The Other Side

Walking along on a city street I happened upon a childhood friend, Tom. We grew up next door to each other; attended the same schools, elementary through high school. Our parents went to a lot of social functions together. We even vacationed together. There was little we didn’t know about each other, personal or otherwise, …… or so we thought.
We were of the same mind that most of the city was. We know that what we accepted and did not accept was the general consensus of most of the city. Our values and moral convictions were written in our Constitution. We learned and understood them from a very early age. With the exception of one: “Do Not Venture Beyond The City Limits”. This one amendment always puzzled me. No one ever talked about it, at least not openly. So I found it very disturbing discussing it even with my most trusted friend. We decided to go somewhere that we could not be overheard. We found ourselves in an empty baseball park. We walked to the middle of the field, looking around to make sure we were alone, we sat and began talking freely. “Have you ever gone past the city limits”? I asked Tom. I could tell he was still very uneasy about this subject. He was looking around nervously. Finally, he spoke, “the law clearly forbids it; but I’ve heard talk of some that have, and never returned”, said Tom. I heard this talk too, but was afraid to ask about it. In fact, my curiosity drove me to the very edge of the city. I was there, I could have crossed over; but I didn’t. Fear of the unknown is very real, and very powerful. I got the impression that my friend had been to the city limit as well. He as much as said so. I felt that this was the perfect time to ask him what was really on my heart. After getting all my courage together I turned and looked at my friend, ” let’s go on the other side”, I said abruptly. He turned away, pretending he didn’t hear me. Going on and on about the consequences of going beyond the city limits, he stopped and turned to me and made a very startling confession; ” I’ve already been beyond the city limits”, said Tom. I couldn’t believe my ears. This was unheard of, no one had ever gone beyond the city limits and come back to talk about it. He saw that I was at a loss for words, so he continued. ” I went over about a year ago. It took me awhile to adjust to the way of living over there, but once I did I liked it. I met a lady named Wisdom. We became friends, and she took me down to the City Building where they keep all the birth records of everyone born there. I found my name, your name and many others “, said Tom. I guess my expression prompted him to pause. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could this be? Weren’t we all born here? There must be some mistake. I stood up; looking down at him I said in a very anxious voice, ” take me there, now.” I had to see this for myself. ” I will, but first we have to talk to our parents about this,” said Tom. The thought of telling my parents about this made me tremble. They are set in their ways, and more important than that, they are comfortable. Plus, I’m not convinced myself, yet. As though reading my mind, Tom pulled out a map. Part of the map was sectioned off in blue and another in yellow. “This is where we are”, said Tom, pointing to the blue section. The name was in bold black letters, ‘CHIMERA’. The yellow section was beyond the city limit where Tom had gone, it was called, ‘VERISIMILITUDE’. I had never known the name of the other city, until now. Looking at me rather sedately, Tom asked, ” do you know what these names mean “? I thought for a moment before admitting my ignorance. Looking around again to be sure one last time that we were alone, Tom leaned to my ear and said, ” CHIMERA ” means Illusion or Deception, and “VERISIMILITUDE” means Reality or Credibility”. I couldn’t make the connection, so he helped me understand. ” We weren’t born here. We were brought here at an early age and was indoctrinated into this lifestyle and value system. None of it is real. That’s why they don’t want us to go beyond the city limits, because if we do we’ll know the truth, and no one would want to come back here”, said Tom. This was all an incredible story, but for some reason it rang true in my ears. “Not many people are accepting the truth, because those who came before us bearing this message was not only branded as fanatics, but was persecuted and murdered. Those who oppose it will do anything to stop it”, said Tom.
“I heard of these people, and this message: There was Jesus the Christ, The Apostle Paul, Peter and John, there was Augustine, Spurgeon and, Martin Luther”, I said. Tom nodded approvingly. “Then, these that they call myths are actually real”? I asked. “Yes, they are real”, said Tom. I was stunned and relieved at the same time. Tom was a bearer of the message, and he was asking for my help. “It’s going to be hard, and many times you will feel alone; but there are many lives at stake, and I believe, as I hope you will too, that it’s worth it,” said Tom. We walked to the city limit, looked around, and walked over to ‘The Other Side’ together.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Originally, Jesus birth was celebrated in the East during the ‘Feast Of Epiphany’ (January 6); but by 354 A.D, the Christmas feast had taken hold in the West and was observed on December 25.
Some Eastern Churches still, today, celebrate Christmas on January 6.
December 25th was a date selected by the Western Church (Rome). By the way, just to keep this into perspective, the Western Church, later to be known as the Catholic Church, used the political model of the Roman empire to set up and run the Church.
December 25th was originally a Mithric pagan holiday celebrating the birthday of the ‘Invincible Sun’,which coincided with Saturnalia and the winter solstice during the time Mithraism was practiced in Rome. Christians simply adjusted the symbolism of the day, declaring it the birthday of their ‘Invincible Son’.
According to events recorded in the gospel of Matthew the date of Jesus birth may actually have taken place much earlier in the year. The word ‘Christmas’ means ‘The Mass of Christ’ , and originated in the 11th century as a proper name for this feast. In New England, Christmas was outlawed until the mid-nineteenth century, and classes were held on ‘Christmas Day’ until 1870.
The use of Evergreens and Wreaths as symbols of life was an ancient custom of the Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews, among others people. Tree worship was a common religious practice among the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples of Northern Europe before their conversion to Christianity. They decorated houses and barns with Evergreens at the New Year to scare away demons.
It is my personal opinion that when Christians celebrate Christmas it should be done to honor Christ, and not for the secular trappings that was brought into the celebration from pagan traditions.
This is what the prophet Jeremiah had to say about holding to pagan celebrations: “Thus saith the LorD, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the Palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good”. Jeremiah 10:2-5

Mobs or Jobs?

The 2018 U.S congressional elections is one for the history books.  The campaigning leading up to the November 6 elections has all the markings of a breakout election for being the first in the number of female candidates running for office and, of the number of new people registering to vote.  A record number of early votes have already been cast.

The candidates have been jostling for position on hot button issues such as health care, immigration, the economy, etc., but, what make this election cycle different than any in my lifetime is the vitriolic politcal atmosphere.  The respect and civility that was once very much a part of our democratic process is all but gone.

The pride of America, our values and moral leadership, was held in high esteem around the world.  We were the shining light on a hill, to quote a not too distant republican president.  Now that shining light is biginning to dim.  We are living in a time in America when the very core of who we are, as Americans, are being challenged; not by foreign adversaries, but by other Americans.

It saddened me recently to learn that someone sent home made bombs by mail to, what could only be surmised as, their political enemies.  Let that sink in for a minute.  At least a dozen suspicious packages were sent to eight democrats, to CNN, actor Robert De Niro, former CIA Director John Brennan and, billionair financier George Soros.  How twisted is that?  When you send potential death to those you politically disagree with there is something seriously wrong.  Why would someone believe this is ok?

It’s time, and indeed past time, for the President of the United States of America to stand up and address the nation condemning this demented mentality that is festering in this polluted political climate before it is too late.

Mr. President, this is the right time to do the right thing.

Champion of My Success

CHAMPION OF MY SUCCESS

The streets were teaming with people; traffic was heavy, and the smoke stacks had began to spew their thick clouds of chemicals into the atmosphere. The ‘Big City’ was awakening from its midnight slumber. This would be the beginning of my days for the next fifteen (15) years.

I worked for a small auto supplier as a screw machine operator. It was a demanding job, but it kept food on the table, paid the bills and, support my wife and three (3) kids.

At this time in America, post 9/11, with the war going on in Iraq, hurricane Katrina and Rita, the sub prime mortgage debacle and, the coal mine disasters, I figure we are blessed.

Things could be worse, like the Andersons down the street, their house is in foreclosure; or the Bowens over on Prairie Ave., they lost their car, and their utilities are shut-off. There is pain and suffering all around us. That’s why I decided to go back to school. My job might not have the best benefit package, like the ‘Big Three’, but it will pay for me to get a four year degree from the college of my choice.

I haven’t been in a school for twenty five years; I’m computer illiterate; I just got a cell phone two years ago. Who am I fooling? It’s too late for me. The young kids today are leaps and bounds, technologically, ahead of me. But our society is changing so much; I really don’t have much of a choice. I can either stay where I am, and that’s not a good choice because of how rapidly the auto industry is changing, or I can invest in myself and become more competitive in the marketplace. I chose the latter.

The first day of school went ok, I got a few looks, but that’s alright I expected as much. After all, a man my age can’t expect to just blend in.

I decided to take up computer programming, Industrial and commercial, just in case I decided to leave the auto industry for what may prove to be a more promising future. My wife was initially reluctant to support the idea of me working ten (10) and twelve (12) hour days, 6 days a week, and cramming school in 3 mornings a week for the next 24 weeks. I must admit, the wisdom of her reluctance began to sink in after the third week.

I was exhausted. Too much work, not enough sleep; my eating habits took a big hit, I was losing weight rapidly. There is no way I can keep this pace for too much longer, something has to change, and soon.

I began taking drugs to stay awake, drugs to go to sleep, drugs to have sex and, of course I thought I could hide all of this from everybody.

As life would have it, unforeseen circumstances would come to bear on my young, simple life. The only thing that dropped lower than my weight was my spirit, my self worth and, my expectations. The drugs and pleasure seeking rendezvous was beginning to take a heavy toll on my life.

School was beginning to look less and less attractive as my drug addiction grew more expensive. Something had to go!

-To Be Continued-

America is Due for A Shakeup!

Could it be, as some suggest, we have too many immigrants?  Could it be the gays and LGBTQ communities are exerting too much influence?  Could it be that we’re buckling under the weight of our own successes?  Have we allowed our elected officials to forego their moral obligations?  These are questions that we are currently grappling with.

When duty makes that inevitable call; who will answer?  Well, less than a generation after world war II ended, America made such a call.  We were struggling on two fronts; war in Vietnam and, the ill effects of slavery and unjust laws toward the most vulnerable in our society.  Thus, the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ made its big push toward justice.  As with most movements it began slow and steady with a consistent call for people to make their voices heard.  After a short while our young people said, “Enough”! “No More”!  They had seen, heard and, experienced enough.  They were ready and willing to answer the call.

Victor Hugo, a French poet, novelist and, dramatist once said, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.

Our young citizens were involved in the civil rights movements most memorable moments.  These teenagers and young adults helped desegregate schools in the south, challenged racism during ‘Freedom Rides’, and helped advance voter rights and civil rights legislation.

Among the most influential of the student organizers was the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a group that embraced non-violent protest and helped train many of the movements participants.  Fueled by young people’s rejection of white supremacy, SNCC was once the nation’s largest and most well-organized civil rights group.

Once again, over fifty years later, America makes that call once more.  A new vanguard of teens and young adults are answering that call.  They are taking their positions, manning their stations and, readying their instruments of war; non-violent protests, social media and, mass marches.

March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and, other homegrown movements are presently formulating a way forward in addressing mass shootings in schools, disproportionate police shootings among people of color, unreasonable immigration laws, abuse and exploitation of women, etc., Remember the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.

When Prejudice Touched the House of Moses

When Moses appeared in the camp of Israel with Zipporah his wife and their two sons, there was great consternation among both leaders and people, for Zipporah, described in the Bible as an Ethiopian, was a darker complexion than the Israelites. Hence, there was a minor racial incident when the family came upon the scene. The marriage of Moses had been especially displeasing to Miriam, his sister, because she felt he should have chosen a wife from among the Hebrews and not marry a woman of another nation.

The King James Version of the Bible refers to her as ” an Ethiopian woman,” and the Revised Version calls her a ” Cushite woman.” It is important to say, however, that though Zipporah was not an Israelite, she was a worshiper of the true God.

The whispering campaign became so widespread that Miriam and Aaron were summoned to the Tabernacle, and had a face to face meet with Moses. The bible says, ” Jehovah came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam.” The scene was tense as God proceeded to rebuke these two who had spoken evil of His servant, him whom He had declared “faithful in all Mine house.” “Wherefore then,” God said, “were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and He departed.”

The cloud which usually hovered over the tabernacle disappeared and this sign of Gods’ displeasure was followed by a severe punishment inflicted upon Miriam. She “became leprous, white as snow.”

For those who say that discrimination and ill-treatment of people on the basis of race or color is no sin, here is a sobering passage. The act of Miriam was so repulsive to God that He came all the way from heaven to administer rebuke and punishment for her iniquity. Miriam, no doubt, felt she was exercising her freedom when she criticized Zipporah and sought to engender sentiment against her.

Although people still make thousands of speeches about freedom, there is still evidence of a good deal of misunderstanding about the real nature of freedom.

The Most Misunderstood Apostle

The synoptic gospels tell us how Jesus called his disciples to him and chose from among them twelve (12) who he designated ‘Apostles’ : (1) Simon, who he named Peter (2) Andrew, who is Peters’ brother, (3) James and (4) John (5) Phillip (6) Bartholomew (7) Matthew (8) Thomas (9) James, son of Alphaeus (10) Simon the Zealot (11) Judas, son of James (12) Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:14-16

Most of the apostles, except for Peter, James, John, Thomas and Judas are left shrouded in a fair amount of historical obscurity. For the most part the Church has colored the apostles in a very positive light, all except one; the one we traditionally call ‘ Doubting Thomas’.

Thomas is the Hebrew word for ‘Twin’, while ‘Didymus’ is the Greek word for twin.

After leaving Jerusalem rather hurriedly, Jesus went back to the place where John had baptized. While at this place He received word from Mary and Martha that their brother, Lazarus, had died. Lazarus was from Bethany, a town about two (2) miles Southeast of Jerusalem. This was the vicinity where the Jews tried to stone Jesus to death. No wonder the disciples were very concerned with their safety when Jesus said, “let us go back to Judea”. It is here that Thomas first shows his true colors, and breaks through a barrage of mental complacency and courageously steps out on pure devotion, when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. Thomas was obviously the first of the twelve to express a commitment to Christ even if it meant death.

Again, Jesus comforts his disciples telling them that he is going away to prepare a place for them so they can always be with him. Then he said something that I think was designed to evoke a specific reaction. He said, ” You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:4 Thomas, again, is the only one who rose to the occasion and articulated the pure honesty that was in his heart. Thomas said, ” Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” John 14:5 Had Thomas not voiced his concern there would have been no reason for Jesus to respond in such an inspiring and eye-opening way. Jesus responded in such a way that it became one of the most memorized parts of scripture to date : ” I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Thomas doubted no more than any of the other apostles.

Awaken O’Sleeper

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Wake The Sleeping Church Author calls Christians to Action in Inspirational Commentary

Detroit – Nathaniel Stalling Jr. introduces his new book, Awaken O’Sleeper (now available through Author House), where he identifies key issues and problems practicing Christians encounter today. He hopes to revive the spirit of the Church by clearly defining the Church’s mission and how to carry it out. In this book, Stalling calls Christians to action on a variety of concerns surrounding the church, including the overlap in all areas of life and society, how Christians are defined, how others use these definitions, and divisions in denominations.

“This book will shake your complacency and help move you toward activism. Every time we allow someone else to define us we become more and more someone else,” Stalling says.

One of the topics discussed is how the political arena uses the Church to their advantage in a chapter called “How Much Is Too Much?” In another chapter, he voices concern about the divisions between Churches of different denominations, stating that there are divisions in core beliefs including: baptism, communion, Christ’s Resurrection and, grace.

A lack of sound teaching in many Churches is a major concern. “When you see so many so-called Christian groups stamping Jesus name on these heretical teachings that have become popular today, it makes me bristle with shame and burn with indignation”, Stalling says. These strong feelings show his beliefs that these problems have gone on for too long and deserve an immediate, direct and firm response.

Stalling discusses relationships in all areas of life. He explains that Christians need to treat their relationship with Jesus Christ, their spouses, children, friends and co-workers with a fluid relativity and understand the connection. Additionally, he discusses the importance of knowing and understanding suffering.

“This book is intended for Christians who may have fallen down, but are not ashamed to get back up,” Stalling says. “We need to renew our love, our commitment that we made when we first surrendered to Christ.”

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Who Told You That You Were Naked?

I, in my finite mind, always equated nakedness with the lack of clothes. It’s amazing how much we take for granted, until our own reasoning is challenged. I had read the story of Adam and Eve many times, and it never dawned on me to question why they were so shook up behind realizing their nakedness. After all, they had always been naked. So I went over the account again, and there it was.

God, right after the fall of Adam, asked Adam two questions, one of which he never answered. I’ve often heard men and women preach and teach on the second question, and how Adam passed the buck to the woman, and how she passed it to the serpent. But, to my recollection, I have never heard anyone preach or teach on the first question.

The two questions that burned in Adams mind are found in the third chapter of Genesis; He said, ” Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” I kind of equated that first question with the lack of clothing. Wrong! They lacked material clothing from the very beginning, that kind of nakedness was not a sudden new-found awareness. Therefore, when Adam said, ” I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked: and I hid myself”, he was not talking about material clothing. Notice that in verse seven (7) they had already provided themselves with aprons made from sewn fig leaves. So when Adam said he was afraid because he was naked, he already had a type of covering. So, if he was not referring to material clothing, or physical nakedness, what was he referring to?

We know when God created Adam he was a perfect immortal being, clothed in God’s own righteousness. When Adam fell, or sinned, he was changed from immortal to mortal, and Gods’ righteousness was withdrawn from him. Adam was now spiritually naked, as well as spiritually dead.

God, through his written word, tells us that we need to be clothed (spiritually). God, inspiring John to write to the Church at Laodicea said this, “therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, ….” Revelation 3:18.

Adam never answered that first question because he didn’t have to. No one had to tell him he was naked, he knew.

We know too. When we do things that go against our better judgement, against our conscience, against all conventional wisdom, no one have to tell us, we know.

The Bible says, ” let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints”, Revelation 19:7, 8 RSV.

HE DID IT HIMSELF

I want to tell you somethingJesus Christ on the cross that you need to know, It happened two thousand years ago, There was a man in the middle that died you see, and he did it so the entire world could be free, He suffered very much for me and you, He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”.

He raised his head to say a solemn prayer, and the whole world stopped right then and there, The planet grew dark from twelve to three, He was the perfect sacrifice, you see, All the angels in heaven couldn’t understand, what made God do what he did for man,

He expressed His love for you and me, when He led us by the hand to Mt. Calvary, which is harder to say ….. I can’t, or I can ..? Make up your mind .., you double minded man, what need to be done, you couldn’t buy it with wealth, so God came down and did it himself, He clothed Himself with humanity, and took on the world, singlehandedly.

Father God had a brand new plan, and made it true through a brand new man. satan shrieked, “it’s a mysterious plot”, but what God started, no one could stop, He promised that He would bring us through, and by His own word ….. He did it too, He shed His blood to make us free, to be with Him for all eternity.

What was a mystery had now been revealed. We had come to the place in God’s plan where He could step into the void of His creation and fill it with His own glory. This not only filled a void in natural space and time, but expanded our mental and emotional capacity to have a relationship with Him. For the first time since the great fall in the garden, we were called into a relationship with our creator.

Against amazing odds from every side Jesus prevailed. He prevailed against the Pharisees, Sadducees and, Scribes. He prevailed against the mighty Roman army and, He prevailed against the Greek philosophers. He prevailed with a simple message: “I love you, and am willing to give my life for you.”