] Some of the cult leaders who claimed the title of Messiah include such figures as the Americans Charles Mason, Rev. Jim Jones and David Koresh, the Korean Rev. Moon, and the Japanese Asahara Shokou.  For one aspect of a discussion on this subject, see David Gorenberg’s book, The End of Days .

     

    [3] Hence, as we have seen earlier, it will be an offshoot of one of the major branches of the Enlightenment Movement. It means that it will be part of the secular-humanist movement, which would dominate the Western mindset beginning the 17th C.

    [4] For the intellectual roots of Nazism, see William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Touchstone, 1990), pp. 97-113. Shirer traces the origins of German (Aryan) racial superiority and the theory of the Superman, which led to the megalomaniac deeds of the Nazis, to the works of the following major philosophers and writers: the Germans, Fichte, Hegel, Treitschke, Nietzsche, R. Wagner, as well as the lesser lights of the Frenchman, Gobineau and the Englishman, Chamberlain. 

     

    [5]  Though Hitler did kill many Christians for their faith, those whom he killed for their religious identity by far a larger number were Jews.

    [6] Stephen in his last sermon, which led to his martyrdom, brings out this idea most.  He argued with the Jewish religious leaders that God’s ultimate temple is the human body (the believer’s heart) and not the Jerusalem Temple (acts 7: 44-50).  To support his point he quoted 1 Kgs. 8:27 and Is. 66: 1-2. The apostle also quite underlies the fact the believers are collectively and individually constitute the ultimate temple of God (1 Cor. 3: 16-17, 6: 19-20; 2 Cor. 6: 16-18; Eph. 2: 21-22). Paul by quoting Lev. 26:12 to support his interpretation clearly indicated that its was Israel the nation which was collectively the true abode of God and not necessarily the tabernacle or the temple she had.  Jesus also referred to His body as the temple (cf. Jn. 2:19-21). Jesus words in Jn. 14: 23 give some indication on the ultimate meaning of the human body as the temple of God. 

    [7] One can include all other classes of people who as well who refuse to submit to the dictates of the impious secular power, and hence suffer similar fate as does the people of God. Humanity, in the general sense, it can be argued that, is the bearer of the image of God and His potential temple. 

    [8] The perpetrators of this indignity against the people of God are ‘despised powers’  - educated barbarians (‘Greeks’).  The designation, ‘little horn’ implies as much the inferior quality or the low estimation given to such intellectuals by God, as anything else (Dan 11:21). See also Ps. 119: 141 to see that the word ‘little’ implies contemptible, despised.  

    [9] Paul Johnson, Modern Times, (New York: Perennial, 1991), p. 48, 261

    [10] Israel and the Church are the two ecclesia of God. Both have been selected as the repository (abodes) of the oracles of God. Israel incarnates the OT, and the Church the NT. God, who is the WORD (Logos) resides and manifests Himself through a chosen people. See for example, Is. 49:3; Rom. 9: 4-5; 2 Cor. 3: 3.

    [11] In a wider context, one can consider all human kind, irrespective of nationality, class or creed, as the ultimate and potential temple of God.  In this case, any power that attempts to take the place of God in the life (heart and mind) of mankind is the false Messiah (‘little horn’). Some of the anti-God forces more than others have been quite violent in their opposition and persecution of those who resist such a usurpation.

    [12] According to Johnson (p. 295) “By the mid-1930s Hitler was running a brutal, secure, conscienceless, and successful and, for most Germans, popular regime. The German workers, on the whole, preferred secure jobs to civil rights which had meant little to them.” 

    [13] Johnson, p. 381.

    [14] Johnson, p. 413.

    [15] Johnson, p. 415.

    [16] It is said that the ‘little horn’ will suspend the morning and evening sacrifice for 2,300 days (Dan 8:13). That is for about for 6 years and 4 months. If in this case if one considers food as the required sacrifice for the upkeep of the human-body temple, then, the Nazis by starving the Jews for the duration of the Holocaust (1939-1945) fulfilled this part of Daniel’s prophesy. (NB. However, based on ones preferred calculation, if one doubles the 2300 days, one arrives at duration of about 12 years and 8 months.  This gives us roughly the period the Nazis lasted in power (1933 – 1945)).

    [17] Johnson, p. 417.

    [18] Gerlad Reitlinger, The Final Solution (London 1953) quoted in Johnson’s Modern Times, pp. 115-116. 

    [19] William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Touchstone, 1990), p. 5.

    [20]  Shirer,  pp. 5-6.

    [21] Shelley Klein, The Most Evil Dictators of History (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004), pp. 60-61. Eva Braun, was quite an abandoned, love-starved mistress of Hitler, driven to suicide attempts by her loneliness (Shirer, p. 1111). One can contrast this profile of Hitler’s with his contemporary, Mussolini.  Johnson (p.  96) notes that  Mussolini, “Was handsome, vigorous, well-launched in a sexual career that would bring him 169 mistresses.” If all these true then, the Jew has the last laugh regarding its mortal enemy, Hitler. The Jew could see even right into the bedroom of its archenemy to describe him to such private details  - 2500 years before his rise!!

    [22] According to prophecy (Dan 11:36-39,) the Antichrist will be anti-traditionalist. The ‘little horn’ will have a clean break with the traditions and customs of the people. What it will bring into national life will be an imported god, a foreign idea, with little root in the customs and traditions of the people. The idea being foreign, then it has to be bolstered and secured with force of arms. The subject people have to pay a very stiff price to comply.  Only those who conform can make a living out of the system.

    [23] Johnson, p. 453.

    [24] J. McDowell and D. Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade, 1982) p. 421.

    [25] McDowell and Stewart, p. 421.

    [26]  Johnson, pp.50-51

    [27] Johnson, p. 53.

    [28] F. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, (Westchester: Crossway. 1982), p. 125.

    [29] Encyclopedia Britannica III, Macropedia, “Philosophy of Religion,” Chicago, IL: William Benton, Publisher, 1978, vol. 15, p. 598 in J. McDowell and D. Stewart, pp. 435-436.   

    [30] Johnson, p. 275.

    [31] Schaeffer, p. 114.

    [32] Schaeffer, pp. 122-123.

    [33] Johnson, pp. 304-306.

    [34] David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing (Lanham: Regenery, 2003), p. 214.

    [35] Johnson, pp. 544-574.

    [36] Johnson. pp. 52-54.

    [37] Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2001).

    [38] Aikman.

    [39] Johnson, p. 656.

    [40] Johnson, p. 657.

    [41]  This conforms Daniel’s words that the Antichrist will worship the god of strongholds (Dan. 11:38).  In modern parlance, that he puts much faith in military buildup and use of military power.

    [42] According to prophecy (Dan 11:18) the ‘northern power’ (Antichrist) will succeed in his expansion campaigns until it is stopped by an opposing power.   In its Middle East and Africa adventures, many ME Arab countries will be spared its control; but north and northeast Africa would come under its influence (Dan. 11: 41-43).

    [43] In this instance, the case of Hungry (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968) and that of Afghanistan (1980) can be considered as clear cut cases of direct Soviet military interventions.

    [44] See Dan 11: 18-19, 44-45.

    [45] David K. Naugel, Worldview: The History of A Concept (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 39-40.

    [46] Naugel,  pp. 39-40.

     

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    © TLD, 2017 - 2025. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Teddy L. Desta and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
     

     

  13. Holyblues
    Latest Entry

    Hope Everyone had a safe and Blessed Christmas.

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    I was a long distance runner when I was in the Army. I stubbornly decided to do better on the physical fitness test than anyone - including the men. I never met the max for men, but I did leave more than my share of men in the dust in the two-mile run.

     

    Not saying I'm proud of my attitude. I had need for speed.

     

    I had the same attitude when it came to reading God's Word. I would buzz through the chapters in the "Do the Bible in a Year Race" thinking I was gaining spiritual fitness. I powered my way through Bible from God's Creation and to Revelation.

     

    I would leave the room full, but not fulfilled.

     

    At my last doctor appointment, he announced, "No more running for you."

     

    I thought, "What? Wait! You mean I have to walk? Walking is for wimps!"

     

    Again, not proud of my attitude.

     

    So I walked.

     

    I hated it at first. But, in the slowness, I began to see things from a different perspective. I experienced things on a whole new level. Colors were colorful. I saw the redness of a cardinal. I felt the sweet caress of the wind in my hair. I noticed a yellow butterfly flit from flower to flower as if taunting me with her, "Don't you wish you looked like me?"

     

    Walking awakened in me the reality of a beautiful world.

     

    This experience changed the way I approached Scripture. I started walking through the Scriptures. I breathed in God Word with a heart of expectation.

     

    I wasn't gulping in the Word; it infused me. It wasn't gobbled up but savored. No guzzling. I was drinking cool, clear living water. I dug deep shovel-by-shovel until the hidden treasure surface.

     

    This reading awakened in me the reality of God's love. He whispered Words of Wisdom in my ear and my heart slowed to the rhythm of my Master.

     

    My spiritual senses matured. My approach was prayerful, and intentional.

     

    I realized God was present in the reading of His Word. We walked together, talked about Abraham, Sarah and the foolishness of Lot.

     

    I watched in amazement as Jesus showed me how He walked on the water. I tried to warn Peter to keep His eyes on Jesus moments before he falls. I saw Him take the once stormy waters and make them calm, peaceful, and safe. We laughed as we watched the bridegroom taste that water turned to wine. It was good!

     

    I lifted my heart in praise with Psalmist and accepted Wisdom's call in Proverbs.

     

    I can't explain it, but my times in the Word were better than ever before. His knowledge extra sturdy and I handled His correction with grace and not guilt. Now my eyes open, my ears clear, my mind uncluttered and my soul touched by the Holy.

     

    It's my manna - enough nourishment for the day. I'm not full but fulfilled.

     

    Sometimes I miss a step or two, stumbling in the ebb and flow of life. But I miss Him so much I have to return. I need His faithful presence like a flower needs sunshine.

     

    I no longer feel guilty or frustrated. We start all over again. He knows me and need to know for today. It's no longer a run, but a walk. God's not disappointed in me. He walks with me and talks with me.

     

    I trust Him.

     

    I found the secret of the Yielded Heart. It's a beautiful thing. It's a sweet, personal and intimate. It's the race set for me. He knows the finish line.

     

    People wonder today, "Is it possible to walk with God today?" I say, "Yes!" We take it one day at a time.

     

    It's not so much as footprints in the sand, but footprints on the heart.

     

    How about a walk?

     

    My son (daughter), do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straights. Proverbs 3:1-6

    graphicstock-autumn-landscape-with-alone-tree-on-mountaincoming-home-conceptillustration-painting_St_lyNo9l.jpg

  14. SERMONS
     
    CHINESE
     
    CONTROL OF THE TONGUE BY YE GUANGMING
     
     
     
    ACHEIVING MATURITY BY YE GUANGMING
     
     
     
    1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 BY JONATHAN EDWARDS IN CHINESE
     
     
     
    THE WORD OF GOD BY PASTOR DENG PSALM 119
     
     
     
     
    ENGLISH
     
     
     
    THIS IS THE STONE BY ALLEN FOX ACTS 4:1-17
     
     
    WHY WEAKNESS IS GOD'S GIFT BY DAN BROADWATER 2 COR 12:7-10
     
     
     
     
    PETER'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT BY MIKE CHASTAIN 2 PETER 2:1-10
     
     
     
     
    THE GOSPEL OF STEPHEN BY KYLE BORG ACTS 6:8-15
     
     
  15. Four of us have been praying for and supporting each other through issues each of us have been dealing with for some time. We have each questioned why the answer or promise is so long in coming while enemy attacks are like machine gun fire. It appears now, however, that the final leg of each journey is unfolding, and as we carry that hope – expectation – we’ve seen some things.

     

                Each of us has a different gift of the Holy Spirit and that gift has been most often used for the others in their time of need. We have discovered the best place in the middle of all this is in the will and the presence of God.

     

                In His will is the measure of confidence that God is working all things out for our good and in the end it will have all been worth it. In His presence is perspective – we begin to see things from His point of view and the pain lessens and even disappears as long as we see it His way. It only returns when we lose focus.

     

                The most amazing thing is tracking transformation – withstanding what we thought we just couldn’t take anymore. Watching peace bring storms and chaos to an end. Releasing people and things to God, not because we didn’t know what else to do, but because with Him is the best place for them. 

     

                Not debating God over His works, His ways or His instructions to us – just roll with it … just do what He says. In the process, miracles happen – while we wait for the answer or the promise.

     

                Yesterday, a couple of us discussed what might have been the overriding reason God has taken us this route. We’ve approached the point of no return. That place where we most definitely know what God *can* and is *willing* to do. But, even if He doesn’t, there is no turning back. We’re all in.

     

                We may not understand, but we trust Him (Proverbs 3:5).  What time we are afraid, we trust Him (Psalm 56:3). Nothing is withheld from Him – like Abraham, we’ve have given Him who or what we love or cherish most, knowing that past hope, He is able to bring life out of dead things. Because He promised, and God cannot lie (Numbers 23:9).

     

    Inspired byBILL JOHNSON BETHEL (God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility):

    The Lord is trying to raise up a company of people that can weather the storm and come out on the other side still believing He’s good. Still believing He is absolutely faithful. And embracing fully the privilege of mystery in the middle of things we can’t understand or control.

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    PROLOGUE

     

    The River

     

    There is history in all men's lives.

    ~William Shakespeare~

     

     

    The newborn banks cut across the land like veins flowing with crystal clear water, nurturing the land and sustaining life, just as the blood in the veins of the “River People” coursed fiercely through their bodies. People who built fires on the river side sand and sang happy songs that morphed into screaming war cries as the new world sprouted a growth of white strangers, who battled their way onto the banks, as the “River People” faded away. Pioneers cleared land, built homes, grew crops, raised families and eventually spread closer into communities, villages and towns. And for a time peace prevailed.

     

    Yet, time travels on and once again war cries began to be heard in the the soggy bottoms beside the water. Rebel yells chilled the blood of the blue coats, but didn't damper their determination to trample the people and the land. The gray screams of defiance melted into moans of defeat as the north moved south and pledged liberty and justice for all... but both will be a long time coming. After the fray, greedy men grabbed their empty carpet bags and headed south to fill them. The strong currents of the river pulled them to its virgin shores , where they built mills. The river turned dark as the buildings emptied the bowels of progress into the once clear water. The slow song of the south was forever changed as men who once found their living on the land were forced to move to the mills and experience a subtle bondage of their own to the textile empire.

     

    The twenties offered another avenue for ill-gotten gain, as the prohibition opened the hidden hollows and river bottoms to covert hideaways that flowed profusely with illegal alcohol and other dark vices. When the prohibition ended, the men it had enriched wandered boldly back into the towns. Engorged with wealth, yet hungry for more, they used their affluence to gain power and the system worked with them. Perverted judges, with black hearts, covered themselves in black robes, and stuffed their bottomless pockets with the fat of the land. Yet, we know every day has its reckoning, after the sowing and growing always comes the reaping. Delayed justice is only a deferred payment and someday whether here or there all wrongs will be righted.

     

     

     

     

     

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     

     

     

    CHAPTER ONE

     

    A Snake in the Grass

     

     

    Every great story seems to begin with a snake.”

    ~Nicholas Cage~

     

     

    The wind danced over the knee high grass, causing it to ripple in waves down to the bank of the river. A viper lay in the weeds near the edge of the water. Halfway down its body a bulge distended its form. A bull frog, slowly dissolving in acidic bile lay trapped within. With swaying movements the reptile slowly raised its head, flicked its tongue and tasted the odor of the air.  With a grotesque heavy-sided slither the satiated serpent began to move soundlessly through the night.

    The rooster crowed as the sun rose. The water moccasin crawled out of the wet river bottom and into the weedy tobacco field. It slithered across the short row next to the river and into the row beside it. The snake wrapped its corpulent body around a grass-entangled tobacco stalk, flicked it tongue once, then grew as still as death and waited.

     

     

     

     

    Crow caws cracked the sky as the soaring birds covered the sun, casting a dark shadow across the field. Like cowards clustered together to bolster their own bravado, they formed a tightly packed flock that dispersed like scattered pepper when they settled in the branches of the trees. Stillness ensued for only a breath, then the creatures again began to squawk and take wing as a bevy of rocks assailed them from the ground below.

    Laughing, three boys continued to fling rocks until the last of the crows sailed across the noonday sun and disappeared into the willows down by the river. Running from the waist-high tobacco row, Harlan stopped and leaned his hoe against a tree. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. Close on his heels followed his two younger brothers. They dropped their hoes and fell to the ground.

     

    “I'm tired, I'm sleepy and I'm as hungry as a horse,” Jesse complained. Curtis, the youngest, replied with a fake sore, pretending to have fallen asleep on the spot. “You fella's just stay up here whining and napping while I run on to the house and eat my dinner and yours too!”, Harlan flung the words across his shoulder as he darted off toward the house. Jumping up like rabbits, Jesse and Curtis kicked up dust as they hit the path running after him.

     

     

    In the kitchen Aunt Dorrie pulled the hot pan of biscuits from the oven. Setting them on the table, she glanced out the window and saw the boys racing toward the house.

     

    “Bessy,” she called, “Go tell your brothers to stop and wash up at the hose pipe before they come in to eat. They're as dirty as the hogs.” “Yes, ma'am,” Bessy answered as she bolted from the kitchen, the screen door banging shut behind her.  The slamming of that door ushered in the beginning of the most poignant memory of her thirteenth year ...

     

    I ran out that door like a streak of lightning, delighted that I'd been given some authority over my brothers, especially my twin brother, Jesse, I headed them off at the edge of the yard and held up my hand like a stop sign“Halt right there,” I commanded. “Y'all can't go in the house yet.” Jesse tried to step around me and I held out my arms straight out blocking him and said louder “I told you, YOU CAN'T GO IN.” “Stop mess'in with us, Bessy. We're star'vin “Harlan said as he pushed my arms away. “Go on in then and see what happens, Aunt Dorrie said all y'all gotta wash up out here, cause you're too dirty to wash up at the sink. She'll be mad as fire if you don't listen to me.” I said. “Well okay then” Harlan answered, but you ain't got to be such a bossy britches about it.” They all walked over to the well house and I followed them and stood to the side with my hands planted on my hips. Jesse picked up the hose and turned on the spigot and before I could even blink he spun around and turned the water on me, in an even quicker instant I lost all my puffed up dignity and I lit into Jesse like a wildcat. Doubling over in laughter, Harlan and Curtis watched us ,drop the hose and fall onto the ground rolling in the mud. Wanting to get in on the fun,Curtis grabbed the hose from the ground and turned it on Harlan, who quickly wrestled it out of his hands and ran it down the back of his overalls. We were all brought to a sudden stop by the banging of the kitchen screen door.

     

    Aunt Dorrie stood on the steps wiping her hands on a dish towel and shaking her head. “Not only are you as dirty as the hogs but you're act'in like 'em too. Wallowing around in the mud like you ain't got no sense at all.” she hollered across the yard. “Get yourselves sprayed off and into some dry clothes, then get in here to eat.” She turned and went back into the house. We took turns spraying each other off, laughing with the kind of laughter that makes you feel real clean inside. We began to move a little faster as we heard the sound of Daddy's pick up truck coming up the driveway.

     

     

    Roland parked the truck next to the barn. Cutting off the engine, he set the parking brake and opened the door. Hearing a ruckus, he looked across the yard and saw his four children at the well house hosing each other down. He got out and shut the door. As the sound of their unified laughter rang across the yard, a sad smile slid across his face. It was a painful comfort to still be able to hear Esther's laughter in the voices of their children. Even after nine years he could still see her face, hear her singing in the kitchen, feel her heart beating in his world, because of them. In their children she still lived on. Oh God, how he missed her, and how confusing his world was without her. He still struggled to understand what happened the night he lost her. It had been so hard at first, Curtis a newborn, Jesse and Bessy five year old twins and Harlan, the oldest at eight. Dorrie, his sister, had been their saving grace. She moved in the very day Esther died and with her help they'd made it this far. Walking to the back of his pick up, Roland lifted out the box with the tractor starter in it and carried it into the cool sanctuary of the workshop.

     

    Inside the kitchen, Aunt Dorrie cut the hot apple pie into slices and set it on the table. She looked over the spread that included a pot of pinto beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, thick slices of ham and a large tupperware pitcher full of ice tea. Deciding , due to the well house fiasco, that she had some time to pretty up the table, she ducked out of the kitchen to the flower garden to cut a bouquet of flowers for the table. A white picket fence enclosed the flower beds and lush red rambling roses spilled over it and into the yard. A black wrought iron gate gave access to the garden. Dorrie loved working the dirt and tending the flowers, but her reason for nurturing the plants went much deeper than the soil. This garden had belonged to her sister-in-law Esther, who had cultivated it with love. Dorrie had made a vow to herself that she would always tend Esther's flowers. It was something she could do that made her heart feel a little better, a small way to keep Esther's memory alive.

     

    Curtis was too young to remember his mama. She'd died the night he was born. Such an awful night it was. Such an awful memory. Dorrie shook her head and came back to the present. It did no good to muddle herself up with bad memories and unanswered questions when dinner was waiting on the table. She opened the gate and walked to the back of the garden where a late-blooming lilac bush still displayed a fragrant array of blossoms. Taking a pair of scissors from her apron pocket she snipped a handful of the purple flowers. Carrying them back into the kitchen, she rummaged around under the kitchen counter and found a blue mason jar. Turning on the spigot at the sink she filled it with water and arranged the flowers in it. As she was placing it on the table, Harlan, Jesse and Curtis entered the kitchen. “Gosh, I'm hungry” Jesse said. Turning sharply to him Dorrie said “What did I tell you about say'in “Gosh”?” “But Aunt Dorrie, you just said it too” he replied, laughing. “You can't get out of it that way, “ Dorrie answered. “Don't let me hear you say it again, you hear?” “But “Gosh” ain't the same as saying “God” is it?” Jesse protested. “Its close enough,” Dorrie replied. “Now , where's Bessy?” she asked. “Aunt Dorrie,you know her” Harlan answered. “She can't eat unless she's got something to read. She went out to the tree house to get her book.”

     

     

    After I finished changing into dry clothes, I headed out back to get the latest book I was read'in, Daddy came out of the workshop as I was coming out of the woods . He saw I had something under my arm and asked “What'cha got there princess?” “Its my book, Daddy” I answered. We met at the back steps and I handed it to him. He read the title then opened the cover. With his finger he traced the name written inside, Esther Jones. “ It was mama's book , daddy.” I told him. “Yes, it was “ he answered. Shutting the book , he handed it back to me. “Lets go get some grub “ he said as we stepped onto the back porch. Opening the screen door, he held it as I slipped inside, then followed me into the kitchen.

     

    Daddy hung his hat on a peg by the door and washed his hands at the sink. I jumped into my chair and immediately stuck my nose into the book. Pulling out his chair and sitting down Daddy bowed his head, Aunt Dorrie and the boys did as well , but I was already lost in my book. I heard Daddy loudly clear his throat. Sheepishly putting my book to the side I bowed my head. After grace was said, Aunt Dorrie began passing the food. She made sure everyone's plate was full before she filled her own. There was no conversation during the first five minutes of the meal. Breakfast had long ago worn off we were a hungry bunch.

     

    As the feeding frenzy wore down, Daddy looked up and asked “Did yall spend all morning out there playing at the well house or did you get any hoeing done?” “Yeah, Daddy we worked the field, we're almost finished .” We only have four rows left down by the river side. We can finish those up this afternoon and it'll go quicker if Bessy can help.” Harlan answered. “We can each do one row. We'll give Curtis the short row closest to the river.” Curtis looked up and frowned. He didn't like to be treated like the baby of the family. “I can work just as hard as anyone else” he said. “Don't treat me like I can't, I can hoe all four of those rows by myself, Daddy, if you need me to.” He was serious too. If he thought Daddy needed something , Curtis would move heaven and earth to please him. “I know you would son” Daddy answered him, “but I think Harlan has a good plan,” he looked at Aunt Dorry and added “That is if Dorry don't need Bessy here at the house.” “Aw, no” replied Dorry. “It won't take me long to wash up these dishes, then I'm just going to spread a table cloth over these left overs and we'll have them for supper.” I plan on working out in the flower garden this afternoon and I don't need Bessy for that.” A sad smile fell across daddy's face as he glanced at the bouquet on the table.

     

    I decided it was time for me to get in on this conversation and wrangle out a deal that would benefit me. Putting my book aside I said. “Are y'all talking about me?” “Yeah, “ Jesse answered. “You gotta help us out in the field.” “well, in that case I get the shortest row” I said. “We already gave that row to Curtis, cause he's the baby” Jesse fired back at me. “I'm not a baby” Curtis cried out, and besides Bessy's a girl and daddy says we gotta treat girls better than we treat ourselves, ain't that right ,Daddy?” “you got me there” Daddy replied. “So I think” Curtis continued, “That since Bessy is a girl she ought to have the shortest row.””I can't argue with that logic , Daddy said, “Okay, then Bessy, you can have the shortest row and Curtis will take the one beside you.” I shot a smirk at Jesse, and picked my book back up. “Now that that's settled,” daddy said “Would someone please pass me the apple pie?”

     

    After dinner Roland headed back out to the work shop. He planned to spend the rest of the day putting that new starter on his old tractor. He knew most folks would have junked that old tractor years ago, but Roland had a way with machinery. He knew how to tear a piece down into a thousand parts and put it back together again. No one had ever taught him how, he was just born knowing. His oldest boy Harlan, wasn't like that. He had no head for parts and pieces, at least not machine parts and pieces, but give him words, parts and pieces of sentences and he could grow them into paragraphs on a page and write you an argument that was hard to refute. He had a writing desk in his room and usually spent a couple hours writing at night before he went to bed. But Jesse, well, he was mechanical, like his daddy. If he wasn't needed in the field, you could always find him in the workshop tinkering with something. His twin sister, Bessy took after her mama and Harlan. She loved words too but right now, she would rather read them than to write them. Her mama, Esther, had left a small library of her books and Bessy was working her way through them one by one. She always had a book somewhere close by and if you ever got to missing her she could usually be found out back in the tree house, reading. And his littlest was Curtis, a tender sensitive child. He wore his heart on his sleeve and his light was always shining, although he didn't care a whit about socializing, he was the type to be a true blue friend to a few. And Curtis had a gift. He was an artist. His side of the room, that he shared with Jesse, was papered with his drawings. Curtis spent most of his free time in the woods down by the river' quietly watching the wildlife and capturing it on paper.

     

    Roland loved his children with a deep and steady love, a sacrificial love. When times were tight, and they often were, Roland saw to their needs before his own. If someone was going to have to do without, it would be him. His greatest sorrow in life was that their mama wasn't here to share that love. She was buried on the far side of the farm, in the Jones family cemetery. He often visited her grave, and never missed a special occasion. It was his habit to buy a card, wrap it in wax paper and leave it on her headstone. He always signed it “I love and miss you, Roland.” He was glad , his sister Dorrie kept Esther's flower garden growing so he could carry a fresh bouquet to her grave when the flowers were in season.

    Harlan got back to the field first. Picking up the hoe he'd left leaning against the tree, he walked into the longest row and began chopping the weeds. Bessy, Jessy and Curtis followed him and began working in their own rows. With full stomachs and the sun sliding slowly toward the west, they fell into a rhythm of work that allowed their thoughts to wander into daydreams all their own. Chopping with the hoe, bending ' pulling and throwing weeds they worked steadily as the afternoon marched on toward evening.

     

    Placing the last dish in the rack, Dorrie pulled the drain plug from the sink and dried her hands on the dish towel. After arranging the tablecloth so that it covered all the food, she reached for her straw hat, hanging on a peg by the door. Settling it firmly on her head she stepped out onto the back porch. Dorrie stood for a minute surveying the farm yard. To her left was the graveled dirt driveway that ended beside the barn. Roland's truck was parked there. The work shop was on the other side of the barn and she could hear him in there banging on something as she made her way to the shop to get her gardening tools. When she entered the building, Roland was was all up in the guts of the tractor. He didn't see her come in. She gathered her basket of hand tools and quietly slipped back outside. The flower garden was beside the house and the vegetable garden was behind the barn. Dorrie made her way to the flower garden. Glancing across the yard and up the hill she could just make out the four siblings hard at work weeding the field.

     

    I was chop'in and slapp'in...the sun had just dropped past the tree tops and the mosquitoes were buzzing up from the river, sensing our warm flesh and blood, they hummed into the tobacco field and began to sink their needles into our skin. Now, all our sporadic slaps accompanied the rhythm of chop, bend, pull and throw...it sounded something like this...

    Chop, bend, pull, throw slap

    Slap, slap ,Chop, slap, bend

    pull, slap, slap, slap, throw...

    We were all tired and nearing the end of our separate rows when it happened. Curtis told us later that he had been struggling to pull up a clump of Johnson grass growing up tight against the tobacco stalk. He was cleaning his row perfectly so that when Daddy cam out here tomorrow to inspect the job he would be proud of him. In exasperation he'd gotten down close on his hands and knees and leaned in close. He grasped the weeds in a firm hold and in an instant realized he'd grabbed more than weeds. The mouth was open wide and Curtis was near enough to see the inside of its cotton white mouth ,right before he felt the fiery sting burn his right wrist. The snake whipped out of the grass and wrapped itself around his arm. He began screaming and stood up, trying to shake the viper loose. But with every shake the snake held on pumping more venom into his wrist. Hearing Curtis' screams we flung down our hoes and ran to his row. Harlan yelled “JESSE HOLD HIM STILL!” Jesse wrapped both arms around Curtis and did his best to hold him . Harlan got ahold of Curtis' arm, and using his free hand, he began to strangle the snake.

     

    It was too much for me, I began to scream myself and calling for Daddy, I ran from the field toward the house. I saw daddy bolt from the shop and Dorrie running out from back of the house. With Daddy way out front they both ran up the path toward me. When they reached me, I cried out “CURTIS GOT SNAKE BIT, OH DADDY ITS AWFUL!” Daddy ran on up the path to the field, with Aunt Dorrie panting behind him. I just stood in the path shaking and sobbing ,thinking It was me that should've been in that row...then I took off runn'in after them.

     

    When I got there, I saw Harlan and Jesse holding Curtis up. On the ground at their feet was a dead water moccasin. Daddy was lifting Curtis up in his arms as Aunt Dorrie ran up behind him. I saw her pick up a hoe and in a frenzy she chopped that snake to pieces.. I watched her till she threw down her hoe, and then we both followed the others who were already running down the path to the truck.

     

    CHAPTER 2

    Thirty Pieces of Silver

    But if your eye is bad

    your whole body will be full of darkness.

    If then the light that is in you is darkness,

    how great is the darkness. ~Matthew 6:23~

     

    Our farm was a few miles upstream from the largest mill in Anderson county. It was built by Captain Sherman Bender and had been passed down through the generations of Bender heirs. The current owner was old Arlo Bender but he was stashed away in the nursing home, while his son Buchanan Bender, ran the mill. Buchanan was his given name but no one ever called him that. He was known by everyone as “Buzzard” Bender and had been since he was twelve years old.

     

    Granny Harrell, said it was at the very moment that he acquired this name, that he sold his soul to the devil.

    She said what that turkey buzzard did wasn't normal and it was a sign for those “who have eyes to see” . Granny said up to that moment, it could'a went either way, but when Buchanan made that choice on the playground to choose evil one more time, he sealed the deal. She said the LORD takes particular notice of the “least of these” and that He had His eyes on the the school yard that morning.

    As for me, I don't know if the hardening of a heart works that way or not, but what I do know, and know for sure, is that Buchanan Bender never got better, he wore worse. From that day forward he pulled evil to himself like he had it tied to his heart with wagon cords. They say it happened like this....

     

    On that morning the sky was dark and threatening rain. In the distance thunder bumped across the clouds in a low rumbling growl. The West Glen Elementary school yard was full of children, waiting for the morning bell to ring them inside. First through sixth graders huddled together in age appropriate groups except for three students who were roaming the yard looking for trouble. Buchanan Bender, Ortho Cates and Walter Newton, sixth graders who shored up every insecurity and deficiency inside themselves, by intimidating and bullying the younger students.

     

     

    The third graders were huddled together near the school entrance. As the thunder grew louder they moved closer together jostling one little fellow and causing him to drop his lunch money onto the ground. His name was Milton Harrell. He was Granny Harrell's grandson, her only daughter Viola's boy. No one knew who his daddy was. Viola was seventeen when she gave birth to Milton a month prematurely. The birth happened quickly and there wasn't any time to get Viola medical care. Granny Harrell delivered her own tiny four pound 10 ounce grandson into the world. As soon as Viola gained back her strength she took off for parts unknown, leaving Granny Harrell to raise Milton. The early birth had affected him mentally. He was slower than his classmates, but his kind heart overshadowed his incomplete intelligence.

     

     

    Milton was down on his hands and knees scrambling to find all of his dropped coins when Buchanan Bender spotted him. “There's us some fun,” he said nudging his two sidekicks. Sauntering over to the the third graders, Buchanan raised his foot high and stomped on Milton's hand . Milton raised his head and looked up. “HHHHey.......you're standing on somebody.....somebody is down here and you're standing on them. Hey, I said, its Milton down here.” The first drop of rain fell, baptizing Milton's forehead , he continued “And now its raining down here too...I need to get my money before it gets wet...please walk somewhere else, you're hurting my hand.” Buchanan laughed and ground his boot down harder. Milton trying to stand up, felt Buchanan's foot lift, then cried out as the boot kicked him brutally in the side knocking him into the dirt. Milton held his ribs and looked at his dirtied clothes. The rain began to come down sharp like BB pellets . Milton's pain melted into tears. He cried, “Now I can't go to school...I'm dirty...I'm a dirty mess.” “You were born dirty.” Buchanan said with a laugh, and looked around to make sure Ortho and Walter were laughing with him. “ And you ain't gott'a worry about that money gett'in wet cause you're gonna pick it up and give it all to me .” Sobbing , Milton crawled around gathering up the scattered coins.

     

    Roland, was in the sixth grade too. He was standing with his classmates when he heard someone crying. Looking behind him he saw Milton Harrell crawling around in the mud on the ground. He heard him saying “Thhhis...is my school money...III've got to buy my milk and mmmy lunch with it....I ain't got no more. Granny told me nnnnot to lose it. I got to buy my lunch bbbut I 'll share...you can sit at mmmmy table and I will share my lunch with you.” Buchanan and his goons just laughed at him.

     

     

    Roland bolted over to the third graders and grabbed Buchanan by the back of his collar and spun him around. Buchanan hooked out his leg and swept Roland's feet out from under him. Outweighing Roland by thirty pounds Buchanan quickly got the better of him . Pinning him to the ground Buchanan leaned in so close Roland could smell the anger on his breath and see the pin hard pupils of his eyes. Buchanan whispered “This is all your fault, you should 'a never laid a hand on me. You deserve all you're gonna get.” He began punching Roland over and over in the face. The rain was coming down hard now. The students had made a circle around the fight and were holding their books over their heads to ward off the rain. The school bell was ringing but no one was paying it any mind. Roland's nose was bleeding profusely, little Milton saw it and ran over to try and wipe the blood off with his hands. Buchanan shoved Milton away and then continued his frenzied attack. Milton ran and jumped on Buchanan's back to trying again to help Roland. Buchanan stopped hitting Roland just long enough to swing around and land a blow to Milton which knocked him back onto the ground unconscious.

     

    Roland took that second to wipe the blood from his face, as he did he saw a dark shadow fall from the sky behind Buchanan. With a cry of “WHAT THE...?” Buchanan jumped up off Roland and turned around beating frantically at his back. On his shoulders with its claws firmly embedded through his sweater and into the skin of his back was the biggest buzzard Roland had ever seen. Buchanan was struggling, reaching his arms around his back trying to knock the buzzard off. The buzzard was flapping its huge wings, looking as if it were trying to lift Buchanan up and fly away with him. Buchanan couldn't budge the buzzard so he began to run. He ran out of the school yard and down the road toward town, That was the last anyone saw of him that day and no one ever knew how he managed to get that buzzard off his back, but from that day forward everyone called him Buzzard Bender.

     

     

    As a man, Buzzard had lived up to his name. He circled the weak and vulnerable waiting till they were desperate then like a vulture he'd fly in with his sharp beak and pick them apart. Most of them found themselves working in the mill with below minimum wages and manipulated to such a point they actually felt mis-guided gratitude toward him. And with that jolly old smile, that never reached his eyes plastered to his face as he robbed them blind

     

    Buzzard lived in a large restored plantation house on the other side of the river from Roland's farm. He owned the property from his place all the way upstream to Bender's “Fabric's Cotton Mill”. It encompassed about seven hundred acres. Back behind the mill in a river bottom Buzzard had renovated an old prohibition clubhouse , He called it “Bender's Riverside Bar & Sportsman's Club.” Rumor had it that a man could find just about any kind of sport he wanted at Bender's Bar.

     

     

    Buzzard's wife's name was Brenda Bender. She preferred to be called “BB.” She was a skinny little woman, all sharp knees and elbows but with a backbone of stainless steel. She was obsessed with Jacquelyn Kennedy and tried ever so desperately to copy Jackie's sophisticated wardrobe style. On BB, it came off like a chicken trying to impersonate a swan. Which made Buzzard and BB the perfect couple, a buzzard and a chicken, being as how birds of a feather flock together and all that sort of thing.

     

     

     

    CHAPTER 3

     

    The Writing on the Wall

     

    Everybody has a chapter they don't read out loud.”

    ~Word Porn~

     

    I can't give you any specific memories I had of the Anderson County Hospital before we arrived that evening, or why it sent a chill down my spine when we pulled up to the emergency door, but it did. I was afraid to go in yet I was afraid not to. Me and Harlan and Jesse were in the bed of the truck. Daddy and Aunt Dorrie were up front with Curtis. We hopped out of the back and Harlan opened Daddy's door. Curtis was laying across the seat with his head in Aunt Dorrie's lap. She was holding a handkerchief over the bite on his right wrist , his arm was swollen twice its normal size and blood and yellow fluid was oozing out through the handkerchief. Curtis was conscious but talking out of his head, he was muttering something about losing his math book and feeding the cat popcorn. I began to feel sick to my stomach.

     

     

    Roland turned off the ignition and slid out of the truck. He was remembering the last person he'd carried through those doors and remembering that he didn't bring them back out with him. He hurried around and opened Dorrie's door. She gently moved Curtis' head off her lap and laid his arm down by his side. Roland reached inside and carefully shifted Curtis into his arms. The movement caused Curtis to utter a low moan and vomit.

    An orderly met the family at the door and held it open as the they entered. Two more orderlies were coming down the hallway with a gurney. They wheeled it up to Roland and he laid Curtis on it. Curtis roused back into coherency and said “Daddy , please don't leave me.” “I'm right here son, I'm not going anywhere.” Roland reassured him. “What happened,?” one of the orderlies asked. “He was bit by a water moccasin,” Dorrie replied as the gurney was being rolled toward the emergency exam rooms. A nurse met them at the double doors and asked if Roland and Dorrie were Curtis' parents. I'm his father, Roland answered and nodding towards Dorrie said, “She's my sister.” “Both of you come with me,” the nurse said, gesturing toward a door across the hall she said “The rest of you may wait in the waiting area.” Harlan opened the waiting room door and they walked in.

     

     

    The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming smell of stale tobacco. The room was rectangular, the walls were lined with hard red chairs and at the far end was a table with an overflowing ash tray . Beside the ash tray was an empty paper cup and a telephone book was laying on the floor beneath the table. Magazines littered the table and the chairs. The room felt helpless and forlorn, so did I. I was still grappling with the fact that I should have been hoeing the row Curtis was on. It was my selfishness that hurt Curtis. I was older, if I'd been there I probably would have saw that snake before it bit me or even if I did get bit my body was bigger the venom wouldn't hurt me as bad.

     

     

    Overwhelmed by these thoughts, I burst into tears. Harlan reached out toward me and I crumpled into his arms. “It should've been me” I admitted. Just speaking the words aloud dumped another shovel full of guilt onto my back. The weight was unbearable and I slid from Harlan's arms to the cold linoleum tiled floor. I felt Harlan settle down beside me, he reached and touched my chin, he attempted to pull my face up to look at him but I wouldn't let him. I sat sat cross-legged on the floor staring down at the black and white pattern of the tile. The colors blended into gray through the deluge of tears that were flooding my eyes. I felt Harlan's hand reaching toward me again. I felt him sticking something under my nose and I cold smell the scent of sweat. It was his handkerchief. I took it and blowing my nose loudly, I raised my eyes to his. He was crying too. I felt an arm reach from behind and settle across my shoulders. Looking behind me I saw Jesse settling down on the floor and Harlan stretched out his arms around us both . We all three just huddled there on the floor together. No one spoke any more words with our mouths because our hearts were talking too loud to hear them.

     

    We were still sitting there together on the floor when we heard someone push open the door. We raised our heads as one and we watched as J.M. Smyth walked into the room and said,“Your daddy called me from the emergency room, he told me what happened. He asked me to drive over here and check on you.” We stood up and sharing that one handkerchief between us we wiped our tears and blew our noses.J.M. was our Preacher. Harlan spoke first saying, “It looks bad Preacher.” Jesse broke in and said “It was a dad-blame cotton mouth that got'em, one of those mean river moccasins, but Harlan choked it to death then Aunt Dorrie killed it again with the hoe.”

     

    I took a deep trembling breath and rushed out these words “What else did daddy say?” Did he say how Curtis is doing?... Did he tell you this is all my fault?... Did he say Curtis is gonn'a die?” That last word did me in again. Die...I just knew Curtis was gonna die, just like mama did. Then I realized why this place chilled my soul so. Mama died here and now Curtis was gonna die here too and it was because of me, and if Curtis died, I was gonna die too, I couldn't live with myself, and if me and Curtis died, then daddy would die too, it had almost killed him to lose mama and like a train off the tracks my thoughts ran head-long into a  crash,.I felt the bile rise in my throat and before I could find a trash can I vomited right there on the Preacher. Harlan , who had a hold of that shared handkerchief began to try and dab off the Preacher and me too. That handkerchief had sure done its share of work today.

     

    The Preacher reached into his pocket and took out two clean handkerchiefs, I wondered just how many did he carry around with him anyway, maybe Preachers were required by Preacher code to carry a certain number, it seemed likely to me that , that should be the case as preachers went around dealing with tragedy all the time. Maybe he could just keep pull'in 'em out of his sleeve, in an endless miraculous supply...my thoughts were headed off the rails again.The Preacher handed me a handkerchiefs and he used the other to wipe off his shirt and shoes. Harlan dropped the one he was holding into the trash can. I kind 'a felt sorry that we couldn't some how keep it ...sorta symbolic like ...with all our tears and stuff blended together and all. There I went , thinking crazy again.I was glad when the preacher suggested we all have a seat ...and... a prayer.

     

     

    The Preacher bowed his head and we did too. “Father” “ he said, This is a family that You love. I love 'em too. They sure have had an extra portion of heartache in their life, but it never caused them to stop lov'in and trust'in You. It appears tonight they've had another helping heaped on their plate. What's done is done and it don't do nobody no good to blame themselves, we can't go back and change anything that's happened, but now we are here in the present and you're here with us and the future is yet to be decided and we know that You hold that future in You're hands. You tell us that You hear our earnest , honest pleas and that our prayers work together with Your will, so tonight we are asking you to protect and preserve Curtis' life, we ask You to give him an awareness of Your presence wherever his conscious or unconscious might be. Comfort him and enfold him in your peace. And for his family, his loved ones I pray that same peace to wash over them and I pray for Your strength to carry them through this troubling time .In the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ we pray...Amen.

    The Preacher raised his head and we did too. He said, “Y'all gott'a be hungry, let me run upstairs and check on Curtis, your Dad and Dorrie, then I'll carry you done to the diner for a hot dog.

     

    Everything was white, the walls, floors, tables, gurneys, sheets, blankets, curtains, uniforms, everything except Curtis' right arm which was badly swollen and turning black . The nurse walked into a curtain shrouded cubicle and the orderlies wheeled Curtis in behind her, Roland and Dorrie followed. “ Tell me what happened” the nurse asked as she took a blood pressure cuff from a drawer. “Ma'am,” he said,” My boy was bit by a water moccasin, in the field about an hour ago, we drove him straight here, “ He's been in talking out of his head some and he vomited when I took him out of the truck.” The curtain was pulled open and another nurse stuck her head inside the room, “I'm going to need one of you to come up to the admissions desk with me and fill out some paper work,”. Dorrie looked at Roland and nodded, “I'll come with you,” she answered.

     

    “What's your son's name and how old is he,?” The nurse asked as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Curtis' left arm. “Curtis, Curtis Jones, and he's nine years old,” replied Roland. ” Does you son have any other health issues or drug allergies?” Mister Jones. “No” Roland answered. Curtis whimpered, Roland leaned in close and said “Hang on Curtis, we're at the hospital,” to the nurse he added” Where's the doctor my boy needs help!” The curtain parted and Dorrie entered with the nurse who'd taken her to the admissions desk. The admissions nurse replied, the Doctor's been called he'll be here soon.” then she quickly left the room. The emergency room nurse snapped an identification bracelet on Curtis' good arm, the began rummaging in another drawer and gathering supplies. She wet a gauze pad with antiseptic solution and began to clean Curtis' swollen arm. Curtis started to cry and Dorrie moved to the head of the gurney and rested her hand across Curtis' forehead. The touch settled him and he quieted.

     

    The nurse had finished cleaning the wound and taking the vitals. She was writing in the chart when the curtain opened again. The heavy odor of hair tonic entered the room, followed by a man with dark hair slicked back from his forehead. Strapped around his head was an exam light. He wore a white tunic buttoned across his shoulders and a stethoscope dangled from his neck. Roland recoiled at the sight. It had been nine years since he'd seen this man but he would never forget him. His name was Dr. Evans. Roland felt like he'd been thrown back into the middle of a nightmare. During her pregnancies Esther's doctor had been a kindly gentleman named Doctor Talley but the night Esther went into labor with Curtis, Doctor Talley wasn't available. It wasn't that he wasn't at the hospital that night, he was, but as a patient himself. He'd had a heart attack earlier that day and was in room 204. There were two deaths in the hospital later that night, his and Esther's. Doctor Evans had been called in to take Doctor Talley's patients. He had delivered Curtis and attended Esther the night she died. If Doctor Evans recognized Roland, he didn't let on.

     

     

    The doctor walked over to the nurse who was still making notes on the chart and without saying a word pulled it from her hands. Quickly glancing over the page, he said “Snake bite ...hmmm...lets have a look.” Thrusting the chart back towards the nurse, he walked to the head of the gurney where Dorry was still standing with her hand on Curtis' forehead and roughly said “You're in my way here, you need to move,” as he nudged her out of the away, and grasped Curtis' black swollen arm. Curtis who had been calm as long as Dorrie's hand had been on his brow began to thrash around. Doctor Evan's tightened his grip on Curtis' arm, and with his other hand, reached up and switched on his head piece light. He leaned in close over the gurney. Curtis moaned then making a retching sound he vomited into Dr. Evans slick-backed hair. Dropping Curtis' arm the doctor bit back an expletive and began barking orders at the nurse. Start IV fluids and 50cc's of penicillin, draw a blood sample and send it to the lab, then have him transferred upstairs. Turning to Roland he said “We will discuss treatment options after I obtain the lab results”. Pulling open the curtain he strode from the cubicle. The nurse quickly completed the doctor's orders and soon Curtis was being moved to a room.

     

    The IV pole rattled along side the gurney, tubing, from an IV needle inserted into Curtis's left arm ran up to a bottle hanging from the pole. The nurse walked beside the pole and guided it as the orderlies transported Curtis upstairs. Roland and Dorrie walked on the other side. Roland was staring at Curtis' arm. The nurse had drawn a line where the swelling was at when the first entered the emergency area, the swelling and discoloration has crept an inch or more past that mark. . The fang marks continued to bleed and the nurse had laid a gauze pad over to absorb the flow. Curtis had been quiet since the vomiting episode in the cubicle and appeared to be resting a little since they had started giving him the IV fluids.

     

    Roland... Hey, Roland” Roland turned, the Preacher was hurrying down the hall way behind them. He stopped briefly and waited for him to catch up. They both caught up to the gurney as it was stopped at the elevator doors. The Preacher reached out and lay his hand on Curtis' shoulder. At the Preacher's touch Curtis opened his eyes and weakly said, “Hey Preacher,” . Roland noticed the whites of Curtis' eyes were blood red. He made a mental note to ask the nurse about it when they got upstairs to the room. The Preacher said, “It looks like that snake tried to get the best of you, but I hear it wound up gett'in more than it bargained for.” Why, I think that's probably the only snake that ever got killed twice. They tell me Harlan choked it to death then your Aunt Dorry hacked to death!” Curtis managed a slight smile. “How are the other kids?” Roland asked the Preacher. “ They are pretty shook up, especially Bessy,” answered the Preacher. “I was thinking I'd take them to get something to eat.” “That's a good idea,” Roland replied as the elevator doors slid open and the orderlies wheeled Curtis in. “Thank you” Roland managed to reply as he and Dorrie hurriedly squeezed inside the closing elevator doors.

     

     

  16. We've added a new Publishing Credits section to the ChristianWriters.com site. This is a special area for established members to post and promote information and links to their book, blog, article, or short story.

     

    Publishing credits will be promoted throughout the site. Soon, we will link each member's credits to their profile for an easy reference (or purchase) of each member's published works.

     

    This service is free, but open only to members with more than five posts on ChristianWriters.com.

     

    The Publishing Credits section replaces the recently archived Publication and Plugs forum.

     

     

  17. Leoshine

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    No wonder you believed all the messages about you saving the world.  You have the smarts, the brawn, the connections.  What would be more natural for someone of your talent, Charisma and good looks than to fulfill all the worlds needs, solve all its problems?

    After all that, you didn't get what you wanted.  Other people let you down with supplies, or they were late arriving for their great moment in your plan.  The grass didn't grow fast enough and the milk didn't spill in the right direction and all of a sudden the world didn't get saved. Now you're mad! Angry! Spitting exclamation marks like nails and bullets.

    There's a measure of guilt too. A cold, sinking feeling that someone might call up and ask why you didn't save the world.  Maybe there were eyes that saw you sneaking out at the last moment, or even if you didn't actually sneak out, you thought about it. That split second of hesitation might have been all it took for the bad guy to win.  It sure looks like the bad guy won.

    If you're willing, you can peek at the end of the book to see that the bad guy loses, big time.  If you're willing to look beyond the beauty, the brawn, the dizzying intellect, you might glimpse the thing that actually does save the world, and shoves the bad guy down, that one thing that you don't have, and can't have (without an intervention) .  Can you guess what it is?

  18.  

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    The Book of Psalms is beloved by many. It showcases every emotion, and often brings comfort to the hurting, struggling, or those are facing loss. Who has not heard a portion of Psalm 23 or sang some of these poetic masterpieces? While other cultures in Ancient Near East had praises and prayers written to their gods, Israel had, and has, God’s truth encapsulated in a large book, written over the course of 1,000 years, called the Book of Psalms. 

     

    When most people think of the Psalms, they think of King David, because he was the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” (2 Samuel 23:1). While he penned about half of them, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and others, wrote the rest of the 150 Psalms, which became known as the song or hymnbook of Israel, inspired by God. 

     

    The word “Psalm” comes from the Greek psalmos or, “song.” The Hebrew tehillim, meaning, “praises,” identifies the purpose for them. The Psalms are divided up into five books, based on the Hebrew manuscripts. Book 1 comprises Psalms 1-41. Book 2 includes Psalms 42-72.  Book 3 includes Psalms 73-89. Book 4 is compiled of Psalms 90-106. Book 5 contains Psalms 107-150. 

     

    The Psalms were written in the context of the Mosaic Covenant, which is important to keep in mind when interpreting them. They are poetic literature and should be treated as such, with figures of speech, history, other literary forms and more. Often, as in other Wisdom literature (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), there is a contrast between the “righteous” (those who follow the Law) and “unrighteous” (those who do not follow the Law), with God’s blessing being on the obedient (the righteous) and His curses upon the disobedient (the unrighteous). Each book concludes with praise to God and Psalm 150 is totally dedicated to His praise. 

     

    Though the Psalms were written over a period of 1,000 years, they were probably compiled in their final form by Ezra the priest and scribe (Nehemiah 8:9), roughly about 450 B.C. As history went on, Israel used these for specific purposes, and scholars placed the Psalms in different categories, and while these vary, they are helpful. 

     

    For example, there are the Royal Psalms: Psalm 2, 20-21, and more. These focus primarily on the Davidic lineage, with some pointing to the Messiah, the perfect King. The Psalms of Ascent: Psalms 120-134. These were sung as travellers went up to Jerusalem, often for one of the Feasts.  Psalms of repentance: 6, 25, and 51. These emphasize the Psalmists confession of sin.  There are the Imprecatory Psalms, which called down judgment on Gods and Israel’s enemies: 69, 109, and 137. Then there are hymns of praise: 8, 93; thanksgiving: 9, 30; and the Hallel (which also means “praise”): 113-118, read during the Passover celebration.

     

    While there are other groups, the focus of this series will be the Messianic Psalms. They are specifically written about Israel’s promised Messiah. Though these Psalms were written and applicable to the times in which they were written, God superintended their writings for a greater purpose, pointing to the One who would fulfill all of what was written of Him (Matthew 5:17, Hebrews 10:7).

     

    These include: Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22 (23-24), 40, 45, 68, 69, 72, 89, 102, 109, 110, 118, and 132 to one extent or another. These Messianic Psalms encapsulate aspects of the birth, life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah. He pointed to the Psalms about Himself in Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:1; Mark 12:9-11, quoting Psalm 118:22-23; Luke 20:39-44, quoting Psalm 110:1. New Testament writers referenced the Psalms about Jesus: Matthew 22:41-46, quoting Psalm 110:1; Mark 11:7-10, quoting Psalm 118:25-26; John 19:23-24, quoting Psalm 22:18 and more. 

     

    The study of the Messianic Psalms is a blessing. These Psalms show the unity and connection of the Bible between Old and New Testament; and display the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God’s inspired Word. Each article in this series will explore one of these magnificent Psalms. The Messianic Psalms help us see the reliability and consistency of the Bible and most of all; it helps us see Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, our Lord and Savior, in the inspired, written Word of God!

     

     

  19. DrRita
    Latest Entry

    I sit here, disillusioned and disgusted. And fearful. And apprehensive. I ask the Lord, what can I do to begin the healing process and I feel as though I have nothing to offer. The tear is wide and the two (or three or four?) sides are self-righteously pointing fingers at the "other side," claiming what has happened is all their fault. Is it? Is blame to rest totally on one side while the other side waits for some sort of mass repentance and reconciliation to the opposing side's point of view? Is there no common ground on which we can stand and at least try to agree? I'm beginning to wonder how far this will go and where we will be in a year; in six months. And it's frightening.

     

    Our country is being torn apart by a hardness of heart that resembles what Moses faced with Pharaoh in Exodus. I understand that those who are of the world will not understand, but Christians who refuse to come together with brothers and sisters who stand on the other side of Jordan, should be reaching out in the love that Christ asked of his church. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) This was his last commandment and it wasn't a suggestion, it was a requirement and meant to be obeyed.

     

    When we fight with each other, we let all sorts of evil into our midst. When hate becomes the motivation for separation, we play into the hands of Satan. The incident in Charlottesville is but one example of evil creeping in where it should never be allowed. United, we must stand against all hate, racism, bigotry and fascist philosophies in any form. But to hate back and return evil for evil and violence for violence, only makes for escalation, not peace. Just one look at history will prove that to be true.

     

    When Jesus came before Pilate and was questioned about his kingdom and his identity, Jesus answered: "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

     

    Have we lost the desire to seek truth? Are we like Pilate questioning even the definition of truth? We live in a very dangerous time where even our right to think for ourselves is being threatened. We must turn again to Jesus' words and his command to love one another. Jesus called us the salt of the earth . . . but if that salt loses it saltiness? He said it is no longer useful. I implore my brothers and sisters in Christ to earnestly seek the Lord for a way to be what we have been called, Children of the Light, Peacemakers, Salt of the Earth and Christ Followers. His way is our only hope, our only strength and our only solution.

  20. New Year Expectations

     

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    Perhaps like me, each New Year you have an expectation that this year will be different. You look back at the past 12 months with disappointment because goals you set at the start have not been accomplished, hopes you had were not met and dreams you cherished were dashed. When this happens year after year, it is tempting to become cynical, or pessimistic, defeatist or even indifferent. Que sera, sera, you say to yourself (whatever will be, will be!) yet secretly you feel disappointed.

     

    The above is an intro to a post encouraging us to maintain hope. Hope you will pay me a visit and read.

     

    https://womenofwarfare.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/what-is-your-expectation-and-hope/

     

    Please don't hesitate to leave a response at my blog site (comments or likes). I look forward to hearing from you.

     

    Best wishes,

     

     

    Carol

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    •   Even better today - summer is approaching. Sidewalk cafés in full bloom.   Stay dry and warm!
    • Sounds good to me, makes me feel warm on this rainy day here.
    • In Droplets of Time, Dave Ellis evokes those rare but true moments of beauty. Although he does not write true to what's considered a formal  poetic style of Haiku, , I would consider Droplets of Time a close  and wonderful representation of it
    • I think our preachers have replaced the parable story-telling with anecdotes. This short-short stories about persons in various situations are used by preachers to enliven their sermons and to make their points. Some preachers are extremely effective in using this technique to reach outsiders and teach the flock. Otherwise, the parable/ allegory (which is creative story-telling) lives among Christian writers, such as C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, etc..   
    • The last paragraph of this article was more of a "tongue in cheek" offering.  Parable teaching is shallow and is geared to those who have little or no understanding of the Word.  Sadly, many churches are nothing more than "day care centers" geared to entertaining their clientele.  Maybe illustrated truths could lead to revelated Truth!

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