Gun Control, God Forgotten

Over the past week, we have seen the tragedy of children being gunned down by one, who portrayed evil in a physical form.  From this, discussions of gun control, amped up security, school safety and insults from all sides have permeated our lives through social media and news agencies.  We have seen the ugliness of hatred, the fearfulness of insecurity and the inability to think in a productive manner.   Political leaders, law enforcement officials and those we view as “in the know”, have inappropriately blamed agencies, people groups and individuals for a heinous act which was caused by a single person, who clearly had mental illness and emotional problems.  No matter who you may be, no matter where you may be reading this, we have all been affected by this tragedy.  But have you considered the problem within our society is much bigger than gun control, school safety or individuals whom we feel have allowed this system of hatred and bigotry to continue?

What about the other immoral behaviors that permeate our society?  I’ll give you a few.  Millions of unborn babies are massacred annually.  Immoral sexual behavior oozes out of the pours of our TVs and movies.  Violent behavior has become acceptable since the birth of video games.  We have allowed our evil fantasies to become our reality.  So why would we allow this to occur?  Why do we thrill on the ills of others?  How has our society come this far this quickly?  Simply, we have rejected the message of the Good News.

The issue concerning all of our society’s problems is not with the individual evil acts we might be marching against, rather it is our broken hearts.  Hearts that have forgotten in Whom we have been created in.  Hearts that have blocked out love.  Hearts that have become corrupted by fantasies and wonders of amazement which have tried to destroy a belief in an Almighty, Ever-Present, All Knowing God.  Our hearts have become blackened by evil desires, temporarily trying to fill the God sized void we all have inside of us.

Do we need to discuss how to make our society safer?  Yes.  Do we need to debate gun control?  Sure.  But we also need to discuss mental health issues, insurance involvement, over taxing, over spending and even political offices and the corruption involved there.  But let me ask this question:

“For what profit is it to a person if they gain the whole world, and lose their own soul?  Or what will a person give in exchange for their soul?”

These questions were brought forth by a man long ago.  His society was similar to ours.  His society said, “You can take the life of your enemies”, yet he taught to pray for those who persecute you.  His society said, “If you want to divorce your wife, just give here the paperwork”, yet he taught what God has joined together, let no one separate.  His society taught, “Don’t waste your time with beggars and diseased”, yet he spent time with them.

Don’t we say the same thing?  Our society says, “Destroy entire groups who are violent.”  Yet He says, “Lift your enemies in prayer and pray for their eternal souls.”  Our society says, “Love whomever you want, whenever you want, how you want.”  Yet He says, “Intimate love is between a husband and wife.”  Our society says, “Play your violent games, listen to your hate-filled songs, enjoy everything while you can.”  Yet He says, “Out of the heart of a person, the mouth speaks.”  Our society says, “Separation of church and state.”  Yet He said, it is God who places those in power.  Our society says, “Remove ‘In God we trust’”.  Yet He said, Trusting in God is the only thing that can keep your society in place.

The heart of the matter in our society today is we have removed God from everything.  We no longer allow our children to pray in school.  We no longer stand up for Godly, moral behavior.  We no longer promote civility.  We no longer promote family values.  What we do promote are things that take God out of the equation:

  • Evolution: God is removed when we believe we evolved from primordial slime.
  • Sex: God is removed when we allow ourselves to be led by emotions rather than His Word.
  • Music: God is removed when our lyricists promote drug use and violent behavior.
  • Family: God is removed when we spend more time at our jobs than with our spouse and children.
  • Church:  God is removed when we forget our mission to lead others to the cross of Jesus Christ and make decisions based on our own desires.

We have removed God in all aspects of our lives and these are the results that we see today:

  • Increased violent crimes
  • Increased disease
  • Increased natural disasters
  • Increased drug abuse
  • Increased hatred
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness

God said, “Whatever a person sows, they also reap.”  We are reaping the fruit of removing God from our lives.  But we don’t have to stay there either.  We can change but we also can’t make this change alone.

The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  When we call on Jesus Christ and acknowledge His sovereignty, His sacrifice and His love, our old ways get changed.  They become new.  It is Jesus Christ who can change us, make us into a people He desires us to be.  Only He can make an old life into a new life.  Only He can change the hearts of people, like you and I, and make us into a new creation, giving us a new heart and a new mind.  It is only by the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit can we change.

We can debate all we want.  We can discuss any topic you wish.  We can encourage and we can discourage.  We can build up or we can destroy.  None of these matters if we do not have the love of Jesus Christ in us.

1 John 5:1-2 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

If we love God, then we will love others.  If we love others, we will not go out of our way to destroy them.  We will not feed off of the divisive media.  We will not allow our children to continue down a destructive road of pornography, abuse and violence.  If we love God, we will bury our misery of bigotry and cling to the double-edged sword, which is the Word of God.  If we love God, we show that by our actions.

We must stop this bickering, this divisive spirit and embrace the only One who can save us, the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without Him, we will continue to go down a road leading to the very pit of hell.  Instead, let us show how much we love God by showing love toward others.  Praying for those who persecute us.  Feeding those who are slaves to drug addiction.  Caring for those who cannot care for themselves.  Helping others become who God sees them as, a person made in His image for His purpose to exclaim His glory.

For those of us who claim to be Christians, we must follow Christ.  This means giving up our dreams for His.  This means no longer doing what we used to do.  This means spending time with Him daily, learning more about Him.  But this also means our actions have to match our faith.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Without the love of Jesus Christ, all we do is like a loud obnoxious sound.  Like the nail scrape of a chalkboard, so is our actions without the love of Jesus Christ in us.  We need to love.  We need Jesus Christ in order to love.  Without Jesus Christ, our society is hopeless.

Jesus Christ changed the world using 12 men who were thought to be nothing in their society.  First He had to change each of them before they could help change the world.  The same holds true for us.  If each of us were to allow Jesus Christ to change us, then in turn we can point others toward the cross of change, the Cross of Christ.  Our country, this world can be changed, if we first allow God to change us.

The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.  Make that first step and allow Jesus Christ to change you.  Once we move toward Jesus and away from our ideals, we will learn that nothing can change our society better than the love of Jesus Christ.  It starts with us first.  Then it flows out to others.  Pray, right now, for God to change you through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Then He will give you His Holy Spirit and He will change you from the inside out.

God bless and encourage someone today.


Creator of the Eclipse

There is something about watching the wonders of the heavens that makes mankind realize how small we really are.

Today, across the United States, we had the extreme privilege of watching a solar eclipse.  For some it was a glimpse of how God has placed order on the universe.  For others, it was a totality of awe and wonder.  No matter how we may have experienced this event, one thing is for sure, there is order to our universe.

I remember in 1979 when I first experienced what a solar eclipse was like.  Our teacher had each of us create a shoebox pinhole viewer.  We watched as the bright small dot, became encompassed by the darkness of the moon.  It wasn’t a total eclipse but it began my interest and love of nature and the heavens.

As I watched today, I thought of Psalm 8.  As a nation, we looked up to the heavens and applauded in amazement as God’s creation did exactly what it was commanded to do on this very day.  No longer did we ask about racism.  No longer did we fear the terrorist.  No longer did we wonder what the Republican or Democrat was standing for.  No longer did we focus on our fears, anxieties or problems.  We focused on God’s creation, thereby focusing our attention on what He was doing at that very moment.

When we focus on our problems, we take our eyes off of the heavens.  When we focus on our anxieties, we no longer look up and wonder what God is doing.  When we focus on what God is doing, we forget about our problems.  When we focus on God and His creation, we realize that our problems are a mere flash of existence that doesn’t even make a dent in the view of eternity.

For 2 minutes today, each of us made a conscience decision to look up to the heavens, forget about our problems and re-focus our attention to the Creator of the Eclipse.  Read Psalm 8 and exclaim, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

God bless and encourage someone today.

*Psalm 8[a]

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name(A) in all the earth!

You have set your glory(B)
in the heavens.(C)
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold(D) against your enemies,
to silence the foe(E) and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,(F)
the work of your fingers,(G)
the moon and the stars,(H)
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c](I)

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e](J)
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.(K)
You made them rulers(L) over the works of your hands;(M)
you put everything under their[g] feet:(N)
all flocks and herds,(O)
and the animals of the wild,(P)
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,(Q)
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!(R)

*Taken from the NIV

Fiction Evidenced As Reality

What is your greatest fear?  How does it affect you?  Do you get a physical reaction or just a mental tornado upsetting the organization in your mind?  Is your greatest fear something you can control?  Is the lack of control your greatest fear?

Most times we fear because of the “unknown factors” which lie before us.  We look at our circumstances, calculate our steps and realize that there are factors which do not enter into the equation.  We begin to wonder what those factors are and how they will work out.  We then allow our minds to wander adding another unknown factor which exponentially increases our fears, until the point where we have no control, including control of our thoughts.

It was once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Although I understand the thought process behind this and the times in which it was said, I think that we need to go one step further with that statement.  I believe, there is nothing to fear.  This is not the same thing as being afraid.  There are times in our lives, when being afraid of something may save our lives.  When we are caught in a burning house, it is being afraid of dying that drives us to try and escape it.  When we are caught in the under tow, being sucked out into the middle of the ocean, it is being afraid that may keep us afloat.

Being afraid of something and fearing are very different.  Being afraid keeps us alive.  Having fear kills us slowly.  When we fear, we create an environment where our minds are no longer in control of our thoughts and many times a physical reaction occurs.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I woke up yesterday and felt very stressed out.  Over the last three weeks, my schedule has been, what some would call…INSANE!  Working a full time job, where we have been short staffed with more work coming in, helping a friend’s church stay afloat, spending time with my wife and kids and trying to spend more time with God has created an atomic explosion in my mind.  Yesterday was the fall out.

In previous blogs, I shared with you my struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  However, even though I suffer with this, there are days, like yesterday, where even medication won’t help.  Part of my therapy to combat this “fallout” is to spend time in prayer, read Scripture and write.  If any one of those components is missing, the fallout wins and depression begins to set itself into place.

Here is where fear takes root.  Depression is just one way that fear solidifies itself and it is very difficult to get rid of it.  Have you ever tried to take out a weed that was in the ground for a long time?  The weed spreads out its roots over a vast area.  This way, when the gardener comes, he/she struggles to pull it out of the ground.  Sometimes the week breaks at ground level and cannot be pulled any further.  The gardener then has two choices.  Choice #1 is to wait it out and then try to pull it out again with brut force.  However with this choice, the weed must grow again.  With fear, we may do things to pull it out by brut force but many times, the root of the issue is still there.  When we choose this method, we allow the fear to reinstate itself and take further root in our lives.  There is another choice.

Choice #2 is a bit more drastic but effective.  If the gardener chooses the wise choice, he/she will get a digging tool and begin the process of ensuring that all of the weed plant, with its roots, is permanently removed.  With this method, the gardener will disturb the entire area in an effort to find out the “root cause”.  The gardener will dig up as much as they can in order to ensure that the weed does not return.  When we deal with fear properly, we must disturb other areas of our lives.  The digging up of past issues, past hurts or past relationships causes us to shuffle ideas and question our motivations.  It forces us to rethink ideals and theologies we have learned.  It upsets all that we believe, the question is can we recover from that disturbance?

Just like the ground, healing takes time.  In the Old Testament, God tells Israel to plant and sow for 6 years.  On the 7th year, let the ground rest from its work.  There are many theologies concerning this but from a practical level, it gave the ground one year to heal.

Sometimes, we need to do the same thing.  There are times we need to step away from the busyness of life and allow ourselves to heal.  Maybe, we need to let go of horrible past relationships or forgive someone who has hurt us.  In some cases, it may be us that needs to ask for forgiveness from someone we hurt.  Whatever it is, don’t let fear dismantle the healing process.

Fear is nothing more than Fiction Evidenced As Reality.  It doesn’t exist.  It is a false representation of the reality of a hurting soul.  Fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us where we are so that we do not cry out to the loving Good Shepherd, who is ready to rescue us.  Fear is just as bad as quotes that people say is in Scripture.

Have you ever heard, “Time heals all wounds”?  It’s in the Bible, right?  There is nothing further from the truth.  This saying is a way for us, as human beings, to pull out the weed of fear and leave its roots in place.  Time does not heal, it just passes.

Many have tried to say it is a Psalm or Proverb.  It isn’t.  What the Scripture does say is in Psalm 147:

2The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.…

New American Standard Bible

It is the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.  It is the Lord who heals their wounds.  It is the Lord who counts the stars and names them all.  It is the Lord who can get rid of whatever is keeping you back from coming to Him.

If you are hurting, He knows.  If you are questioning, He has answers.  If you are crying, he is crying with you.  Two of the greatest words ever written were when Jesus approaches the grave of Lazarus.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  It was an incredible proclamation.  Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die.  Jesus knew He was going to raise him from the dead.  So why did Jesus weep?  Simply to show he was 100% human.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show He was 100% God.  Isn’t that an encouragement for us today?  Think about that for a moment.  Jesus felt what we feel.  He understood what it was like to lose someone.  He understands what it is like to hurt.  And in all of that experience, He never allowed fear to persuade him.  He never allowed the fiction that Satan feeds our minds to take root in His own.

If you are hurting, if you are living in fear, there is someone who understands.  Jesus Christ knows what you are going through, yet desires for you and I to tell Him.  It is Jesus Christ who can heal you.  He can remove the roots of the weed that so easily entangles you.  Only Jesus Christ can take all of our fear, all of our anxiety and use it for His glory and His purposes.

If you don’t know who Jesus Christ is, He is the One who left heaven to come to earth as a baby.  He lived a human life, while displaying His God nature.  He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured.  He allowed Himself to be put on public display, naked and gave His life in the most horrific way of His time, by being crucified.  But it didn’t end there.  After He cried out in a voice, “It is finished”, he was buried and on the 3rd day, rose from the dead.  HE IS ALIVE!  He is calling out to you, desiring for you to let Him rescue you.

No matter your hurt.  No matter your pain.  Jesus Christ can take it from you.  Just cry out to Him and ask Him to rescue you.  He will.  Let Him into your life and give you the life He always wanted for you.  Believe in Him, cry out to Him and be healed by Him.  Don’t let fear stop you from meeting the only One who can save you, Jesus Christ.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The Disrespect of Our Disillusion

Tom sat with his head in his open, sweaty hands.  How could he have done this?  What prevailed inside his mind that would allow him to do such a heinous act?  He decided to pour a drink to calm his nerves.  He got up and opened the oldest bottle of scotch he could find.  As he poured himself a double shot, the bottle chattered against the glass.  His hands could not stay still.  His mind raced with thoughts of anger toward himself.  “How could you have done this”, he thought.  “What was it that brought you this far away from reality?”

In the other room, a young lady walked in with a smile on her face and his shirt on her torso.  She graced herself over, grabbed the glass from his hand and took a sip of the scotch.  A kiss from her was placed on his cheek with these words, “That was really special”.  He tried to muster a smile, but could not as he knew he betrayed his love, his wife and the woman before him wasn’t her.

Every decision we make, every word we speak and every thought we think, has a consequence.  Whether good or bad, every action, work or thought has a reaction, a consequence.  We may not see it at the time, but be rest assured, a consequence is there, ready to peak it’s head, like a viper when it is about to strike.

Recently, I have been an observer of social media and news agencies.  I have cautiously not opened myself to a specific political view, social movement or radical divide.  Day by day, I have seen many people, good people, begin the process of drawing a hypothetical line in the sand declaring where they stand and what they believe.  Whether it is about which political candidate you like or whomever lives matter, many of us are going out of our way to declare what we believe to be the truth.  We have been convinced of our reality no matter how disillusioned we are.

This disillusionment has caused us to become a divided nation.  A nation where all conflicting  testimonies are correct, truth has become irrelevant and division among people groups are growing at a rapid pace.  Conflict is on the rise while love is declining into extinction.  All over the news and social media we see the results of this lack of love and increase of hatred and rebellion.  Many have taken to the street to protest in ways that breaks out in violence, fist shaking and gnashing of our teeth.  So how did we get here?  What caused us to be in this global predicament?  Was it a specific people group, ideology or is it human nature to destroy oneself?

Both Christian and Atheist, Buddhist and Islamic, Jew and Greek, have bought into this disillusionment, making each other vulnerable to prejudice and exposure.  We all have allowed our society to fall into an illness that can be likened to terminal cancer.  If we do not turn away from what we have become, we will ultimately bring ourselves into the chasm of death and be buried in the annals of history lost.

Unfortunately, most will exclude this writing as nothing more than someone who is disgruntled or upset with others behaviors without looking at themselves.  Let me make this disclaimer.  What I am bringing up has nothing to do with you or someone else.  It has to do with us.  We are the problem.  All of us are feeding the beast of this culture.  We all are to blame.  No matter our background, no matter our skin color, no matter who we think we are, we are all to blame, including me.

History has shown that when a nation is divided, then that same nation falls at the hands of others not of the same mindset.  Our own history shows how divided we were but the declaration of United We Stand was the war cry for change.  Today that war cry has gone unheard and ignored.  We have become the nightmare of countries and the falsehood of hatred.   Change is inevitable but it doesn’t have to be negative.  A positive change can happen, but it cannot start with us.  It cannot start with any other person from any other nation.  It can only happen when we reserve ourselves to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our lives.

“…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit,[b] as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth…” – Colossians 1:4-6 (NKJV)

It is the Gospel that changes lives.  It is the Gospel that bears fruit in our lives.  Only the Gospel can change our hearts and minds to unity and progress.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, we have forsaken our Creator.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, our lives are deteriorating into the very pit of Hell.  We have allowed sin to overtake our lives and become our slave master.  We have forsaken the freedom of loving others the way Jesus Christ loves us.  So what is sin compared to salvation in Jesus Christ?

Sin is the chain maker.  Salvation is the chain breaker.  Sin binds us to things.  Salvation frees us.  Sin tells us we are worthless.  Salvation tells us we are worth more than we realize.  Sin leads to death.  Salvation leads to life eternal.

No matter how you feel about society, no matter how you feel about the current social, economic or political environment, sin is the reason we are where we are today.  It has been used by Satan to ensure that our lives are chained to the slavery and division.  Sin has placed in our hearts that some lives matter while others do not.  Sin has told us that one person is a liar and the other is a scam artist.  Sin informed us that one group of people are to blame for the ills of our society.  Let me make sure I am very clear.  Satan is using our sinful lives to bind us, destroy us and ultimately convince us to reject our Creator.

In the words of the famous theologian Francis Schaeffer “How then shall we live?”

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will [i]behave properly toward outsiders and [j]not be in any need.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

“19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” – Matthew 28:19-20

These two passages show us what our lives are really about.  These passages show us that our goal is to live a quiet life, mind our own business and work with our hands.  We are to be productive, kind, loving and ready to serve others.  We are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ by our testimony.  We are to make disciples, not division.  We are to do the work that has been commanded to us.  Did you notice that?  Both of these were commanded.  They were not suggestions.  These are things we are to do.

What I will say next is for those who claim to the servants of Jesus Christ….

WAKE UP CHURCH!  We are not doing what God has commanded us to do.  We do not love others when we bash our government leaders and others via social media.  We are not living how God commanded us to live when we shout from the mountain top about our rights and forget to love those who are lost.  We are living in sin if we do not do the things commanded us.

Our goal in this life is to spread the love of Jesus Christ and make disciples.  That’s it!  We may have the “American right” to speak our peace, but is that the way Jesus handled it?  He didn’t go after the political leaders, he went after those who claimed to be His.  He toppled the tables and drove the money changers away because they had no respect for where God’s people gathered.  He didn’t go after the Roman government or voice his discontent with Caesar.  He simply served others, drew people to Himself, showed them compassion and reprimanded the religious leaders who were enslaving their own people with rules and regulations.

The good news about all of this, is we still have time to turn to God.  We NEED to turn back to God and repent of our lack of love.  We NEED to repent of our sin of division and disrespect.  This country CANNOT change unless Jesus Christ is involved and this country CANNOT change unless WE (the Church) repent of our sin and change how we do things.

If we (the Church) do not change, our country will run the high risk of extinction.  The United States is not mentioned in Scripture nor is it implied.  The United States is not the center of this world but God has used us to further His Gospel all over the world.  His Gospel is the center of all creation, not us.

I hope you understand the tears I shed for us.  I pray that we all change our current travels on the wide path (which leads to destruction) and turn toward the narrow path (which leads to life eternal).  Only Jesus Christ and His Gospel will change us.  Please join me in repenting of our sin and making a positive difference by refraining from passionate division and disrespect.

May God have mercy and grace on us as we all seek to change the direction of this country toward Him.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Serpula – Chapter 2

Here is the latest installment of Serpula.  Comments are always welcome…

The air was the cleanest it had been for some time.  Since the Serpula had shown mankind the atmospheric purification process, people no longer needed protective suits and breathing apparatus to walk around the City of Ruins or its surroundings.  The only radiation present was that from the sun and even that was no longer a burden on mankind.  The atmospheric purification process had allows humans to live longer than ever before.  Even in the City of Ruins, one could live a hundred years and still feel youthful and energetic.

      However, there were still necessities in this lost, decrepit city.  The necessary supplies for the day were all that was required; food and water and protection for security.  Food and water were necessary from the outside.  As there were no legitimate inhabitants, none of the electricity from the main land, was sent.  Therefore, the city became the nomad land of generations past.  One for self and none for all.  This was the main reason security was necessary.  Unfortunately, no one wanted to be a security officer in the abandoned city and the Serpula felt the city was not worth their time.  If not for a weapon and his skill with hand to hand combat, the wanderers and vagabonds would ransack his camp, beat him and leave him for dead.

      As Peter hiked down what was once the main thoroughfare, called Broadway, he noted the various and sometimes comical signs on the buildings.  An old toy store called Tim’s Toys and Such.  A coffee shop called Corner Coffee, and many convenience stores all with old rusted signs that squeaked in the gentle cool breeze.  Broken display windows exposed the mannequins and antiquated electronics.  Most of the clothing stores had been ransacked by the hidden, mysterious and violent inhabitants of the city.  Store by store, Peter wrote down the natural and unnatural deterioration of the city’s architecture in an effort to put together a story of ancient times.  As a historian that was his primary goal.  As an amateur archeological enthusiast, the digging was to be done at another time.

      Peter looked down at his watch which displayed the time, date and weather.  Weather was the most important as you never knew when an approaching storm was coming.  Even thought the atmosphere was clean, storms had grown in strength and severity over the past half century.  Hurricanes had become a yearly phenomenon.  Although this wasn’t the season for hurricanes, it was the season for surprise rain storms.  If you didn’t seek protection from the elements, you may become ill and unprotected from nature, wanderers or criminals.

      As he studied his watch, he realized he was slightly behind schedule.  He thought to himself, “If I cannot finish today, I will have to make this trek tomorrow as well.”  The thought of camping out overnight crossed his mind, but his safety would have been at risk.  As he pondered his options, he felt it best to get to the study sight, work for a couple of hours and then make the hike back toward his safe haven.  At least he would have food, water and electricity based on a small solar generator he made during his university days.  At least, he wouldn’t have to worry about stories of the old city rummaging through his mind at rapid pace.

      Everyone had been told and believed that the City of Ruins “citizens” were ruthless, violent and desperate.  A small population of men and women who claimed the Serpula were the enemy were the main inhabitants.  They felt that the laws of peace and prosperity were immoral, unethical and against the laws of an ancient mystical god.  Peter thought they were mostly insane, but the Serpula felt it important to have them banned from society.

      Stories had been told to him as a child about an archaeologist who after exploring the midtown area, was surrounded, beaten and left for dead.  It had been so horrible that his own family couldn’t identify his body once it was discovered floating in the river between the City of Ruins and coast of Eastern Kingdom.  That was why protection was so important.  At least Peter would have a chance to protect himself in the sight of danger.  Peter knew he had to finish what he started today.

      After an hour and a half of walking, he arrived at the study sight.  The shorter buildings and abandoned eateries told him this area was more residential than it was business.  Tables and chairs were rusted, missing portions of legs so that they were either leaning or toppled.  Awnings were torn and graffiti dressed walls.

      The graffiti were indications of who was there.  The markings were an old design of a skull with a cross on top of its head.  This design was the mark of the Psychotics, a group of people who thought they saw and heard things that weren’t really there.  Due to their psychosis, they were the most violent and most desperate.  He had encountered them when he first arrived at another location north of where he was staying.  Once, when he was documenting his observances of the sight, a man came out running toward him shouting, “Take heed of the dogs.  Take heed of the dogs.”

      Without hesitation, Peter had used his hand to hand combat skills to take him down.  He didn’t want to harm him, but as this Psychotic attacked him, he felt the need to protect himself.  As Peter locked the stranger in a classic choke hold, he heard the man whisper, “Take heed of the dogs.  They are like the donkey of old.”  With that, Peter let go as to not kill him but simply render him immobile.  Peter then understood the necessity of a weapon other than his hands.

      For years, Peter had studied the ancient martial art form, Akido.  As far back as he could remember, he would study under his master, Toshiharu Nagasaki.  An older but gentle man, Toshiharu pushed Peter to excel at whatever he put his mind to.  At first, Peter felt Toshiharu was too demanding, but he learned over time that the demands of the art were specific, humbleness, control and discipline.  If it wasn’t for Akido, Peter would never have learned to succeed in life.  Peter knew he couldn’t stay for long but one building caught his eye.

      Although its walls appeared to be crumbing, the architecture told him it was built around the early 1900s.  Nearly eight hundred years had passed since the building had its first inhabitants.  The distinguished lines, the castle style top and the crumbling plaster enticed Peter’s imagination.  What was it like?  How did people live in these conditions?  As he thought about these things, a noise from within the building captured his attention.

      “Hello?” Peter asked, “Is anyone there?”

      No answer came, yet the noise happened again.

      “Hello?  Is anyone there?  I don’t want to hurt you,” Peter asked a second time.

      Once again, no answer came.  The noise sounded like a deer that had been wounded and was crying for help.  Disobeying his instincts, Peter began to approach the building with his weapon of choice in hand, an old samurai sword.  Light and well crafted, Peter had the ability to wield this sword and use it appropriately.  In order for him to accept the position by the government, he had to prove that he was able to protect himself as no military personnel were allowed to enter the city.

      The city had become a prison island of sorts.  The military was allowed to drop criminals off, but no residence could be taken other than that of historic or archaeological in nature.  And even that was done at one’s own risk.  Convict and drop off.  Nothing else, nothing more.  Sometimes, the military would simply throw the convicts overboard and told them to swim to the island and make bets to see who would survive.  On occasion, the captain would turn away and the soldiers would take bets on how many they could pick off before they reached shore.  Most times, the convicts would drown as they never learned how to swim.  Either way, the world had gotten rid of the criminals.  Understanding this, Peter still felt the need to write a true story based on the historical discoveries of this old city.

      The noise sounded for a third time.  This time it was louder than before.  Peter slowly released his sword from its sheath, readying himself for any possible attack.  As he cautiously opened the door, he peered around the room.  He saw the layers of dust and dirt indicating centuries of neglect.  A single wooden desk still stood while the old style office chair had two wheels missing.  Above the desk was a mirror that had clouded with time.  To the left a window with broken glass.  To the right, a closet door.  He entered the room and shone a flashlight with the intent to continue on this quest.

      Again the noise became louder.  Peter knew he was walking in the right direction.  As he walked toward the back of the room, he noted another door with frosted glass and what appeared to be a light moving back and forth behind it.  Peter turned off his light, gripped his sword with both hands and tapped on the door.

      “Hello,” Peter shouted.  “Is anybody there?”

      No answer came from behind the door.  The light continued to move back and forth.  Peter thought, “Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe it’s an optical illusion.”  His instincts told him to leave, but his curiosity got the better of him.  What or who was behind the door?  How were they getting light when no electricity flowed through this place?  Whatever or whomever it was, Peter knew he was in for a possible fight.

      As he approached the door, reached for the handle and silently turned it.  As the door opened, it creaked loudly as a cry for help.  He looked around to discover the origin of the horrific sound.  As he looked around, he saw an old non-working light swinging, swinging and a hole in the wall that led to the outside.  Suddenly, a bird swooped down and hit the old light making it swing.  “That’s all it was.  A clumsy bird”, Peter thought smiling, while giving a sigh of relief.

      Again the noise became louder and more frequent.  This time, Peter knew the noise was with him in the room.  As he looked around, he saw a closet with the door hanging half off.  The top hinge had rusted and disintegrated by the rain, while the bottom hinge was nearly gone as well.   He heard the noise and knew it was coming from inside there.

      Peter approached the closet and placed his sword in front of him, ready to protect himself from whatever or whomever may appear.  “Last warning”, Peter exclaimed.  When Peter was in striking range, he kicked the door into the closet.  He cleared the door with one hand and what he saw was not so shocking.  Two cats.  Two simple alley cats.  They had gotten through the hole in the wall and were in the process of doing what cats do during certain seasons, mating.

      Peter began to laugh.  How ridiculous could he have been?  The thoughts of someone hurting and left for dead had raced through his mind.  Yet in all of this, all it was were cats.  Simply cats.  As he continued to laugh his hearty laugh, his phone rang.

      Peter opened his pack and took out a flat thin touchscreen device.  The device rang with vigor.  He had equipped his device with Serpula technology called, Everlasting Sight, a method of taking a voice pattern and making it a three dimensional projection.  They had given mankind this technology soon after their first arrival.  They wanted to make a positive impact on mankind and show they were peaceful beings, overseeing mankind’s evolution.  He swiped his finger from left to right and an image immediately appeared just above the screen in three dimensions.

      “Peter, honey, it’s mom”, said the female image.

      “Hi mom.  How are things?”

      Peter’s mother was a distinguished short grey haired woman.  Prior to her business days, she was a stay at home mother.  However, no matter what she did or where she was, she always had a smile and appeared to be the most distinguished person in the room.  Well dressed and a face that looked younger than her hair, she could make a chaotic room, orderly simply by entering the room.  Her presence commanded respect and order.

      “Things are fine here.  I was just calling to find out when you’re coming home, honey”, she voiced intently.

      “By the end of the week, I hope.  It depends on how much I can get done over the next couple of days”, Peter answered.

      “The end of the week?  You told me that last week and the week before.  Are you sure this time?  Your father and I miss you and are concerned about your safety with the upcoming winter.”

      “Yes mom.  I am sure this time.”

      “How are you getting off that retched island?”

      “Military convoy.  They should dock this week.  My boss has requested that I take some time off to recoup.”

      “Recoup?  From what?  What happened?  Are you hurt?  Did one of those criminals attack you?”  Peter’s mother asked with worry.

      “Stay calm mom.  I’m not hurt and no one has attacked me.  It’s just that I’ve been here for five years and my boss feels that some vacation is in order.  That’s all.”

      “Oh, okay honey”, his mother said with calmness.  In the background a door was opened and another voice was heard.  His mother quickly turned and said, “I’m in here, dear.  Peter, your father’s home.  Did you want to speak with him?”

      “I can’t mom.  I have to go.  I only have another hour before, I start to lose daylight.  I have to be sure to get back to my apartment before then and it took me an hour and a half to get here.”

      “Okay honey.  Well finish up and get back there in a hurry.  I love you and please be safe.”

      “I love you too mom.”

      “Promise me that you will be home by the end of the week, no exceptions.”

      “I promise mom.  So long as the transport is there, I will be home on Friday.  Bye.”

      “Bye, Peter.”

      As both hung up the phone, Peter thought, “I’d better start heading back to write my report.”  Peter put away his sword, picked up his bag and started to head back to his apartment.  Another day, another discovery even if it only was a couple of felines.  At least when he arrived at his apartment, there was food ratios and a cold sponge bath waiting.  He quickly turned around and started his journey back.  In a few days, he would be home eating a home cooked meal.  That was definitely something he was looking forward to.

John McCandlish Phillips Remembered (1927 – 2013)

There once was a young boy, who went with his father to gather the family for a holiday dinner.  He entered the car not knowing where he was going but knowing his father knew the location allowed peace and calm to enter his being.

When the two arrived, both entered the small apartment knowing that the boy’s grandmother was coming with them to dinner.  As the boy turned to climb the last of the stairs, there was a second person there, a man, whose stature exceeded most.  The boy’s father said, “Joey, this is your uncle John.”

This was my first introduction to my uncle, John McCandlish Philips.  As he approached during our introduction, he leaned toward me, reached out his hand and shook mine saying, “How are you Joseph?”

While it appeared his hand encompassed my hand, wrist and forearm, there was a smile that broke all tension.  His smile was always something that eased the struggles of life.  There was a certain peace and serenity that emitted from his very being.  At the time, I could not place my finger on it, but later on, I would discover the source of his peace.

Year after year, my uncle would come from his Manhattan apartment to our home.  The holidays were the times we would spend with Uncle John.  Every holiday, I would hope to sit next to this gentle giant and every year, my hopes came true.  Just to sit and listen to him speak would allow me just a glimpse as to what was important in his life.

Conversations with Uncle John would always be about church, beliefs and politics.  He would talk about and share what he was writing, what projects he was doing and where he was speaking.  The tales of ministering at Columbia University was always something that he was excited about.  Hearing about others coming to know Jesus and how they would impact their world was exciting and new for Uncle John.  Each and every story emanated with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

On one occasion, I decided to ask my uncle a question regarding Scripture.  At the time, I had been studying the prophetic events in Daniel, Revelation and other books of the Bible.  I had heard of various beliefs and aspects but none appeared to be complete.  As we sat there, I asked, “Uncle John, what is your view of the End Times?  Do you believe in Pre-Tribulation Rapture or Post?”

My uncle’s response was quick but loving and gentle.  He turned to me with a look of seriousness that made me feel guilty, even though that was not his intent and said, “What does it matter?  I hold to one truth that is in Scripture.  Jesus will physically return one day.”

I smiled and pondered what he was saying.  Instead of pushing my agenda, I just sat and thought about what he said and how he said it.  It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realized, my uncle was not upset, he was just making a point.  The synopsis of his directness was the only area of Scripture that matters is Jesus.  If the position takes you away from Jesus, then it is a position that he would not hold.  It was because of my Uncle John, that I decided to study more about the end times and finally take the same position, Jesus and Jesus alone.

We had many years and dinners with my Uncle John.  Christmas appeared to be his favorite holiday.  Each year he would cautiously and carefully handpick each and everyone’s gift.  After wrapping them with perfection and care, Uncle John would, like a craftsman, make riddles that would entertain.  Each and every gift had been labeled differently.  I was certain that he would spend hours just making the gift labels just to see our reactions.  There were times I would keep the labels for months due to my fascination with his writing style.

When my uncle wrote, he did with vigor and style.  I have yet to know or see anyone write like John McCandlish Phillips.  He had a way with words that tickled the imagination and enticed the soul.  One time, I tried to read his book, “The Bible, the Supernatural and the Jews.”  After a couple of chapters, I became lost due to his extensive vocabulary and my lack of understanding.  One holiday I approached my uncle and said, “Uncle John, I am sorry to tell you that I tried to read your book, but could not.  I couldn’t understand it and got lost.”

He sat back on my parents couch, smiled and said, “Joe, don’t worry about it.”  There were no judgmental words, no harsh reaction, no sadness in his heart.  He understood not everyone communicates in the same style with the same words and reaffirmed me with his gentle words and loving smile that everything was going to be okay.

Over the past couple of days, I have been thinking about what to write regarding Uncle John.  I can only surmise that God wanted a gentle literary giant in His presence.  Although my uncle expressed that he wished another five years of ministry for the Lord to my mother, Janet De Clemente, God decided it was time for Uncle John to go home.  I know beyond any shadow of doubt that at the last breath, an angel appeared to Uncle John and carried him to the feet of Jesus and once at the feet of the Savior, Jesus took Uncle John’s hand, raised him to his feet and proclaimed, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter into my rest.”

Uncle John, you will be missed in this world.  Your writing style and message is etched into eternity and into our hearts.  You have completed the task and run the race well.  I am sure you are now worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I can only express the sentiment of our Savior as you have heard already, “Well done, Uncle John, well done.”

My Take on Gun Violence and Regulations

Over the past number of months, we have heard about several unfortunate and tragic instances where gun violence took the lives of many.  The young children of Sandy Hook became victims to an extremely unstable individual who did not have the courage to face the penalty of his crimes.

Overshadowing all of this is the discussion on gun violence and gun regulations.  Some claim that our 2nd Amendment allows us the freedom to possess firearms.  Those who uphold to this standard claim that it is a right that was fought for and many others died ensuring that this freedom is not lost.

On the other side of the fence, are those who feel that no person (other than law enforcement or military) should be allowed to have firearms as most people don’t need them.  They feel the 2nd Amendment is outdated and irrelevant.

So with both sides voicing their opinion, I finally felt that I should weigh in.  The problem we face is not one of legal rights or moral rights, it is simply what does the law say and how are we to respond as Christians.  There is no evidence in Scripture that any of the disciples or followers of Christ has weapons when they preached.  There is also no evidence that they did not.

From a Western culture standpoint, we tend to think of Scripture as peaceful and loving.  We have been told that if we are not peaceful and loving that we are not following the direction Christ placed before us.  We tend to cite only those passages which show a timid, loving, turn the other cheek methodology.  Are we to take the abuse and not say something?  Are we not to try and protect ourselves and families from the horrific events of our world?  This is the struggle of the Christian and what we believe.

However, I must admit, that I personally do not believe that life is that simple.  Sickness, natural disasters and unfortunate violence have a tendency to take our lives and flip them upside down.  We tend to think that if there is violence and disaster that God must not love us or decided to take a break from organizing the universe or maybe He doesn’t exist at all in our minds.

In no way am I going to over simplify the debate, nor am I in any way minimizing the gut wrenching emotions and life altering events for those affected, but I would like to spell out a rounded view.

It is true that our 2nd Amendment gives us “the right to bear arms”.  However, there is more to it than just our enjoyment.  Here is what it actually says:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, there needs to be a well regulated militia.  Why?  For the security of a free state and doing so, we were given the right to bear arms.  Not only that but what is this “shall not be infringed”?  Basically, it means that this specific right shall not be outdated or violated.  This makes sense in the world in which it was written.

History tells us that during our early years, the British government was trying to infringe on the freedom our ancestors were fighting for.  They tried sanctions, taxes and other means to secure the “Queen’s” country.  In doing so, we were not allowed to do what we wanted for our families.  When the 2nd Amendment was written, it was a security check for keeping the freedoms we have today.  It was written, not as a gun club, but as protection against an oppressive government.  During that time, our forefathers wanted to be sure that no government could try and regulate our freedom.  It wasn’t an anarchical type of freedom, but one that was guided by the rule of law.

So does that mean we should be able to buy, sell or fire any type of weapon we want?  According to the Constitution, my answer would be yes.  However, we must also place common sense as well into this equation.  Are we to say that registration is a bad thing?  Are we to say that safety and understanding are an obstruction to our right?  Certainly not.

Personally, I believe that we need to mandate that all gun owners go through safety courses to protect them and others.  When we educate those on proper handling of firearms or other type of weapons, we allow citizens to exercise this right to bear arms, while protecting those who choose not to.

When you look at the Department of Justice statistics, you see that most violent crimes are not done with weapons, but without weapons.  And those that are weapon related have a small percentage of handguns and rifles.  In fact, there appears to be more violence with knives than with guns, yet we do not see “knife control” on the news today.  If you dig even deeper, most of the violent crimes that had guns involved were committed almost exclusively with illegal guns.  In fact, even the DOJ indicates that most young people who commit violent offenses do so with illegal guns.  Why?  Because it is easier to obtain illegal guns than legal ones!

So where does Christianity play into all of this?  Well, as I said earlier, we tend to think of Christianity as peaceful and loving.  Although this may be true to some regard, let me shed some light on something else.  Did you know that there will come a time (and probably is already here to some degree) that God will allow natural disasters to increase exponentially in order to show us that He is in control?  Did you also know that there will be a time when Jesus returns with a double-edged sword coming to free His people?

I want to be true to Scripture, so I will be as clear as I can.  Sometimes, Scripture can be rated “R” and is not all peaceful and loving.  The focus of Scripture is Jesus.  The message of Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) is God loves us and wants a relationship with us.  So how is it rated “R”?

Throughout Scripture, we see details that are violent, yet justified.  We also see unjustified violence and the horror that follows.  Think about this for a second.  King David was “a man after God’s own heart”, yet he murdered his lover’s husband.  We see a judge named Deborah who “sends a spike through the temple” of her oppressor.  In all of this, we see either God’s judgement or God’s calling to an individual.  To Deborah, it was to free Israel.  To King David, it was a sin that he was judged for.

Our job as Christians is to respect and obey the laws of the land.  Therefore, if the law says that our 2nd Amendment is outdated, we are allowed to speak up, but we ultimately must obey whatever laws are passed.  There is only one area where we are allowed to disobey the law of the land.  If our government tells us that we are not allowed to read Scripture, pray or share Scripture, we are given a clear command to disobey.  The disciples didn’t stop preaching even though they were beaten and warned.  Daniel kept praying three times a day, even though the laws of his land forbid him from doing so.

The ultimate law of all lands is to have a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we are to do everything in our power to keep that relationship healthy and strong, no matter the cost.  In Hebrews we read about those who lost their lives and kept their faith.  History shows Rome oppressing the Christian Jews, sending them to the Colosseum to be killed by gladiators and lions.  They did not fight for their rights, they just obeyed God in His commandments.

As Americans, we have been given the right to stand for what our forefathers declared as law.  We have the right to voice our opinion and vote for those who stand for what is right.  As Christians, we have been given the freedom to pray and seek God for wisdom.  We have been set free from the oppression of sin and given the ultimate freedom that Christ fought for.

As an American, I believe that our government and news agencies are barking up the wrong tree.  As it is easier to obtain an illegal gun, then the regulations and laws need to be focused on that and not on the legal gun owners.  Legal gun owners have been given a background check and in most cases can’t pick up their weapon until they have been cleared with the federal agencies.  Therefore, the focus should not be on the legal weapons but the illegal ones.

As a Christian, I believe that even though we have the rights based on our Constitution, we do not have the right to disobey our leaders when it comes to these same laws.  We are only to disobey if it interrupts our relationship with God.

Even though I believe we have the right to bear arms legally, I also believe that God is in control and if He decides that our government is to be oppressive in order to fulfill his judgement then so be it.  My personal belief is that if we are losing our rights, then Christians need to stop living their current lifestyle, where no one knows who is a Christian and who is not.  We need to repent and change our lives in order to reflect a God who is drawing others to Himself.  We need to change our lives in order to show others that God isn’t a wimpy God, but a strong, loving, yet jealous God who cares about what and who we worship.

Let’s start by looking into our own lives, as Christians, and ask God to obliterate the sin that so easily entangles us.  Pray, read, study and memorize Scripture in order to do what Scripture says thereby changing our minds to be more Christ-like.

God bless and encourage someone today.