Saturday, February 27, 2010

message to young people

Hi again. Even if you don't hear from me for a while you are never far from my thoughts.

I want to share with you a worry that I have. This is particularly for those of you who are adolescents, teenagers, and young adults (in other words, the younger half of my "young people who are thirty and under" definition ;-)

I am worried that you have been exposed to far too much of the problems that adults must really be tasked with resolving. I am worried that far too many of you have been burdened by adult problems and concerns since you were very young children, and that this trend continues to worsen each day.

Let me assure you that I am not being condescending at all; I am actually being very practical and protective, both at the same time!

Those who know me well know that I feel that a reversal in priorities has taken place. Those adult things that I DO feel you should be involved in, young people, I feel you have been denied participation in and in fact have been placed in enforced infantalization. However, those things that I DO NOT feel you should be burdened with, you have had it forced upon you, while adults should be handling those matters.

I've written before about adult areas that I think you should have more participation in, and I probably will share more about those again sometime, so let's put them aside now so we can focus on the areas I think you should not be burdened with, and more important, WHY I feel that way.

There are several reasons why I wish that you, young people, were not burdened with things that adults, older adults, should deal with on their own. Let me list some of those reasons for you so you can see where I am coming from.

1) Childhood is the only time that you have for genuine, joyous, innocent play, agenda free learning/exploring and other activities. You will never have those chances again once you are either an adult or exposed to adult world and pressures. You can buy toys when you are an adult and you can goof off, but you can never have what you should have had as a genuine child.

2) If you have not experienced childhood the way that you are supposed to, as I describe above, you cannot really be an advocate and protector of the right of your own children or other people's children to have that ideal pattern of childhood in return. For one, you don't miss what you never really had (you miss something, there is a void, but you are not sure what). Secondly you are sucked into the "what was normal for me is probably normal for everyone else" assumption. So you will not really be a defender of other children's right to hassle free and agenda free joy and innocence, without stress, if you have not had that yourself.

3) When the brain is formed, with both its intellect and its emotions, if you do not lay down tracks, so to speak, that are based on childhood joy, freedom from stress (as much as possible), and certainly free of adult concerns and problems, then you do not have access to the strength and serenity that comes from those brain pathways as an adult. As far as the brain is concerned (both intellectually and emotionally), a childhood that is rooted as much as possible in joyous and innocent pursuits and environments is a treasure that sustains you during adulthood, one that can be referenced if not relived. Having a joyous and innocent childhood free of adult pressures leaves a person with more serenity, fortitude, perspective and positive aspirations. A boot camp type of childhood oddly enough does the opposite of what many think because rather than increasing resilience, fortitude and ambition, it erodes at the fundamental spirit that is the basis for all of those desirable attributes.

4) A joyous and innocent childhood based on freedom from adult agenda actually stimulates the economy and lifestyle in the home, schools and community in additional directions than simply where adults focus their attention. The problem with children being younger and younger consumers of adult priorities and products is that the economy and the spiritual priorities become narrowed as emotional and financial investment is made more and more in adult priorities.

Let me give a simple example. This may not be an actually factual example since only God knows what "could have been." But let us speculate together so you can best understand it. Years ago the neighborhood playground was "the" place for children. It was fun, safe and a regular routine for visiting. One could safely assume that as the years go on and more and more children are born that more and more playgrounds would be built (maybe even one every few street blocks throughout the land!) and enjoyed. But we see that has not happened for several reasons. Put aside for the moment the obvious problems of many children not being born due to abortion and broken families/less marriages and so forth, and of crime and blight, including child predators making playgrounds unsafe and thus unused. Focus just on the economics and the community landscape. If more and more children are in the home exposed to and participating only in adult activities, limitations, worries and concerns, fewer and fewer children need and desire playgrounds and so fewer are provided as they are a low priority. That is simple supply and demand economics.

Do you see what I mean? There is both a mindset and a practical penalty for children being hemmed in by adult priorities. Children forget or are never exposed to the joy of a genuine, safe, regular playground (mindset) and as a result, that experience is given to fewer and fewer (the practical penalty). Instead of more and more playgrounds being built, USED, and kept safe, we have adult activities (video games, for example) pushed further and further down the age groups. There is less variety in both a child's experience and also in the resulting environment and economy as a whole.

5) Burnout. Quite simply if you are having to clad yourself in armor to fight adult problems, you will get burned out, depressed, bummed out and plain old tired, way, way, WAY too soon.

6) Anxiety. There are few things more frustrating than worrying about things that you genuinely cannot change as of yet, if ever. This is one of the things that irates and inflames me the most, especially when you look at bogus concerns thrust on children such as "climate change." What the hell are kids supposed to do about that (bogus as it is) but worry and be sad and anxious? Trust me, adults don't even know what to do, but they point children in one false direction after the other and cause them great anxiety, while they sit on their fat asses and do nothing about genuine environmental problems, such as sanitation and pollution, and also the wise provision of natural spaces for species to adapt to any climate change or whatever that might genuinely come along.

7) Ego trips and inflation. When adults feed you the constant line that "you are special" and that "you can make a difference" and you "can change the world," that is simply a lie and it gives you a fat head for no reason. Children cannot change the world, "for the better" or for otherwise. I am not being pessimistic or denying your impact. Children, your impact is to become human beings, to grow up as loved and normal children, to discover your own likes and dislikes, and then, as adults, to start to learn "the ways of the world." When children are hocked to collect dimes for a cause so they can "make a difference," you are letting adults off the hook for solving the problem. Look at Haiti. Their situation has sucked big wind for decades and all adults do is leave a big fat mess and then when something like the earthquake hits, they put guilt trips and inflation of ego on children and make them collect dimes to buy someone poor a shirt in Haiti, rather than getting their fat or bony asses around a desk to actually solve the problems of that country. And meanwhile you children grow up with a false idea of how much you personally can change the world, while not being made known of how you can contribute in the right way and the right time when you have more knowledge, resources and control.


Let me leave this with you to think about. It's tough to become aware of a problem without an easy solution, as I'm not really giving you "action items" in this blogging, something you can do, except for one thing to start. I suggest you work on craving adult things far less, and nurturing the classic activities, play, joy and serenity of childhood as much as you can. Reject being drafted into adult concerns as much as you can.

I realize that is difficult to do as many of you are stuck in very tough adult situations. I'm extending a hand of comfort to you (both hands actually) with this blogging (and ranting a bit too, I admit, heh). Do not have "grown up" and "adult" agenda thrust upon you without you at least thinking about it in your mind, and resist the guilt trip as much as you can. If your caregivers and teachers try to raise your anxiety levels about world problems (or crap going on in your own house), try to counterbalance it by 1) realizing it has always been a tough world and those problems will still be there when you are older, so what is the hurry for you as yet a child and 2) deliberately increase your time and attention investment in classic play or other joyous/exploring/learning activities appropriate to your age.

I hope you have found this helpful and be assured of my constant affection and concern for you.

"the greatest Christian who ever lived?!"

This is in one of the Rev. Billy Graham's daily question columns: "The Apostle Paul was the greatest Christian who ever lived."

Goodness, people who know me know that I love and admire Billy Graham, and I often agree with him. But now to 1) set the record straight and 2) show that I do not hesitate to critique even those I often agree with, here goes.

That is a flat out wrong statement and incredibly misleading. Its potential to be misleading is why I am going to make this a small case study in faith.

First of all, if you ask anyone why they admire Paul (say nothing of actually designating him the greatest Christian) they would start to list the many works of Paul.

Oh dear. Hmm. Yep, you got it. They fall into the trap of putting works before grace.

Paul himself would rip his hair out if he caught anyone calling him the greatest Christian based on his many works. After all, writing the Epistles is works, not grace. Evangelizing is works, not grace. Even miracles are works, not grace. Standing up to others in debate is works, not grace.

Paul received grace when he, as the Christian persecutor Saul, was thrown from his horse by the resurrected Jesus Christ. Everything after that was works. Yes, of course, these were works inspired by the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of Jesus Christ, but you can say that about the Twelve Apostles, the disciples, the martyrs and many, many, MANY unnamed and unknown early Christians.

So it is impossible to state who is the "greatest Christian," period. In fact, Jesus Christ rebuked the Apostles when they argued among themselves who was the greatest. Why would someone as wise as Rev. Graham then apply the label that Jesus did not permit his own Apostles to claim?

Rev Graham, like just about every other Christian (and many non-Christians) today is vulnerable to that slippery slope of admiring works, works, works, even as they preach grace, grace, grace. I have yet to have a conversation with any grace admiring Christian whose thoughts, deeds and preachings actually match their professed admiration of grace! It is nearly impossible to find anyone who is able to have a conversation about God, sanctity and the Holy Spirit without them focusing one hundred percent on works, works, works.

That is why Jesus Christ nipped all that sort of thought and talk right in the bud when the Twelve Apostles debated who was the greatest even among themselves, say nothing of being the greatest Christian of all time!!!

There is no such thing as "the greatest Christian of all time." If there was such a person, you would have to have an amount of GRACE measuring device, not an amount of WORKS measuring device. Who can measure how much grace exists in a person? Only God and the angels (the angels being able to observe grace in humans through God's eyes).

If someone were to search in the Bible (as they should, as the scriptures should be the first reference point, no?) to see if there is a "grace measuring device," what would they find? Read along with me:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And when the angel had come to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women."


And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God."

Luke 1:27-28, 30

Mary is the only person in the scripture to receive word from God directly that she is full of grace. No matter how much you might leaf through the Bible citing folks who were "blessed" and who received blessings (such as health, children, prosperity) from God, Mary is the only one who is documented to have been "full of grace" (grace being the unmerited by WORKS gift from God) in the Bible.

Thus if someone is going to have a "let's declare the greatest Christian who every lived" contest, where a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, the Bible states that Mary is the only one who is 1) full of grace and 2) was in such a state before her "works," which was to bear the infant Jesus.

You can see why Jesus nipped discussion of being "the greatest" right in the bud with Apostles. Will not all of you do the same, to avoid the misleading temptation of excessive honoring of so-called works? Paul would be the first to rip his hair out by the roots if he were alive to hear such discussions.

Now, just to complete this discussion, let's exercise our logic and faith using an analogy. Well, it is not so much an analogy but to help you to use Mary, therefore, as a kind of litmus test if one were determined to know "the greatest Christian" based on grace.

If you did not have an angel, Gabriel, sent by God to know that Mary was "full of grace," how would you go about finding someone in modern times (let's say the last thousand years) who has "a lot of grace?" How in the world could you identify and measure it? A person who is a theologian? Oh oh, that's works. A person who does a lot of 'good deeds?" Oh oh, that's works. Someone who plants many churches? Oh oh, that's works. Someone who is an inspiring preacher, puts out DVD's and has a great "following?" Oh oh, that's works. Someone who seems wise and filled with knowledge of God? Oh oh, that's works.

There have been many who would be considered in the "top thousands" list of "greatest Christians," but you will never know their names because they were unrecognized as such in their times. They are the grandmothers and grandfathers who raised children of true faith and who were of humble origins, and probably never conducted a particular good deed, so to speak, in their life. Think of the many unknown anonymous people who clung onto in secret their Christian faith when under dictators, for example, doing nothing other than making sure they prayed, kept their Bibles, and raised their children as genuine Christians. They wear the invisible crowns from God of being filled with grace, not works, and being not-rich, not-famous, not-schooled and not-historic figures, they went to the Lord known only to Him.

So that is the first thing to keep in mind, that the more one is clothed in works, the less one is able to actually see their invisible robes of grace. Paul is actually so laden with works (righteous works, don't get me wrong) that it is impossible for modern people to appreciate what grace he had indeed. People are dazzled by works so much that they do not see the quiet invisible soft folds of grace underneath. They assume that great grace abounds, but that actually is not true, if you check the scriptures. Scriptures teach how to recognize grace only via the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit, not through church plantings, arguing with others about the faith, documenting "how the early church worked," or even via miracles and other God given deeds (yep, remember deeds means works).

Thus the second thing to think about when one ponders who is a "great Christian" (forget about the "greatest" or whatever) is to observe the following in people as they GENUINELY ARE, and not via their visible works and "deeds."

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Fear of the Lord
etc. (look them up under my previous postings)

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit:

etc. (look them up under my previous postings)

You will see that these are genuine qualities of character, not deeds. You see, when grace from God (and God alone) infuses a person, that person exhibits these qualities, listed above, not increasing "deeds" or "works," regardless how worthy they are.

The most obvious example might be someone who is a generous person but with average or lukewarm faith in God. He receives grace from God and instead of "increasing his charitable works and good deeds," dedicates more and more of his day to his prayer life, if that is his calling from God. Using that logic you can understand how an average or lukewarm charity giver might receive grace from God and actually renounce the secular life and become a priest or a deacon. Grace is not the petrol for making a car go to more and more numerous and varied worthy destinations! Grace is living within gratitude and glorification of the one and only God who gave you "the car." That is the vast difference between deeds/works (however worthy) and grace.

No one can be a "great Christian" without having an inflow of grace that is beyond any merit or receipt due to works. The word "great" has to be reserved for those who really are "great" and not, like the vast majority, "acceptable" or "good enough." Do not kid yourselves, most Christians who achieve heaven do so because they received at least a "C" on their report card; very few have even B's or, much as you may think so, A's. Most Christians who make it to heaven are "good enough," and by no means "great," especially in these modern times where people are so goal and agenda driven, even in their faith, thinking they can "list" their ways into heaven. Even those who know better and who truly love the Lord must always guard against 1) the temptation of works and 2) the worse temptation that they can evaluate and assess someone else's acceptability to God, even someone who seems slam dunk obvious like St. Paul.

This is why I am making such a big thing of this one observation, because I have repeatedly seen that it is at the core and heart of many of the diversions among Christians of one hundred percent fidelity to God. Works, works, works and the "I'm OK, you're OK" mindset is the ruin of many good Christians and blinds them to potential receipt of grace.

I hope you have found this helpful.

Monday, February 22, 2010

understanding God: failure to pray in school

I'm not going to mince words. When prayer was taken out of the public schools (and the ability to discuss the Bible), God promptly withdrew many blessings from the United States, both as a community and all individuals. And yes, that includes from those who not guilty of the actual decision, including the students who are deprived of prayer/discussion in school. Why is this? Why is this "fair" for God to punish all? I'll use scripture in a second part to this, but first an analogy, because I know that this helps these modern generations the most in making the first steps toward understanding, repentance and correction.

A father dispenses a generous allowance to his children. So his kids line up in front of him once a week (after dad has received his paycheck) and he hands each child their weekly allowance. Two things happen. One is that each child thanks their father. The second is that the child tells their dad at least one thing good that they did with the last week's money. (For example a daughter may have spent money on clothes, and dad doesn't want to hear about that, but tells her dad about the dollar she gave to a charity for Haiti). So dad has only two conditions for the generous allowance: one is that each child thank him as he or her receives it, and two that they tell him the one charitable or wise thing that they did each week with even the smallest portion of the money.

One day the Supreme Court, in following all the previous courts, decides it is "mean" and "cruel" that the father expect 1) thanks from his children as he dispenses his money to them and 2) requires them to spend at least a dime or something for a wise and/or charitable action. The courts have all ruled that this is a cruel thing to do, as it is "forcing" children to "thank" the father for something they already were going to receive! Also, it is "unfair" that those "evil" charities and wise actions receive a percentage of the allowance. I mean, how unfair is that? Those kids would be giving a portion of money in good or wise actions only to the places they know about locally! How unfair is that to some charity that exists maybe halfway around the world and tattoos kangaroos? Why don't they get the money? So the courts rule that dad cannot receive thanks from the children, and they cannot donate a percentage of their money to a good cause because it is "unfair" that they are not having a list of every good cause in the entire world.

So the next paycheck day dad is sitting at his home desk and the kids line up. Glancing up at the local policeman with a gun in his holster staring at him, dad hands each child the allowance and the child, also looking at the policeman with the gun, silently takes the money and silently leaves.


That is what happened when school prayer and the ability to discuss the Bible at all was taken out of the schools. The courts ruled that children were not allowed to in a school premise (their place of "work" if you think about it) address and thank God, even briefly. Further, the ability to do good was taken from them because it was "unfair" to learn how to do good from the Bible, and it's so meeeeeeeeaaaaaaan that the neighbor's children might have to actually listen to a few words of what Christians do and believe. In other words, don't do ANY good with the allowance if one is selecting only from one's own list because goodness gracious, that's so "exclusionary" and "mean."

Now realize the man with the allowance is God. He now has a man with a gun telling his children that they cannot thank him and that they cannot use their own judgment to give a portion to a wise use or charity. What will the man do? What are his responsibilities?


Back to our analogy. The man stops giving allowances to his children at all, so the man with the gun and the courts that sent him will get the hell out of his house.

That is why this analogy is so apt. The moment school prayer and Bible mention was taken out of the schools, God stopped that particular allowance. Period. So the children suffer through loss of the allowance and the wise/charitable funds expenditure recipients also lose their financial blessing. This is the bottom line: without school prayer and Bible mention in schools, God withdrew from ALL that particular form of blessing he had been giving to the nation and to individuals.

This does not mean, of course, that there is no blessings anymore, but think about it: besides 1) one's personal relationship with God and 2) one's worship community's relationship with God, what is the third largest relationship with God? In the "public square" and workplace, which for many are the schools. God basically cut off one third of the blessings allowance to the United States when school prayer and mention of the Bible was prohibited.


Young people, I bet you are pissed off reading this, as you should be, if you understand and believe my analogy, which you should understand and believe because it is the cold truth. Yet, all children (say nothing of teachers, etc) have lost one third of the blessing allowance from God that had been previously dispensed, whether you as kids agreed with that decision or not. (Most of you don't remember the time when prayer and Bible mention was OK in school, say nothing of the olden days when it was a fundamental part of education and daily activities as your mind and character were grown in schools, your place of work).

What can someone do who has been cheated of this? Use the analogy for a minute.

1) The dad can stop giving the allowance, but put it in a bank for the kids to get when they are older. Yikes because how do they buy what they need when they need it now?

2) Dad can move out of the country that has that law. That's not practical or cool either but I mention it because I'm telling you, boys and girls, men and women, it would be better to quit the public schools and attend a private/parochial school where Bible and prayer are allowed. Young people.... what is being cool in a "free" and "hip" school mean when you are cheated out of your blessings from God? But that is a solution that is full of pain (leaving classmates, football teams, etc) and often not practical (can't afford to pay for a nearby parochial school, etc).

3) The children can silently keep taking the money and find a way to thank Dad when the cop has gone away. But it still means that cop is standing there every day in your home, censoring the family. They become persecuted refugees in their own home during allowance time.

4) The children can obtain knowledge, understanding and righteous indignation about this treatment of Dad, and all dads and moms in this situation, and start to use the laws of the land to combat and reverse what has been done. That is what you ought to do. And trust me, even you kids who are uncomfortable with Christian or other religion ought to fight for reversal of the prohibition of school prayer and Bible mention. Why? Because you were riding the draft, to use a sports and aeronautical term, of the benefit of the daily school prayer and Bible mention, even if you did not believe. Yes, all of you benefited, just as the charities benefited from the children's donations, even if they didn't know Dad or support his occupation whereby he got that paycheck!

Young people, and older people.... how can you have genuine freedom and spiritual blessing when a minority of people, with force, removed the source of one third of your routine blessings from God? Sure, you "still have" God in your silent heart and in the "allowable" places such as churches, but huh? Why is THAT OK? It's not. That's like saying that you will thank God for your allowance "someday" when it is "safe" and the "coast is clear." But if Dad keeps giving you the allowance with the armed cop in the room censoring you, is he teaching you the right thing by continuing to do so under coercion? No. And that is why God will not do so either.

God doesn't "continue" to bless schools and all who attend when an armed cop has muzzled everyone because quite simply it is teaching everyone that behavior, faith, goodness and freedom don't actually matter, as you will "get the goodies anyway" and that just is patently false in not only being faithful to God but in life. It took little time for people to accept the banishing of God from the public schools, sadly, shockingly little time.

Young people, your parents did not silently protest what was done by giving you "extra prayer time" once you got home from the prayerless school, did they? And you didn't come home and say "Hey mom and dad, we can't pray in school anymore, or mention the Bible, so let's have that five minutes we were deprived of in school each evening here at home, or in the morning." Very, very VERY few of you even went guerrilla and underground to protest and compensate for what was taken from you. You "adjusted" and very quickly even started to agree it was "fair" not to pray in school.

Want a good cause? I sure suggest this one.

PS What would I have done? I'd have had the daily prayer in protest each day right outside the school's grounds, just one inch over the property line I'd have parents and children gather before school for the daily prayer that the school denied. And I'd have done that nationwide and year after year until this egregious ban was withdrawn.

understanding God: Eyes of the Lord

Are in every place:

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3

Upon the righteous:

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

Psalms 34:15

Run to and fro:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the entire earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

2 Chronicles 16:9

Open toward his house:

That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.

1 Kings 8:29

A flame of fire:

His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Revelation 19:12

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Understanding "ask & ye shall receive"

Jesus twice explained the ability of those who in prayer ask God for something and they will receive it. Of course these statements have been discussed many times. In fact, as time goes on, modern people have less and less understanding of what Jesus promises and delivers rather than having more and more faith or scholarly based understanding. Further, when someone "prays for something" and "does not get it," they use these powerful statements of truth and faith in the One God to question God's reliability, constancy, power, mercy and even his existence... and even go so far as to cast doubt on Jesus. This is unacceptable. If generations of unlettered and unschooled people who lived in great poverty understood what Jesus said (and the Apostles explained, in general, in the writings of the New Testament), there is no excuse for not understanding in these modern times. Further, there is no reason for the clergy to be on the defensive and abashed when challenged by someone who "prayed for something" and "did not receive it."

So instead of wading through the scripture and explaining it (following the routes of many who do indeed "get" it) definitively, I have (yes!) an analogy, made for just the modern person, especially the young people (hi there, have not forgotten you at all). So I've going to reverse order this time by giving you the analogy first, and then the scriptures.

A man lives in a small town, in a remote area, so there are no other towns or cities nearby at all. There is only one bank in town and knowing that there are no other sources of loans, the bank has a sign on the front of the building saying "No request for a loan will be turned down."

This man needs a new plow for his field, so he goes to the bank and asks for a loan. With a smiling face and much genuine graciousness the bank officer gives to him the loan, right on the spot. Instead of looking happy, though, the man looks puzzled and alarmed as he stares at the money in his hand. The officer asks him, "What is the matter?" The man replies, "You gave me the money in our local currency!"

The officer is astonished because she replies, "What else would we have to give to you?" The man then petulantly says, "I did not plan to buy this plow locally! I planned to use a mail order to a foreign land and thus I need their currency!"

Thus the man received his loan as promised, in good faith, by the bank, but he refused to use it.


Well, what have we here? We have a bank, in this analogy, that in fullness of generosity far beyond "business sense" or "economics" gives in immediate cash loans to anyone of the residents of this small town and remote region who make his or her way to their door and asks. So the bank is not only blameless but generous beyond understanding. Everyone in the area not only understands what a gift this bank's attitude, policy and gift is, but glorifies it (I bet that bank receives some nice gifts of fruit baskets left at their door!)

Yet we have a man who is so wrapped up in his own desires that he can live there and understand how generous the bank is and then still be astonished when they cannot accommodate him in a secular theoretical matter far from their given generosity. He thinks this small poor bank is like a magic box that can read his mind and have "voila!" the foreign currency waiting for him so he can not patronize the local merchants (his own family, neighbors and community) so he can mail away and "give the business" to some unknown land.

This is how you must understand asking God for anything. You are entering "God's bank" and "God's kingdom" when you enter his bank of prayer. This is why Jesus each time says one must ask "in prayer." Prayer is not a magic formula, a ritual that one must say aloud or think in organized thoughts to God because "that's how it works" and "that's how God knows what you are asking for." Prayer means you have accepted being a resident of the kingdom of God. As a resident of the kingdom of God you are only asking for what God in his perfect generosity knows is good for you and most important of all, good for humanity's participation in God's kingdom. Needless to say, it is an obvious egregious mistake to ask God for anything that is counter to being in communion with God as a believer. But this is also why you cannot ask in "good faith" many things of God and expect to receive in the way you expect. You see, even if you "believe" and ask in "good faith," if your asking is a form of "testing God," as the analogy man did, you demonstrate that your desire may be to be of the kingdom of God, but you are not in your mind and heart really there.

Understand the correct mindset by reading this:

And on being asked by the Pharisees, "When is the kingdom of God coming?" he answered and said to them, "The kingdom of God comes unawares. Neither will they say, 'Behold, here it is," or 'Behold, there it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you."

(Luke 17:20-21).

Now, notice that Jesus is not speaking of either 1) the end of times (for the Pharisees were asking when God will rule the world in justice, not when the world will end in final judgment) nor 2) of God himself literally living like some pagan spirit within a person (for many unbelievers think that they command "powers" because they have "a part of God within them." What Jesus is making clear is that everyone shares in making on earth the reality of the kingdom of God "within" them and, further, the kingdom of God creeps unseen within someone's heart because it is not achieved by works but by grace and faith.

So now that you understand that in my analogy the bank and the small remote region are like the kingdom of God as Jesus explains it in Luke 17:20-21, now I will close this message with the two scriptures that are those where Jesus promises the answer to prayer.

And I say to you, ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened. But if one of you asks his father for a loaf, will he hand him a stone? or for a fish hand him a serpent? or if he asks for an egg, will he hand him a scorpion? Therefore, if you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Good Spirit to those who ask him!"

(Luke 11:9).

But Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what I have done to the fig tree, but even if you shall say to this mountain, 'Arise, and hurl thyself into the sea,' it shall be done. And all things whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you shall receive."

(Matthew 21:21-22).

Jesus also refers to the Second Coming and his return, when all who are worthy and thus in God's book of life will be fully in the Kingdom of God and thus can ask for anything but will not need to as they will already have all of God's goodness.

And you therefore have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one shall take from you. And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Amen, amen I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you. Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.

(John 16:22-24).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fruits of the Holy Spirit(4): Continence (3)

Continuing, now, our study of the fruit of the Holy Spirit called Continence. Remember that the Bible is a record of living people and living events, as they interact with each other and the living God, not a book of magic formula. As such the books of the Bible having been written in various languages, rely on common sense in the "how to apply" department of the study of God's word. So we can turn to the Bible and better understand the fruit of Continence if we remember two things. One is that the realization that the Holy Spirit yields a fruit called Continence is the result of many centuries of study of God's word, not because on page xyz of the Bible is there a "recipe" and "instructions" about how to receive or develop "Continence." In fact, the relatively modern word "continence" might not even occur in the scriptures, but that does not mean it is "put in there" or "made up" or "ex-scripture" or, heaven forbid, that dreaded Roman Catholic habit of "tradition" ;-) Rather, generations of Christians, just as the Jews before them, having studied God's word are able to glean from its richness many guidances and conclusions, all based on God's truth.

Here's a quick analogy to tell you what I mean better. Suppose you have just read an instruction booklet about a new set of children's toy building blocks you have purchased. You have read about the materials they are made from, what the designs or lettering mean, and how they can be assembled, either placed alongside or on top of each other, or even latched together. There may even be a sample of a building that you can make using the building blocks, such as a house. The Bible is like that, whereby you understand the "what" and the "how" of God's truth. In Bible figures and events you even see an example of what is built, what is wrought, within the context of God's truth. So you are, to use the analogy, reading in the Bible the building blocks God has provided, and a sample of how these blocks were used, such as a house.

Once one really understands the building blocks and example, you realize other buildings you can build. You or your child might now build a toy school using those building blocks, even though the instruction book does not mention anywhere in the text "how to build a toy school." You can build a lighthouse, or a store, or a toy fortress, or a castle, even though the instruction book does not use the words "school, lighthouse, store, fortress" or "castle." You are not going "outside the Bible" if using God's word and your own well discerning brain if you realize that you apply the word of God (the instructions) and what the Prophets, such as Moses, did (the toy house example) to now recognize that other good things can be constructed (the school, the lighthouse, etc) using those principles and example. Thus it would be silly to expect that the instruction book included word by word every example of every possible thing you can do and construct with the toy blocks! Likewise people should not expect to flip open the Bible and "believe" in "fruits" of the Holy Spirit and one of them being "Continence" only if those exact words are used, for obviously they are not. God's word is revealed over thousands of years of scripture and then pieced together, prayerfully and honestly studied, and then gleaned.

Therefore to understand Continence in the scripture you have to look for examples of Continence, as it appears under all its similar verbiage and meanings. Continence is thus examples of self restraint, moderation, self denial and, here we have it..... not coveting. Ah ha, you see, there is a certainly familiar bona fide scriptural word, coveting. Continence means the ability to restrain, be moderate, and put boundaries around what one may desire to do or to have. So the fruit of the Holy Spirit of Continence has, of course, the most firm foundation when one studies what God instructs, and what is shown as examples, of coveting. Naturally we have seen the first terrible example of lack of Continence (Adam and Eve) and the perfected example of the purest Continence, Jesus Christ during the temptation, and so we can realize the actual meaning of two of the Ten Commandments in what is basically their prohibition of a lack of Continence.

Exodus 20:17
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

God is giving you the building blocks (telling you not to covet) and then providing instruction manual "examples" that are pertinent to the times, but apply to ALL things that are capable of being coveted. People did not have cars or tractors or trucks, in those times, obviously, so God explains that not only should the house or spouse or servants not be coveted, but also the means of travel, plowing the field, food and livelihood of the household, such as oxen and asses. Just because God does not "list sheep," for example, does not mean it is "OK" to covet them, to say nothing of not being "OK" to covet something that had not yet been invented, such as trucks, tractors and cars! That is why God says "nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." We no longer, hopefully, have slaves those in servitude in modern times, but we have employees, students and followers, and obviously we should not covet them in modern times any more than in those times the examples of man or maid-servant are given by God.

This is also the reason that having what we call "spiritual envy" is also a sin that breaks one of the Ten Commandments. When someone envies how spiritually blessed (either in reality or because the person is perceived as being blessed but is not) someone else is, one is coveting, because when God says "nor any thing" he means "nor ANY thing." Any jealousy and any envy is prohibited by these Commandments, whether it is a person, a possession or a personal quality.

In theory, God could have made this a "Do" instead of a "Don't" Commandment. He could have said, in theory, "Thou shalt have Continence at all times." But in God's constant perfection He understands how things must be expressed to people, to all humans, who are constantly thick-headed and stubborn in their sin. God has to first simply and plainly define what people are NOT to do, when it comes to sin. The person who strives to perfect their "not" doing that sin, in this case coveting, becomes a person with a "do" with a gift of grace, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit of Continence. Adam and Eve envied (and thus coveted) God's knowledge and they ate the apple. Jesus Christ did not, of course, covet, envy, seek, want or need any of the earthly powers that Satan demonstrated to him during the temptation, and thus Jesus is the model of perfect Continence. When one does not covet one has the fruit of Continence.

The Commandments would be reiterated by God, and thus spoken to the people by Moses, and so this Commandment is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:21.

Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his man-servant, or his maid-servant, his ox or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Notice the different order from Exodus 20:17 and also the inclusion of "his field." Again, this is the living and breathing word of God, not rigid magic formula. It does not mean that the Bible is "inconsistent" or that it was "OK" to covet someone's field during Exodus but it became a "new don't" during Deuteronomy! God says do not covet ANY THING, and in the course of his very real dialogue and conversation with his followers that takes place over time and in their own language, God says with perfection the words that the people need to best comprehend and serve him in God's perfectly consistent message.

So now that you have seen the Biblical basis for the "Don't" in the Commandments (the instructions) now let us look at how God hates covetness (the examples provided with the instructions)!

Psalm 10:3
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.

So David, who composed this Psalm, observes that wicked people boast about their wants and cravings and that they, going further, bless people who share their desires and actions of coveting. David then states that God abhors (hates) those who are covetous.

Genesis 14:22-23
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.

Abraham is held up, thus, as an early example of one who would not accept nor desire even the smallest item as gift from anyone, and thus is free of covetousness. Therefore Abraham is one of the highest examples in the Bible of one who has Continence.

Jeremiah 8:8-11
How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is vain.
The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?
Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

The prophet Jeremiah is conveying the word of God condemning that entire generation for their falling away from Him in faithlessness and rejecting His word. God through Jeremiah observes that at the root of their faithlessness is coveting, which is demonstrated by everyone from the least in rank to the greatest, including even priests and prophets. Notice especially that God teaches that there is no genuine peace when the waters are constantly roiled in society by covetousness. That is what he means by the hurt of the daughter of God's people (an expression indicating a parental affection felt by God) is barely healed at all because the hypocrites all around her say "peace, peace" yet there is no peace when everyone is coveting everything that belongs to everyone else. If it was bad then imagine what God thinks of these times when it comes to coveting, and the lack of peace for the daughter of His people.

Mark 7:20-23
And he [Jesus] said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man, For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts...[he lists many of them]...covetousness...All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

The entire passage of Luke 12:13-28 consists of Jesus speaking a warning against covetousness.

Luke 12:15
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.

Ephesians 5:5
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

1 Timothy 6:6-11
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and rainment, let us be there-with content.
But they that will be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Acts 5:1-6
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And kept back part of the price (his wife also being privy to it,) and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
But Peter said, Ananias, Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up ghost. And great fear came on all them that heart these things.
And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

The couple Ananias and Sapphira pretended to donate to the Apostles all the proceeds from the sale of a piece of their land, but because they coveted money they held back a portion of the money from Peter, thinking he would not know. When Peter pointed out that not only did he know but more important, God knew, since Ananias and Sapphira were cheating and lying to the Holy Spirit, Ananias dropped dead. Young men witnessed this death, wrapped him in funeral cloth and buried him. In the next verses the same thing happens as his wife, not knowing what had happened, tried the same deception and she too died: And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband (Acts 5:10).

This is a specific example of how proclaimed baptized Christians who covet money (or anything else) risk being struck dead by God. This was witnessed by many people so that God could demonstrate the danger and evil of coveting, but also that God does indeed Know All, and is the All Knowing. God sees ALL the covetousness in ALL the people's hearts.

So the Bible is, of course, filled with cautions against coveting, including this specific real life example of consequences in Acts. It is part of the reality that in life people have repeatedly needed to be warned against covetousness (and thus to cultivate its opposite which is Continence).

In the next blog post we will look at Bible examples of the positive traits of Continence, such as self restraint.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Understanding the Bible: definition of "judge"

A quick point, related to what I've been blogging about (understanding context of the times).

Whenever you read the word "judge" in the Bible, remember there are two totally different meanings, do not assume the first meaning, while is a legal judging, such as a magistrate might do. Yes, it is sometimes used in that context, but just as often it is used to mean:

a hero or military leader who is called by God.

That is why the Book of Judges is called, um, the Book of Judges, as it's about military leaders and heroes who led Israel when Israel did not yet have kings. These were not legal folks who rendered magistrate justice.

So while St Paul is indeed writing about legal matters and the need for justice and righteousness in 1 Cor 6, you have to remember that he, a zealous Jew (so zealous he turned Christians over for death before his conversion) would always have the two definitions of "judge" in this mind, somewhat intertwined. When he mentions "judging angels" he is speaking of the other definition, embedded within his discussion of more legal matters and definition.

He's not wrong to do this, but it is, as all epistles are, a bit of unsupported statement since producing long written documents was tough enough and Paul like others assumed the recipient of their letters understood many of the extenuating meanings and nuances that others would not outside of a previously Jewish context. In other words he was not writing in a way to explain to people who would later (like moderns) think "judge" always and only means magisterial.

Remember that Israel was an entity completely under and of God, not an organized government nor a kingship in its early days. Instead God chose people to lead, starting with Moses. When Josue (Joshua) died the people asked God who they should select as their next military leader. This is because the Israelites were still, through military force, claiming their promised land, so their leader's first and foremost job was to be a military leader, one that God approved and supported. It had nothing to do with being a judge of legal matters, so there were twelve, for lack of a better word, heroes of Israel whose job was to lead the Israelites in times of danger and/or in military matters. They were given the title of "judges," using, obviously, the second definition.

Thus it is very easy for Paul in both his thinking and his writing to slip from one definition of judge into the other. He is building an argument, in 1 Cor 6, that people need to be just in all matters and not be hypocrites, and he uses public litigation as the example that he gives, where he questions and chastises how people can be just if they are so unjust and be litigation crazy (yes they were already suing each other right and left to get money and settle scores in those times). In 1 Cor 6:7 he implies that people should not sue each other and just suffer even obvious wrongs in silence and without counter suit and legal remedies (turn the other cheek, as Jesus taught). He then, having raised the problem of legal fights and injustice, and the related problem of being unworthy to judge even small matters of life, say nothing of the large ones, in 1 Cor 6:1-8 onward, then shifts in 1 Cor 6:9 onward to discussing the unjust, unsanctified and unjustified sinners and their impending judgment from God in general.

So you see what I mean? He is writing about a problem he sees 1) being too litigious and also being unforgiving and unjust, 2) points out the flaws in that mindset, 3) introduces a higher more Christian mindset and 4) concludes with warnings what to avoid and 5) the sacredness of the body in service to Christ. Paul is starting with a specific problem in order to raise the level of thinking, action and sanctity of those he is writing to and 1 Cor 6 progresses accordingly.

So, how to understand 1 Cor 6:3 "Do you not know that we shall judge angels?" Even though that is smack dab in the middle of him speaking of earthly legal matters, he does not mean that humans will judge (as in adjudicate or assess) the actions of angels or the angels themselves. He is hearkening back to the second definition of judges, the heroism and God given leadership, that humans who are truly within Jesus Christ will receive from God. In an effort to get people's heads out of the petty earthly legalities Paul drags angels into his writing in order to uplift people to their correct perspective which is to be genuine leaders authorized by God through Christ, and it is then that yes, people have the right to "judge" as in to "lead into spiritual battle" angels.

That is not so far fetched. Do you not all each have a guardian angel that God gave you to accompany you always while you live? Most times do you even remember that your guardian angels exists? Do you lead your guardian angel in times of danger such as witnessing for Christ? Or do you forget you have a guardian angel?

Your actions on earth in your individual sanctified service to Christ is your training wheels, your practice, in leading ("judging") an angel.

When you are a saint (as in dead and gone to heaven), then you will, God willing, have a role in leading (as in "judging") angels on their home turf, heaven, regarding earthly matters.

It's not too tough to understand that those who did not partner with their guardian angel, with humility, while alive on earth aren't exactly leading the charge of the angel brigade in heaven when it is that time.

1 Cor 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

So you see, Paul is basically scolding most severely the people who look forward to being saints and angel partners as being incapable of even keeping themselves out of greedy and vengeful legal lawsuits, and he is warning that they are not even on the first rung of "judging angels."

o Current situation, constant litigation about earthly matters such as money, power and revenge.
o The current situation must be improved by bringing the matters before the saints, which means in other words having a Christian response (such as turning the other cheek). Paul means the saints are (second definition) providing the example, the leadership of behavior. He means that just as the saints did not seek money, power and revenge through the courts, likewise people must turn to the saints for their example to shun that response likewise.
o In the future the saints (most of whom were martyrs) will judge the world because they, in heaven, will bring their petitions of injustice received before God.

Revelation 8:4-5
And with the prayers of the saints there went up before God from the angel's hand the smoke of the incense. And the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it down upon the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

See, Paul wrote Corinthians well before John saw the revelation of the Apocalypse and in fact Paul was martyred decades before John died a natural death (the only one of the Apostles not to be martyred). Paul was dead for decades before John witnessed to Revelation, to the Apocalypse. Yet Paul correctly understood within the spirit of Jesus Christ that the sufferings of the martyrs and saints will accumulate before God's throne, and will in turn be justification for the End of Times. This is why the angel throws the censer with fire from the altar and the prayers of the saints onto earth to smite it.

And so now you can see that through the Holy Spirit the genuine Apostles and disciples of Christ are all reading from the same page, to use an old saying. Paul knew in his heart what John would later see in person, which is the role of the saints in judging (both meanings) the people of the earth. All who learned first hand from Christ understand the inevitability if not the timing of God's judgment of those alive on earth with the saints as witness and examples.

Now, the angels have never been and never will be part of earthly life, since angels abide within God in heaven and are not of time, matter or energy. Thus they of course are not "judged" by humans in a legal or a behavior sense. They are, however, available to be led by genuinely God appointed humans, but only after death. How do we know this? Because Jesus Christ himself never called upon an angel (though one was sent to him in the Garden of Gethsemane and others after the temptation). Jesus pointed out he could have called angels to protect him and destroy the city at any time, but he did not because that was not his purpose. Likewise the Apostles understood that the only angels on earth are the guardian angels, and that the combat will occur only at the End of Times.

So in a few sentences Paul is cramming together the mundane but very dire state of the litigious supposed Christians who are suing each other and pagans for money, power and revenge, the need for a higher thinking, and then, of course, the highest calling which will mostly occur in heaven, when the righteous and justified people are indeed among the angels.

This is a complicated but essential part of my point that one cannot understand the Bible if one does not understand the mental, spiritual and linguistic context of the various authors, all of whom write under the guidance of the Holy Spirit but in the language and meaning of that contemporary time.

I hope that this was helpful!

Understanding faith & human history

There is a lot of talk about two historical issues:

1. How can the Bible be "accurate" (and the Qur'an) when so many incredible events are documented?

2. Do we as adults, and our children as students, really understand human history (whether of our country or of the world), and related to this question, how can anyone understand genuine history when whoever is in power cooks the books?

Here is the most essential thing to remember and help you to understand how to learn about and correctly perceive history.

When it comes to human history, even the best of history courses, books and curriculum barely convey one percent of the truth of that time. That's correct, you are reading right, even the best of history books, classes, teachers, and even original source material (letters or archaeology of the time for example) do NOT convey 99 percent of the truth, but only 1 percent. Wow, you paranoids are probably saying, who is "hiding the truth," aliens? Ha ha, no, nothing so dire. It is simple human nature that no one can understand the previous generation of humans, say nothing of humans many generations ago. That is because it is increasingly impossible for humans to understand themselves when you live under totally different circumstances.

Here is an easy example, one you can see as a living case study today. When Americans read about the Founding Fathers, for example, you cannot at all comprehend what life was during that time because, just for one example, they had no electricity. The entire world lacked electricity. But it was not "a lack," because they had what they needed to cope, which was fuel and fire. So much of their life day by day, you know, the way people actually lived day to day between glamorous "historical" events was that a lot of people had to keep busy gathering and storing fuel (usually wood) and the means to utilize it (for cooking and heating) when needed. It is impossible to imagine just that one fact of life today.

It is impossible to imagine because even in poor countries that lack electricity for the public (like Haiti, and that is one reason the landscape is so denuded is that every tree that could be burnt for fuel was long ago cut down), people still know electricity exists and also have access to it via places that have it, like refrigeration in stores. You see, when I point out there was NO electricity I mean it, there was no electricity anywhere in human history up until the past one hundred years. You cannot compare even a poor country where most people have no electricity to those times because 1) electricity does exist in the structure around them (main street lights, the grocery stores, other public places such as schools) and 2) in a way, people were "wealthier" in fuel and heat/lighting in times when they had a cycle by which they harvested and stored wood than people today who lack both that cycle AND electricity. So you cannot look at an electricity deprived place like Haiti and say "hmm, it must have been like that during the American Revolution" and during "colonial times." No, it was not like that at all because no electricity was "the normal" and not "the lack."

So you cannot read the historical facts about Thomas Jefferson, for example, no matter how numerous the facts and how accurate they are, and yet have any genuine comprehension of those times because modern humans cannot imagine the human context as it really was. Modern humans look back with two simultaneous errors: glamorizing certain aspects of human life, and demonizing/diminishing the good qualities of that life. Thus one might think that if someone in Haiti suffers due to lack of electricity in their home, that "it must have been like that in colonial times." No, my friends, it was not like that. No household, no matter how poor, suffered in that respect if they had able bodied men and women who gathered, chopped and stored the wood. They lived the life of the times, which was the back breaking work but the satisfaction of having one's sufficient supply of fuel, gathered by one's own family's hands.

I can now list for you all sorts of fuel issues (such as not understanding the horror of whaling without understanding how whale oil relieved so many poor people of back breaking work) that are just a small part of the backdrop of many eras of human history, but I've made my point and don't want to distract. Just the single issue of not understanding (and in fact, when it is mentioned, demonizing or making it look more primitive than it was) how life was totally different when people ALL had to self gather fuel demonstrates to you that understanding Thomas Jefferson, for example, is more than figuring he was rich enough (or had slaves) to light candles when he sat at his desk to write. Everyone was in the same boat: everyone had responsibility to collect fuel for their household, or they suffered and died, and all of humanity has always been organized around the need for fuel (since that is a cornerstone of food and shelter, of course). That was the normal and one cannot jump to the conclusion that those were "worse" times than today, because they "lacked electricity." More to the point, to really "get" history one must understand the normal of the time one is studying in those boring everyday contexts because that shaped everything.

A bigger example is that one cannot understand (just like the mistake of over-whaling) the world busting error of Communism without understanding how the people were actually living at the time. You cannot understand how people in Russia could have made the incredibly stupid error of Communism without understanding how people lived (and suffered) day to day, including the excesses of the Tsars. I'm not going to go into all this but just remind you that people are perfectly able to go from one horribly unjust situation to another opposite and even more unjust situation (remember, Communists threw out God, who is the only Truth that anyone ever really has).

So whenever you read anything from history, whether from one hundred years ago or thousands of years ago, one cannot really understand it at all, despite the accurate "facts," (and those are lacking enough in modern education) without understanding the normal life people led in those times. Without understanding normality of day to day existence, no history is genuinely comprehended, whether of a person, an action, or those times in general. Most of history "is what it is" of millions of people leading normal lives of necessity in those times. The "dramatic" events are always punctuation marks, not the full sentences of those times.

Now, more urgently, to get to understanding how the Bible (and the Qur'an) can be so "accurate" when such marvelous events are recorded there. There are two reasons you can be assured they are accurate, but let us focus on the Bible since that what I will cite from. The first reason is that God knows humans far better than they understand themselves (obviously, since God not only made humans all all life and all the universe, but he knows the answers to all "what if" scenarios as he is the All Knowing) and thus God knows that humans need written Truth as they can barely interpret reality of events they are living at that very time, say nothing of the past. That is why God carved for Moses the Ten Commandments. It's not like people could not memorize ten things, duh. God as All Knowing knew that people can barely record and comprehend their own history from generation to generation. So God gave the first great history lesson in his many talks with Moses, and that became the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Moses learned about early faith history and the events of God's hand (such as creation) from God, and then had what he learned inscribed. God is therefore, through Moses, both providing the truth of what happened prior to the Exodus and also demonstrating to all people how to record (witness to) human and faith history with accuracy and truth.

The second reason one can rely on the Bible is that things that seem "wrong" or "unlikely" are no longer unlikely if one actually understands the context of the event. I'll give you an obvious example right here.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision....Then the Lord led him outside and said, "Look at the heavens and, if you can, count the stars." And he said to him, "So shall your posterity be" (Genesis 15:1, 5).

Now, here is an example where a modern person who is an unbeliever (or weak in faith) can say, "Ha. God promised Abraham that he will have as many descendants as there are stars in the heavens, and that's obviously bogus because there are trillions of stars and there's never been more than a few million Jews. So obviously those Jews wrote this to look important."

Um, slight problem. That's first of all not what God said. The main point is that God promised that Abraham's descendants would be uncountable, and God meant those who believe in God due to their spiritual (Jewish and Christian) lineage to God from Abraham forward.

But here's the history lesson context point I am going to make. "Back then," before the telescope was invented, people did not realize that there are trillions of stars. They thought there was the number of stars that they could see with their own eyes and count, in theory. They did not realize that the Milky Way (the part of our galaxy that we can see like a fuzzy band across the dark sky) is fuzzy because its trillions of stars. People thought stars were just as they were, exceedingly numerous, but all visible in the sky, and thus in theory countable, but too many to have the human time to count and many so faint that they are not clear in vision. So the number of stars meant to people before the telescope was invented, "thousands and thousands and thousands..."

To understand the conversation between Abraham and God, you would have to do this. Walk outside on a clear, dark night where your visibility of the stars is maximized. Imagine God saying that you will have as many descendants as the stars that are right in front of you, in your vision, that you could, in theory, count. You have to forget all the stars that actually exist (outside your vision) and you have to forget that there are many stars that you cannot see, as they are too dim, too distant, and are part of the fuzzy nebulae and galactic clouds. You would nonetheless be wowed and impressed, and have the accuracy of God's message, knowing your descendants will be as numerous as the stars you can see in the sky at that moment and if you had the time that you could count based on your own eyes. THAT was God's point.

You see, God is very precise when speaking to humans. He stoops down to talk, but not at all in a condescending way, in the lingo and frame of reference of people at the time. He speaks their language, but always uplifting, always so they, the humans, better know God. God is not making a promise he cannot keep, which if you misunderstand by using modern knowledge to ruin the analogy God is using, you falsely assume. God did not say "Someday astronomers and computer scientists will be able to look with enhanced vision and know that there are trillions and trillions of uncountable stars and that's how many Jews will descend from you." I mean, duh, could that be any clearer? God took Abraham outside and had him look at the stars that he could see in his sight and understand that his descendants, his FAITH descendants, will be that numerous (as the stars he can actually see with his eyes above the horizon) and uncountable (as the faith and knowledge of God goes on and on and on....)

I hope this has helped!