Archive for the ‘church’ Category

Through Faith and Patience

May 16, 2020

I would like to remind my fellow-Christians, we serve  a Savior who did not insist, nor fight for, nor allow his right-hand man to fight for, his constitutional rights.

Rather, he bore the punishment of a cruel civil .gov backed up by a band of religious zealots.

Jesus Christ did not argue with Herod, nor Pilate, nor Caiaphas. He already knew that his ultimate victory was assured, because. . . while allowing their bloody conspiracy to totally defeat his body, they were unknowingly setting the historical stage for the greatest human victory of all time—our triumph over death itself.

His world-class demonstration of how to prevail over adversity advances the purposes of God on this earth.

He did not nit-pick about his right to gather on Sunday or maintain any semblance of religion. In fact, on one occasion he ran the religious folks out of their temple.

He was telling them to get their priorities straight.

His most ardent spokesman later reminded us, through a written legacy, that  faith and patience would be the basis of our inheritance.

Not the promises of man . . . nor our legal right to get together on any particular day and play church. while the rest of the world is engaged in a life/death struggle.

We now have in the world a life-and-death situation that will ultimately demonstrate, like Jesus’s own ordeal, the power of our God to deliver us from evil, amen.

So let’s not cloud the issue by trying to split hairs over traditional religious whoodoos like what they think about what we can or not do on Sunday.

They cannot defeat us. 

They can’t defeat the ongoing presence the risen Messiah in this world. His greatest life-affirming act was remaining obedient unto death . . . a death that erupted as Resurrection and changed the world forever. He was a man unjustly executed, but then he lived to tell about it.

ChristCruc

And get this: they will never defeat his followers.

His victory was a world-changing event that greatly outweighs our power to quibble over freedom of assembly issues during a life-threatening pandemic.

My dear brothers and sisters, they cannot beat us. That’s been tried already, multiple times through multiple ages.

But they can still join us.

You can’t beat down a man who survives death.

King of Soul

I’m Convinced

April 12, 2020

There’s a lot be said, and much to be written, about how we got here, where we are headed, what we will endure, what we will enjoy, and why it all happens.

Of all the sages and great men and great women throughout the ages, I do  not know of one whose claim to truth—whose claim to know what he is talking about, and what our purpose is here— I do not know of one whose accomplishment can be more convincing than the prophet  who rose from the dead. There is not one man nor woman whose wisdom or feats can match  this one miraculous labor of love:

Being tortured to death, rising from death back into life, and then living to tell about it.

There is no treatise on truth, no explanation of existence nor spoken lecture on the meaning (or absence thereof) of life. There is no heroic feat, no dramatic rescue, no profound work of art—that can match or exceed personal victory over death itself.

So I’m going with the one who survived death: Jesus.

I’m not the only one. Take a look at history and you will see how many men, women and children have, over two thousand years, cast their lot in his direction.

Believe it, or not.

If you can’t agree with me now, just recall this testimony when you are, let’s say, one hour or one minute from your death. At that moment, consider carefully whether you will truly want to  reject the rescuing hand that is extended to you just after crossing . . .

Better yet: believe me now, that. . . that hand is gesturing for you now, because the gift of eternal life through faith is even more precious–and more lovingly beneficial to others– when it comes into full use during this present life of trouble, trial, and triumph.

EmptyTomb

King of Soul  

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

The Big Questions

March 3, 2020

The big questions are:

1. How did I get here?

2. How did we get here?

3. What is the purpose of being here?

4. What should I do while I am here?

At the age of 27 years, about 43 years ago, I had made a big mess of my life. So I turned my life over to Jesus.

I am happy about how life has turned out for me and the family that God has given me.

Prior to salvation, I was quite undecided about those big questions listed above. Now, after walking with the Lord for 41 years, I have managed to answer those questions to my satisfaction. There are, however, a few questions hovering somewhat unresolved in my mind.

For instance, as pertaining to the big question #2 above—how did we get here?—I do subscribe to the biblical explanation, although I do not understand it. I cannot comprehend all that is being described in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis.

GutnBible

I do understand, and accept as true, that very first sentence of the biblical revelation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The verses that follow confuse me every time I try to impose order in my mind about the sequence through which our Creator did his creative work. This confusion does not really bother me. But it does fascinate me to ponder that subject.

Cutting to the chase—that is to say—the end of the book or the end of my life, the big truth that has been shown to me is that I will live eternally after passing through this life’s death.

How do I know this?

As the old song sings. . . the Bible tells me so.

The Word tells me what I really need to know: there is one man in the history of the world who survived death itself, and lived to tell about it:

Jesus.

This is a matter of belief, and I do believe it, thank God. I have been given the faith to believe in my resurrection from death, because Jesus himself has already shone the way—has been there and done that— and has passed that privilege of overcoming death along to me and to anyone else who believes what he has said about it, and demonstrated by his Resurrection.

Now, getting to the point of why I write on this particular day, year of our Lord 2020, March 3. . . while I have been fortunate enough to answer those big questions, there are still a few curiosity points that bounce around in my mind and my soul as I live and breathe in this earthly life.

For Instance, what about that creation sequence that is is described in Genesis?

People have been wondering about it, talking about it for thousands of years. In the last two centuries, speculations about question #2 above—how did we get here?—have taken a wider swath of variation than ever before. As far as I can see, this widening of theories and enquiries is prompted by two main developments in our collective human database—

1.) the discovery of geologic time, which scientifically explains how our earth was continuously rearranged by huge tectonic and geologic forces over millions of years.

2.) Darwin’s discovery of natural selection in the biological developments of life in nature.

As a believer in Jesus, I have no problem with either of these scientific discoveries. I believe these discoveries are merely a human way of classifying the universal and life principles that God set in motion millions of years ago.

For example: Genesis reports, in verse 1:24:

Then God said, ‘ Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind.’

This is just an old-fashioned way of saying: God designed into his creation a written code for ordering the development of life: DNA.

DNAdubhelx

So I hope you’re tracking with me on this. I realize that some of my believing brethren do not subscribe to this interpretation. But that’s okay; we’re not going to agree on everything. By ’n by, we’ll still celebrate our eternal life together with Jesus because of what he endured in sacrificing his perfect life at Calvary.

But the reason I am writing this today is: an amazing thing happened this morning. I had a funny little revelation while reading in Genesis.

In Genesis 2, we learn the truth that:

“. . . the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.,  The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom He had formed.”

So we learn that Adam—and later Eve, were a special creation, placed in a special place, for a special, divinely determined destiny. But Adam and Eve screwed that arrangement up when they opted for knowledge instead of truth.

So our Creator had to suspend their special status. Consequently, he ejected them from the Garden; they had to  go out and make their way by the sweat of their brow like  all those other humans who had evolved out there in the wild wild world.

A little further down in the scripture we learn more about historical human developments. From Genesis 6:

“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves . . .”

Who were those “sons of God”? They were the offspring of the Creator’s special creation in Paradise, the children of Adam and Eve.

We are told the names of the created couple’s first three sons: Cain, Abel and Seth.

These boys were, categorically, the “sons of God,” because their parents did not carry the same genetic imprint as those other men and women who originated “east of Eden,” outside the gates of Paradise.

Now just because they were “sons of God” does not mean they necessarily acted like it. You may remember that Cain killed Abel, and that God had a serious discussion with him about what was to happen next. But then God had mercy on Cain, even though he had committed such a heinous deed by killing his own brother, who had not deserved such a fate.

God gave Cain a second chance anyway, by releasing him out into mankind to get a new start.

In Genesis 4, the story continues:

  “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife, and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch, and he built a city. . .”

For a very long time, I had wondered about . . .

a.) these “sons of God”—who they were and where they came from? Answer: They came from Adam and Eve.

and b.) the land of Nod, and the people who populated that land? Answer: They were humans who evolved through God’s natural selection process.

Now I understand more about reconciling the revealed Truth of our Creator with what we ourselves have scientifically understood  about life on this amazing planet.

RockStory1

Glass half-Full

What is Fulfillment?

February 6, 2020

Isaiah set the stage for fulfillment thousands of years ago . . .

Isaiah

Among many other attributes, fulfillment means the Old . . .

IsOldJerus

. . . giving rise to the new:

Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;

your sons come from afar,

    and your daughters are carried on the hip.

IsShineCity

Other visionaries catch a glimpse along the way . . .

Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

EzekielYadV

But the process is indeed a long one, requiring very burdensome periods of human history. Inevitably, and predictably, the going is tough.

But our Creator has a scenario set up where adversity brings forth endurance in the worst conditions, and creativity to produce tangible evidence of forward progress. The striving to fulfill any great, worthwhile endeavor is arduous and prolonged. It is not given to any one generation to construct; nor is it given to any one people-group to fulfill.

Fulfillment of  prophecy and human destiny is distributed  over many generations of people and time.

IsStairway

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

IsDamascusGat

Glass half-Full

The Story

February 1, 2020

The story goes way back.

For many, it started here . . .

IsEastGate

and ended here . . .

IsDeath

Many believe it began again here . . .

IsResu

The story was retold here. . .

AereopRoc

. . . and will arrive again by supernatural inspiration.

IsCloud

The Story goes on and on . . .

GrandView

To get a credible viewpoint , you may want to see the

Glass half-Full .

The Second Thummin

January 30, 2020

. . . with acknowledgements to WB Yeats and Biblical canon . . .

Yearning and burning in a maddening ire

the westbank will not heed the politic;

Deals fall apart; the treaties cannot hold.

Teargas mask is worn into the streets,

the rage-dimmed riot is loosed, here and there

the ceremony of negotiation is torched;

the dealers have no persuasion, while the rebels

are full of fired-up intensity.

Some new negotiation is perpetually at hand;

surely the second drumming is at hand

as dissenters thrust their ire upon the streets

while our imagined urim of mideast peace

crumbles every now and then, again, again,

And signed intent once again is bent

to pathetic riot in westbank streets,

‘cuz discontent, predictable as levantic sun

moves its riotous claws to dismantle what’s been done,

as skirmishes between these ancient tribes

cast shadows o’er our peacenik vibes.

Oh! That forty-one centuries of tribal strife

could be laid to rest in a rocking cradle!

Bethlehem

When prince of peace, his Bethlehem phase  done at last

descends to Olivet, with peace that  lasts!

Oh, You may say that I’m a dreamer,

but I’m not the only one!

Glass half-Full

The commons; sacred and secular

January 26, 2020

Here’s a view into a commons area at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv . . . one of the first noteworthy scenes I noticed after stepping off the plane.

CommonsBG

Of all the airport scenes I have ever seen in travels across this world, this view seems to be more accommodating than most. The sight imparted to me a feeling of community, rather than a random passing of jet-travelers.

The late afternoon sun may have lent some bright ambience from above to color my perception in a favorable way.

The next morning, today,  I notice this building on the street where we are staying in Jerusalem.

StPaulChurch

Today I woke up recalling some words from an ancient poet who lived near here.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
and I blessed him and made him many.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

“Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.

My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.

“Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.

For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.”

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord,
clothe yourself with strength!
Awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

Those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Down toward the bottom of this text selection, the poet asks:

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

While modern skeptics dismiss the possibility of such divine interventions to make the paths of faith-based emigrants . . . I was reminded, upon reading these words mentioned above, of a certain group of distressed 20th-century people of the book who, when being threatened with massive malicious extinction, took matters into their own hands and . . .

        “made a road in the depths of the sea”

. . . so that they could exodus from Nazi hell and move forward to carve out a place in the wilderness, on the other side of the Mediterranean: A new-old land in which to prosper, instead of being auschwitzed into oblivion.

IsraelEduc

Pretty amazing stuff on this first bright Sunday morning in the old country.

Glass half-Full

The Four Horses

November 20, 2019

This morning I heard Meghna Chakrabarti interviewing Sylvia Poggioli about the flood in Venice, Italy.

Hearing the WBUR On Point hostess ask NPR’s Italian correspondent about that watery excess, my imagination flowed back to my visit to Venice in 2003.

On that day, sixteen years ago, I stood in a long tourist line to visit the Basilica of San Marco.

On that day, flood waters from the Adriatic Sea were lapping up the stepped entryway into the nave of the cathedral.

My daughter Kim, studying in Italy at that time, snapped some photographs. I assembled three of them here:

SanMarco3

It is plain to see that, yes, there is an ongoing, and worsening problem of flooding in the ancient city of Venice.

Moreover, the evidence is mounting that, yes Virginia, there is in fact a worldwide problem of more frequent coastal flooding, and it is reasonably related to climate change.

My position about climate change is that we should collectively educate ourselves about the impact of human activity on our planetary ecosystem. But human rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— should not be violated for the sake of imposing restrictive laws to reduce and control carbon emissions.

However all of our overflowing angst about climate change gets spread around, I would like to hone in on a certain detail in the frontal edifice of San Marco church building.

Look closely at this picture of the front of San Marco. You will notice, above the middle arch, four horse statues. 

When I noticed them up there in 2003, I was fascinated with those horses.

SanMarcoHrs

Five years later, as I was writing a novel later entitled Glass Chimera, I included those horses—actually, miniature glass reproductions of them— in part of the story I was cloning together at that time

In chapter 13 of Glass Chimera, we find this scene:

Sunday afternoon, Mick Basker slept until 1:30, then got out of bed, made some coffee, and sat down at his computer to take a look at the chip that he had retrieved from the glass horse’s gonads four nights ago.  He   reached down to open the bottom drawer of his desk.  Then  he noticed a scrap of printed paper, about the size of a small  index card, on the floor nearby. Recognizing it as a slip that  he had found within the figurines’ crate, Mick picked it up to get a closer look. This is what was printed on the little paper:

Congratulazioni! Lei ha comprato uno degli articoli di vetro più belli nel mondo. Quest’edizione a bassa tiratura della “Quadriga Marciana”  ha soffiato degli artigiani specializzati della Società del Vetro Leoni di Venezia, Italia. Gli articoli di vetro sono i riproduzioni squisite delle sculture di bronzo che fa la guardia di sopra del vestibolo occidentale della Basilica di San Marco in Venezia. I cavalli originali sono giungi a Venezia con il ricco bottino di guerra dai Veneziani dopo la conquista di Constantinopoli al termine della IV Crociata nel 1204 A.D. Dopo cinque secoli, nel 1797, Napoleone li fa trasferire a Parigi, ma i cavalli erano ritornati alla Basilica di San Marco nel 1815.

But Mick knew no Italiano, so he set the little paper aside, and   reached down again to the bottom drawer, from which he produced a yellow pharmaceutical container, a pill box.  Inside it was a was a patch of plastic foam  which  concealed a little green circuit board  about the size of thumb.   Carefully, he inserted his chip, looking like a little black crab with metallic legs, into the device, then pushed the assemblage into a USB port on the computer. He typed and moused his way to the chip’s data, and when he found it this is what he saw: 

OAT,  GHN-1:17q22-q24,  DTNBP-1:6p22.3,  IGF-2:3q28.

But he didn’t know what it was.

If you ramble around this world, you will notice that life on our planet is full of mysteries. You just never know when another strange happening might come flooding into your mind, your mailbox, or your city square, or even your own sacred space.

But no matter what strange occurrence crosses your path or your mind, try to make the best of it.

Glass Chimera

Religion Relapse

December 20, 2018

How odd it is—as a 21st-century scenario sets itself up—

we see the world gone mad preparing again to erupt.

So unforeseen it was that our great Argument of the Ages,

the dogmatic contentions of cadres and sages

should abandon the trappings of intelligent delusion

and revert to jihadic religious intrusion.

 

Europa intelligentsia had decided that God was indeed dead,

and they talked for a few generations of what to do instead:

whether a capitalist path or the communist wrath,

then a communist road or a big fascist goad—

And in the midst of all that

polarizing ideological spat—

we waged two world-class wars to settle the matter

of who should wield power and who should be scattered.

You know the drill;

it persists among us still:

Who should be in charge?

a strong-arm few or the people at large—

a fascist state or some proletarian rabble,

by authoritarian edict or sectarian babble?

  

After all the holocaust horror and gulag gangrene

we plummet again to mucky slog of humanic bad dream.

Obsessive jihadi encircle the world;

believing their fanatic flag will fully unfurl.

Back at the hub the elite are perplexed,

while their technocrat cadres compute the complex

as the widening gyre of the jihadi fire

leaps higher and higher and higher and higher.

  

Perhaps the privileged, enlightened elite

should renew communion with the (wo)man on the street

whose faith in a sacrificial, Prince of Peace deity

ChristCruc

brings resurrection instead of  jihad enmity.

Could it be that the God who was tossed aside

by the godless secular bureaucratizing tide

is actually the same eternal entity

who spoke our world out of chaos infinity?

Oh, let us recover some providential indemnity,

and by this testament regain our serenity.

After the Enlightenment, the Ideology, the Decline and the Fall,

Think about it the repentative way: Selah, y’all.

King of Soul