Seeking Truth in Ancient Falsehood — New Age Spirituality…

Spirituality post, golden sky
Photograph of Mark E Fisher
Mary-Denman-Photography-

This week I share with you a blog I came across a couple of weeks ago while researching something else for the second novella. It is by Mark E Fisher, and I have his approval to post his blog…. Seeking Truth in Ancient Falsehood – New Age Spirituality and the Inner Self.

Mark is the author of ‘The Bonfires of Beltane’ – following St Patrick across ancient, Celtic Ireland.

 

Read Mark’s blog…

Seeking Truth in Ancient Falsehood — New Age Spirituality And The Inner Self

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher looks at the modern hunt for truth in the inner self and New Age spirituality, a search the ancient Celts abandoned the moment they learned about Christ.

“The Woman And Spirituality Conference”

Lately, I’ve been avoiding my blog so I could focus on novel writing. But this week I ran across something I simply must comment on. I apologize for its length, but it speaks truth into lives sorely in need of it.

In September, our civic center here in Rochester, Minnesota held a “Women and Spirituality Conference”. Sounds innocuous enough until you start delving a bit deeper. The stated purpose was “a multi-faith, educational, healing event that brings together diverse spiritual traditions to create an atmosphere of shared spiritual growth.” Already, red flags started going up.

A New Age Agenda — Seeking The Inner Self

Then I looked at the agenda, a sampling of which follows:

  • “Grounding Meditation, Healings, and Audience Readings” — the speaker will “work with Spirit as a spiritual conduit to help you cleanse, clear, purify and strengthen your energetic body through a guided meditation.”
  • “The World is Your Oracle: Divinatory Practices For Tapping Your Inner Wisdom” — the speaker will help you tap the wisdom residing within each of us.
  • “Meditation in Today’s World” — Swami Kena will help you awaken your feminine spirituality.
  • “Tarot Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” — “Using tarot to find ways to own your devils rather than being owned by them.”
  • “Communicating With Your Inner Spirit” — “Your inner spirits/inner guides/higher power are always communicating with you. … explore the power of meditation to deepen your communication with your inner spirit.”
  • “Connecting With The Energies of the Universe” — “some simple ways to raise personal vibration and connect with energies beyond.”
  • “The Fourth House in Astrology: The Womb of Your Soul” — “describes not only our connection to our families, but to our connection with all of humanity and mother earth…”
  • “Drumming With the Chakras—Exploring The Celtic Tradition” —an “experimental drum workshop.” “Cleanse and balance your chakras; and discover how each of your energy centers responds to various sounds, colors and tones. Drums provided.”

Where Is One True Thing?

After reading through the lengthy two-day list of speakers and topics, I was left saddened, chagrined, and appalled. Missing from the conference was a single session on the one thing, the only thing, that will get one close to God—a session on Christ. I’m guessing if one tried to present such a session—and I’m sorely tempted to do just that next year—it would be soundly rejected. Everything here screams New Age, ersatz Hinduism, and people desperately grasping for “spirituality” in all the wrong places, in ancient religions that the ancients themselves abandoned once they heard the truth.

Spirituality, chakrasDrumming With The Chakras?

It was the drumming with the chakras that prompted me to write this rather lengthy blog. Chakras, for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of Hindu and Buddhist teaching, are “energy centers” in the body. Apparently, drumming creates sounds that somehow stimulate these “energy centers”. Somehow they connected this with Celtic tradition.

Upon Hearing The Truth, The Celts Abandoned The Old Ways

But when the Celts of Ireland heard for the first time the gospel that St. Patrick brought them, they quickly abandoned their ancient religion. The teachings of the druids held them in slavery to a pantheon of capricious, angry gods. Druidic wisdom had them worshiping the spirits of trees, rivers, rocks, and the sun. The people lived in constant fear of a multitude of taboos, haunted groves, and places where spirits lay in wait. The druids held them in fear of angering the fairies who might curse your family or livestock with illness or ill fortune if you violated their secret spaces. No, when the ancient Irish heard about the one God who loves, who sent his only Son to die for them, who brought forgiveness and love, they threw out the druids. And they ran with open arms to the truth.

New Age Is Not New At All

What kind of spiritualityNew Age mixes ancient practices such as astrology, witchcraft, the occult, Hindu pantheistic monism, and mysticism. But while the Hindu and Buddhist priests they emulate chant their mantras and look inward, trying to find reality within themselves, they abandon everyone else to their own karma. For it’s only your personal karma—your quest for reincarnation into a perfect being—that matters. Thus, it’s all about self, raising the self to a higher plane of existence through meditation and mantras.

It’s all about self-love. No one else matters. It’s certainly not about God, the one who created the universe, the one who holds our eternal destiny in his hands.

So here we are, some fifteen hundred years later, with the truth in front of us, and people are still seeking “spirituality” in ancient belief systems that the ancients abandoned.

Connecting With Your Inner Self— The Result?

What will you find if you truly connect with your “inner woman” or “inner man”? Will you find love, forgiveness, and peace? Will you find mercy and compassion? Or will you find something darker, something selfish and inherently evil?

For the answer, we need only look to the daily news. There we see extortion. Bribery. Dishonesty. Slander. Sexual slavery. Robbery. Drive-by shootings. Mass killings almost weekly. People blowing up themselves and others, thinking this will get them into paradise.

This, folks, is what the Bible tells us we should find. At heart, man and woman are not good. We are fallen creatures, every one of us. And when given the chance, we will turn away from God and embrace evil.

There Is Some Good Within Us — God Put It There

This is not to say we are totally depraved. God made human beings in His image, so we all have some of his qualities, all of which are good—love, kindness, justice, mercy, compassion. The trouble is we also have free will. So when faced with the choice between good or evil, right or wrong, all too often we chose the wrong. We choose evil. What’s the first word many two- or three-year-olds will say after “Mommy” and “Daddy”? It’s “mine”. We are all born centered on me, mine, and myself.

Utopia On Earth? — A Failed Proposition

For more proof that finding one’s inner self is a dangerous proposition, we need only look at the ideologies promising utopia on earth.

Communism as a theory promised a worker’s paradise leading to utopia. To achieve it, Karl Marx once said, “We make war against all the prevailing ideas of religion, of the state, of country, of patriotism. The idea of God is the keynote of a perverted civilization.” Vladimir Lenin added to this, saying, “Atheism is an integral part of Marxism. … We must combat religion.” Following this line of thought, Stalin’s utopia brought his country twenty million dead, millions forcibly relocated, mass starvation, and forced labor camps.

In Communist China, Mao Tse-Tung’s worker’s paradise caused sixty to seventy million dead under his “Great Leap Forward” and his “Cultural Revolution.”

For a more recent implementation, look at Venezuela. Here we see how to turn a resource-rich country into an economic basket case, a country with soaring inflation, where 75% of the population has lost nineteen pounds, where 82% of households are living in poverty, and where people can no longer afford the basics.

This, my friends, is what happens when mankind seeks utopia on earth. If we were at heart basically good, shouldn’t we see a better result?

Atheism Didn’t Do Any Better

What about atheism? For that we can look to Hitler who called Christianity one of the great “scourges” of history. “Let’s be the only people immunized against this disease,” he said. “Through the peasantry, we shall be able to destroy Christianity.” All of Hitler’s elite were atheists. The result? 22.8-24.0 million civilian dead. 17.5-19.4 million military dead. That is what happens when men rule a nation without God.

These men—communists and atheists, alike—searched within, found their true selves, and brought us mass murder on a staggering scale, world-wide chaos, and unprecedented savagery.

Yes, We Are All Like That

But we’re not like that you say. Ah, but we are. If you scratch the surface of each of us, this is what you’ll find. Heaven help us if we all succeed in finding our inner selves without help from God, through meditation, drumming with chakras, or otherwise. For that is exactly what we’ll find. It’s that choice thing again—between right and wrong. It’s all too easy to choose what’s wrong. Without God’s help, without belief in Christ, evil will prevail.

New age is fond of redefining God to mean what they—sinful humans that they are—have “discovered”. But you won’t find God in self-meditation, drumming, tarot cards, connecting with your personal vibrations, tapping your inner wisdom, astrology, or divinatory practices. You’ll find only a fallen creature, prone to sin. Or demons. Or Satan himself.

Where We Will Find God — In His Revelation

No, you’ll only find God in the book he revealed to us through forty individuals over some fifteen hundred years. God didn’t give his truth to one person, alone in a cave. He didn’t reveal himself on golden tablets seen by only one individual that then disappeared. Instead, he revealed himself over millennia and a half. And he unfolded a grand narrative with a single focus, a single theme:

God is creating a people for himself from those who believe in His Son as the one he sent to earth, a people whom he will love, who will love him, and who will live together with him for all eternity. And he sealed this plan with the proof of his love for us—by sending his only Son to die on the cross for our sins. If only we would believe in him and follow him….

That is a truth I can accept. That is a truth that I pray with all my heart that the seekers of New Age spirituality will someday find. Because they won’t find it by drumming with the chakras.

#####

I very much appreciate Mark allowing me to post this informative post from his own blog. When I catch up, I look forward to reading his book.

Heads-up – there is a sequel coming out at the end of 2018

You will find Mark’s original post at  http://bit.ly/2C4qlZ7


Bonfires of Beltane - cover image

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland at the time of St. Patrick.

To learn more about his book, click on the buy link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FURPT1W

Hope you have enjoyed this blog post from Mark – and found it informative.

Susan

What was the Significance of a Betrothal?

Sunrise, Princeton Circle, WA

A long time ago when I was young, in school I read the story in the Bible of Mary and Joseph going off to be counted in the census. I puzzled over “…to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

Betrothed I understood to mean ‘engaged’ to be married. The teacher did not care to explain it. Since then, well, comparatively recently, I discovered the significance of what this meant.

Joseph, with his betrothed wife, Mary
Hold the Faith cover
Covers of books in the Apostle John series with awards

When I was researching for Hold the Faith, which I thought would be one book but turned into five, I needed to find out what betrothal entails.

One of the people in the book was about to become betrothed. What I found out explained such a lot, and even more about commitment to Christ. (The account of the full betrothal was moved, but the understanding helped in the five books in the series and in the free 1st novella.)

Betrothal in the Bible

Probably the most common way is for the fathers – the groom’s and the bride’s fathers agree when their children are young. Well, more accurately when the girl is young, because men did not seem to be considered ‘ready’ for the responsibility of marriage until they were older.

The agreement between the fathers could have been as soon as the girl was born. Some betrothals were part of business ‘deals’ between fathers.
The ‘formal’ betrothal was not held until the girl ‘showed signs’ i.e. started menstruating. Heirs were necessary.

Contrary to the beliefs of some ‘women’s rights’ groups, a girl was not generally forced into marriage. (Although in one instance in one of the books, pressure was exerted on the girl to agree.) It was necessary for the woman to agree in my story.

The Betrothal Ceremony

Several variations of this ceremony were researched, but the simplest one was what I used.

In front of the father (or the mother if the father was dead) and/or in front of witnesses, the groom offered a cup of wine to the bride. He asked her if she would drink of his cup. In this way he was asking her to share his life.

Sometimes I added the words, for clarity. If she drank from his cup, she was accepting the offer to share his life, marriage to him.

pottery cup, betrothal cup

Betrothal was binding. It was considered a marriage. (Which is why Mary was sometimes referred to as Joseph’s wife.)

The only way to end a betrothal, other than by marriage was divorce.

Matthew 1:19 (NIV) Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Barnes notes says…
The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1. It was customary in a bill of divorce to specify the causes for which the divorce was made, and witnesses were also present to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph resolved to put her away without specifying the cause; for he was not willing to make her a public example.

Although the betrothal was as binding as marriage it was not consummated.

The bridegroom went to ‘prepare a place’ – it may have been an extension to his parents’ home, or he may have wanted to build a home.

The bride ‘made herself ready.’

There were no stores where she could buy a dress for her wedding, or the linen for the household she would be forming. She had to sew everything.

She purchased the material – probably at a market stall.

sewing by hand

She brought it home and sewed it, – by hand. There were no sewing machines.

For that matter… no electricity either.

When the bridegroom had prepared a home for his wife, he returned to claim his wife and take her to her home with him.

This is a significantly ‘potted’ version of  a betrothal, but if you are a Bible believer, perhaps you have noticed the significance.

Christ said – And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. John 14: 3 (ISV)

His bride was making herself ready while waiting…

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Rev 19: 7 (NIV)

So the entire betrothal analogy has great significance for Christians, but for many the meaning is lost.

In the ‘throw-away’ society of the world we live in, not even marriage is binding, so – sadly, much of the significance is lost.

Perhaps though, this will help you understand something that is not often talked about in our time.

I hope so,

Susan

Gentle Jesus

Other than in the children’s hymn does the Bible mention anything about Jesus being gentle?

Isaiah prophesied of him –

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isa 42:3 (ESV)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.
Ps 34: 18 (ESV)

These suggest someone considerate of those who are hurt, damaged, and/or ‘broken.’

Gentle

According to dictionary.com an obsolete meaning of ‘meek’ is gentle, kind. Nowadays it is sometimes seen as synonymous with ‘weak’.

Strong’s 4239 says the Greek word from which the English translation is derived is ‘praus’

HELPS Word-studies says this… “This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than “meek.” Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness.

[The English term “meek” often lacks this blend – i.e. of gentleness (reserveand strength.]”

I remember when in Bible college this subject was discussed the lecturer explaining it was ‘power under control’ – that was a long time ago and I might not have quoted it as he did, but that is the general idea. Jesus had the power, He chose not to exercise it.

One of the synonyms of meek is ‘docile’ – which means ‘easily managed or tractable – easily shaped.’

Perhaps that is why some encourage us to see the helpless Babe in a manager.

You will not find Him there.

Nor will you find Him in the Christmas tree. (That is pagan anyway.)

Gentle Jesus, a manger setting

Where will you find Jesus?

In the Bible. Bilble, open

Some of His comments were far from gentle

Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
(Matt 10:34).

Some of His actions were far from gentle

Two times He ‘cleansed’ the Temple

Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple is described in John 2:11–12 as having occurred just after Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. John makes it clear that it was “after this” that He went to Capernaum, where He “stayed for a few days.” Then in the next verse (verse 13), John tells us that the “Passover of the Jews was at hand” (NKJV). These verses trace Jesus’ movements over a short period of time from Cana in Galilee to Capernaum and eventually to Jerusalem for the Passover. This is the first of the two times Jesus cleansed the temple.

The second cleansing of the temple occurred just after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem the last week of His life. This second cleansing is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not in John. There are differences in the two events, aside from their being nearly three years apart. In the first cleansing, temple officials confronted Jesus immediately (John 2:18), whereas in the second cleansing, the chief priests and scribes confronted Him the following day (Matthew 21:17–23). In the first event, Jesus made a whip of cords with which to drive out the sellers, but there is no mention of a whip in the second cleansing. So there are two recorded occasions when Jesus cleansed the temple—the first time at the beginning of His public ministry, and the second time just after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before He was crucified.
https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-cleanse.html

Hold the Faith, cover

This is not the only place these instances are mentioned, but it is much simpler than the sources I used some years back when researching for Hold the Faith.

Jesus in the Gospels is the Jesus of Revelation

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelation 5: 5

And with the opening of the scroll comes the ‘plagues’ (bowls), then the trumpets, and ultimately the woes.

Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the One who unleashes all these things on the world.

Jesus is straight, true and faithful. Yes, he punishes… those who have had many ‘chances’ and not chosen His way. But Jesus is also the One who said…

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me…
Matt 19: 14 (ESV)

Jesus knew when to be firm, and He knew when to be gentle. But He is not a helpless Babe in a manger. He grew up, lived a life that we are to imitate (as best we can) and see Him as the multi-faceted Man He was.

Just thinking

Will Memories Ever Die

Memories of a peaceful sunset

This is a ‘remember when’ memories post.

(Date on the computer folder is Feb, 2015 – hard to believe that is almost three years ago, and I am still plodding on.)

Memories post…

Almost three years ago, after a difficult few weeks, I made my life more difficult when I took a ‘flying tumble’ in a shopping centre. I went flat out on the floor, having tripped over the almost unnoticeable base of a standing advertisement, which extended well beyond the advert… to balance it no doubt. But it was almost the same colour as the floor.

Embarrassed, yes. Shocked, definitely. Especially since I was unable to rise. Seems that both my knees and my wrists had taken the brunt of the fall. I could not push myself up using either.

Two incredibly kind men came to help me up, one giving me instructions, as they lifted me. They stood there to make sure that I could stand. Then the shopping centre security staff arrived to check that I was okay.

I went with some ladies to have a coffee, and we sat for a while so I could get over the shock.

My car

When I felt my arm start to stiffen up, I knew it was time to go. If I waited any longer, I would not be able to drive home. (My car has gears, no power steering or power-assisted brakes.)

As people without a family, or anyone living at home will already know, these are the times when that little bit of practical help is most missed. My wrists and knees were very sore, and my left-arm (gear shift arm) was becoming more painful by the minute. So, at home, since I was already in such pain, I decided to get undressed and into my nightdress while I still could.

That was a wise move. By the evening, I could not lift my left arm as far as shoulder height. Even then the pain was… well, very painful. Tears to the eyes kind of pain. And TOTAL frustration at being unable to tie my hair back, as well as extreme pain.

The quickest way to get prayer support was to put a message on my Facebook page. (And I honestly believe it was answered prayer that is the reason why the shoulder socket that the doctor believes might have been pushed out, healed quickly.) The pain of the torn muscles in my arm still limits me, as does the pain in my wrists and those swollen and bruised knees. These are the times it is hard living alone.

alone, daisy

The comfort I found, in those  painful days, was in the video I recently found when trying to sort out the many folders on various hard drives attached to my computer.

I found an ‘early’ practice… of my late husband singing. One of the most difficult things as time goes by after losing someone significant, is the loss of the little mannerisms, the expressions.  Photos do show that. The quirky smile, the mannerisms that were only his.

But this video reminds me of his personality.

(Since he detested having videos taken of him – when I bought the camera many years ago, I drove the poor man demented, trying to capture videos of him, especially when he was singing. Little did I know at the time but they would be all I have left of him.)

Either a lot of them were deleted at his request, or in the hard drive crash at the beginning of last year, I did not manage to find them all when I copied them off.

His voice deteriorated over those eleven and a half years as the pulmonary fibrosing increasingly robbed him of lung function.

It is amazing he could sing at all.

But, I often wondered if it was his singing  that helped his lung capacity to last so long.

Looking at the videos of him singing, I can see now, the extra muscles it took for him to take a deep breath in the hymn he was singing.

When he was dying in the hospice the consultant said the lifespan after diagnosis of this dreadful disease was two to three years. After he died and I was clearing out the medical records in the filing cabinet I found the report that said the fibrosing was spreading… eleven and a half years ago.

Silhouette man proposing

He loved to sing. Although was frustrated often with his difficulty with his ‘breathing’ in songs he sung. But I loved hearing him sing. When he proposed to me, he went down on one knee and sang ‘Let Me Be Your Shelter’ from Phantom of the Opera to me.

Yes, I loved hearing him sing. And I still can. I look at one of the videos, and see his expressions, and just want to hug him.

One day I will again.

Till then, when loneliness, and the need to see a human face and hear a voice overwhelm me, I can turn on the speakers and play a video of Geoff singing.

If you choose to watch it, I hope it gives you pleasure.

http://youtu.be/HzFtWf0fnJI

(Apologies for the camera shake in some places.)

So, to answer the question posed in the title of this blog…will memories ever die? I hope not. Some are painful at the time but bring great comfort further down the track.

Enjoy your memories,

Susan

Sitting on a Cactus

Have you ever felt as if you are sitting on a cactus?

Sometimes there is little, or perhaps no, alternative. But there comes a time when a decision must be made. Is whatever the cactus represents worth the discomfort of sitting on it?

Sometimes it requires risking something we might be afraid we will lose. (But if the cactus is so uncomfortable, then do we really have what we are trying so desperately to hold on to?)

quote; difference between giving up and knowing when you've had enough

As we walk our way through this life there are many difficult times.

Sometimes it might be difficult to believe that…

  1. God is with us,
  2. He knows what is happening
  3. He cares.
quote 'yes'

I will never leave you nor forsake you…
Hebrews 13:5

(Variations of this promise are in ten other scriptures.)

That being the case, what about ‘knows what is happening’ or ‘cares’

Well, I have several translations of the Bible. In none of them did the people written of sail through their lives without problems.

Choosing a Cactus to sit on...

Starting at the beginning…
Eve made a wrong choice, to believe a serpent.
Adam made a wrong choice too.

coloring in page of Adam, Eve and serpent

Many a ‘cactus’ in my life has been the result of a wrong choice…

It has not always been immediate either. Sometimes, like fruit on a tree, it takes time to grow.

God knows about the cactus we are sitting on...

cactus imageHow else would He have known that Job would have withstood the tests that He allowed Satan to put on him?

What about the Apostle Paul? After he was blinded on the way to Damascus, God told Ananias to go to him.

 

Ananias protested…
And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Acts 9: 14 – 16

So, my thinking is… Some of the cacti in my life, are things I have sown. Others might have been sown by an ‘enemy’, or was it by a Friend?

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12: 7 – 11

Yes, God knows. Yes, God cares. Yes, He is with us.

So if a cactus is in your life – 

Pray. 

That is my first aid.

Taking the prickles out, well, that might take time, and more prayer.

Ultimately there will be a good result, and it is not always what we think it will be.

But it is our choice to get off the cactus and walk.

Walk away

It might be dark, it might be scary – but we do not walk alone!

This week’s post is late.

First – wireless keyboards only work when the batteries work – and they take 12 hour to charge.

Second – when I did have charged batteries I had business mail to catch up with, and finishing the Esther novella – which now has a name.

Happy dance

Have a look. (It’s not for sale so you won’t be asked to buy LOL

Esther Novella

An Evaluation of Christians

The trouble with you Christians

“The trouble with you Christians…”

This was how my friend began the attempt to help me see a problem in a different light.

The problem took a backseat in the light of the ‘accusation.’

‘Evaluation’ of Christians

As I listened I was saddened by my friend’s evaluation of Christians.  More especially because I probably fitted some of the categories listed at some time in the past.

One of the charges laid was that we ‘Christians’ believe that only we will go to heaven (the saved) and all the rest will go to hell.

I don’t.

Some Christians do believe they will go to heaven immediately on their death. Some are not sure. But I do not believe I will go to heaven when I die.

I believe that I will ‘sleep’ awaiting the resurrection. And that is why I had that line put on my husband’s plaque… we both believe/d that.)

(I am satisfied with the many scriptures that back it up – but do not have the space here to list them, and it would take this off-topic anyway.)

Another charge against Christians

The other ‘charge’ was about Christians being judgemental. Some examples were given, and they had merit.
As mentioned, some Christians to believe in the first.
Unfortunately, the other ‘beliefs’ are not only a personal belief for those who hold to this, but an accusation that turns many people off rather than attracting them.

Judging? Jesus had something to say on that.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1

And the reason…

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7: 2 NIV

And… look to yourself…

And why do you look at the splinter in your brother's eye, but not notice the beam in your own eye? Matthew 7: 3 Berean Literal Bible

I think it is ‘human nature’ to pass judgement, but Christians are supposed to ‘be putting on Christ’ and there are many admonitions about ‘putting off the old man’. That includes the ‘old nature.’

In summary, I know my learned friend (and I mean that in a sincere manner) will be able to ‘blow holes’ in what I have said.
However, I judge – my own behaviour.
I am answerable for what I do.
I am not called to ‘pick holes’ in what others do.

So what is a Christian like?

This is not something I can answer, I can only say what/Who they are supposed to be like… the One they name themselves for, Christ.

Christ served

God first

Then His fellow man

That is what I aim for.

And before those of you who know me burst out laughing, or I face a forest of fingers pointing at me… I said it is what I aim for. I have a long way to go.

Just thinking…

Susan

Hate Your Enemies – Really?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “You have heard it said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  I have always thought of this as Jesus correcting an Old Testament ‘law.’ Not so!

I was astounded when I heard a preacher say that Jesus was correcting a ‘tradition’ not a law.

Hate your enemies - or love them

So, I checked it out.

I ‘ran a search’ of the whole Bible seeking another instance when ‘hate your enemy’ was mentioned. There was none. The closest ‘match’ was a scripture in Leviticus 19: 18 – the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

‘Hate your enemy’ … a tradition?

One site mentioned that Jesus might have been correcting a saying among the zealots that had become a tradition.

Checking out Zealots, I found the following in Wikipedia –

“The Zealots objected to Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by generally targeting Romans and Greeks. Another group, likely related, were the Sicarii, who raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered apostate and collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause.”

Hate your enemy could fit their practices, but let’s look at traditions.

How come traditions become so entrenched we see them as laws?

I guess it is the ‘old saying’ that if something is repeated often enough we end up believing it.

Keys to understanding the Bible

In 2017 for the subscribers to my Reader’s Circle (now VIP Readers’ group) I produced a PDF series called Keys to Understanding the Bible in which I had included a great many Pharisaic traditions.

From Part 4 this might further clarify ‘traditions’ and their acceptance…

“It has been said that in an effort to prevent this [captivity] happening again, the sect of the Pharisees ‘arose’. Their original purpose was to prevent people from breaking God’s laws, including the Sabbath.

It developed into Judaism. Judaism is not the ‘religion of Moses’ as is generally assumed.

From ‘A history of the Jews’ by Paul Johnson – Judaism dates from the time just after the Babylonian exile.

American Rabbinical scholar Stephen S Wise stated, ‘The return from Babylon… marked the end of Hebrew-ism and the beginning of Judaism.”

Over the centuries for the most part, the traditions became accepted and incorporated into the Code of Jewish Law.

Jesus said...

“They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.’ You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.” He went on to say, “You neatly set aside the commandment of God to maintain your own tradition.…”
Mark 7: 7 – 9

traditions of men

He would know!

Traditions were very important to the rulers of the Temple in Jesus’ time.

One small section in the gospel of Matthew…

Then some Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus and said “Why do Your disciples violate the tradition (religious laws) handed down by the [Jewish] elders? For Your disciples do not [ceremonially] wash their hands before they eat.” He replied to them, “Why also do you violate the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition [handed down by the elders]?
Matthew 15: 1-3 (Amp)

These traditions and attitudes were very much alive and practiced in the late 1st Century and contributed to the hatred of the Jews for the Christians.

It Takes Courage

courage to face mountains

It takes courage was an interesting comment I received about coping with persecution. It was an excellent observation.

As mentioned in last week’s post, in Hold the Faith the young men in the pre-baptism class were warned of what they might face… death in the arena,  it took courage for them to come back the next time, and to take the risk of being baptized in the river.

It took Benjamin (in Grow in Grace) courage to return to Ephesus after running away, after being overwhelmed by a trial. He was embarrassed and fearful.

Nowadays, we might think of courage as facing the ‘big’ things, like rescuing someone from a burning house, or saving someone from drowning, or a car wreck, there are many small act of courage in everyday lives.

Everyday courage

There are many people who face beginning each day knowing every movement will be painful. A great number of those will not have had much sleep. However, they face each day… and do their best.

The scoliosis pictured below was painful for the sufferer, and there are all too many like him.

moving with scoliosis takes courage
X-ray of spine with scoliosis

Would these people suffering this pain say they were courageous? Probably not.
But they are. Daily.

The strain on parents whose child has a life-threatening illness is horrendous. Yet they carry on. Would they say they are courageous? They probably do not even have time to think about it. One parent was quoted as saying,

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Sometimes facing the stress of going to work each day to an environment where there is strife takes courage. Even if there is no open bullying there can be such negative ‘vibes’ that make a workplace a source of anxiety. Yet many people have no choice but to face their reluctance and go to work – they need the money.

Courage comes in many guises.

Have you ever thought that the person who is struggling to give up smoking needs a great deal of courage, not only willpower?

And what about people who suffer from agoraphobia? The symptoms can include fear of open spaces, public transport, shopping malls, or simply being outside the home. For someone with this fear, even with help it takes a tremendous amount of courage to venture outside their front door.

shut-in

I have friends who are blind. They go to work, travel on holiday, and go to restaurants… without seeing. For some, it takes courage to trust that they will be safe and not miss a plane.

Yes, there are a great many people showing courage in the simple things in life… things most of us take for granted.

Unless we walk in their shoes we will never know how much courage it takes a person to face each day.

Let us ‘walk softly’ with others.
The mountains shown in the main image represent only a fraction of the challenge many people suffer daily.

They have courage!

Susan

Christian persecution

Coliseum, Rome

In most Western countries we are fairly free of Christian persecution and this is the theme I am writing to, here.

Where did this thought start?

I have been asked many times, “What are your books about?”

Basically, they are about life in the late first century AD – in many ways not so different from today, except for all our modern inventions. So, I decided to look for the dominant theme in each book. I did not plan ‘themes’ when writing– the characters found themselves in situations, much as we experience today.

Hold the Faith, cover

In Hold the Faith (book 1 in the series) Benjamin, brought up in the faith, discovers he cannot rely on his parents’ faith and decides to seek baptism. Adult baptism was the practice at the time.
(Remember, the Apostle John Series is ‘story-telling’ not evangelizing.)

Persecution in Hold the Faith

Excerpt from Hold the Faith, when Benjamin and some other young men attended a ‘class’ on baptism, they were warned.

“Looking at each young man, all about the same age, he [Joshua] repeated, “Mature decisions. You need to be able to understand the seriousness of the commitment you are asking to make. Could you die for your faith? It is something you must consider. If you are taken by the Romans on suspicion of being a Christian as they call us, and order you to make the offering of incense to the emperor and proclaim him as god what will you do?”

“But we know that is wrong now…” interjected Stephen.

“Yes, I know all of you have been taught well by your families, or you would not be here. The consequences are about to be different for you than they have been for brethren for some years. If you refuse, it is no longer only prison you will face… or if the governor is kind, exile. No, if you refuse when this new governor arrives, you will go from prison to the arena to face lions.” He paused to allow his words to sink in.

Although they did not speak, their thoughts were similar. It was one thing to be chased by a mob and murdered as their relatives had been, or to be run through by the sword of an impatient Roman soldier, but to be imprisoned with weeks or months to think about walking into the arena to face lions…”

Joshua watched them carefully. Satisfied that they were facing possibilities, he suggested that they meditate on that during the coming week and if they wanted to continue, come back for another preparation lesson.”

One reviewer of Hold the Faith wrote,
“I found myself thinking about my own faith in Jesus Christ. What sacrifices would I make? Would I be strong enough in my faith to stand before persecution?”

Along a similar line, another person said,
“It really makes you think deeply about the level of Christian commitment in the tense and troubling times of the first century church and wonder if it would be matched should we ever face similar circumstances.”

Have we Christians ‘gone soft?’ Would we compromise the faith we profess?

 People who ask similar questions to those mentioned in the quotations above are aware of the potential cost of professing the name of Jesus Christ as Savior.

Persecution today

Almost unreported are the many cases of persecution for holding the Christian faith.

Like many other Christians, I was vaguely aware that in some countries Christians are persecuted. When deciding to check it out – I was staggered by the scale of persecution.

Christianity Today reports that there are fifty countries in the world where it is hardest to be Christian. 

http://bit.ly/2wcakwP

Compelling Truth, on the subject of missionaries, reports

“Missionaries face danger, as well, since most places in the world are not welcoming to Christianity. Missionaries can get ignored in Denmark and killed in India. As Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:16-18). Paul testified to the truth of the hardships in Romans 8:36 when he quoted, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
https://www.compellingtruth.org/Christian-missionary.html

So, I guess, for these people – compromising what they believe is not an option. Not only missionaries but ordinary believers are kidnapped, raped, and/or murdered. Space does not permit me to list all the instances but you will find pages and pages of instances of the cost of Christian beliefs.
https://goo.gl/nNwrGf

As it was at the start of the Christian faith, so it continues. King Solomon was correct when he wrote
‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1: 9

Persecution of Christians is increasing

(But to report on the reasons given would be to target a group, not all of whom agree with what is being done.)

As I discovered writing Hold the Faith, and the other books in the series, Christianity was not called the ‘Way’ for nothing. It truly was a way of life for the believers, persecutions and all.

Is it for us?

Susan

The eBook version of Hold the Faith is free on both Amazon and Smashwords.

If you have a Kindle click HERE  to download from Amazon

For other eBook formats, or if you prefer Smashwords, click HERE

 

Stop attacking me ‘cos I don’t keep Christmas

Christmas is a tradition that I choose not to celebrate. I will not attack you for keeping it, don’t attack me.

I have assembled some interesting information about Christmas, you can read about them in the side articles.

Christmas... a sad time for many

Please bear in mind that this time of year is depressing for people without family, and people who have ‘lost’ close family members.

Saturnalia

“The Saturnalia was presided over by a king, chosen especially for the occasion, known as the Saturnalicius princeps or ‘leader of the Saturnalia.’ Sometimes he is referred to as the ‘Lord of Misrule’ as he was selected from the lowliest members of a household and given the right to conduct light-hearted mischief.”

~~~

 “It was a festive period when people gave gifts to one another. Slaves had the freedoms enjoyed by ordinary citizens and were now able to gamble, get drunk in public, and throw aside the cloak of decorum they were meant to present at any other time of the year. More informal clothes (synthesis) were worn by citizens instead of the usual toga, and there was a general round of feasts, partying, game playing, and merrymaking for all.”

https://www.ancient.eu/Saturnalia/

Emperor Domitian (AD 51-96) may have changed Saturnalia’s date to December 25th in an attempt to assert his authority. He curbed Saturnalia’s subversive tendencies by marking it with public events under his control. The poet Statius (AD 45- 95), in his poem Silvae, describes the lavish banquet and entertainments Domitian presided over, including games which opened with sweets, fruit and nuts showered on the crowd and featuring flights of flamingos released over Rome. Shows with fighting dwarves and female gladiators were illuminated, for the first time, into the night.

Christmas now

For many people there is not much difference. For others there are.

“Put Christ back in Christmas” or similar, is an often mentioned statement.

Sorry, but He was never in that time of year.

However, I recognise that for many – Christmas is an important tradition.

I promise not to attack you for keeping it, please do me the same courtesy.

This video clip appeared on someone’s Facebook feed. I found it on YouTube. I thought it informative in an amusing way.

A far cry from the birth of a Savior in poor circumstances…

One who would give His life for mankind.

A personal look at Christmas

A number of years ago the police knocked on our door at 4.00 am with the news our son had died. It was the 24th December.

In subsequent years, the start of the carols in the shopping centre only served as a reminder that we had an anniversary approaching.  As anyone who has been in this position will recognise, it is not an anniversary we wanted to have.

 

Then there is the Christmas tree

An excellent ‘potted history’ of the Christmas tree can be found at this site…

http://www.countryliving.com/life/a45590/christmas-tree-origin/

And the Christmas cards...

This tradition started later…

Read about it here

https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/cards.shtml

Medieval England

“The Lord of Misrule is one of the lost characters of the riotous Medieval Christmas celebration. Sometime in November, it was customary among the European peasantry to draw lots for the title of Lord of Misrule. Wearing a paper crown and motley garments, the Lord of Misrule turned the ordinary rules on their head for his appointed time. He was given full licence to enjoy whatever pleasures he desired, and to lead the others down the merry path of dalliance and delight. One can only imagine what sorts of delight prevailed but certainly the kind that comes in a flagon must have been especially indulged.

Lord of misrule image

The crowning of the Lord of Misrule is a tradition extending back into ancient times, and was a feature of Roman Saturnalia. Records from as late as the 3rd century suggest that the merry reign of the king of the revels came to a rather unjolly end when the chosen one was unceremoniously sacrificed on the altar of Saturn. In the Middle Ages, the tradition was revived in a more moderate form, most sacrificial elements removed or replaced by the less barbarous practice of burning the god in effigy.

A remnant of this ancient custom clings to the current practice of pulling Christmas crackers: after the muffled explosion of the cracker, the prizes are generally revealed to be a joke, a charm, and the paper crown of the Lord of Misrule.”
http://www.castlearcana.com/christmas/day4.html

So there you have it… an overview of Christmas.  If you celebrate it, I hope you stay safe and your family do not have to open the door on a policeman’s knock.