Category: Wisdom

Wrangling About Words

Responding to Critics

Since beginning in Christian ministry in 1973, first as an Associate Pastor (licensed), continuing as a home group leader and Bible study teacher, then as a senior pastor and church founder (ordained), and now as an online blogger, I have been accused on a number of occasions of being a “false teacher,” trying to start a cult and gain followers, or be like so many other prominent televangelists and megachurch leaders who seek to gain fame and wealth.  

I can understand the concerns of my accusers, for the Apostle Peter warned against just such “false prophets” in the following passage:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (II Peter 2:1-3).

It is not in my nature to become bitter and angry when I receive such accusations against my life and ministry, though I am only too willing to respond and explain my background, teachings,  and calling when confronted by those who are willing to listen.  

I fully understand that some of my teachings may conflict with many of the more standard interpretations of the Scriptures obtained from theology texts or consumed in seminaries and Bible colleges.  I also acknowledge my weaknesses, for I am not trained in the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek), for example.  However, I  believe my inadequacies are sufficiently compensated for by my willingness to consult expert opinions and translations online, as well as use a Greek thesaurus.

My Qualifications

With a Ph.D.  in literature and more than twenty years experience as a university professor, I believe I am fully trained in recognizing and adapting the genres of literature and written texts, while applying the norms for these genres to biblical texts, a context that is not always followed by many Bible teachers and preachers.  Those who delight in interpreting the Scriptures literally, for example, do not always acknowledge that some passages are nonsensical if interpreted literally.

Christ’s references to the “bread” and “cup” in the Gospel accounts  of The Last Supper, for example, do not mean that the elements of the communion are literally the body and blood of Jesus, although many Christians believe in “transubstantiation.”  An example of taking a metaphor literally.  Surely, Jesus wasn’t condoning cannibalism, as the Early Church was accused of teaching.

Apocalyptic writings in the Bible, mainly in Daniel and the Book of Revelation, are also interpreted literally, even though such writings are obviously made up of dreams, signs, symbols and the extra-textual meanings of these kinds of writings.  In addition, I once heard a Bible teacher relate that the “locusts” in the Book of Revelation refer to the “helicopters” in today’s conditions, which meant that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent given the kind of warfare being fought during the Vietnam era.  And how long has it been since then?  Remember when Henry Kissinger was labeled the AntiChrist?  Or was it Anwar Sadat?  

The Apostle Peter continues in his letter to advise and admonish Christians as follows:

14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 2:14-18)

Clearly, Peter the fisherman had some difficulty understanding the educated Apostle Paul’s letters, for even he, the “rock,” found them “hard to understand.”

Notice, however, that Peter does not counsel that believers must vehemently argue with and condemn or accuse any teachers with whom we disagree. He instead simply advises believers to beware so as not to be “carried away” with teachings that espouse greed and licentiousness.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy, his disciple, not to fight, or “wrangle,” over “words,” or perhaps such acronyms as the “TULIP” of Calvinism.

I, personally, have chosen to teach from the Scriptures rather than a book someone has written, whether in the 1600’s or in the 21st Century.    

14Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers  (II Timothy 2:14).

Surely, Paul does not condone false teachings, but instead says that wrangling and fighting are “useless” and lead those who hear such wrangling to ruin.

Indeed, I have tried to explain certain biblical teachings to some of my opponents, only to see the homegroup meetings or Bible classes disrupted and almost destroyed.  Some people simply will not be convinced in spite of clear evidence in Scripture passages, primarily because they do not like what they have learned to be opposed.  Thus, they rise up in “unrighteous indignation.”

The Holy Spirit’s Teachings

Jesus related to His disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them, both to empower them to spread the Good News of the Gospel, but also to be their Teacher: “ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:6).

I have been listening to sermons and teachings since my childhood, yet I am persuaded that I learn only when the Holy Spirit is the inspiration for these messages and He confirms their truths in my heart.  Consequently, while I admire and listen continually to a number of Bible teachers, I am mostly focused on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to live, learn, and grow.

In addition, as a Bible teacher I have been most moved recently by such Scriptures as the following:

  1. Job 12:22 “He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
  2. Daniel 2:28:  “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.”
  3. Daniel 2:29:  “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.”
  4. Daniel 2:47:  “The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
  5. Matthew 13:11:  “Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”
  6. Luke 8:10:  “And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
  7. 1 Corinthians 4:1: “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
  8. 1 Corinthians 13:2:  “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
  9. 1 Corinthians 14:2:  “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

The Apostle Paul’s defense of his own teachings includes the following:

 “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (II Corinthians 12:1-4).

Thus, Paul’s teachings, which comprise most of the New Testament, were revealed to Him as “mysteries,” which defined means, “the secrets God desires to reveal to His people.”  Consequently, the purpose of this Biblical Mysteries Revealed blog site is to share what I have learned about these mysteries.

Back to Peter

One teaching that continues to be highly controversial concerns “End Times” prophecy, for the reasons stated above, as well as the desire to sell books, perhaps, among other reasons.  Concerning this mystery, Peter wrote the following:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:3-9)

Unlike so many teachers today, however, Peter does not, in an attempt to sell books, try to pick the “day or the hour” of Christ’s return (which only the Father knows!) nor does he try to locate the “anti-Christ” (who obviously was not the Emperor Nero!).  

Peter continues on to write the following:

10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. 

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:10-13)

Therefore, even those who declared the prophetic Words of the Lord, following the leadings of the Holy Spirit, did not presume to “serve themselves” by trying to gain fame and fortune by publishing best sellers or make films about the End Times, as is the case today.

It even appears that lately, such false teachers are resorting to astrology to predict End Times events (“blood moons” and Jupiter’s emergence from the “womb” of the constellation Virgo).

Conclusion

It is fruitless to “wrangle” over such teachings, however.  We are only told by Peter and Paul to beware lest we be led astray.  We need only be concerned with keeping our lamps filled with “oil,” so that when Christ appears, we all will see Him in His glory, and we will forever be with Him!  

Have You Ever Been Scammed?

The Most Recent Scam Attempt

I just received an email message that wasn’t clear about what it was about or whom it was from.  I researched a bit and found that others had received it also, saying it was a scam.  The claim was that I had won a lottery type contest, and my winnings were supposedly $900,000.00 and a new Audi automobile.  The Scam reports related that attempts were made to collect money before the awards could be sent, an obvious ploy.

First Example

A much more subtle attempt was made to collect money just before Jan and I resumed our missionary work in Hopkins, Belize last October 17th.

I was attempting to sell a solar generator on “Craig’s List.”  Much as I wanted to keep it, shipping it to Belize would be costly, and I decided we could use the extra cash.  I listed it for $1,000, but immediately was confronted by a rude buyer, who began making demands regarding the money transfer and pickup procedures.  Strangely, every time he contacted me, his name was different.  Before long, he began to claim he was a Christian to gain my confidence.

Briefly, he wanted to send me a money-gram through WalMart for nearly $4,000.  When I received the check, he wrote via text message, I was to deposit it immediately into my bank account, then write a check to the person he claimed was doing the pickup in my area, along with numerous other items he had purchased.  The $3,000.00 to be sent to a woman to reimburse her travel expenditures, as well as pay for her time.

I became suspicious, telling him I couldn’t send out money until I was sure his check had cleared. Using an ungodly obscenity, he said he was a “man of God,” and he would never sxxx on anyone.

After receiving the check, I took it to my bank and deposited it.  The bank teller was even more suspicious than I, telling me to be very careful.  I told her I would wait until I had assurance from the bank that they check had cleared. The note inside of the envelope was hidden, so I didn’t see it until I took the check to the bank.  It insisted that I deposit the check immediately, but that I had to contact him first before doing so to let him know that I’d received the check.  I only texted him after the check was deposited, but he only was interested in knowing how much I could withdraw:

“My bank said part of the money is available to withdraw so how much is available today to withdraw? . . .So please can you check your online phone bank app to confirm the available amount?”

He then asked me to send him a picture of the account deposit slip, but I wrote back, “No way.”

His reply was immediate, Oh no, Charles I’m not trying to scam you and you can trust me, I’m a God-fearing Christian and there’s no forgiveness for me if I try to cheat on you.  Try and cover the account details just to see the balance and you can go ahead and get the shipper money sent through Walmart transfer.”

I wrote back and told him, “Jesus will forgive you for all your sins if you give your life to Him completely (John 3:16.”

He replied, “Thanks a lot I’m glad to buy from you.  So please will you help me to get it sent through Walmart ASAP?”

I wrote again, “I am not at liberty to spend any money on this until the check is cleared.  I will inform you immediately when I know it is cleared.”

“Okay no problem.”

He wrote again the next morning,

“Hello good morning to you and how was your night?  I really need a response from you asap thanks.”

Writing back, I told him I was still waiting for confirmation on clearance and was told it could take a week.  I also wrote that I hoped it would be sooner because “I really want to get this done!”

Later that same morning, I called the bank to ask about clearance and was told that the check had cleared. Therefore, I went right down to WalMart to send the shipping money.

Rebuking the Devourer

Working with the WalMart clerk to send the money was troublesome, but the Lord’s protection was evident from the beginning.  She was rather demanding, telling me what I should already know about filling out the forms.  This was my first time, though, so I admit I was ignorant.  Since I was planning on sending a rather large amount of money, I decided to check again with my bank to be sure the money would clear.  Talking to a very pleasant young man at the bank counter, he immediately related his suspicions that I was being scammed and that I needed to take care.  He told me the check had cleared, however, so I went back to the WalMart clerk to continue the transaction.

When it came time to transfer the money, I found that my credit card would not work.  Rather upset, the clerk told me to try a different card, which I did.  When that card would not work either, I decided to go back to the bank teller and withdraw cash to send in the money gram.

Ironically, even though the man’s check had supposedly cleared, my bank could not release the funds in cash.  The teller renewed his cautious advice that I not proceed to send out the money, even though I eventually was able to get some cash from another (third) credit card.

I decided to consult with my wife, who is very wise and cautious.  She advised me not to send any money because if I did and the check was a bad check, I would have to reimburse the bank with my own money.

I decided to stop the process and come back another time.  Afterwards, a rather contentious exchange occurred with the buyer, who was very upset.  I decided to cancel the transaction altogether, which made him even more upset.

Overall, I became suspicious to the point of wondering whether the purpose he had for the generator might be dangerous to some people.  I didn’t know if he was a terrorist, but I didn’t want to risk any ramifications in closing the deal, not to mention the loss of money and the loss of the generator itself.

My wife ultimately texted him and told him to cancel his check with his bank, and the next day we found that the funds had been withdrawn from our bank account.

The entire situation was stressful and troublesome, but we rejoiced in the Lord’s protection, especially through the good advice given to us by the bank teller.  He told me he was concerned that the original check didn’t look like a true check from the Bank of America, so I believed him.

Conclusion

Some weeks later, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in His “Parable of the Sower,” as found in the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel:

And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-29)

Consequently, I realized that the Holy Spirit had led me away from the thorns and turned me back to the good soil that leads to fruitfulness in my daily walk with Him.  The lack of peace I had felt, as well as the good advice I had received, all during this transaction were indicators that the Lord’s “seeds” were falling on thorny ground, and that I needed to change my heart’s desires to conform to His promises and blessings, not the supposed benefits of worldly wealth.

Moving For Purpose, Part II (By Jan Jenkins)

Moving Ahead 

After visiting and sharing with Pastor Herdie, we walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.

John then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about all of the possibilities.

On Friday morning, we went out together for an early swim in the sea.  Our morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there in Belize since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana.

We then decided to do more exploring of the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize.  We picked a few small carvings that would fit into our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay, we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay Alex.

Finding a Lot on the Sea

We went to see John, the realtor, again to ask him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was in God’s will to happen, He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to move a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” Psalm119:105.

A Wave Hits

We talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace and we were determined that we would keep our eyes on Jesus.

In May, 2016, I began working on floor plans for a house in Belize.  I looked at a few samples and even measured the rooms in our house here so I could have an idea of room sizes.  This was fun, and I went through pages and pages of drafting paper coming up with various ideas, showing them to Charles for his input, and then making more changes.

By the end of May, I had a couple of rough drawings that I thought would work.  When we were in Belize, our Realtor had introduced us to Dennis, who was about six weeks into a build there.  He gave us a business card for his builder whom he highly recommended.  Additionally, we had heard of a builder who built square or rectangle houses and then moved the house to the property to set up and finish.

I spent a month sending rough plans to these two companies, getting feedback and making changes.  We decided to go with the builder who was building the house for Dennis and who would build the whole house on our lot rather than moving it in.  Communication with R. G. Home Builders was easy, and they always responded quickly.

I emailed Rolando Gonzalez, the owner and contractor of R. G. Home Builders, and told him we would like him to build our house and requested an estimate on my floor plan.  In a couple of days, he sent his estimate.  It was much more than we thought it would be. We felt like we had hit a big wave this time.  Our plan to sell our house here and downsize to something small to rent or buy might not work, we thought!  For one thing, we realized that the first listing price the realtor had suggested for our house here in Pennsylvania was probably too high, so we had lowered our asking price.

We didn’t believe the Lord wanted us to get into debt with this Belize property either, so I sent an email to Rolando asking about changes to bring the cost down.  We still felt peace, however, and we believed it would work out.  Reading I and II Thessalonians seemed so timely, and so many verses jumped out and ministered to us. One scripture became a prayer for Pastor Herdie and the church in Hopkins:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  (I Thessalonians 3:9-10)

For ourselves, we prayed the following prayer:

To this end also we pray… that our God will count [us] worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.  (II Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Rolando had a few suggestions and sent another estimate.  It was still too high. We had gotten some idea of building prices when we were in Belize, and these estimates seemed so much higher.  Our house hadn’t sold, we hadn’t even gotten an offer yet, but even if it sold, we wouldn’t have enough money to cover this last estimate, along with other associated costs, such as where we would live while home in Pennsylvania.  Charles, in faith, had even written about our calling to Belize in his online blog site.  We had felt sure about Rolando and now we urgently believed that we needed to keep “walking on the water” and keeping our eyes on Jesus.

I went back to my Bible, reading again in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In Chapter five I read, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thessalonians 5:24).

A couple of days later, I was looking again at the estimate.  I was stunned when I saw at the top of the column written in very small letters:  BZD,  (or “Belize Dollars”).  Rolando’s estimate was in Belize dollars, not US dollars!  That meant that the house would cost half as much as we thought it would.  I charged out of the house to find Charles and tell him what I had discovered.  We truly believe God sent us a huge blessing that day.

Calm Waters

Suddenly the waves were gone, and the water was calm.  It was easy to see that Jesus was with us.  There was a great deal of praise and happy dancing going on that day!  We emailed Rolando and gave him permission to have his architect look at our floor plan.  Working with the architect, Salim, we spent a few weeks exchanging ideas and came up with a final plan. We then received another estimate which we interpreted correctly and knew that with the sale of our house here we could pay for this home and remain debt free.  Now the build was contingent upon the completed purchase of the lot.

In June we made a decision to sell our camper/travel trailer.  It was only two years old, and we had taken good care of it, but we figured we would not use it enough to keep, and it would be nice to have the money for our move.  We found a large dealership in Bath, NY, that would sell it on consignment, so we took it up there and prayed it would sell quickly.  It didn’t sell quickly, but amazingly it did sell late in August.  By then we had begun to think about bringing it home since it was so late in the summer.  Who would buy the travel trailer when camping season was almost over?  Once again, God showed us who was in control!

On June 11th and 12th we had a huge moving sale at a friend’s house located on a busy road.  We sold a bed, sofa set, table, dressers, and many household items and tools.  It was exhausting, but it felt good to be rid of things we no longer needed.  With assurance, we told anyone who asked that we were scaling down to move part-time to Belize and live in a smaller house here.  We had the Salvation Army pick up everything we had left over.

A month later on July 11th, we received an offer to buy our house.  We were so grateful, and we felt encouraged in our faith journey.  Then, on July 18, we got a congratulatory message saying that the sale on the Belize lot was complete and we were the new owners of number 32, Sittee Point, Belize.  All we could do was thank the Lord for making our path clear.

The next day we contacted the surveyor our builder Rolando had recommended since we needed an up-to-date survey of the Belize lot.  We wired the money, and the surveyor emailed us a couple of days later  to write that he had finished surveying.  We then learned from Rolando that we needed to apply for a building permit.  Both Rolando and our Real Estate Agent in Belize, John Stewart, helped us through this process.  It would apparently take four to six weeks to be approved.

Another Wave Hits

Near the end of July, however, another large wave hit.  Our Real Estate Agent here in the U.S. phoned to say that the buyers had changed their minds and didn’t feel like they could continue with the purchase of our home.  We were too stunned to talk about it, but both of us prayed.  I went by myself into the bathroom and quietly told the Lord I wasn’t going to complain because our plan was His plan and He knew the timing.  This was not easy to do because my feelings of fear hit hard.

We had gone so far with our commitment in Belize, and we were so excited about God’s call!  Charles went outside to do some yard work which I understood was his place to be alone and pray.  There were so many parts to this puzzle, and they all had to be pieced together for this vision to be accomplished.

About four hours later the Real Estate agent phoned and said, “You must have been praying!”  I told her we certainly had been.  “Well, your buyers have changed their minds; they really want your house.”  Wow!  To say we were relieved is an understatement.  The sea had calmed.  We figured we would need to plan another trip to Belize after closing in September so we could meet the builder in person and make decisions about colors, countertops, and the placement of the house on the lot.

The buyers sent a home inspector to look at the house, and we began checking off the list of improvements he felt were necessary.  It was a little mind boggling at first since one of the improvements necessary was a whole new heating and air conditioning system.  We had no idea ours was so near collapse.  Again, though, we trusted that God would get us through this move debt free.  We needed to keep our eyes on Him and not on the waves.  We had already seen God meet our needs so many times when we trusted Him.

Surging Waves Hit

On August 5th the Real Estate agent phoned and said she had bad news again.  My heart felt like it dropped to the floor.  We had made arrangements with our daughter and son-in-law to rent a small house they owned on their property.  It hadn’t been lived in for several years, so we were there cleaning and repairing when we got the phone call.  “The buyers have changed their minds again and they won’t be purchasing your house.”   This was the biggest and hardest hitting wave yet.

Momentarily, we lost sight of Jesus in the midst of the huge wave crashing over us.  Charles and I gave each other a despairing look and again felt too shocked initially to talk much about it.  Our only communication was, “What do we do now?”  We held hands and said a quick prayer and then went back to our work on the house.  So far, we owned the lot in Belize, which had been surveyed, and we had applied for a building permit.  Our house had been scheduled to close around September 5th, and Rolando, our builder, had told us he could begin the build the first of October, providing he received the permit and first installment payment.

All the puzzle pieces had flown apart.  Both of us were praying and seeking God, although the temptation to sink in the water was great.  Many times we had to ask for His peace.  We both decided that if we had gotten it wrong, we would be willing to let go of the vision and be satisfied with having invested in a lot in Belize.  I emailed Rolando and told him to put the plans on hold until we notified him that we had sold our house.

He wrote back, “No worries.  I can do that.”  Yes, if we were truly walking with the Lord and keeping our eyes on Him, we shouldn’t have any worries.  It was a struggle to deal with relisting our house and starting over again, but we signed all the paperwork again, and the house went back on the market.

The Word says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  We needed to trust and not waver just because we didn’t understand what was happening.  In Matthew 8, Jesus needed to get away from the crowds, and He told His disciples they were going to the other side of the sea (V. 18).

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

I imagine the disciples didn’t understand why Jesus would have them get into a boat and experience a horrifying storm.  Jesus clearly reminded them that with faith they could be overcomers, no matter what they faced.  We only needed to ask Jesus to rebuke the “winds and sea” on our behalf.

After a few days, with humble hearts, Charles and I both felt that we needed to operate in faith again, so we could observe how Jesus was going to rescue this situation.  We notified Rolando that he could continue to plan on building the house in October.  We knew we had enough savings to make the first payment of the build and God would provide.  With this decision made, our spirits felt renewed, and we felt like we were back where we were supposed to be.  It was entirely up to Him to put all the puzzle pieces together.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).

In August Rolando sent us a picture of the lot to show us what the surveyor had done.  When we looked at it, it didn’t look right.  I sent the picture to our Real Estate agent, John, who immediately wrote back saying that this picture was not of our lot!  John went to our lot and notified us that it had not been surveyed.  We contacted Rolando and told him to have the surveyor stop by the Real Estate Office and have John show him the correct lot.

After going to the lot with John, the surveyor emailed an apology and told us he would survey our lot immediately.  On August 22, John sent us an email verifying that our lot had been surveyed.  God had truly protected us again.  With much relief, we thanked him for his help and then contacted Evan at Royale International, Belize, to tell him he could begin the excavating. Without even a deposit, this wonderful company began excavating around September 1st.

Another Trip to Belize

We decided after this experience that it would be a good idea to visit Belize again for a week, so we could meet face to face with Evan, the excavator, and Rolando, the contractor.  We left on September 8th; this time we had an uneventful flight to Belize City airport and then flew in the little Maya Cessna plane to Dangriga, Belize, where our friend Golden picked us up and drove us to Hopkins.  It was fun to see him and be greeted by someone we knew.  Golden’s huge smile is contagious.  In the car he pointed out where several places were and answered our questions about the church in Hopkins.  He was excited because he was getting a license to be able to take people on fishing excursions.

We stayed at a resort called Jaguar Reef, not far from our lot.   We were greeted Belizean style and given drinks upon our arrival and then shown to our little cabana with a palapa roof.  It was beautiful and comfortable, but we were excited to go see our lot.  We unpacked and each got a bicycle provided by the resort and took off.

The lot was only about a mile up the road, but we still had a little difficulty remembering where it was.  When we found it, we were astonished at how picturesque the property looked. The excavators had leveled the lot and removed the mangrove trees and gigantic roots down near the water.  We stepped into the warm Caribbean Sea, and it felt wonderful.  The sense of God’s blessing was so powerful, we were overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation.

We biked back and had a fish burrito dinner at a café near the resort.  Mostly expats were eating there since the café is located near the resorts at the south end of Hopkins Village.  We had Belize style burritos and fried plantain chips, which were fun to try, and we liked the taste.

 

Local Fishermen

The next morning we resumed the routine we had started during our last visit in April and took a morning swim in the sea.  As expected, it was warm and calm.    We were fascinated to watch as several men launched a very heavy looking canoe.  When they go out fishing in Hopkins Village, they must drag or push the boat from the sand out into the water and then jump in since there are no close docks in the village.  Upon returning, they head straight into the sand as fast as they can and then pull the boat up on the dry sand.  If there is a motor, one man lifts it up just as they get into the very shallow water, and the boat shoots up on the sand.

We made plans to meet Evan, our excavator, at the lot a little later in the day, so we bicycled down to the Real Estate office where John Stewart worked, which was also on the way to the lot.  We wanted to thank him in person for all the help he had given, and it was good to see him again, like meeting an old friend.  He invited us to meet him and his wife, Paragi, at a local café called Lucky Lobster for dinner that night.  After a nice visit, we bicycled down to meet with Evan. 

 

It was encouraging to meet and talk to Evan, our excavator, as we watched one of his crew leveling the lot and seeing how conscientiously they did their work.  We asked him about payment, and he said he would send us the bill when the work was completed in about two days, and we could pay him after we were back in the States.  “No worries!”  We were surprised at his trust in us!  Evan piled our bikes in the back of his truck and gave us a ride back to our resort.

We relaxed and cooled off a while in our room and then went for a bike ride around the village.  September is the month when many of the expats and locals who own resorts, cafes, and other businesses take off.  Several of the places where we liked to eat and visit were closed.  We stopped at Golden’s shop to visit a little. It was fun to see the Hopkins kids coming back to school after their noon lunch break.  We found a little bakery located next to a house and bought some cakes to take back to our cabana for lunch.

On Saturday, we biked to Pastor Herdie’s house.  He was not there because he had been invited to speak in Guatemala.  We had a short visit with one of his sons, though, who was very friendly and polite. Charles left one of his books for Pastor Herdie to read.

Riding back, we got pretty hot, so we took another swim in the sea and then had a relaxing afternoon and evening at the resort.  We looked forward to visiting the church again.

Sunday morning, as we were walking along the beach, three young Garifuna boys approached us asking if we wanted to donate money for their soccer team.  We told them we had already donated to the girls’ soccer team, but that didn’t dissuade them.  It’s hard not to support these kids, even though we don’t know if they really are on a soccer team because they have so little.

Unfortunately, because they spot us as tourists, we’re sometimes targets because they think we’re rich, but we do have so much more than they do.  We talked to them for a little while, asking them if they liked to play baseball.  They said they didn’t play because this sport isn’t as familiar to them as soccer.  We asked them if they’d like to play if they had baseball equipment.  One got a little excited and asked, “Can we have hats like that?” pointing at the cap Charles was wearing.  It seemed like they were more interested in caps than in having a ball, bat, or glove.  We would love to have had three caps to give them right then, but maybe we will be able to bring some with us when we go back.

One of the ideas we’ve had is to have a baseball camp where we could show the kids how to play baseball and then have Bible classes with them.  It would be wonderful to have groups come to Hopkins for periods of time to hold Christian baseball camps, too.  The village has a large level park where they could possibly play.

For lunch we ate at the Jaguar Reef Resort, where we were staying.  Part of the meal included yucca (pronounced “you-ka” by locals) fries.  They’re a little more solid in texture and chewy than potato fries, but so delicious.  The Yucca Giganta plant is native to Belize and Costa Rica.  It was fun to try something new.  Interestingly, much of the food there is a variation of Mexican food with which we are very familiar.

We decided to rent a golf cart at the resort to drive into the village for dinner before we went to church.  There weren’t too many places open, but at the north end of the village, we found a small place called Northside Kitchen with a few tables set up outside a house under a carport.  When we stopped, we were greeted warmly by the owner.  She didn’t have a menu, she explained, because she makes one dish and then sells it until it is gone!  Today was chicken.  It was moist and tender and yummy.

While we were eating, we talked to a couple of women who were there visiting the owner.  It was an enjoyable meal and another opportunity to meet a few of the locals.  It was surprising how many people came by for take-out while we sat there and ate.  When we finished, we said “good-bye” to everyone and told them we would be back in February when our house was built.

We wanted to go to the little grocery store to get some snacks, and on the way, we saw two women walking.  We asked them if they wanted a ride, and they were so happy.  They talked, giggled, and waved to friends as we drove to the grocery store.

Coming out of the store, we saw a little boy who looked familiar.  He asked if he could go for a ride on the golf cart. I asked him if he was one of the boys that sell cakes.  It turned out he was one of the boys who would come to our cabana every night when we had been in Hopkins last April.  He told us his name was Brayden.  We told him he could have a ride, but that we were going to church, so we asked if he would like to go to church with us.  He wanted to go, so we had him show us where he lived so I could check in with his parents.

It was a roundabout ride and then a walk through the brush for about a quarter of a block to his tiny house.  It probably wasn’t necessary to ask his parents since the Belizean kids seem to run comfortably around all over the village without supervision, but it was nice to meet Braydon’s mother.  She was a beautiful young woman nursing a newborn.  She told me Braydon could go to church, but he needed a bath.  I told her I thought he was fine, and we could take him “as is.”  I asked her if she wanted to go with us too, but she said she couldn’t because she had just had the baby, even though she liked going to church.

On the ride to the church, Charles asked Brayden if he knew Jesus.  He said yes, but Charles still explained to him that he could pray and ask Jesus into his heart. When we got to the church building, Brayden became bashful; he would sit with us only for a few minutes and then go outside and stand by the open side door near where we sat.

It was a joy to see Pastor Herdie.  It was a little early, so he was setting up the floor fans and some chairs.  After talking with him briefly, he began walking around silently praying like we had seen him doing last time.

As people began arriving, I saw Kendra and walked over to give her a hug.  She looked very pregnant now, but was feeling good.  I had a lollipop for her, and she giggled with delight to see it.  Kendra told me she was due in October.  I told her that the next time I saw her, I would be happy to see her baby.  She seemed pleased.  I told her I had been praying for her, and she thanked me and told me not to stop!

The singing began, and this time more songs were sung in Garifuna than before.  The music blessed us even though we didn’t understand the words.  Pastor Herdie is a songwriter, so I imagine they were singing some of his original music.  Once again, we were aware of the people’s total lack of self-consciousness and their ability to sing “from the heart” during the worship.  The lyrics were all known by the people, and there were no songbooks or projected lyrics.

The same “prayer warrior” came up, and again she again prayed right out of the Scriptures with amazing boldness and power.  What a blessing!  Two ministers from Guatemala were also visiting, and Pastor Herdie introduced them and had each one share a brief testimony in Garifuna.

Since Pastor Herdie had been out speaking during the week, he had a man speak in the service who was originally from the United States.  I think the man and his wife have been living there at Sittee River for around two years.  He shared an excellent Word-based message of faith.

We hadn’t seen Brayden for a while, and we hoped he was still outside or had gone home.  When the service ended, we talked with another couple who had moved to Dangriga from the US, and then briefly with the Pastor, who told us his wife was temporarily in Punta Gorda, Belize.  He looked very tired, so we said goodbye and hoped we’d get a chance to see him again before we left Belize.

When we went outside, we were relieved to see Brayden sitting in the golf cart waiting for us.  We took him home and then went back to the resort.  It was another enjoyable evening and we continued to feel blessed.

On Monday, after our morning swim and sharing time, we went for a bicycle ride to the village.  We had just passed the church when we saw Pastor Herdie along the road.  We stopped to say hi and asked him about his wife.  He invited us to go into the church building, and we sat down together.

He shared that two of his sons and his wife had temporarily moved to Punta Gorda, where she has relatives, and where their older boys could attend school.  They were occasionally able to visit during weekends, but it was a difficult situation.  He never complained, but repeatedly told us they were in God’s hands and He would take care of them in this transitory situation.

He additionally shared with us that his oldest daughter had died about six months before.  The story was heartbreaking, and it was hard to keep back the tears, but again Pastor Herdie was full of trust, for he had obviously received God’s peace and comfort.  While talking to him that day, we saw the hurt and pain evident after 30 years of serving as Pastor in Hopkins, but at the same time, he exudes a quiet joy and peace. 

He made us mindful of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We shared with him that our house had not yet sold, but God had led us to “get out of the boat” and trust Him.  We further explained that we had told the builder he could go ahead and begin in October.  Even though we were completely out of our comfort zone, we told him we felt we were being led of the Lord to Hopkins Village.

He seemed to understand perfectly our situation, and we had a wonderful prayer time together, praying for all of our various needs.  As we left, both Charles and I strongly felt a release and a God-given confidence.  The burden over our house was gone, and we felt renewed.

For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6)    

We met Rolando and Salim, our architect, in the large lobby of Jaguar Reef later that same Monday.  We immediately had a good first impression of them both, and the more we talked about the building project, the more we felt good about it.  Salim had pages and pages of house plan diagrams from all angles, including all the electrical outlets and plumbing.  We signed the contract to build and signed off on the floorplan.

Rolando then drove us to the property.  We decided where we wanted the house to be located on the lot.  It’s going to be built on nine-foot high cement pilings, and Rolando said he would contact someone who could put the pilings in, which would be the next step.  He assured us that the building permit was coming and that we could go ahead and have the pilings put in.

He then took us to see the house he had just about finished for Dennis.  It was very impressive and well-built.  We got back in his truck and began talking more about why we were moving to Belize. Charles told him a little about our calling to Hopkins, and immediately Rolando told us that he was a Christian.  He told us about his church, and again we felt so blessed.  God had definitely brought us together, and Rolando agreed.  When he dropped us off at the resort, we felt very content.

The rest of our time at Hopkins, we relaxed.  One day we took a drive in the golf cart to the harbor and river area south of Hopkins.  As we drove we suddenly saw about 20 coatimundis run across the road ahead of us. We learned that these cute mammals are part of the raccoon family.  When we were in Belize in 2006, one of the workers at the resort had shown us a coati that was her pet.  He crawled all over her, similar to a ferret.  

On Thursday morning Golden drove us to the Dangriga Airport to begin our trip home to the U.S.  On the way he shared his amazing testimony.  We were reminded how much God loves us and reaches out to those people whose hearts are searching for Him.

Charles with Golden

We took the Cessna plane again to Belize City and then flew home to Pennsylvania from there.  Of course, it was good to see our Pennsylvania family and our dog, Louie.  We took a day to adjust, get unpacked, and get caught up on the laundry, and Charles did some yard work.

Problems With Our Home Sale

We didn’t hear anything from our Real Estate agent for a week, so we discussed whether it might be time to drop the selling price of our house once more and trust that the Lord would continue to provide what we needed for the build in Belize, as well as our housing in the U.S.  Charles, however, felt that we should wait until the following Monday before we contacted the agent.  It wasn’t long after this decision that we received a message from the Real Estate agent saying that someone wanted to see the house on Saturday, September 25th.

On the following Monday, we had an offer!  We both felt it was a direct answer to our prayers with Pastor Herdie that day when we had felt that release.  We rejoiced and believed that this time, everything would work out.  The estate closing was scheduled for October 25th.

Moving Out of Our Home

Some friends had recently moved, and they told us that they had many boxes we could use for our move.  We went over and picked up what we thought would be enough and were grateful we wouldn’t have to look everywhere for boxes.  We had finished fixing up the little house where we would be living, so we began packing and separating things we no longer needed.

Even though we had had a huge moving sale, we were still finding so many accumulated things that we no longer needed since our little rental house had only one bedroom.  It felt good to “scale down.”  We found homes for our futon, large living room rug, stereo/TV cabinet, TV, sofa, dressers, and other items.  The smaller items we donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.  It kept us busy.

In October we moved a few things to the little house so we wouldn’t have to do it all at once.  Troy, our son-in-law, along with our daughter  Bethany and the grandsons, helped us one weekend by carrying all the heavy stuff.  The little house was starting to feel like home, and we loved it.

 

Meanwhile, we had to wire money to Belize to get an electric permit and then have an electrician put in an electrical pole so Rolando could begin his work.  He had moved a huge container, looking like a train car, onto the lot with all his equipment.  The nine-foot pilings were in, we learned; Rolando had the building permit, and was about ready to begin construction.

On October 7th, we made our application to the Belize Water Board to have water access for our property.  To process this application and get the water hook-up would take four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, the electrical post had been installed; now we had to purchase a permit so we could actually have electricity for the house and for its construction.  This, at least, was a little easier because BEL (Belize Electric Limited) is online and we could set up the account and make the payment directly online.  It wasn’t until October 27th that the electricity was connected and available.  At that time we were still waiting for the water hook-up.

Since we didn’t have much furniture left in our house, it was feeling pretty bare and cold.  With the help of Bethany and the grandsons, we got our heavy latex mattress moved to the little house.  We added a few personal items and moved in on October 8th.

After this, we gradually moved everything over and tried to unpack boxes as we brought them over.  Since Fall weather was beginning, I was able to put most of the summer clothes and small things we would take to Belize in plastic tubs that we stored in the garage below the house.  We enjoyed being in the little house and having the grandsons drop in now and then to see how we were doing.  Our furniture consisted of one sofa, two end tables, one cabinet, one dresser, along with our bed and two-night stands.  We felt so free!

 

Another Wave Hits

Everything during the escrow was going fairly smoothly until the day before closing.  On October 24th, around noon, our Real Estate agent telephoned to say we had a problem.  We could see the wave hitting again, and it was troubling, to say the least.  For some reason, the buyer’s bank had approved the loan for the house before receiving the appraisal.

Our agent told us that the appraisal had just been released, and it was $26,000 less than our selling price!  This news was astounding since our agent had agreed that our price was very marketable.  Did this mean the sale was off?  The Agent assured us she was going to find comparable sales herself to try to convince the buyers the price was reasonable.

(To Be Continued:  Part III in next Blog Post)

Moving For Purpose, Part I (by Jan Jenkins)

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Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  Is. 40: 29 – 31

At times the days go by slowly, and at other times they seem to go by very quickly.  Our whole family was together for Thanksgiving, which felt so good, and then the surge of the Christmas season passed quickly.  After the first of the year, 2016, Chuck and I felt apathetic. He had had surgery the previous October, and the recovery took longer than we expected because of some difficulties in the operating room, so we were so thankful when he was feeling much better.  A follow-up appointment in January showed that he was doing very well, and all his following appointments since then have been encouraging.  In fact, we had much to be thankful for, so why the lethargy?  Family, home, health, church, and friends were all a blessing to us.

We began praying that we would know God’s direction and that we would discern the plan and purpose God had for us.  Was retirement going to be settling down, finding some new hobbies, or taking an extended vacation?  Charles retired from the University in the spring of 2014, and for over a year we had reveled in the freedom we had to go on short camping trips in our new travel trailer whenever we wanted.  Now, there was an inner sense that there should be more for us.  Where was our place?  Where did we fit?  We had helped with leadership in the church home groups for a couple of years, but this ministry appeared to have ended since we never received further guidance.  I don’t remember how many times I asked the Lord what our purpose was. 

Getting Acquainted with Belize in 2006

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A number of years ago in 2006, we had visited Hopkins, Belize, a predominately Garifuna community in Central America, and we loved it there.  The tropical sunny climate, the beautiful Caribbean Sea, and the enchanting rainforest with the howler monkeys were a joy.  The history of Belize and particularly the Garifuna people is intriguing. For many years Belize was inhabited by the Mayan civilization which accounts for the incredible Mayan ruins that can still be seen today.  Currently, Belize is home to the Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo (Spanish and Native Americans), Mennonite (Amish) peoples, as well as a blend of many other cultures.   The Garifuna came from the inter-married Arawak Indians and Carib Indians of St. Vincent Island.  After the British tried to subdue the native people, a minority of survivors were deported to Roatan, Honduras.  However, the Garifuna were again forced to flee and landed on the southern coastline of Belize in 1832. 

In a victory over the Spanish in the Battle of St. George’s Caye in 1798, the British were given control and British Honduras became a British colony.  The name was changed on June 1, 1973, to Belize, and on September 21, 1981, Belize became independent.  In 1954 all adults could finally vote in Belize, and in 1986 the first university opened there. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Garifuna culture a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2001.  This proclamation was made to raise awareness and protection of the Garifuna culture.  The government in Belize is a parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy.  The prime minister is the head of the government, and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. 

Chuck and I decided to look at airplane fares and reservations to see if another trip to Belize looked possible.  After doing some research, we decided to plan a trip for the following April 2016.  This trip would give us something to look forward to and plenty of time to plan, look for flights, and find a place to stay. 

We chose to go back to Hopkins, Belize, which is a small fishing village on the southern coast of Belize in a district called Stann Creek.  It is a small multicultural community consisting mostly of Garifuna people with a few Mayan people, and a small expat gathering.  English is spoken with a beautiful rhythm and is relatively easy to understand for native English speakers.   Spanish is also occasionally heard among some of the people.  They are a happy, contented people and very friendly to everyone.  The first time we visited Hopkins, we stayed at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, which is a beautiful resort located right on the Caribbean Sea that specializes in diving, snorkeling, and various tours of the area including the rainforest.  This time we felt confident enough to stay on our own in a location in the village of Hopkins itself.  After much internet searching, we found a small house, or cabana, to rent in the center of the village facing the Caribbean Sea. We made reservations for April 19th to the 26th.     

Seeking Direction    

As excited as we were to return to Belize, we still were grappling with purpose and God’s direction for us here at home in the United States.  We began thinking that maybe there was a higher reason to revisit Hopkins Village than merely a time of vacation.  We were both still searching for that answer.  I began looking at all the activities there were to do in the Hopkins area. 

On our first visit we had stayed for a few days in the rainforest in a beautiful resort called Lamanai Outpost Lodge before going to Hamanasi.  We hiked all around Mayan Ruins, climbed to the top of the magnificent Lamanai Mayan ruins, gone with a guide to hunt and tag crocodiles on the river, enjoyed the Howler Monkeys, taken an all day hike in the rainforest to beautiful Antelope Falls, where we went for a swim, and we had gone snorkeling along the Barrier Reef.  Now in the village area, cave tubing, river rafting, a Jaguar Reserve, zip lining, and sea fishing were available.  Initially, I thought we could plan one activity for each day since when we were there previously we had focused mainly on adventures and sightseeing. 

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This time, however, we decided to see if we could find a church in the village to visit. I researched the area and found a church called Ligilisi Lareini Bunjiu, in Garifuna, and in English, “Church of Grace.”  We decided that we would try to find the pastor after we arrived.  With this first decision, it felt like God began speaking to us more about our visit.  Chuck had a vivid dream one early morning in which we were in Belize actively involved in ministry.  He woke up excited to share it with me.  Now we talked more about mixing with the Garifuna people and looking for ministry opportunities

By April, we additionally began to discuss whether, or not, God was actually calling us to a longer ministry in Hopkins Village.  Both of us believed that God had a higher purpose for this visit, and we needed to be in prayer for His guidance and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, our home here in the U.S. began to feel a little uncomfortable.  We had just attended a semi-annual Home Owners Association (HOA) meeting, and when the discussion focused on getting a large bank loan to repair the private road for our community, we became very unsettled.  Our plan since the early days of our Christian ministries, and God’s plan for us, is that we stay out of debt:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who  his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

This loan, however, would put everyone in the association in debt for the next 20 years.  If they were able to get the loan, it would only take a majority vote to commit all the families in the association to this large debt.  The majority at the meeting didn’t want simply to fix the eroded and cracked places, but also to resurface the whole road.    I felt the Lord speaking to my heart saying that we were “unequally yoked,” with unbelievers who were making financial decisions we didn’t agree with. This situation, along with the upkeep on our house on six acres, which was becoming more difficult, made us begin thinking about downsizing.  Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  

Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  Meanwhile, at the very least, we would have a nice vacation in Belize, we could have some time away to think about our situation more, and finally, perhaps, we could come to a decision about our house.

We remembered many years ago hearing a speaker talk about the eagle’s nest.  The parent eagles prepare a comfortable home for their eaglets with soft, downy feathers, and they carry plenty of food to them.  When the eaglets grow their juvenile feathers and become more ready to leave the nest, the parent eagles rough it up so that there are irritating sticks surfacing instead of the soft covering of feathers and other plant life that had made their home so comfortable.  This new discomfort makes them want to leave the nest.  We concluded, perhaps, that because our nest was becoming a bit scratchy, it was time to make a move.  Now we began thinking that if we were able to sell our house and move into something smaller, we might consider having a house in Belize.

On April 17, we made a decision to phone a Real Estate agent and ask her to look at our house.  She was available to come out that afternoon, so we showed her around.  She thought the house was “saleable” and was willing to do a “soft listing” while we were in Belize, which meant that while we were gone she could show the house to anyone interested, as well as to colleagues in her office, to get a feel for the market.  Incredibly, after living in this house nearly 21 years, we felt very peaceful about our decision.

We did some frantic house cleaning, packed, and left for Belize two days later on April 19.  Since we hadn’t flown out of the country since 2006, we had forgotten some of the steps we had to take to get through customs, and we were sometimes mystified at the rude attitude of the TSA officers.  When we boarded the airliner to fly from Miami to Belize City, we felt relieved that we had successfully made it through all the checkpoints. 

At one point, when our plane began to taxi to the runway, suddenly there was a screeching of brakes, skidding, and a loud noise at the back of the plane as the plane came to a stop.  All the passengers were jerked forward, and I half expected the oxygen cups to come flying out!  We looked back and saw that all the metal cupboards in the back of the cabin had flown open and the big bin of ice had sailed off the shelf and hit the flight attendant in the head.  She was bent over in pain, and all the attendants from the front of the plane came running down the aisle to assist her.  Behind them, a woman came hurrying down the aisle saying, “I’m a doctor, let me help.”  After giving the woman immediate first aid, the pilot decided to take her back for medical attention at the airport.  Over the intercom, he explained to all the passengers that this meant a “few minutes delay” while they found a substitute flight attendant. 

Nothing was explained about why the sudden stop was necessary, but later we learned that another plane had been headed in our direction because the tower had neglected to notice that both planes were given clearance and were taxing at the same time to the same runway.  About an hour later we were finally ready for take-off again. 

This was the second time we were flying to Belize, yet the first time we had another unique experience when we were certain of God’s protection.  In 2006 we had a layover at Atlanta.  When our boarding announcement was broadcast, we saw two Arab men hug one another and say their good-byes.  As we boarded the plane, we saw that our seats were directly behind the one Arab man who had boarded ahead of us.  He didn’t have anyone seated next to him so he spread his prayer cloth on the seat and began reading a book. 

I peeked through the two seats and saw the title of the book written in English:  Journey of Death.  This was alarming, but I kept thinking how God was sending us on this vacation and that He surely would protect us.  Even if something horrific happened, I knew where we were going, so I tried not to think about it.  None of the attendants seemed to notice him.  I realized later that I should have said something to a flight attendant, but at the time I didn’t want to call attention to him if he were innocent.  I said a prayer, though, for protection as we got ready for take-off. 

After leaving the runway, I peeked again between the seats and saw that he was asleep.  He slept through the whole flight and didn’t wake up until we landed.  God used this experience to remind me how He protects those who trust in Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me. (Ps 23:4)

We had a good flight to Belize City and went through customs.  The Belize International Airport is small and crowded, but it is fun to arrive and feel that immediate immersion into the culture.  There are several small shops that sell souvenirs and snacks around the perimeter of the room, with a tight seating area in the middle. We saw a sign for a restaurant, but never could find it in this small area!      2017-01-24_1029.png

Our next flight to Dangriga, Belize, was in a small Cessna that carried only six passengers, and after only 10 minutes we saw that we were landing again.  When we landed, the pilot said nothing to us, but we looked out and saw that they were loading several large boxes of vegetables onto the plane.  When they finished a couple of workers boarded, and then we were off again!  This time we landed in Dangriga Airport and we were picked up by a driver who took us to our small, colorful rented cabana in Hopkins Village. 

 2017-01-24_1030.pngIn the kitchen we noticed that all the knobs on the stove were labeled in Spanish.  We later found out that many of the “Mabe” appliances are made in Mexico and sold in Belize.  The cabana was pleasant, with a wonderful Caribbean breeze off the sea coming through the windows.  Occasionally, we would spot a gecko crawling along the wall.  We were told they eat bugs, so we left them alone.  We also saw beautiful Frigate Birds flying over the sea.

 We initially had a couple of days of adjustment to the tropical weather and the general environment.  It was hard to believe we were back in Belize, and we were even a little disoriented with all the activity around and the differences we immediately felt as a result of being in a different culture.  We were in the center of the village, so there was noise, and people, and children all around.  Out on the veranda, we would see an occasional small Iguana scamper across the sand.  They were fun to look at because when they run, they stand up on their two back feet.  Later, on a drive we saw one that was almost three feet long.  At night we could hear drumming at one of the nearby clubs.

On one side of the cabana, a crew of construction workers were building a house.  One evening we decided to try to knock off a coconut from one of the trees.  We found a stick but it didn’t reach high enough, so we tried jumping but couldn’t dislodge one.   One of the construction crew was sitting watching us and probably laughing inwardly at our technique.  Chuck asked him in Spanish if he could help us. The man found a longer piece of wood left over in a pile, and he was able to get us two coconuts immediately.  Between our limited Spanish and his limited English, we had a brief conversation and found out his name was Roberto and that he had probably traveled from Guatemala for this job.  After that, whenever we saw him, we greeted him in Spanish, and he would always greet us in English.

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In the Garifuna language, the words for the village, Yugadan, Balisi, are translated “Hopkins, Belize.” In the village are many beautiful seafront properties with very small make-shift wooden homes that have been owned by families for generations. It is not uncommon for trash to be thrown outside on the sand, where it is then occasionally raked up and burned, along with sea grass that washes ashore. 

    

Hopkins is a small village with perhaps 1200 residents, many of whom are employed at the local resorts that have been built up over the years.  Many people own cafes or souvenir shops, or they just set up tables along the main road to sell food daily to tourists or school children for lunches.  One night we bought “burritos” from a woman who had set up a table.  To us, they were more like tostitos than burritos, but they were very tasty, nevertheless.

In the evening of our first night, though, we walked to a cafe called “Innies.”  We ordered a traditional Garifuna dish called Hudut, which is fish cooked in a coconut broth and served with a mound of mashed plantains.  When our bowl of soup, or stew, arrived, along with a plate with a huge mound of mashed plantain, we had no idea how to eat it.  We asked the waitress for help, who giggled and looked at her family gathered in the kitchen; they also thought our question was funny.  She then told us how to take the plantain mash and dip it into the “fish soup.”  This was our first experience eating plantains, and later we also had them fried, similar to French fried potatoes, or “thick chips.”

Since we were last in Hopkins ten years before our trip in 2016, a gracious expat had opened a Humane Society to help with the homeless animals that roamed the village.  Today, veterinarians donate time to provide vaccinations and care as necessary, and the services are all free.  On Sundays, The Lucky Lobster, a local eating establishment, has “Bow Wow Sunday,” a time when they invite customers to purchase a specific dish or drink, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the Hopkins Humane Society.  While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, who we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, whom we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

Holy Family Roman Catholic School

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From walking around the village and having conversations with people, we found out that the village school is what we call a “public school” in the US, but operated by the Catholic Church in Belize.  English is taught in the schools in Belize, but Garifuna is spoken among friends and family.  The children wear uniforms and generally walk to school or ride bikes.  For lunch they come back home or purchase food from women who set out tables of food along the road.  It was fun to sit outside at one of the cafes and watch the children go by. They’re somewhat shy, but responsive to a smile or wave.  I quickly found out that they love lollipops!

We learned that at the house next door to our cabana the owner rented bicycles, so we walked over to rent two of them.  All the bicycles we saw were “fat tire” bikes with peddle brakes.  However, now we could do a little more exploring of the village area.  We first biked to the north end of town, the home of the Drumming Center, where Garifuna drummers entertain and teach any willing visitor how to drum.  The Garifuna drums are hollowed out from solid trunks of Mahogany, Mayflower, or Cedar, made into a cylinder-shape, and then sanded smooth.  The skin of a deer, sheep, or goat may be used to cover the top of the drum, with cow skin for the larger drums, using rope and vines to secure the skin to the drum.  Eight pins are used to tighten the rope and these are used also to tune the drums.  The drums sit in the sun to dry and the skin is sanded smooth.  A drum called “Primero” is usually twelve inches or less in diameter providing a high sound, and a “Segundo” drum will be fourteen to eighteen inches or more and providing a bass sound. 

Lessons at the Drumming Center

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Chuck was given a drumming lesson when we were in Hopkins the first time, and they had him drumming so long that he felt like his fingers were going numb!  It truly takes lessons and practice to beat the drums correctly.  

It was fun to visit the Drumming Center again and see that it was larger now, and easily accommodating more people that before.  The man in charge was just as friendly and talkative as the first time we visited.

 

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We also met a Mayan woman who owns a souvenir shop selling both Mayan and Garifuna items.  She took us around her property showing us various edible fruits, as well as some that are medicinal.  One of the most unique fruits was the noni, which is used to make juice that the people believe kills cancer and many other illnesses.  Juice is made by letting the ripe noni sit in a glass jar in the sun making the juice seep out of the fruit over several weeks.  She says she drinks the juice every day, and she gave us one so we could try it.  The fruit is also eaten raw or cooked.  We tried the juice, and found it had a very bitter taste and the smell was pretty unpleasant.  The “free range” chickens in the village, however, like the ripe, softened noni fruit!

Seeing Golden Again!

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We also saw a souvenir shop named “Golden Gifts.”  We remembered that in 2006, when we were there in Hopkins, we had a guide named Golden who took us on a hike to a beautiful waterfall called Antelope Falls.  We remembered him because of his name and because he was so informed about the plants, trees, and animals of the area.  We had a welcoming reunion with Golden, who now owns his own shop and has his own tourist company called “D Golden Tours.”  We’re so happy that Golden has been successful in his business since he was such a good tour guide.  On the way back to the cabana, we saw a woman washing a huge pile of clothes using a large bucket of soapy water and a washboard.  We waved as we rode by, and she waved back.

View From Driftwood Plaza

On another day we went on our bicycles up to the north end of Hopkins Village to eat at a highly recommended café called Driftwood Pizza.   It was a cute place, scenically located right on the beach.  There were tables inside and outside with a volleyball net on the sand and a few hammocks (the first choice for relaxation in Belize).  We ordered pizza from the waiter with several toppings, including coconut.  We saw the cook go out, knock a coconut off a tree and then take it to a place near the kitchen where she cracked it open with ease.  She got some coconut and began grating it to be put on the pizza.  Right before the pizza was done, she brought something rounded and light brown in color and placed it on our napkins.  We thought it might be some kind of a bread roll, so I asked her what it was.  She explained it was a rock to keep the napkins from blowing away in the light Caribbean Sea breeze!  Surprised, I told her I thought it was something to eat!  She and the waiter could hardly stop laughing!  Silly gringos!

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 After a couple of days in the cabana, we started having young visitors every night selling cakes their mother had made during the day.  There were always two or three little boys who would knock on the door or look in the windows to get our attention.  They were lively and always wanted to try on our shoes which we always left outside the front door!  I gave them lollipops which probably encouraged them to come every night, and it was impossible for us to refuse to buy a cake!

 

 

2017-01-24_1051.pngOn Thursday afternoon we went out for another walk and decided to see if we could find the church and Pastor Herdie Castillo.  Everyone we asked knew him, and eventually we found the church, but there was no one there.  The double front doors were locked, and the wooden shutters around the whole building were all closed.  We then began asking for directions to his house.  The people have what for us was an unusual way of giving directions.  They are so familiar with their village and where everything is that they simply list off several landmarks to watch for, and always what you are looking for is “close by.”  Most roads off the main street are made of dirt, so we never could tell if “three roads that way” included dirt paths or dirt roads since most of the roads have no names that we could see.  Finally, after three or four directions, we found Pastor Herdie’s house. 

When we got there, he was watching the NBA playoffs on television, and we were apologetic for interrupting him.  The house was very small and simple, but there was an atmosphere of peace and contentment even though there was truly a whole houseful of people.  He came outside to talk to us.  Young and older children were all around, and he introduced us to several of them who were his children and grandchildren.  They were all attractive with beautiful smiles.  His lovely wife Victoria came outside so we could meet her also.  They told us a little about their ministry, and we told them we wanted to visit the church on Sunday.

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We left Pastor Herdie’s house feeling like God might indeed have a ministry for us in Hopkins Village.  Pastor Herdie was a quiet, unassuming man who obviously had much wisdom and love for the Lord, and we were drawn to his humble, godly spirit.  Later, while reading the word the following scripture “jumped out.” 

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony go God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.  I. Corinthians 2:1-5

These verses resonated with us because they provided confirmation of some of the things that Pastor Herdie had talked to us about.  He shared that the best way to become immersed into the village is by quietly observing and listening to the people.  One must come into the community with humility and listen as God provides opportunities to share the gospel, while also, relying on the Holy Spirit within us to give us His power without being concerned about our weaknesses or fears. Finally, we could depend upon Him to work through us.

We walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.  He then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about it.

Friday morning, we went out for a swim in the sea.  This morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana. We then decided to do more exploring in the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize. We picked a few small carvings that would fit in our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay him.

On Saturday, when we went out for our morning swim, we talked about Charles’s dream again and whether, or not, we were ready to make a decision regarding a purchase in Belize.  We formulated a tentative plan if the Lord should bring us back to Belize.  After talking with Pastor Herdie, we felt that we would be there initially to Pray, to Listen, and to Watch.  The following scripture ministered to us beginning with Paul’s prayer:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as though with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Part of our discussion was the connection we felt with the Garifuna people of Hopkins Village because we sensed their need for the Truth to set them free.  The Garifuna people have cultural traditions that remain very strong, so they aren’t necessarily interested in accessing the truth of God’s Word.  When they commit their lives to Jesus, they must disown occult traditions like witchcraft, including the belief in mediation with departed ancestors.  The precious Garifuna Christians, who have let go of those religious customs, have a joy and love that is amazing, but they also deal with pressure and misunderstanding from family and friends who are without Christ and who feel that these Christians have rejected their Garifuna roots.  Charles and I are both trained, professional teachers, and we felt a desire to teach the Word of God so the people might “be firmly rooted and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), while being mindful that “no one takes them captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men”  (Colossians 2:8).

We also discussed our concerns about our family and being gone from them for longer periods of time.  It would take time and much understanding for them to comprehend our vision.  It was not easy to think about being this far apart from them, and it would be a difficult separation for us.  Furthermore, we couldn’t plan this journey without thinking about how old we are, even though foreign mission work has been something we have always wanted to do. 

We Had Always Wanted to Be Missionaries

When we were first married, we wanted to be missionaries.  We traveled over two hours to Long Beach, California, for an appointment with a representative of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  The representative told us that even though Charles had a bachelor’s degree, as well as teaching certification, and though I was a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), we would still have to go to Bible College, and it would be at least seven years of study before we could even think about going to the mission field.  This news was overwhelming since we were in our twenties, and we were eager to move into ministry.  A while after that, we thought maybe we should apply to join the Peace Corp.  We had Christian friends who were in Africa with the Peace Corp, so we filled out the application.  We never heard back! 

Was it possible that after all these years God was finally sending us to ministry outside the US?

Later, we went to see John, the realtor and asked him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was to happen He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to change the direction of a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm119:105).

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Sunday Worship Service

Pastor Herdie’s Church service begins at 7:00 PM on Sundays in order to accommodate the many people who work at the local resorts on weekends and are not off until Sunday evenings.  We walked and had to ask for directions a few times since we couldn’t remember exactly where the church building was.  Again, everyone we asked was familiar with the church location.  When we arrived, we saw that the double front doors were wide open, all the wooden louvers were open at the windows (no glass), and all the lights were on.  The chairs were the plastic lawn chairs that are common here in the US.  Ceiling fans were on, and a couple of floor fans were turning.  There was a low stage with the traditional Garifuna drums and a guitar. We were a little early and saw the pastor slowly walking around the room praying.  We talked briefly with him and sat down.  

As the people entered, we noticed the smiles and general joy of the people.  The women all wore colorful dresses or skirts.  The children were shy, but would smile at us.  I had lollipops for a few of them too.  A woman sitting close to me came over and asked if she also could have a “sweet.”  I first assumed that she just wanted one because she saw the kids with them, but she explained that they made her stomach feel better.  She was in the early months of pregnancy and had been very sick.  I gave her a lollipop, and then later in the service, I gave her another one.                     

Now the church was just about full.  I would guess around 90 people.  We were so happy to see our friend Golden come in with his family.  It turned out that he was one of the two drummers who play for worship.  Pastor Herdie played the guitar and led the singing with two women as back up.  Because they have all the doors and windows open and use amplification, the sound carries out into the village.  What a testimony to hear and see these people sing out with all their hearts, each one worshipping as though no one else is there.  The songs were sung in English, and many of them were familiar to us.  They don’t have the words written out, so the songs are memorized.

                     Anointed Prayer                               

Next, a woman who was recognized as a prayer warrior came to the microphone and led us in prayer.  The power of the Holy Spirit in her as she prayed was amazing.  She opened her Bible to Deuteronomy 28:2-8 and declared these precious promises in her prayer for all of us who were there:

All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.  The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.  The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. (Deuteronomy 28:2-8)

Her prayer was a declaration of faith in the Word of God, and there was no doubt the Lord heard this prayer which was prayed with faith and the agreement of the congregation.  This was truly a lesson in praying and believing His promises in the Word of God, as opposed to praying a “pleasing” prayer that just sounds good for listeners.

Golden on Drum and Pastor Herdie on Guitar

They had a greeting time, a time which always makes me nervous, but as the worship leaders sang and played the drums and guitar, it seemed so natural.  In an unselfconscious way, everyone, including the children, went around to one another for a quick hug and simply saying, “God bless you.”  It was not a time for conversation, but a brief blessing for one another.  There didn’t seem to be any hesitancy about including us in their blessings.  It was wonderful to feel so embraced.

One of the issues Pastor Herdie faces is the occult traditions of the Garifuna people.  He understands the hold the enemy tries to keep on these Christians.  In his message, Pastor Herdie spoke about this struggle and strongly urged the people to cease these practices which include trying to “hear” what their ancestors are saying.  He exhorted them, saying that our Savior, Jesus Christ, gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us, and He is the only one we should be listening to.  He encouraged people to live in righteousness and to listen to the Holy Spirit. 

At the end of the service, the pastor asked two or three people to come up for prayer.  One of the women was Kendra, to whom I had given sweets and who was truly suffering from morning sickness.  As he prayed for each individual, everyone in the congregation prayed too.  I was so blessed by this prayer time because I had been feeling all through the service that Kendra needed special prayer.  After this, all the people sang Happy Birthday in Garifuna to one of the men.  It was delightful to hear it sung in their language.

As we walked home, we felt spiritually refreshed and confident of God’s calling.  We were so excited.  Later, God gave us the following scripture:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face[s], and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you. (II Thessalonians 3:9-11)  

The following Monday morning, we went for our early swim and had our habitual sharing time, believing that God had spoken to us through Peter the Lord’s disciple.  Like Peter, we have always been somewhat impetuous and have never held back from making instant decisions when we felt God was calling.  We have had home Bible studies, pastored churches, and been professional teachers in the public and Christian school systems.  We have moved our family several times when God was leading, and the last big move we had made was from California to Pennsylvania. 

Peter, the disciple, is an ever-present example of someone who is not afraid of making a mistake, but who fearlessly jumps at every chance to be near Jesus.  For example, Peter recognized that he was “all in” with Jesus.

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)  

Peter also made his confession of faith to Jesus when Jesus asked the disciples,

        “Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). 

Peter didn’t always understand the mission of Jesus.  When Jesus told the disciples that He would have to leave them, 

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord where are You going?”  Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now?  I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:36-37). 

Furthermore, Jesus spoke to the disciples telling them that He must suffer, be rejected, and be killed, but after three days He would rise again. 

And He was stating the matter plainly.  And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s”  (Mark 8:32-33). 

Again, Peter didn’t understand.  However, Jesus never gave up on Peter even though Peter tended to be impetuous, even cutting off the ear of one of the guards had who come to arrest Jesus (John 18:10-11).  And on the Sea of Galilee, upon seeing Jesus, Peter jumped out of the boat when he and the disciples were fishing. 

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net of fish.  John 21:7-8 

Any other disciple could also have easily jumped out of the boat to be with Jesus since they were so close to the shore.

Peter was also blessed to be one of the disciples taken to the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but not comprehending the significance of the event. 

“And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ –not realizing what he was saying.” (Luke 9:33) 

Peter, as imperfect as he was, loved Jesus. 

He [Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 

As Peter grew spiritually, however, he became a powerful evangelist after he was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the Father. 

His boldness and power were evidenced in the following passages:

  • At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty person was there together).  (Acts 1:15)
  • “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them:  ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.” (Acts 2:14) 
  • “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ( Acts 2:38)

In the stories of Peter’s life, we find wonderful lessons about how God loves and directs our lives, both through our wise decisions and even decisions made impetuously without much forethought or prayer.  I have always liked the way Peter was comfortable enough with Jesus that he could make mistakes, speak out, and even question Him, knowing that Jesus loved him unconditionally and would keep him safe.

Finding Peace in God’s Will

While we were in the sea, we saw John, the real estate agent, drive up to the cabana.  We quickly got out of the water believing that he had good news for us.  Instead, he told us that our offer had been rejected because another one had come in sooner.  We were surprised and initially wondered if we had been too impulsive.  John suggested we go out and look again at the lots.  So, we trusted that if the Lord had a lot for us, he would either show it to us, or we would know that we should stop moving in this direction. 

We quickly showered and got dressed.  John then took us for a drive to look at properties we hadn’t taken notice of before, and about an hour later we made an offer on another lot.  A phone call was made to the owner who accepted our offer over the phone while we sat in the Real Estate office.  We were excited but a little overwhelmed.  Our Heavenly Father had actually prevented us from getting the first lot, and we not only got this lot for $9,000 less, but also it was a little closer to the village and partially cleared.

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Were we really doing this? God spoke to our hearts about Peter again, this time from Matthew 14:23-32.  Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus went away to be alone and pray.  The disciples went out on the sea in a boat.  In the middle of the night, Jesus appeared to the disciples walking on the water.  They were frightened so Jesus said, “Take courage it is I; do not be afraid.” 

No matter what is happening to us, good or bad, at any given moment, we can have courage because we have Jesus in our lives. 

Peter then said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “Come.” 

Peter didn’t let any distractions deter him as he climbed out of the boat.  I can only imagine what the other disciples were thinking, but Peter was focused and wasn’t about to listen to their concerns.  Peter left his area of comfort and safety and chose to be with Jesus.  He got out of the boat and walked on the water.  He only began to sink when he became afraid. 

The important message in this passage is that when you “see” Jesus and keep on seeing Him, there is no fear.  This was our time to step out of the boat; to step out of our comfortable lives and home.  Our confidence was that we were where Jesus was, and even if we began to sink, he would stretch out his hand and hold us, just like he did with Peter.

On Tuesday, we left Belize and flew home to Pennsylvania.  We made it home at about 3:00 AM.  It felt good to be back, knowing we would soon see and talk to our family.  That week we talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace, and we were determined we would keep our eyes on Jesus.

 

(To Be Continued:  Part II in next Blog Post)

The Consequences of Hatred

Unfulfilled Desires 

Post-holiday depression is felt by many people, yet rarely has it been so prominent in our daily consciousness as in the present time.  Due primarily to the influence of today’s social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, people are freer than ever to convey their resentments without consequence.  Posts such as, “I hate my life!” or “I Can’t Do This Anymore!”  are common.

Other reasons for the visibility of depression are also probable, however, not just the ability to vent one’s emotions and feelings so freely without any repercussions, events that are extremely contagious in today’s “connected” society.

Since many people have believed the promises made to them in childhood, such as, “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” or “Your dreams can all come true!” they have grown discouraged and resentful when their life goals and desires do not seem to be coming true.  

This despair may lead to expressions and feelings of “hate,” including “hatred” towards others, such as public figures, including politicians and authority figures, whom they often see as the ultimate sources of their depression due to unfulfilled promises.

One reason hatred is increasing in the world today is that some are promoting hatred as a means of obtaining what they feel they deserve or has been promised.  Hatred is seen as the motivator, the “leverage,” that makes one make changes that promote success, fulfillment, and happiness.  Here is how one blog writer validates his hatred:

Finding that sweet spot, where I know what I hate, and why I need to challenge that hatred is central to my ability to succeed with my goals. That is what will spur me to act. Drive me away from pain. Towards pleasure. Ultimately, that is what it all boils down to. Reducing my pain. And increasing my pleasure.

So, the key is to hate the status quo with all our heart. Hate it so badly, that not acting will only take me down the hole even further.

This is also called the leverage. A point in my life where I cannot stand the pain any further. Where the misery of my painful existence is unbearable making my goal the only option to survive.

But for the leverage, I would never push myself to climb out of the pit of agony. . .I turn to my hatred towards the status quo [to] fuel my passion to succeed (Source).

A Story From Long Ago

King David of Israel committed a grievous sin, taking the life of Uriah the Hittite in order to claim the man’s wife for himself, Bathsheba.  Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, admonishing the king and foretelling the woes that would come to the royal family:

“Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight” (II Samuel 11:9-11).

Nathan’s prophecy began to be fulfilled through Amnon, King David’s oldest son.  Amnon was heir to the throne of Israel, one of the privileged few, intent on seeing all of his desires fulfilled, even those that were forbidden by the laws of Jehovah.  Under the Mosaic law, it was forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage, particularly with a relative. Amnon desired Tamar, his half-sister, with whom he believed he was in love.

Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her (II Samuel 13:1-2).

It was not only “hard” for Amnon to possess his half-sister, but also forbidden, yet Amnon is so lovesick that he listens to the advice of Jonadab, a counselor to the king.  Jonadab is described as a “shrewd man,” but his advice results in horrendous consequences. We later see this same man’s “shrewdness” brought into the story in the end when King David is faced with his own son’s treachery and Jonadab presumes to counsel the king.  Here is what Jonadab tells Amnon:

But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” (II Samuel 13:3-4).

Jonadab advised Amnon to pursue his sinful lusts by first pretending to be ill, then requesting that his Father King David send Tamar to him to minister to him, a request that Jonadab knew would be difficult for David to refuse.

Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat from her hand’” (II Samuel 13:5).

Amnon assents to Jonadab’s plan, and when King David came to see his supposedly ill son, Amnon asks his father to send Tamar to him so he could regain strength through the food that she prepared for him.

When Tamar arrives and prepares food for Amnon, however, he asks her to bring it to him where he is lying in his bed.  He takes hold of her, demanding that she lie with him.

Tamar refuses his request, saying,

“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:12-13).

Amnon is not moved by Tamar’s suggestion that they marry, and he easily overcomes Tamar’s opposition to his lusts: “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (II Samuel 13:14).

Once he has taken her virginity, Amnon’s guilt turns his love for Tamar to hatred:

 Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (II Samuel 13:15).

Ironically, Tamar does not feel so violated, for she finds solace in the Mosaic law commanding that a raped woman shall be able to marry the one who has violated her.  Thus, she refuses to leave Amnon. Her response relates to Deuteronomy 22:28 which states that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her.  

“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

In addition, Tamar realizes that no other man will marry her since she has been violated:

“But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!” (II Samuel 13:16).

Amnon calls his attendant, however, to take Tamar away and lock the door behind her so she cannot return.  Subsequently, Tamar goes into mourning; she “put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went” (II Samuel 13:19).  

Absalom’s Hatred

Tamar then stays and lives in the home of her brother Absalom, where she remains in extreme sorrow and distress.  She has no apparent future since Amnon has taken away her promise of a happy life.  

When King David hears what has happened, he is exceptionally angry at Amnon, but perhaps because David realizes how he himself may have opened the door to Amnon’s lust for Tamar by sending her to him, David chooses not to exact punishment on his son, the heir apparent to the throne.

Absalom, however, Amnon’s half-brother, decides to take revenge in spite of his advice to Tamar not to make Amnon’s rape known: 

Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house (II Samuel 13:20).

Nevertheless, we can only imagine the intense hatred Absalom has for Amnon, as he witnesses the sorrow and depression of his sister, Tamar:

But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:22).

After two years, Absalom hatred grows, until he plots Amnon’s death, enticing him away from King David’s protection through an elaborate plot:  inviting all of the king’s sons and servants to help with and celebrate his sheep shearing. 

When Amnon joins Absalom’s company, Absalom commands his servants to murder him:

Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant” (II Samuel 13:28).

Subsequently, King David is erroneously told that Absalom has murdered all of his sons:

Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn (II Samuel 13:30-31).

King David’s nephew, Joab, who is the commander of the king’s armies, intervenes as a peacemaker. He plots with a woman, asking her to pretend to be a widow whose two sons have quarreled, resulting in the death of one of the sons.  Asking for help, she relates to King David that now the rest of her family is calling for the death of her other son.  

David assures her that “not one hair of her son will fall to the ground” (II Samuel 14:11).  

Joab has contrived this pretense, however, to show David why he must forgive Absalom for killing Amnon.  When David sides with the widow, she responds according to Joab’s instructions:

“Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (II Samuel 14:13-14). 

Seeing the justice of his own judgment for the woman, David sees also that he must forgive Absalom. He calls Joab to seek out Absalom and to bring him home to Jerusalem.  The division between David and Absalom continues, however, for many years: “However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (II Samuel 14:24).

Ultimately, Absalom becomes the leader of a rebellion against his father’s reign:

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’” (II Samuel 15:10).

King David flees from Jerusalem as Absalom advances, leaving his house in the hands of his concubines.  Ultimately, in another fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy, Absalom commits his own sexual sins on the advice of Ahithophel, David’s advisor.

Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (II Samuel 16:21-22).

Conclusion

What a story!  The sins of one man, Amnon, led to the sins of many others, all resulting in even more sins and divisions in King David’s family, and finally the dissolution of David’s kingdom, resulting in warfare among the people:

Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured (II Samuel 18:6-8).

Finally, Absalom, famous for his beautiful, extremely long hair, is ensnared in the branches of an oak tree, where he hangs helplessly until Joab stabs him with three spears, and ten young men (who carry Joab’s armor) surround Absalom and kill him.  

When King David hears the news of Absalom’s death, he is stricken with grief:

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33).

Hatred is Contagious

Living a life of resentment, descending into depression, and hating one’s life, or having any kind of hatred, leads to more hatred, especially hatred for other people.  

When I was growing up, many years ago, I never heard the term “hate crime,” but this designation is increasingly heard and printed today. Clearly, the causes and consequences of hatred are growing in today’s world.   

In this story of Amnon and Tamar, we can also see how hatred is severely infectious. By pursuing sinful thoughts and lusts, Amnon only ends up hating Tamar, the woman he has supposedly once fervently loved. Even if they were to continue to live together and be married, she likely would only have reminded him continually of his evil plot to take her virginity through lies and deception.

It is also likely that Absalom blames his father King David for Tamar’s rape, for Absalom ends up plotting treason against his own father, attempting to overthrow King David to become king himself.

These stories, beginning with Amnon and Tamar, extending through Absalom’s murder of Amnon and his rebellion against King David, resulting in Absalom’s death and David’s grief, all exemplify why we must follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).  And we must not allow resentments over perceived injustices to lead us to hatred, a condition that only leads to more sin.

Love, Not Hatred

Of course, the ways of the world are the opposite of what the Word of God tells us.  The Apostle Paul wrote the following admonition in his letter to the Corinthian Church:  

“Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14).

Rather than hatred in any form, whether spoken or felt, love must be the source of our motivations in our lives.  And our all-knowing God is the provider of true love in our lives, for “God is love.”   

 

The Nature of Discipline

Our Heavenly Father Loves Us

Increasingly in today’s world, far too many people have not received proper discipline in their growing years; consequently, they personally acknowledge the need for more discipline in their lives, and it has become highly common for various “trainers,” “teachers,” or “experts,” often through expensive programs, seminars, or videos, to promote “self-discipline” through meditation, costly seminars, repetitive behaviors, deep breathing, rehabilitation programs, or sheer willpower to gain control over bad habits or destructive actions.  

As Christians, however, we have a heavenly Father who loves us so much that He guides our steps daily in life, while providing us with the power to be overcomers against the many challenges in our lives.  We also have a Father who loves us enough to discipline us as His own children!  

Read what the writer of the Book of Hebrews relates about discipline in the following passage from Chapter 12:

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:4-7)

Nothing is more disturbing than to see a child whose father or mother has not loved him enough to discipline that child.  We Christians, however, have the example of our Heavenly Father as the true disciplinarian: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (v. 6).  

Learning Discipline

I thank my heavenly Father that my earthly parents loved me enough to show me when I was not being polite, mannerly, or obedient, often in spite of their own grief or embarrassment and my own obstinance. As it is, many children cannot even sit quietly through a performance or meeting without disturbing others around them, most likely because they have rarely sat in church services.

While I didn’t especially appreciate my parents’ love and concern for me at the time, as the following verse describes, I now am most grateful for their loving discipline, for they were teaching me the discipline of God.

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

Notice that the word used in this passage is discipline, not punishment.  My earthly father never sent for the school bully to beat me up when I was disobedient!  Therefore, we need to reject the idea that our Heavenly Father, Who sent His own Son to the cross to redeem us from the hands of Satan, the enemy of our souls, would ever discipline or “scourge” us by sending Satan to attack us. Why would the Heavenly Father inflict upon us what He sent His son to bear for us vicariously on the cross? This was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, as Matthew declares: 

16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)

Who Is Our Teacher?

Jesus said to His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

Therefore, the Holy Spirit was sent by our Father to be our Teacher!

And the Holy Spirit, obviously, always acts according to the “fruit of the Spirit,” which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).  

Our Father does not want His children to be killed, maimed, destroyed, or beaten down by the enemy, so He certainly would not do Himself what He deplores!  Our Father sent His Word (Jesus Christ) and His teacher (the Holy Spirit) to teach and discipline us so that we might not fall again into the hands of the bully of this world, the one who only seeks our destruction, as Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  

God receives no glory or praise when His children fall into the snares and traps of the enemy, but it is a travesty even to suggest that our loving Father is the one who sends disease, sickness, death, earthquakes, fires, or other tragedies into our lives to “teach us something.”

And while our own lack of discipline, or bad decisions, may lead to such tragedies, the word to “chasten means to “lead toward virtue by correcting mistakes and putting barriers around passions.” And to “rebuke” means “to show a person his fault, or to bring a man’s sin to the light through conviction (which means “to convince of error or sinfulness”).  

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, relates that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7) 

Unfortunately, when Christians hear the word “fear,” as in the injunction to “fear the Lord,” too often we apply the definition for fear that we have learned in this world: “to be afraid or apprehensive, to be alarmed due to impending danger.”  We need not feel terror in God’s presence, but instead we should be filled with awe and reverence.

Therefore, we are not cautioned to be afraid of God, but rather to feel reverence for Him.  We are even told in Revelation 21:8 that the “cowardly” or “fearful”will have no place in God’s Kingdom.

Notice also that, generally, we are not assigned the task of convicting or rebuking others, even though the Father may use us as his spokespersons, at times. Instead, our Father is He who rebukes and brings conviction to our hearts through His Holy Spirit and through His written and spoken Word!  

God speaks to us personally through His Holy Spirit to reveal our errors or sins in order to bring about repentance and receive His forgiveness.  He does so with love and patience, not with anger and wrath. And with the Word comes the faith necessary to be obedient to His will (Romans 10:17).

  • Thus, the first step towards discipline, as Christ’s disciples, is to have reverence for the Lord and to open our ears to hear His Word, as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus said, “Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).  
  • Unless we are determined to be obstinately disobedient, we need not fear the Lord, as I feared the paddle my parents used.  

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
    His praise endures forever. (Psalms 111:10)

  • The final step, therefore, is to be continually obedient to the Word that we have received in Love from our Father. These commandments are not intended to be harmful or destructive, but instead are given for our welfare and good, just as my parents’ instruction to “Look both ways before crossing the street” was intended to ensure my safety. 

Finding the Truth

The Scientific Method?

One calling of God for the Christian Church is to be a vital channel for Truth in today’s world.  The Apostle Paul wrote, concerning this calling, the following message to Timothy:

14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long;15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (I Timothy 3:14-15)

By general consensus, however, our culture today assumes and supposes a scientific basis for all valid knowledge, not seeking Truth from God’s “pillar and support” Instead, the world’s scientific pillar is described as follows:

“a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.” (Source)

This procedure assumes that the resulting conclusion will be the “truth” since it is based on facts that are tested through research and proven hypotheses.
Ironically, however, many influential academics and intellectuals have concluded that “absolute truth” is unknowable and cannot be found because it does not exist, a conclusion that contradicts the basis of the scientific method. Since an absolute truth is always correct, regardless of one’s ability to discern, or discover, any particular truth, those who seek to learn the “truth,” often deny the possibility that it even exists because of their own inability to find it.

An Age-Old Question

This is not a question that has arisen only in the modern scientific age.  Rather, the question arose in ancient times, and it was particularly revealed in the discussion between Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman ruler in Jerusalem:
37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, yet another doubter like Pilate, received an answer from Jesus about finding the way to the truth.  Jesus made the following statement about finding the truth in a conversation with His disciples:  

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:3-6)

And later, just before His crucifixion, Jesus prays the following prayer for His disciples, both those with Him and those who would be His followers in the future:

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:13-19)

Significantly, when Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth,” He confirmed the first verse of John’s Gospel, a passage where John declares that Jesus is divine, the very Word of God Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

Jesus Christ, therefore, is declared to be the manifestation of God’s truth, the Word of God through whom all things are created.  He is the Light that came into the world.

Unfortunately, even though this Light shines in our dark world, those who live in darkness cannot see the Light for their eyes are blinded.  And since the Light is allied with Life, those who cannot understand the Truth cannot obtain the Life that He was sent to confer upon everyone as a gift of God’s mercy and grace.

Revelation, Not Intellect

This is not to assert that the scientific method is the means Christians should use for gaining God’s Truth.  Instead, the mysteries of the Kingdom of God are obtained through revelation, and only those who seek Him will receive these revelations.  Jesus said, 

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:6-8)

Jesus Himself gave His insights to Pilate, as well as other religious leaders, who then turned on Him, trampling the truth under their feet while seeking to tear Him to pieces.  Likewise, we must be discerning, seeking God’s guidance as we seek to fulfill Christ’s commission to spread His Word throughout the entire world.  We must recognize that some will not receive the Truth we have received from the Holy Spirit, and we may experience persecution for sharing the Word of Life, even though we are walking in the Light.

Likewise, we must be discerning, finding the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we seek to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission to spread His Word throughout the entire world (see Matthew 28:19-20).  We must recognize that because we find God’s truth through revelation, some people will not receive the Truth we have received from the Holy Spirit, and we may experience persecution for sharing the Word of Life, even though we are walking in the Light. Christians are despised for not being scientific enough, even though this scientific method is denigrated by those who believe they have discovered the truth through its use. Even the Apostle Paul was called a “babbler” (Acts 17:18) because he dared to share the spiritual insights he had through personal revelation:

Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. (II Corinthians 12:1-6)

Notice that in this passage, Paul relates that he received the “truth” (v. 6) from the visions and revelations he received from the Lord.  The truth was communicated not through the scientific method, but through “inexpressible words,” or in another word, “mysteries” which cannot be communicated directly, but only through the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Paul’s faithfulness to these secrets, or mysteries, he suffered extreme persecution, as he explained to the Corinthians:

23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (II Corinthians 11:23-27)

Indeed, I believe that another period of persecution is coming to all who will be faithful to God’s calling, just as the early disciples of Christ faced extreme persecution.

Conclusion:

It may be unsettling to learn this, but our brains are not the source of Truth. Instead, Christ Jesus and His Word is the source of God’s Truth, and we learn the Truth through “revelations” that come from God Himself through the Holy Spirit if we will only seek Him.  

Decades ago, people came to believe that “everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.” However, such opinions derive merely from what has been heard and decided by the individuals’ brain choices, and not by direct revelation of the Truth from a loving and Holy God. Unfortunately, “majority rules” is likewise not an indicator of Truth.  Many horrible leaders in history have brought terrible disasters upon multitudes of people because their followers were convinced to become like sheep, all gone astray over the cliffs of false teachings and doctrines about what is True.     

People need only read the multitudes of “comments” following controversial articles on the Web to see that people disagree vehemently about the nature or substance of the “Truth.”  Unfortunately, therefore, the “Truth” is rarely discovered because the writers simply resort to name-calling, persecution, and threats. Subsequently, people who disagree are labeled as being a “bigot,” “stupid,” “uneducated,” or lacking in “tolerance.”  More and more, therefore, those who are “outside” the boundaries of what is considered true (from common perceptions derived from media representations or polling questionnaires) will be subject to various kinds of persecutions.

 

Note: For more on this topic, see the following blog article from www.biblicalmysteries.com.

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of Pain

After enduring pain in my shoulder (rotator cuff) for several weeks, my orthopedic specialist gave me a cortisone shot. The shot was more than just a “pinch,” as shots are usually called by medical caregivers, but I was grateful afterwards, for I could move my shoulder again without feeling like I had been stabbed with an ice-pick!

This experience with pain was in addition to my craniotomy last fall and the onset of migraine headaches.  Physical pain is bad enough, but emotional and mental pain can be just as bad, if not more perplexing and burdensome.

Anyone who has chronic pain of one kind or another is usually moved to ask, “Why?  Why do I have pain in my life?”

Years ago, I learned some answers to these questions by studying the disease of leprosy that appears so often in the Bible.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s Disease, is an infection caused by bacteria that are contracted  by direct contact or through the air by sneezes or coughs.  Leprosy is highly contagious, therefore, which explains the prohibitions given to lepers in the Bible to prevent the spread of the disease.

(Click here to read Leviticus 13 for a description of the disease and its symptoms, along with some of the restrictions placed on lepers.)

Leprosy bacteria multiply slowly, so the disease may take years to fully manifest, but when it does, the symptoms are very visible, especially on the skin.  Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Skin lesions that may be faded/discolored
  • Growths on the skin
  • Thick, stiff or dry skin
  • Severe pain
  • Numbness on affected areas of the skin
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis (especially in the hands and feet)
  • Eye problems that may lead to blindness
  • Enlarged nerves (especially those around the elbow and knee)
  • A stuffy nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Ulcers on the soles of feet

(Click to see source.)

What About Pain?

When leprosy becomes active, which may take two-three years after initial exposure, it eventually attacks the nervous system, leading to numbness in the nerves on the skin and the loss of feeling or sensation on the hands and feet.

Read a fuller description here:

Many have thought leprosy to be a disease of the skin. It is better classified, however, as a disease of the nervous system because the leprosy bacterium attacks the nerves. Leprosy’s agent M. leprae is a rod-shaped bacterium related to the tuberculosis bacterium. Leprosy is spread by multiple skin contacts, as well as by droplets from the upper respiratory tracts, such as nasal secretions that are transmitted from person to person.

Its symptoms start in the skin and peripheral nervous system (outside the brain and spinal cord), then spread to other parts, such as the hands, feet, face, and earlobes. Patients with leprosy experience disfigurement of the skin and bones, twisting of the limbs, and curling of the fingers to form the characteristic claw hand. Facial changes include thickening of the outer ear and collapsing of the nose. (Source)

The worst danger from the bacteria arises, therefore, when a burn or another kind of injury occurs, for example, and the leper does not feel the injury due to the lack of sensation at the site: “The leprosy bacillus destroys nerve endings that carry pain signals; therefore patients with advanced leprosy experience a total loss of physical pain. When these people cannot sense touch or pain, they tend to injure themselves or be unaware of injury caused by an outside agent” (Source).

Pain’s Purpose

Imagine putting your hand on a very hot iron or woodstove and not feeling anything.  You may end up leaving your hand on the heat for quite a while, resulting in a terrible burn.  If you had felt the pain initially, you would have quickly acted to remove your hand.

Consequently, as a result of an inability to feel pain, the leper does not react quickly, so the injury becomes quite severe, leading to extreme damage to the body.

Leprosy: A Metaphor for Sin

Leprosy was so dreaded that lepers were shunned, and they were required to announce their presence to others and were forbidden from touching anyone to prevent the spread of the disease:

As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46)

Leprosy was so dreaded, and the commandments of God were so clear, that lepers were shunned. Lepers were declared to be “unclean.” To prevent the spread of the disease, lepers were required to announce their presence to others and were forbidden even from touching anyone else.  Being shunned must have led to extraordinarily painful emotional distress, a switch from one kind of pain to another.

Incurable by man, many believed God inflicted the curse of leprosy upon people for the sins committed. In fact, those with leprosy were so despised and loathed that they were not allowed to live in any community with their own people (Numbers 5:2). Among the sixty-one defilements of ancient Jewish laws, leprosy was second only to a dead body in seriousness. A leper wasn’t allowed to come within six feet of any other human, including his own family. The disease was considered so revolting that the leper wasn’t permitted to come within 150 feet of anyone when the wind was blowing. Lepers lived in a community with other lepers until they either got better or died. This was the only way the people knew to contain the spread of the contagious forms of leprosy. (Source)

Being shunned must have led to extraordinarily painful emotional distress, a switch from one kind of pain to another. The consequences of leprosy, therefore, are analogous to the consequences of sin.  When we are infected with sin in our lives, we become “unclean,” and our sin may even infect others with serious consequences.  Sin results in severe consequences in our lives, both physically and mentally.  Like leprosy, these consequences may take years to yield their results in mental distress and physical deformities.

Like the symptoms of leprosy, the consequences of sin in our lives may take years to yield their results in mental distress and physical deformities.  Yet, we should dread the symptoms of sin even more than those of leprosy, for the consequences of sin are death and eternal separation from God.

Jesus Cleanses the Leper

Jesus Christ, however, is the answer for both leprosy and sin, along with the resulting mental and physical deformities and anguish:

When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Jesus is willing to cleanse us wholly, in spirit, soul, and body.  He renews a right spirit within us and restores our souls.  Like King David, we may pray the following prayer in faith:

Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalms 51:9-11)

Jesus Himself, because of His love for us, is the One who restores our souls and cleanses us from all the consequences of sin.  See what the Apostle Peter wrote about the crucifixion of Christ:

And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (I Peter 2:23-25)

While on the cross and before His ascension into Heaven, therefore, Jesus became our substitute, taking our sins upon Himself and cleansing us from all unrighteousness if we will only accept Him.  By faith (which is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1), we may receive His ultimate cleansing in spirit, soul, and body, taking away our pain.

Today, we constantly seek ways to escape our pain, whether through cortisone shots, or pills, or certain “relaxation techniques” that are essentially occultic.  While we do not like the experience of pain in our lives, we should seek the causes of our pain and be thankful to a wise and loving God who gave us nerves that help us feel the pain of dangerous situations, thereby protecting us from further harm and disabilities.  And above all, we need to find our answer to pain in the forgiveness provided  by God and the salvation offered through the sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 

What Was Jesus’ “Orientation”?

We all have unique perspectives from which we understand our universe, including how we read, examine, and live by the Word of God.  Some philosophers have concluded that there is nothing that can be known outside of the “self,” a very self-centered philosophy indeed! 

This is why Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the true paths of the straight and narrow way.  The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, who reveals the will and purposes of the Father to us.

On a secular level, I often discussed the concept of solipsism in my literature classes as we analyzed a literary text, focusing on the consequences of seeing the world only through a narrow vision of reality.  

Solipsism is the philosophical theory that only the self exists, or at least the only reality that can be proven to exist. Thus, a solipsistic view sees only what appears through the lens of one’s own eye. Rene Descartes originated the idea that “I think therefore I am,” or in Latin, Cogito ergo sum.

In today’s “post-modern” world, the idea permeates our culture that any interpretation of reality is acceptable, for “It’s a matter of personal opinion,” and, “Who is to say that one opinion is right and another is wrong?”  It is wrong to judge another person’s views, it is believed, although doing so often occurs.

Many fallacies arise solipsistic thinking, of course, but my students and I were often engaged by seeing the solipsistic ideas of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, for example, for his life was consumed and destroyed by his narrow and narcissistic views of his own false perspectives of reality.   

One question that has arisen of late, and it’s one that will bluntly be asked more often and more in the days ahead, is whether Jesus was sexually active, and even more blasphemously whether He was a homosexual.  

Interestingly enough, one website that purports objectively to examine this issue uses the following guideline to oppose Christians who may never have considered the possibility that “Jesus was gay”:

On the other hand, there is an often quoted concept that reading the Gospels is like looking down a well. What you see in both cases is a reflection of yourself. Social activists often view Jesus as a social activist. Spiritual people frequently look upon Jesus as spiritual. Heterosexuals may see at Jesus as a heterosexual. Homosexuals may look upon him as gay, etc. (Source)

This website consists of people who are “a multi-faith group,” consisting of such beliefs as atheist, agnostic, Christian, Wiccan, and Zen Buddhist, and their goal is “religious tolerance,” which essentially means that we can believe what we wish as long as we all get along together.  

Thus, the article from this website on the subject of Christ’s sexuality is clearly intended to introduce the possibility of Christ’s sexuality to those of us who are dogmatic and intolerant, in order to make the currently discussed views of human sexuality both normal and acceptable.  Showing that Jesus was similarly tolerant and even a participant in such sexual activity is likely seen as an acceptable way to change the minds of hating and bigoted people and to make them more tolerant of those in our world who engage in such sexual proclivities.

Consequently, it is believed, there are as many views of what is “true” as there are faces and wells to look down, but as long as we choose not to be intolerant, we may all coexist together without hatred, prejudice, and persecution.

However, while we are all taught today to be tolerant and accepting of those with other beliefs, Jesus Christ Himself seemed intolerant at times.  Witness His views of some of the religious leaders of His time, in addition to His future world-wide judgment that will separate the sheep from the goats  (see, for example, Matthew 23:13-36).

An Example of Solipsism

Rollan McCleary is a British-born Australian who, based on his own homosexual experiences and writings about astrology, has concluded that Jesus was a homosexual:

He uses Jesus’ “astrological chart” — the planet Uranus figures prominently, as in the case with many homosexuals, he says — and argues that there are clues in the Bible to back up his views. In the Gospel of John, the disciple John frequently refers to himself in the third person as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” McCleary thinks this is highly significant. . . .”You maybe have to be gay to read the signals and to see things and research things which other people wouldn’t,” he added.

[Found in:  Rollan McCleary, “A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality,” David Brown Book Co., (2004)]

In other words, McClearly’s own solipsistic perspectives led him to believe that Jesus was gay. He also relates that his own knowledge of astrology reveals that Jesus’ horoscope included the planet Uranus, a sign that supposedly figures prominently in the charts of many homosexuals.  

It is not clear how McClearly was able to determine the astrological chart of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, for He was “in the beginning” (John 1:1), and His exact birth date on Earth is unknown.

Even if an astrological chart could accurately predict Jesus’ sexual orientation, the task of creating such a chart appears quite impossible. Dr. McCleary told Australian Broadcasting Commission radio, howevver, that 

In the past, “one or two queer theologians” had attempted to show Jesus was gay. “People haven’t taken them very seriously because they don’t have any evidence and they say things so sensationally that people are not really going to listen or just be very angry. What I’m doing is showing a much more theological and also astrological dimension on all this which will make a lot more sense to people.” (Ibid.)

Dr. McCleary definitely must be looking down the well and seeing only what he wants to see.

What Do the Scriptures Say?

Overall, general agreement exists even among those who argue Jesus’ sexual orientation that the Scriptures are essentially silent on the issue of His sexuality.  Still, it is usually implied that the New Testament writers either chose to bury any rumors or suggestions that Jesus was sexually active or that any such passages were deleted by later clerics and clergymen. 

It is further assumed that even Christ’s overt advocacy of opposite-sex marriage and the Mosaic law provides no insight into any personal sexual orientation or practices.  Likewise, it is said, the Scriptures are also silent on whether Jesus was single or married, childless or with children.

Jesus’ views of sexuality, including homosexuality, are manifestly clear in the Scriptures to logical and non-solipsistic minds, however, for otherwise He would have been exposed as manifestly hypocritical.  He would be open to assuming the same role he derided in those Pharisees He exposed as hypocrites and sinners.

Since the Pharisees accused Jesus of being possessed with demons and consorting with prostitutes, they surely would have accused Him of sodomy if there had been any possibility of immorality, a situation that is admitted even by the Religious Tolerance website:

If Jesus were gay, and if the Jewish establishment knew of his orientation, they would certainly have used it against him. Yet there is no record in the Gospels or in subsequent Jewish literature of the topic ever having been mentioned. (Source)

Jesus’ Own Declaration

Jesus taught the scriptural view that God made a man and a woman for the purpose of exclusive marriage.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6)

Jesus then clarified His teaching further in the following verse by saying,

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)

Significantly, when Jesus is further queried by His disciples (they wonder why anyone would want to marry), Jesus shows a unique perspective on sexuality, one that most likely pertains to His own life:

But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)

Jesus Himself is therefore revealing His own sexual nature, yet stating that He chooses to abstain from all sexual behaviors or acts “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”  Therefore, although it was uncommon for Jewish males to remain unmarried, particularly if they were rabbis.  The Essenes were a sect that practiced abstinence, for example: 

There can be no doubt that many Essenes (scholars say that some might have been married) chose to be unmarried. According to Philo and Josephus, they did so because they thought that women had a negative impact on men. There’s no reason to believe that Jesus shared this perspective. But He did join the Essenes in accepting an apocalyptic worldview that anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom. (Source)

More Illogical Interpretations

Today, we witness only the beginning of the efforts to recruit Jesus into the LGBT, etc. army.  These improbable interpretations of the Scriptures range from the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, to the suggestion that Jesus and the “disciple that Jesus loved” were a homosexual couple:

Patrick Goodenough, referring to the passage in John’s Gospel, wrote:

One might argue that Jesus loved all of his followers in a non-sexual way. Thus to identify Jesus’ love for John in a special way might indicate a sexual relationship. The disciple was “the” beloved. He was in a class by himself. (Source)

And quoting Robert Goss concerning the same passage, Goodenough argues that since Jesus and the beloved disciple ate together side by side they must have been sexually intimate:

What’s being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand. (Source)

A number of passages in John’s Gospel describe the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” including John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, and 21:20.  The repetition of this phrase is seen as proof that Jesus loved John intimately, though this conclusion is illogical.  John was merely using a “third-person” perspective to speak of himself to avoid calling inordinate attention to his own presence.  

Specifically, the story about the Last Supper when one of the disciples whom “Jesus loved” asks Jesus which disciple would betray Him is mentioned.  This disciple, presumably John, is described as “leaning back on Jesus bosom,” and this intimacy is seen a proof that Jesus and John were sexual partners (see John 13:21-26).  

This conclusion is highly illogical, however, a typical example of a “hasty conclusion”‘ fallacy.  The disciples were all informally reclining at the table, as was usual–the reason why their feet needed to be washed.  As they ate and shared the meal together, it was highly likely that they would have touched one another in many ways, just as males today in America may have contact with one another in non-sexual ways such as teammates on a football or baseball team.

Another extreme example of solipsistic interpretations refers to the following passage:

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:  there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.  [If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”] (Mark 7:14-16)

Someone named “J Richards” has suggested that this passage “shows that Jesus approves of homosexual acts,” for the sentence refers to “dietary laws” and also applies to “blood transfusions, medication, organ transplants, and artificial insemination.” Therefore, Richards suggests, it could apply to homosexual acts as well (qtd. here Source, although the actual source no longer appears online).

This suggestion would be laughable if it weren’t so blatantly blasphemous and horribly unclean.

The Centurion’s Servant Healed

The story of the Roman Centurion’s servant is related in Matthew 8:5-13 and also in Luke 7:1-10, where the story is told in a fuller narration.  

In Matthew, the Centurion speaks directly to Jesus and makes his request that the servant be healed.  In Luke’s version, however, Jesus never actually speaks to the Centurion, but instead some Jewish elders were asked to make the request for healing. The difference is significant, for the reaction of Jesus to the Centurion’s faith is marvelously revealed in these differing circumstances: Whether the Centurion is speaking directly or only through the Jewish elders, the impact is the same, for faith is the result Jesus marvels about.

The following is the interpretation of the events by Michael Kelly, however, as quoted not only in the religioustolerance.org website, but also many others:

One day a Roman Centurion asked him to heal his dying servant. Scholars of both Scripture and Ancient History tell us that Roman Centurions, who were not permitted to marry while in service, regularly chose a favorite male slave to be their personal assistant and sexual servant. Such liaisons were common in the Greco-Roman world and it was not unusual for them to deepen into loving partnerships….Jesus offered to go to the servant, but the centurion asked him simply to speak a word of healing, since he was not worthy to welcome this itinerant Jewish teacher under his roof. Jesus responded by healing the servant [from a distance] and proclaiming that even in Israel he had never found faith like this! So, in the one Gospel story where Jesus encountered people sharing what we would call a “gay relationship,” we see him simply concerned about — and deeply moved by — their faith and love. Source

Kelly further implies that “Jesus’ sensitivity towards the gay couple might have arisen from his own bisexual or homosexual orientation.” (Source)

This interpretation is highly ironic, however, for Jesus neither sees nor talks with either the Centurion or the servant, yet the implication is that, first, there was a homosexual relationship between the two, and, second, that Jesus obviously approved of this relationship since He healed the servant.  This interpretation misses entirely the significance of the story, revealed by the Centurion’s statement that Jesus so approves of:

The centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:6-8)

Jesus instead only marvels at the Centurion’s faith:

Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” (Luke 7:9)

Even More Ridiculous

An even more outrageous interpretation concerns the following passage from Mark’s Gospel, the account of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion:

A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked. (Mark 15:51-2)

Although the translations may vary, this is the result according to Peter Murphy:

We don’t know from the sources what really was going on, but we do know that something was very peculiar between Jesus and young men. (Source)

Equally ridiculous and illogical is the perspective taken on the story of the fallen woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee. When Simon said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39), Jesus engages him in a dialogue that demonstrates not only Jesus’ forgiveness but also Simon’s hypocrisy.  

However, the point is made that Jesus seems upset that He received no kiss from Simon.  Anyone who assumes that Jesus is asking for a gay relationship with Simon must have drugged, for “kissing” in greetings were common in those days and were not sexual in nature, as Paul wrote: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16).

Many more examples of solipsistic thinking and interpretation are available in today’s culture, though searching for them and reading them has been nearly as onerous as reading a stack of freshman compositions.  

The Apostle Paul, however, gives some guidelines that reveal how to live our lives and read the Scriptures in non-solipsistic ways.  Since we are neither omniscient nor filled with all godly wisdom, we need to depend on the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, to guide us into all understanding. 

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  (James 3:13-18)

Merchandise of Wisdom, Part II

The serene peacefulness of the desert landscape was rudely interrupted by a deathly pall as an uncommon stillness crept over the fast fading sands.  Even the sinking sun seemed to hasten its journey away from the scene, its light fading quickly behind the evening clouds on the horizon.

After forty days in the wilderness, the splendidly formed arms and hands of Jesus, conditioned and sharpened through long toil in the carpenter’s shop, had long since taken a gaunt appearance.  The once smooth muscles that now stretched from His robe appeared chiseled and lean.  His hands slowly gathered the folds of His robe together against the chill of the evening.

All that day, His body had been crying for food, reminding Him that after receiving no nourishment for so long, death was imminent if sustenance was not restored.  It was at this point, when His body was at its weakest, that He felt the presence of the evil one.

“I see that you are hungry!”  Satan taunted.  “Since you are the Son of God, why don’t you just say the word?  Why not just command that these stones be made into bread?”

But Jesus calmly answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Twice more Satan tempted Jesus.  And twice more Jesus used the Word of God, the mighty Sword of the Spirit, to defend Himself and press the attack.

At length, Jesus said, “Be gone, Satan!”  And the presence of evil quickly fled, and peace was restored to the landscape once more.  In spite of the fact that Jesus could have made bread out of the stones of the desert, He relied solely upon the Word of God for His strength and support.

Perhaps He remembered where it was written, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”  At any rate, the angels of God appeared and cared for Him, just as they had for the prophet Elijah so long ago in the wilderness.

 

The Beginning of Wisdom

In Part I of this series we discussed the fact that the exercise of God’s wisdom in our lives will insure that every need we have will be met by God, no matter what the circumstances!  As we saw in Proverbs 3:13-20, the merchandise of wisdom is better than the merchandise of silver or gold, themselves only imperfect means of worldly barter.  Where silver and gold fail, God’s wisdom never fails.

Isn’t this what the crippled man who sat at the Gate Beautiful found out?  Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6).   All the gold in the world could not have met that man’s need.  But Peter had the wisdom of God!

We need to ask, therefore, “How do I receive God’s wisdom?  How do I receive the God-given ability to apply and speak God’s Word in faith in a specific situation and see results?”

 

The Richly Dwelling Word

The Apostle Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).  One paraphrased translation says, “Let His Words enrich your lives and make you wise.”

The Word of God, therefore, is the key that opens the door to Godly wisdom.  Through God’s Word we come to know God’s will.  Did you know that His Word and His will are one?  God never says one thing and wills another!  And wisdom is a God-given knowledge of His will in a specific situation.

Paul also writes to Timothy, saying,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (I Timothy 3:14-17)

This is why Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).   If the Word of God dwells in us, it will greatly enrich our lives, for we receive God’s wisdom through His Word. And as we receive wisdom, and act accordingly, we are thoroughly and completely equipped for every good work!

 

Come, Buy and Eat

Have you ever wondered about the following passage in Isaiah?

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
 “Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

How do we come and buy and eat without any money?  Is there any way we can receive what we need without money?  Isn’t that the question everyone has been asking for centuries of time?

Well, according to the lies of the enemy and the world’s system of barter, the answer is no!  Anybody who tries it gets locked in the slammer!  But we are not talking about the world’s system.  Nor are we interested in the lies of the enemy!  God says that His children are joint-heirs with Jesus, and as such we have unlimited access to His storehouse!  He says that if we bring our gifts to Him, we have the following promise:

Test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.  Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. ” (Malachi 3:10-11)

The key to buying without money is the merchandise of wisdom.  Isaiah continues to speak the Word of the Lord saying,

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:2)

In other words, the key to buying without price and without money is hearing the Word of God! He says, “Listen to me.” He says, “Listen to my Word and you will be satisfied beyond measure!”

 

Returning the Word

Isaiah continues further in the same chapter to quote the Lord as follows:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Let’s examine this principle further to see how it works.  The rain and the snow fall, according to this passage, in order to water the earth, to give seeds to the sower, and bread to the eater.  There is a purpose in the coming of the snow and rain.

Well, God says that His Word works the same way!  When God sends forth His Word, which He has already done in abundance, it will accomplish similar results as the snow and rain!  God’s Word waters, gives seeds to the sower and bread to the eater!

This is why God wants us to diligently listen to Him, for He is speaking His Word to us!

But through Isaiah God also said, “It shall not return unto me empty.”  God’s Word will not return to Him void.  It has to have some faith in it to be returned to Him!  Isn’t that the way it is with money?  All the little green papers in the world won’t buy anything if people do not have faith in them!

During times of extreme inflation after World War II, people had to have a wheelbarrow full of German marks to buy a loaf of bread.  Why?  Because nobody had faith in the money!  And why do banks fail?  Because people no longer believe in the integrity of the bank’s word.  Faith and trust are necessary for any economic system to function!

And it is the same with God’s Word.  If people never believe in God enough to believe what He says, they never can receive from Him.  To receive from God we must believe in His form of currency, and we must use it to receive from Him what He has already promised.  Used in faith, God’s Word will indeed return to Him.  Unfortunately, most people have more faith in a dollar bill than the soundness of God’s Word.  And they don’t know how to use the Word of God as a form of currency, returning it to Him filled with faith!

How do we do it? Through prayer!  God says He wants us to put Him in remembrance concerning His promises to us.  As we do, praying the prayer of faith, based on the Word, God responds in a way He never could before because of our ignorance and unbelief.

Why do we continually labor only for silver and gold, that which will not satisfy?  God wants us instead to labor to receive His wisdom through His Word!  He wants us to live not by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds forth out of His mouth!

If wisdom is the medium of exchange, that we must use in receiving from God in specific circumstances, then the Word of God is the currency!

In the next article, we will continue  to learn how to obtain wisdom and how to use God’s form of currency.

 

 

 

 

Merchandise of Wisdom, Part III

Fishing for Sustenance

Simon the fisherman listened intently in spite of the slapping waves along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the distraction of his long neglected nets which lay unwashed on the shore.  The morning sun warmed his broadly tanned shoulders as he waved his oar through the sparkling water to keep the boat steady.

He had toiled and worked all night long with his brother Andrew, and he was extremely tired.  But still they had caught no fish.

Yet somehow the words of Jesus seemed to bring his tired arms and hands to life.  Perhaps it was the fervor with which He spoke. Or was it the excitement His words generated in the crowd?  Whatever it was, Simon too strained his ears to catch every word.  For this man seemed to have the wisdom of God.

He had never seen such a crowd in all his days as a lowly fisherman.  And how the people had pressed and thronged Jesus!  Because of them, it had been impossible for Simon to complete his job of washing the nets, what with the children and the constant interruptions!  So he had left his washing temporarily, but gladly.

“Washing those nets always seems harder when there are no fish to clean as well,” he had thought tiredly.  And he had readily granted Jesus’ request to use his boat from which to speak to the crowd.  The nets could wait, and there was little use fishing this late in the morning.

But when Jesus had finished teaching, He spoke to Simon further, asking him to contradict all of his fisherman instincts, “Simon, why don’t you and Andrew launch out into deeper water and let down your nets for some fish?”

It seemed completely against his experience, and he momentarily wondered if the carpenter from Nazareth shouldn’t stick to his woodwork and leave fishing to the experienced seamen.  But then he remembered how Jesus had rebuked the fever in his wife’s mother and how she had been instantly healed.

Finally he said, “Master we have worked all night long and have caught nothing.  Nevertheless, since you have said the word, I will let down our nets.”

When the net was let down, Simon immediately felt the pull of a great multitude of fish, and the net began to strain and tear.  While he worked the net, his brother Andrew, who worked excitedly to keep the boat from capsizing, called loudly to James and John on the shore to come and help.  Together, the two small ships took in so many fish they nearly sank as they strove to bring the catch to land.

Simon and the other fishermen were overwhelmed to the point of amazement! Never before in their experience had they seen such a catch.  It contradicted everything they knew!  Surely this man Jesus had something, some kind of godly wisdom that gave Him insights no other man had!

 

More to Be Desired than Gold

Jesus did have the wisdom of God on that occasion, just as He does today!  The Word of God says that “Jesus is made unto us Wisdom,” and, “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

The Wisdom of God, as we have seen, is precious.  There is great treasure in godly wisdom, for the merchandise of wisdom is greater than that of silver or gold!  Where these natural means of barter fail, the Word of God will never fail! And through God’s Word we receive the knowledge of God’s will in any circumstance!

As it says in the Psalms:

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults

(Psalms 19:7-12)

Let us continue to learn how we may receive the wisdom of God through His Word!

 

Exceeding Precious Promises

The Apostle James writes about wisdom from God in his epistle,

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  (James 1:5-6)

This is a tremendous promise, and it is a key in opening all of the promises of God to us!  We have already seen that if we have Godly wisdom, the knowledge and ability to know God’s will and speak God’s Word in a specific situation and see results, then such wisdom can be used to receive from God.

James says that God actually desires to give us His wisdom.  And He gives liberally!  The only condition is that we ask in faith, believing that we receive when we pray!

But not only does God desire to give us His wisdom; He also desires for us to receive all things pertaining to our needs in this life, for He has already given us richly all things to enjoy!  Peter writes,

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.   (II Peter 1:3-4)

This is why we need to have a thorough knowledge of Him.  This is why we need to know His Word.  He has already given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.  Therefore, He has made exceeding great and precious promises to us so that we can receive what He has promised!

The miracle is that God’s Word contains these promises!  If we don’t know what the promises are, we don’t know what God has promised us, and we perish for lack of wisdom and knowledge.

In other words, God has given us His Word (His precious promises), and has promised to give us His wisdom in how to use this Word effectively in our own lives.  The Word is the currency and the Wisdom is the knowledge we need to invest His currency wisely.  The two are dependent upon each other.  There can be no wisdom without the Word, and the Word will not operate without wisdom!  But God has liberally provided both in order that we might live as full partakers of His divine nature.

 

Seeking After Wisdom

We must remember, however, that godly wisdom does not come cheaply.  In spite of the fact that God gives His wisdom liberally and freely, He still will not cast His pearls before swine!  His wisdom must be sought!  As it says in the Proverbs,

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.  (Proverbs 2:1-7)

Many have set themselves to seeking for gold and hidden treasures in this world, only to find that gold and silver cannot meet their every need.  They have strained, and toiled, and sweated after worldly riches only to perish with their using.  Some have fished all their lives and caught nothing!

How much more ought we to search, and seek, and ask for God’s wisdom in faith, crying after His knowledge and lifting our voice seeking for understanding.  As in Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower, God only continues to plant His seeds of the Word in the ground that will bear fruit.  God is a good farmer, and He will plant His seeds of wisdom and knowledge in those places where the enemy, the deceitfulness of worldly riches, where persecutions and afflictions will not steal or choke the seeds before they produce fruit.

Have you been fishing all night and caught nothing?  Seek after God’s wisdom that comes from His Word, for He has given us many precious promises, and He wants us to receive our full inheritance through a knowledge of Him and His will.  The merchandise of wisdom is greater by far than the merchandise of silver or gold!

 

 

Merchandise of Wisdom, Part I

The Merchandise of Wisdom

“They’re like sheep without a shepherd,” thought Philip, looking with concern over the large crowd milling about restlessly, trying to get closer to Jesus.  Occasionally a child cried hungrily, or someone laughed joyful.  Looking westward, Phillip saw the sun slowly sinking below the dusty plain.  “Soon it will be dark,” he mused, “and they haven’t even brought anything to eat!  Imagine coming all the way out to the wilderness without bringing any food!”

Jesus and the disciples had come to this lonely, desolate spot near Bethesda to get some greatly needed rest.  They had spent so much time ministering to the people during their recent travels they had not even taken spare moments to eat.  Yet, it was so exciting seeing people healed and set free!  Hadn’t Jesus promised such miracles would take place when He had sent them forth in pairs?  But on returning, their fatigue became obvious, and Jesus had led them away from the crowds to recover.

And so they had come to the wilderness to get a few moments rest.  But the crowds had guessed their direction, and before long they were coming from all directions.

By now, as the stillness of twilight lay across the land, Phillip had been joined by Andrew.  “Perhaps we should speak to the Master.  Unless He sends them home, they will faint for hunger here in the wilderness,” he said as he watched Jesus pick His way through the crowd to where they stood.

“Master, this is a lonely place, and the day is now over.  Send the people away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves,” Phillip said as he and Andrew moved forward to meet Jesus.

In spite of His sorrow over the recent loss of His cousin John, who had been beheaded by Herod, Jesus looked with deep compassion over the crowd.d

“They need not go away.  Why don’t you give them something to eat?”  He said, smiling slightly, the way He always did when He was testing their faith.

But Phillip and Andrew did not notice, for they were overwhelmed by Jesus’ suggestion that they feed all the people.  “Why, there must be five thousand men,” thought Andrew, “not including women and children!”

Phillip responded, “It would take a fortune to feed all these people!  And all we have are five loaves and two fishes!  A little boy’s dinner!”

Jesus merely had His disciples gather the people together in groups and have them sit down on the mountainside.  Jesus then took the boy’s food, lifted it toward Heaven and asked His Father to bless it.

Slowly, He broke the loaves and fishes, dividing them among the disciples, who in turn broke the pieces again and distributed the pieces among all the people.

As the people ate, they recalled a similar miracle in a similar wilderness when Moses spoke the Word of God and water appeared out of the rock.  And as they remembered how their forefathers had received manna from heaven every morning, a great sense of awe came over them as they recognized that God had moved mightily on their behalf!

 

The Spiritual Medium of Exchange

Imagine yourself on the Sahara desert, wandering for hours in the heat of the day without shelter or water.  You need water desperately, but there is none to be found except for the mirages that appear over the sun-baked sand.  And you think, “I’d give all the money I have for just a little glass of water!”

Suddenly you realize that money is valuable only as far as it meets a particular need.  What is most valuable is the answer to the need itself!  If you need water, all the diamonds in the world will not quench your thirst.  And some of the wealthiest people in the world are finding that money will not buy them health, or peace of mind!

Money itself is only a medium of exchange, a system of barter.  But the power of money is extremely limited!  Even if someone appeared with a glass of water, there is still no guarantee that he will exchange that water for your money, especially if he does not have faith in your money!  And money is also extremely vulnerable to the ravages of rust, moths, or theft!

 

God’s Medium of Exchange

But did you know that God has given His children a better medium of exchange than money?  God has given us the means of receiving whatever it is we need without limitation, without the problems of worldly means of barter which are subject to inflation or devaluation, subject to theft or loss!

It is God’s medium of exchange that Jesus used to meet the needs of those people in the wilderness!  The disciples must have recognized that even if they had the tremendous amount of money to buy all that bread, there was still no guarantee that there was that much bread available to be bought!  But Jesus knew there was a better way!  Jesus had something which worked every time, as a medium of exchange, in spite of the need!

Let’s discover what the medium of exchange is that God has provided for His children:

13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways
And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast.  (Proverbs 3:13-18)

Now, if you skimmed over this passage, go back and read it again!  See if you can discover in this passage what God’s medium of exchange is.  We know it is God’s medium of exchange because He Himself recommends that we use it!

Wisdom is God’s medium of exchange!  It is the merchandise of wisdom that is more precious than rubies, or gold or silver!  It is wisdom that is a tree of life, that is, the true means of receiving what we need in this life.

If wisdom is God’s medium of exchange, therefore, His means of obtaining God’s answer to every need, then what is wisdom and how is it obtained?

We have just read that the Lord founded the earth by wisdom, so let us look in Hebrews to find out how He did it:

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  (Hebrews 11:3)

In other words, using faith we know that God spoke His Word, and the very power of that Word created worlds where once there was nothing.  And that is the same Word, the same wisdom, that accomplished miracles through Jesus and Moses in the wilderness!

What is wisdom then?  Wisdom is the God-given ability to apply and speak God’s Word in faith in a specific situation and see results.  We see God’s provision appear where there is no provision, see God’s healing appear where there is no healing, see the water turned into wine, see the stones made into bread, if necessary!  Wisdom is knowing the plans and the purposes of God through His Word.

You might ask, “If wisdom is God’s medium of exchange, how do I receive it?  It sounds like I need it.”

We will find the answer to this question in our next blog article!

 

 

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