Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Truth 'Is' Relative"

By Tony Harriman  • 

Things never stay the same.  Even those of us who live in the "Developed World" are watching developments continually unfolding.  Perhaps we should more rightly call it the "Develop-ing" World, for all the changes that are taking place.  Someone has wryly noted that the only constant in the universe is change.  People change;  coastlines change; children change: things change.  But what about truth?  Does truth change?  And if it does, is it actually truth?

As far as man is concerned, it appears that truth is indeed relative.  Gasp!  What?!  Yep, through man's picture window truth is relative to time, place and person.  Here's what I think I mean by that: In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth; the earth is not right now having a Genesis moment today.  The fact that God made everything is a true statement; but the actual truth of the event was more appropriate when it happened.  There came a time when Noah was instructed to build an Ark; the fact that a flood was coming was truth — in its day; we know it was truth, because it happened; the earth is full of evidence of a flood.  But that truth eventually had its time and passed into history.  Come down through history to a time when John the Baptist preached about a coming Messiah.  Jesus fulfilled the prophecy — on time and in the right place.  The truth of the first coming and sacrifice came to pass; then it, too, moved into what we call history.  Jesus told His disciples truth when He said that He would be betrayed and lose His life, but His disciples had nowhere to hang that truth, so they ignored it.  Unfortunately, that truth eventually came, as was predicted.

On that great Judgment Night Pilate asked Jesus a very interesting question: "What is truth?"  What "is" truth? To which Jesus made no response, perhaps because it would have been futile to explain to Pilate, a mere mortal, how God, a timeless Being, relates to what we humans call "now."  From God's perspective, truth "is" now.  What "was" truth for us is "now" truth for God.  By the same token, what "will be" truth for us is also "now" truth for God.  I'm not sure we want to waste a whole lot of time getting our heads around that thought, because if God wanted us to understand it, He would likely spend more "time" explaining it to us.

We sing a song about a Bible verse: "In His Time;" the verse actually reads that God "hath made every thing beautiful in his time …."  So, let's ask the question, does God make everything beautiful?  Apparently.  Is everything beautiful now?  Perhaps not to our eye of appearance.  Will everything be beautiful?  Yes — whatever that means to God.  Perhaps we should clarify, the fact that everything is not yet beautiful does not make the statement untrue.  In God's time — whatever that is — the statement and the fact are absolutely true; you and I just have to wait for it to be seen.

Let's suppose that one morning we wake up at the end of a very long global war, during which every machine and electronic device has been destroyed along with the libraries of information about the technology used to make those machines.  Can you imagine how long it would take to recover from such a loss?  I venture to guess it would take several hundred years to return to the place where we would once again have a desktop PC at which to sit and devote time.  "What?!" you say, "How do you come up with that figure?"  It's not difficult; not only do we have to build again the first machines to build the next generation of machines, we have to learn all over again the trials and errors that helped us get it right in the first place.  Once you've thought it through, you can see that knowledge is built on knowledge — you must have again the first seeds of a great idea.

God appears to have this wonderful system in place where truth is continually unfolding to human senses.  It's a curious notion, one that is only realized when scientists make some brilliant discovery under the microscope or through the telescope.  Of course, scientists rarely praise God for the wonders of His vast creation, but I doubt that God is too terribly troubled by that ignorance.  But think about how truth has unfolded before our eyes — in just a couple of lifetimes.  We've learned that we are no longer at the center of the universe living on a flat earth; the moon is not made of cream cheese, and there are organisms living at a microscopic level which can either help or harm the human system.  The list of discoveries, dare I say, is bottomless.  And no one of us can even dream about what we might discover in the next decade.  Perhaps our galaxy will grow from housing an estimated 400 billion stars to being the home of 800 billion — who knows?  And after that — what next?

Speaking of truth, here's a thought that I'm trying to work out for myself: The scientific community has agreed upon the notion that nothing, in its present state, may travel at or beyond the speed of light without having been converted to pure energy.  Be that as it may, let's say that one day someone develops a craft and fuel that will allow a person to travel much faster than light, and that person jumps in the craft and heads off into the bright blue yonder.  It would be possible for that person to overtake the light traveling from our planet which is carrying a record of the events that have taken place throughout our history.  Now we're assuming that they have the ability to look back and view these events, and as they do so they will recognize that they are watching things from the past.  Once they fine-tune the speed at which the craft is traveling and adjust whatever lens they're looking through, they will find that they may rewind and fast forward as if watching a silent video recording.  At that time, any doubt about the truth of historic events will be safely laid to rest.  I'd love to air out some serious brainstorming here, but … there isn't time.

There is another truth that has not yet been uncovered.  We know about the event, but it hasn't been, shall I say, made beautiful, yet.  The event I'm referring to is the Second-coming of Christ.  Is it true?  No.  Will it be true?  Yes — in His time.  I don't get the idea that God waits for anything; it is we who wait — whatever that means.  But to God, the truth of the reality is ever-present with Him.

Truth appears to me to be an elusive commodity, and one that we really don't have full access to — yet.  Perhaps for now, truth — I mean real truth — is too pure for us to have echoing between our sorry ears.  And though truth, in essence, may not change, it definitely appears to grow — at least in our understanding.

And that's just my take on it ….


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"The Artist's Loving Hand"

By Tony Harriman  •  

Imagine for a moment that God were to step out from behind the veil and ask you to do something for Him.  What do you think Someone like God would need help with?  Perhaps He's tired of the misuse of His Name, and He'd like you to march on Hollywood.  Maybe He'd like you to write a check and support one of the groups battling for the preservation of the planet.  He might ask you to help a student missionary through the summer.  Maybe a simple healing of some incurable disease.  I expect you can imagine all kinds of things that God might like you to do; And I don't suppose any of them would be wrong.

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Lately the news has been full of reports about religious folk around the world once again getting bent out of shape because some aspect of their religion has been ridiculed.  I appreciate the zeal, but I honestly think all that energy might better be used somewhere else.  Of all the things I feel God would like me to do, I have never imagined He would need me to set fires at the homes and offices of those who make fun of Him — ever.  Seriously, shall I worship a god that needs me to protect him?  What kind of a god is that?  Isn't that story the same as was played out during the Dark Ages?  During those days it was considered an act worthy of death just to believe something other than what was advocated by the established religion.  Many a righteous soul went to the gallows and the fire — not because of — but in the supposed name of piety.

Christianity appears to me to be very different from most religions on the planet.  Can you think of a time when Jesus told His disciples to kill those that took Him for a fool, or didn't do what He asked?  Think hard, now.  There's no record, is there?  In fact His counsel to them was quite the opposite.  If they were to land in a place where the Good News of the Kingdom was not accepted, they were to leave.  Leave.  No yelling and screaming.  No cursing the fig trees on the way out.  No calling down fire from Heaven.  Just leave.  Do you remember the young man who, as a result of religious zeal, lost an ear at Gethsemane?  It was restored by Jesus Himself — tout de suite, I might add.

You listen to the TV and radio and you say, "It makes me mad when they speak about God like this!"  Yes, but you be careful what you do with that indignation, or before you know it, it'll be you splashed all over the news after you've blown up the local pool hall, or some similar establishment.  God doesn't need you to wipe His bloody nose.  On the contrary, it's you who needs Him to wipe the dirt out of your eye so that you can see more clearly and make a proper judgment.

Step back in time and in your mind's eye try to see that day when God asked the Children of Israel to gather gold and jewels and cloths for the building of the wilderness Sanctuary.  The people responded immediately, and kept up the giving until eventually another call went out: "Stop giving; we have enough."  Can you picture it?  God sends out a broadcast: "That's enough!  I don't need any more from you."  Have you ever heard a televangelist preaching that message?

How many of us do you imagine have ever prayed the prayer that goes something like, "Thank you, Lord; that's enough blessings for now.  We've had all the days of ease and abundance we want.  Now it's time for some seriously hard work."?  Sounds unlikely, doesn't it?  At least it does on this dark side of eternity.

It's interesting to me that most things worthwhile are achieved as a result of hard work and maintenance.  Very few of us have complained that the corn, without any help from us, is producing too well, or that the tomatoes, all by themselves, are just busting through the cages.  Food and flowers need care and attention; they have to be fed properly; watered regularly.  Weeds, on the other hand, seem to require no special attention whatsoever; though it does seem, by way of observation, that weeds don't like darkness.

Recently I began a crusade to reclaim an area of ground around our house which had been covered up with what I am sure were well-meaning weeds and nasty grasses.  All the while I was pushing, pulling, hacking and whacking I was soothing my soul with the notion that all this hard work is good for me (actually, I don't mind a little hard work — it keeps me in shape, and the blood pressure down).  There's probably more truth to that notion than we understand.  As we get older, we do tend to pack on an extra pound or two, and those extra pounds are best kept under control.  Going outside and getting our hands dirty appears to be, for now, a heaven-ordained activity; do you remember the Genesis passage that illustrates man having to work his tail off getting the ground to produce?

In the early Seventies a song was written entitled "Vincent;" it carries a line that reads, "Weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand."  Maybe it's just me, but I envision such a lyric being inspired by a much bigger Writer — our Heavenly Father.  Our weathered spirits are soothed perhaps more than we know.  Though I hate the thought, the pain that gets through the barrier appears to be just enough to keep us human — for now.  Like the ground-level counsel that reads something like, "Everyone should live in New York, but leave before you get too hard."  This earth is a painful place to live; but doesn't it seem sometimes that the hurt is what keeps most of us looking up?  Pain is no respecter of persons, and we have no place else to go; we can't just pack up and leave the planet.  I believe that even those of us who refuse to look up are also soothed by the Artist's loving hand — regardless of culture, color, tongue, or creed.  You do know that it was God's idea to have lots of different languages on the planet, right?  Yes, I know why.  But don't miss the point about Who worked it out.

In a sense, a journalist is an artist.  By careful crafting of words, a journalist can paint a picture that either colors over the facts, or painfully tells it just like it is.  A journalist can fill your heart with warm fuzzies … or with horror.  Until the concentration camps opened at the end of the reign of the Nazi regime, the German people had no true idea about what went on behind those walls and fences; they had been fed a glossy story that was nothing but (trying to think of a good word here) a foul-smelling fabrication.  Today the details still make us sick.  The artistry of a journalist's report can bring down an entire nation.  With that thought in mind, I thank God for YouTube; I might not like or agree with everything that's dished out, but a moving picture record of a stoning in some Middle Eastern town center paints more than a million words for me.

I imagine it must be much easier for an evangelist to have his or her face on TV asking for more money, than it would be to stand preaching on some street corner in, say, Iran or Afghanistan.  Isn't it interesting that very few people appear to be called to minister where it's dangerous to do so?  There are places where a Christian will still lose his or her life simply for trying to help lift minds out of the Dark Ages.  You might never get that call, but I imagine you probably know someone who will.

Picture it: one day there is a knock on your front door, and outside stands the Lord Himself.  He asks to come in.  Once you've gathered your senses, you feel embarrassed, because you haven't had a chance to put away all the stupid stuff with which you fill your time when you're not in church.  With a knowing look on His face He tells you not to concern yourself.  He invites you instead to come outside.  You walk together quietly, then He tells you, "I have something I'd like you to do for me."  Do you have any clue what that job could be?

You might actually be surprised at how well His request would fit your personality.  Though the task might not be quite as exalted as you think you deserve.

Just my take on it ….

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Stop the World — I Want to Get Off!"

By Tony Harriman  •

I venture to say that if you've never once felt like throwing in the towel, then you haven't yet lived your life to the full.

It's a bit of a misnomer, "Throw in the towel."  The expression originated in the boxing ring when the fighter's coach or trainer would throw the towel into the ring signalling that his fighter has taken enough of a beating, and the fight is now forfeit — it's over.  The fighter is generally not the one who wishes to quit.  We use the expression today to let people know we've had enough of what life is dishing out; we want to quit.

I guarantee you know at least one person who has been so up to his or her neck in the sewage of this world that they've come "this close (finger and thumb held closely together)" to walking away from everything — everything!  They feel they've failed at even the simplest of tasks, or they're drowning in despair as a result of some impossible loss that they feel no need to carry on as they have.

Often this frame of mind runs every red light to get to us, and doesn't care about our seat belts and airbags; its obsession with us is unreasonable and irrational.  If it actually catches up with you, life will change — very quickly.  Many people will spend half their earnings on drugs (legal and otherwise) to find relief from the feelings of wretchedness that light upon us.  How we respond to the descent of this mindset is interesting, or at least it should be.

One who believes in an afterlife and a God Who will be there to meet him or her on the other side might often find themselves muttering these words at least once in a lifetime: "Lord, I can't do this anymore; please take me away.  I'm ready to go."  The timing appears to be different for each victim; some can hold on longer than others.  By victim, I mean any one of us dealing with all this junk down here.  The sentiment appears, of course, to be totally selfish, because usually many other people would be horribly affected if any one of us should exit the world.

Let's suppose for a moment that God one day responds to our button-pressing for the heavenly elevator, and down comes a messenger telling us that we can go, and that we can take with us whoever and whomever we wish.  How many lives do we think we might interfere with before we are satisfied that we have everyone we want?  And suppose they don't all want to go?  You know how it is: there are parents to consider; children; spouses; boyfriends; girlfriends; people at work; people at school.  How shall we convince this ever-growing list of people I love that they'd be better off out of this world?

There is a moment at the Last Passover Supper when Jesus includes this curious sentiment in a prayer to His father, "I pray not that You would take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil." John 17:15.  What!?  We are to be left here!?  What evil are we to be kept from?  Because there's some pretty bad stuff going on down here.  What evil could be worse than this?  Well, it seems there must be an evil that can indeed be worse, otherwise Jesus wouldn't have prayed that prayer, don't you think?

The desire to be released from the experience of physical and psychological pain is common to the human family; even Jesus, hours after the prayer above, asks that "This cup" should pass from Him.  In context what's being said is, "My humanity cringes from the experience which lies ahead; I'll only go through with it if this is the Father's will."  So don't feel so bad when you feel like giving up — just be sure that you don't.  People need you, no matter how you may feel about it.  More than anything else, we need each other.  We have GOT to surround ourselves with people who have survived the feelings of hopelessness.  At the very least, be someone that a brother or sister can lean on.

I'm reminded of a story — doesn't matter if it's true or not; if it isn't, it should be.  The story goes that a traveler in some cold portion of the northern world was caught in a blizzard.  Though the compulsion to lie down and sleep until the storm had passed was powerful, he knew that to stop and rest would be to die, but he was too weary to fight on through the wind and gathering drifts.  As the storm lessened and visibility improved he became aware of another traveler just across the way.  This other traveler's condition was worse than his own, so he labored on to reach him.  The two of them each supported the arm of the other as they struggled to a cabin which had been placed for just such a time.  Their efforts kept them each warm enough to survive until they reached a place of safety.  If there is a moral to this story, surely it would be: "To give up is to die.  Look around; your efforts to save another might be the saving of your own life."

It isn't always clear why we are left to wallow in this mire.  And our human family can be so fickle at times; often when we need them most, they are busy plowing their fields, or marrying spouses, buying property, checking out a new job — whatever.  At times we fear to go where our neighbor has fallen in case we, too, should be overcome — very few Samaritans come out of the woodwork in the ghettos or the back alleys of the city bars.

Here's an interesting thought I've been given three-dimensional examples of recently: We have very little choice in how we behave under stress.  The psychology being applied at any decent military boot camp is priceless.  The soldier is being conditioned to obey.  He is being trained to put his own voice out of his head.  When his commanding officer says, "Move — now!" he must move — now!  In spite of all the doubts going on between his ears.  It is imperative that he learns to obey before he gets on the battlefield.  During a firefight is not the time to say "Why?" when you are ordered to pull back.  When lead is flying inches above your head is no time to learn to obey.

How we respond today to sickness, loss or danger may be the catalyst that prepares us for the time when it will really matter that we stand up and be counted.  When a hurricane or tornado tears up your neighborhood is a time when people will perhaps need you to dig them out.  Yes, you've lost your home, but there will time for self-pity later, when those who have survived are accounted for.  Stress causes those of us in the animal kingdom to revert to the use of basic, raw instinct; that's the easy part.  The harder part is to choose to respond in a manner that is far from natural, but is much more reasonable.  A drowning man cares little about those he must smother in order to save his own life.

In some lands across our globe there are some serious attitudes of hostility toward Christians and Jews.  Some day you may be face to face with someone who will kill you if you don't convert to their brand of religion.  If you haven't been in the habit of standing for what you believe is true, then you will indeed switch allegiance.  That's something to think about, especially in these dark times.

Dare I say that one day, and that day may come sooner than you think, God might need you to be the one to make a difference;  And when He says, "Go!" will not be the time to learn how to keep going when the going gets ridiculous.

On a somber note … right now — right now! — someone is sitting behind one of those closed doors out there considering taking their own life.  Perhaps you can be the one that will give them a reason to hold on.  Often it doesn't take much to give us hope; and Lord knows, sometimes we need more than a glimmer.

Just my take on it ….


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"A Planet Out of Control"

By Tony Harriman  •  

Does the weather have to be so violent at times?  If the created world is teaching us something about God, what on earth lesson should we take from the destructiveness of nature?  If God never changes, how shall we relate to the moodiness of the weather.  If all this breaking and tearing should follow us through eternity, how much peace do we think we would enjoy wondering what was going to get beaten up next?

I suppose we should kick this thought off with the observation that God has created everything that exists — everything we have a sense to perceive — and that the math governing these things obeys His will unerringly.  The forces keeping the atom and all its parts together are the same forces keeping the suns and planets and moons in their respective courses.

Often I am inclined to read the book of nature and enjoy the handiwork of God, but throw away those aspects that don't appear to reflect in the slightest anything at all about the goodness and love of God.  After all, is there honestly a place in our minds where we can see God being invigorated by the pace of the chase as the cute and cuddly bunny gets overcome by the fox?  Or where the little fish are taken out by the bigger fish?  You know what I mean.  We can easily envision God painting the petals of the rose or designing the shapes of the crystals in the snowflake, even deciding the order for the colors in the rainbow.  But how about giving instructions to the killer whale regarding playing with his food as he chases down the baby seal?  We giggle at the gurgling baby, but cringe at the wasting away of the elderly.  I wonder how correct it is for me to separate these observations.  In other words, if it doesn't fit my picture of God, well, I should just toss it out?  That does seem convenient, but how correct would it be?

The changing faces of the weather appear to me to be the result of conditions in a world out of control. Everything on the planet without a mind does not appear to go askew in its behavior all by itself.  Hmmm, how correct is that?  I mean, the weather doesn't have a mind, but it often goes crazy.  Maybe it's a little different, though, because what we think of as the weather is really just a lot of mindless water drops and dust being thrown around by crazy "conditions;" a bit like me picking up a nice flat rock and skipping it across the lake giving no mind to the fish basking in the sun near the surface.  You get the picture.

Around our home we have two dogs that we love and care for, one is a definite homebody always there when we come home, wagging his tail as he greets us, always right beside us if thunder should roll in the distance.  The other dog is a textbook gallivanter who is often absent upon our return, couldn't care less about the weather, and often comes home with much of the trash left out by the neighbors.  Occasionally she'll return with a nearly-new work boot, which was probably left outside the back door of who knows who, and from time to time she'll drag home the remains of some animal that was killed by a passing car half a week ago.  It's easy to see the hand of God at work in the heart of the first dog; but the second one?  Not so much.  I mean, there's no way she or anydoggy else is going to behave like this kind of thief in the perfect earth made new — right?

But back to the weather.  Since the weather appears to be a result of conditions rather than commands, perhaps we could step off the literal and explore some parallels.  Let's imagine for a moment that bad weather represents rough and tough times in our lives, periods of time over which we have little or no control.  Water or wind invade our space and sweep away the things we hold precious; all that remains are ourselves and a brick or two.  Our response to this set of events is revealing; some of us will thank god that we have survived and recognize that "stuff" really has little value, while others of us will turn and curse God for allowing this calamity to befall us.  Often these two classes will have shared the same pew during quieter times and will have grown up eating the same biblical food.

Don't we see the same picture being painted in the forest?  A bad storm rolls in during the night and causes havoc outside our windows.  The patio furniture is scattered to the four winds.  The corn and tomato plants are totally devastated.  The dawn breaks and we look at where there once was a forest; a violent tornado has come through and leveled just about every tree that stood.  Wait a second, "Just about every tree…?"  You mean there are a handful of trees that didn't get flattened?  Yes, just a handful.  The difference was made by how much of a root system each tree enjoyed, and sometimes by how much foliage was (and was not) flapping in the wind.  The kind of tree that survives "appears" to be random, since many of those that didn't survive were of the same kind as those that did.  Above ground level all may have looked equal, but once the conditions were adjusted it became clear which trees had been rooted and grounded securely.  These survivors likely lost a limb or two and probably more than just a little foliage.  For the rest of their lives they'll bear the scars that will tell the story of their ordeal, but at least they are alive.

In the Bible record and prediction it appears that a social storm is approaching the horizon of time, a storm of civil unrest and governmental control.  The only people affected by this storm are those who will dare to stand tall in its way.  They are affected, but they are not taken down.

I have an interesting observation that I'd like to type out here: It seems to me that two nations have been preserved on the planet that will bear a testimony till the end of life as we know it — Israel and America.  Israel has been responsible for keeping alive a knowledge of the original 7th-Day-Saturday Creation Sabbath, and America has been responsible for keeping alive a knowledge of Christian Protestantism.  This knowledge appears to be important to someone in the grand scheme of things.  File that thought somewhere.

So should we complain about the storms?  You could, but it won't make any difference.  The weather is as the weather does; all the while we are in this unstable world we are going to suffer instability.   Does the weather tell us anything about God?  Maybe.  Or maybe it tells us rather that He has to tolerate brokenness and upheaval right along with us.  When Jesus was here He didn't walk around in a bubble; He got baked and frozen along with the rest of His people.

Although … there was that one time on the lake when the disciples woke Jesus during what was perhaps the worst storm they had ever endured; and that's saying something for fishermen.  The story falls so glibly from our tongues that we often fail to put ourselves in the disciples' shoes.  In terror they woke Jesus; they were convinced they were going to die.  Jesus stirs and calmly speaks to whatever was causing the storm, and just like on a Hollywood set, an eerie quiet descends upon the scene.  All that is heard is the gentle lapping of the water against the hull of the boat, and probably the disciples' heavy breathing.  "What manner of Man is this?" they ask each other.  Indeed, how shall we describe Him?

Well, let's park this here and close on the thought that though the storm may be furious, and indeed our hearts may fail us, yet God is not intimidated by the noise and kerfuffle of the weather.  And in the end, nothing of value will have been lost — not really.  We may lose a limb — we may lose our lives; but God is well able to restore.

Just my take on it ….


Thursday, September 13, 2012

"What Was the Lightbearer For?"

By Tony Harriman  • 

Trying to figure out what life is going to be like on the other side of the veil is really tricky, since we only have our side of the story to go by; we know nothing about how things used to operate before the Great Fall in Heaven.  Trying to sort things out in our minds with what little information we have is much the same as it would be to have only the last chapter of any one of Arthur Conan Doyle's books about Sherlock Holmes; all we would have is the conclusion — none of the plot and maybe not even half of the characters.  There would be none of the finer details that answer the questions that simmer in the logical pots of our brain.

What follows here is really just a lot of thinking aloud.  I do that when I'm trying to sort out one of those mental puzzles that trouble us.  If you are one of those people who has all the answers you need to make your boat float, then here would be a good place to exit the browser.  For the rest of us, here goes:

If, before the fall, we had a much closer relationship with God than we have now, why would there be a need for a Lightbearer?  You'll remember that "Lightbearer" was the title Lucifer bore before his fall; after the fall his name was changed to Satan, meaning Adversary.  But in a perfect heaven, assuming there was open communication between everybody, what might the job description be for the "Lightbearer"?  let's explore:

In the most basic sense, when we think of a lightbearer, we think of someone who goes on ahead of the rest of the pack with some kind of illumination in the darkness.  We might also think in intellectual terms, where an educated teacher is appointed to train the youngsters regarding a topic about which the children have little or no information.

In the beginning when God said, "Let there be light …," to what or to whom do we imagine that command being given?  Are we to consider the possibility that light did not exist … at all … before that moment?  It definitely seems clear that light did not exist where God said it should, otherwise He wouldn't have given the command.  But because this light in the beginning seems to be different from that given by the sun, since the sun and moon didn't appear until the fourth day of Creation, we have to consider the possibility that this initial light was temporary.  And is there the possibility that Lucifer, being the Lightbearer, was the one that brought that light … in the beginning?  What kind of light would it have been?  Not intellectual, since there wasn't a thinking man until the sixth day.  It seems clear in those first verses of Genesis that there was an evening and a morning … per day, in this order: dark, light, dark, light, dark, light, dark for the first few days until the fourth day.

It gets muddy, because, in those first verses, there is no mention of anyone but God being here.  Anyone else being around later in the week is a topic for another discussion.  Adam and Eve are the second and third "people" characters to appear on the Creation stage; the fourth character, the talking serpent in the tree, doesn't show up until after everything is finished and a Garden is planted in Eden.  The fifth and final character is an angel (with an interesting flaming sword) stationed at the gate barring entrance to the Garden.

Well, obviously, all of this is food for some serious speculation; I believe it bears thinking about.

After Lucifer fell, who might have taken on the job of Lightbearer, if anyone?  If no one, then how has Heaven gotten along without a Lightbearer?  What need might there have been for a Lightbearer in the first place?  If, before Lucifer was created, God saw a need for a Lightbearer, then this would have been a very real position for a very real being to hold.  How could the position be left vacant?

Was Jesus just speaking metaphorically when He referred to His followers as "Lights of the World"?  Probably, since they had no physical light of their own; all they had was intellectual information about Jesus and the Father.  While Jesus was here, He appears to have been the Lightbearer — at least to humanity; after He left, His followers took up that job on the earth.  Is it possible that, in addition to His High-Priestly duties, Jesus is also now the Heavenly Lightbearer?  Maybe.  He told Philip, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father."  If we've seen the Father, what more do we need?  Is there any other light necessary?

But on the other side, when evil shall have been done away with, and things continue the way they should have, will there be any more need for a Lightbearer — in an intellectual sense?  If there were a need, it would suggest that we will still be relying on the created, material world to teach us about God, just like before the fall in Heaven.  Lucifer had a job which was above all others, which appears to have put him in the position of explaining aspects of God to the rest of the created beings.  This exalted position of Lucifer was one of the elements he used in the deception of an unnumbered host of the angelic realm, though there is no mention of beings other than the angelic realm being taken in by the deception.  As a side note here, I guess it's possible that to Lucifer, it didn't seem like a deception at all; his attitude may have seemed perfectly legitimate.

I hope you'll appreciate my curiosity about how we might learn about God.  The entire creation appears to be a grand, living encyclopedia itself bearing light to anything that has a mind capable of a faint comprehension of God.   How long this object lesson has been needed is unclear, and how much longer it shall be necessary also seems unclear.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Another thought on Lucifer: he appears to have been created a musical being, and it would seem that this capability would not have been given at random; God doesn't strike me as being random.  "Lightbearer" and "Musical" seem to be a left and a right hand of a complete information package designed to enlighten.  I reckon I'll leave that thought hanging for now, since I don't really know what to make of it.

The above is almost a splash of thoughts, and I really don't like much of the grammar and punctuation.  I'm tempted to just park this post in a draft box somewhere; we'll see.

I'm really not interested in the slightest regarding learning about Lucifer, aka: Satan.  I am, however, interested in the job he had and why it was necessary.  It just seems there's a lot left out of the Heavenly story.  Lifting the veil appears to require more intellectual and spiritual strength than we presently possess.

Just my take on it ….


Monday, September 10, 2012

"Do I Even Speak the Language?"

By Tony Harriman  •  

Have you ever wondered why God seems more interested in spending money on clean-up than on prevention.  Take the time this next week to keep up with the amount of flooding, earthquake damage, battlefield injuries and fire that will ruin the lives of many citizens of planet earth.  Perhaps some gunman will run through a crowded mall or whatever, and wildly discharge his (I would say "or her," but for now it doesn't play out like that) firearm.  Another notable celebrity will probably depart this life in some avoidable fashion, leaving us scratching our heads — again.

In the wake of scores of disasters that befall our world come the countless stories of God sending in the missionaries to provide hope where hope was gone, or pallets of food and blankets when the shelves emptied.  Doctors and nurses span the globe providing medications to either cure or prevent disease that is often the result of yet another natural disaster. In other words, some crew will inevitably arrive to mop up.

When you think about it, it doesn't take long to realize that much of the trouble on our planet could best be handled if we were given a little heads-up ahead of time: "Don't build your home there;" "Don't get on that plane;" "Don't start that fire;" "That strange-looking man outside the movie theater, he's got a gun and bad intentions; tie him up."  The list is as long as you have an imagination for, and once you've thought it through, you realize it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to help you assemble it.

God appears to have a rather special view of information and time; a view to which you and I are not privy.  If He wants to announce a prophetic event thousands of years ahead of schedule, well … it's a simple thing for Him to work it out.  So what do we suppose is the problem with what you and I call the here and now?  Has there been some oversight on the part of God?  Is He silent for some vastly bigger plan?  Anybody remember the movie "Fiddler on the Roof"?  There was a song, "If I Were a Rich man," with a line that ran something like "Would it spoil some vast eternal plan … If I were a wealthy man?"  The frustration with which we meet the incomprehension we suffer regarding the purposes of heaven knows no limit.  No, it's not just you; I had to read that sentence several times through, slowly, myself, just to make sure I had a good handle on what I meant.

It does seem odd, doesn't it?  I mean, those of us with children we love would spend a lot of time trying to reason with our teenagers that this or that is perhaps not the best thing to do.  We would take time to show them some examples of how a life might turn out when the owner thereof makes poor choices.  Now just imagine that you and I had a window into the future; we wouldn't have to guess about anything — we would know how it's going to turn out.  Ah!  There it is.  We would know how it's going to turn out.  We're not talking about Scrooge's third night visitor who only shows him what might be.  This is how it's going to be.  So now we're faced with the decision of whether to tell our children how bad it's going to be, or to just keep silent and let them handle it.  We'll stay close, just in case they need us; but this is their moment.

I have no doubt that God can change what we call the future.  But if He changes something, if it doesn't work out the way He saw it, did He actually see the future, or did He just see how it could have turned out?  And for God, is there any difference?  Imagine a huge long pause here while I think this through ..................... And I'm back with the same blank look on my face.

From time to time we hear the expression "The Butterfly Effect," the idea being that a butterfly beating its wings on one side of the planet can cause a typhoon on the other.  Honestly, I'm not sure that I totally buy into that concept, but I do clearly get the picture that the things we do, the way we behave, things we say, set in motion events that are far outside our comprehension or control.  I'm a firm believer in the power of influence; just the smallest gesture of kindness can soften, to some extent, the heart of the hardest nutcase.  But it's not a guarantee.  There are, of course, many other ways to affect the world around us; just try driving on the wrong side of the freeway during rush hour, that'll cause a breeze between someone's ears.

We have to ask the question, why doesn't God give more immediate — not thousands of years — immediate advance warnings of trouble and disaster?  What purpose might be served by allowing a tsunami to wash across the land and sweep away, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of, dare I say it, innocent by-standers?  Are there no text-messages of warning?  Out of all of us watching and listening to the broadcast coming down from Heaven, Did nobody get the memo?  Nobody?

Well, of course, no one knows any of these answers, except, perhaps, God Himself.  Or perhaps the answer lies not so much in why He doesn't tell us, but rather in why we aren't listening.  I refuse to believe that God cares nothing for those who die or for those who remain to mourn.  The citizens of planet earth appear to me to be much like a teenage collective; we know it all, and we've got it covered.  One day your child shows up in tears with a broken heart regarding this or that; another one spends the next ten years of life behind constant lock and key.  And all because of circumstances that could have been avoided — if they would have just listened.

And there, of course, lies part of the problem with communication.  Wisdom is trying to share its advice, but the listener hears a totally different language; it's almost like the parent is speaking in tongues — with no interpreter.  It's been this way since the beginning: "Don't eat that fruit!"  "Don't bow down to that god."  "Don't behave like that."  And for some bizarre reason, man does it anyway.  What more do we think God can do?  If we had a heavenly dream filled with divine instruction, we, or at least the people closest to us, would likely put it down to indigestion.  If God were to write His will in the sky, we'd start looking around for the stunt pilot.

We are unfamiliar with the language of heaven, and often refuse to observe even the signs in the natural world.  I mean, I imagine there were an awful lot of open-mouthed people watching as groups of twos and sevens of the animal kingdom made their deliberate way to the Ark of old, but is there any record of a single soul outside of Noah's family staggering to the door requesting entrance?  Were there no children curious enough to become the first recorded stowaways?

Where are all the good psychics when you need them?  I imagine they're out there still trying to have their first big win.  I don't think I've ever seen that headline: "Physic Wins Lottery — Again!"

All joking aside, whatever the reason that God chooses not to be emphatic with us remains to be seen.  But I imagine that somewhere beyond the veil, preparations are being made to make it very clear why things have gone the way they have.  For now are we seriously going to accuse the single wisest Person in existence of falling down on the job?  Perhaps when our kids talk to us that way, they have a pretty good point; after all, we're only human, right?  We only see so far.  But blindness is not a condition from which God suffers.

Just my take on it ….


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"The Planet's Too Small"

By Tony Harriman • 

Here's a think-it-through:  many religions on the planet have a prescribed method for obtaining eternal life, or getting into Heaven / Paradise / Nirvana — whatever.  Doesn't matter where you live on the planet, some plan has been invented that it's said will guarantee a seat on the great celestial train that leads to eternal life.  The trick appears to be … picking the right track — 'cause they can't all be right.

Anyone who's ever had to write a short story or an essay might remember being advised that if you don't know where to begin, start writing about the conclusion — where you want the story to end up — then let the details fill themselves in … for themselves.  If you can envision an end, you can find a path to it; much like those mazes you find in puzzle books.  With that thought in mind, let's explore the task of getting ourselves in the right condition for heaven, and let's start at the end and work toward the beginning.  First we'll decide what behavior might keep you out, then find a way to avoid at the very least those things that are absolute no-nos.

Once you've taken a moment or two to think the above couple of paragraphs through, you'll quickly realize that the "Lost" list is going to be endless, a bottomless pit of "Don'ts."  This list is an accumulating table of infinite data that grows with each passing day.  Avoiding this list will take up every waking moment of your life, since every day new things are invented that should be avoided: Don't gamble at the casino; don't gamble in the newspaper; don't gamble with the lottery; don't gamble online; don't gamble on your phone.  Tomorrow there will be some other form of gambling to not do that doesn't involve you handling money.  Even right now the list is as broad and as deep as you can imagine with regard to what might be the wrong thing to do.

Let's try it this way: suppose we wake up one morning and decide that we would like to be lost; what might we need to do?  No half-heartedness, mind you.  The full gusto — no coming back.

Well, how about starting out small, just to get your feet wet, so to speak.  How about something relatively insignificant:

"This morning I'm feeling just despondent enough that I think I'm going to skip brushing my teeth entirely.  Nah, that won't work; the toothbrush was only invented a handful of years ago.  People been living their entire lives without brushing their teeth even once."

"I live in the city and today I'm going to double park all day; that'll stir some ire."

"No!  I know.  I'm going to start drinking and smoking and taking drugs.  Those are probably some of the most stupid things I could do.  Doing that will surely cost me my soul."

"Thieving!  That's it!  I'll steal something; something irreplaceable. Maybe I'll mug someone; steal their wallet and credit cards and really cause some hassle."

"Suppose I were to take a life?  Surely that's the ultimate stain on the soul?"

It seems to me that if any of these behaviors are sufficient to cause the loss of our souls, then the sacrifice of Jesus would have been insufficient.  The plan would not have been thought through well enough.  If some wickedness were enough to cause the loss of a soul, then any remedy will always prove to be inadequate; in fact, it wouldn't be a remedy at all; there would be no "Double Cure" from the "Rock of Ages."

Jesus told His disciples that every and all sin that men commit may be forgiven.  What?  All sin?  That's what He said.  That's a lot of bad behavior.

All sin except one, that is.  Jesus did talk about one sin / wickedness / evil that would not — could not — be forgiven: the sin against the Holy Spirit.  Notice how Jesus was merciful enough not to tell us how to achieve that, just in case some lunatic should actually try.

I am still somewhat convinced that a person who is really serious about being lost ought to stop screwing up.  Our bad behavior appears to me to bring nothing but positive attention from God and the angelic realm.  The worse we are, the more effort is put forth for our salvation.  The Plan of Salvation has been set up to bring our souls, black and bruised as they are, back into harmony with God, and every one of us blips squarely on that radar, though some of us are more of a threat to ourselves than are some others — and they may not be the ones you think they are.

It may seem strange right now, but I have a sense that heaven is astir with one intent only: that of saving lost mankind.  Having children of my own it is easy for me to see, at least a little bit, that our Father has no other desire than to be with His children on the other side of this mess.  "God so loved the world …" remember?  There is no heavenly golf game, no fishing trip, no awards ceremony, no celestial team sport which is more important than the polishing of souls for the Kingdom.

Our speck of a world in the great cosmos is far too little for God to lose something on.  You can't conceal yourself in some great cloud in the sky, or hide behind some bush, Adam.  No speck of matter — seen or unseen — is able to obscure ANYTHING from God.  The Bible speaks of God as having a hand that is not too short to save.  That means He can reach higher than you can climb, and deeper than you can dig.  There is no gutter dirty enough to cause His nose to turn up.  If His hand is not too short, then it's long enough.  And that's all we need to know.

Maybe we should quit trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  No, I take that back; do resist your natural inclination to do the wrong thing, but if you keep struggling while you're drowning, you're going to suffocate; and what good will that do you — or anybody else for that matter?  We're all drowning, and God has the only lifeboat that can track and rescue us.  Perhaps what we should be doing more of is calling out in the darkness through prayer, then being still so that a harness may be securely attached to us.

Many years ago a young man ran to where Jesus was and asked, "…What must I do to be saved?"  It's interesting to me that Jesus told this young man exactly what to do; not what not to do; although Jesus did at times tell a handful of people what not to do, rather than what to do.  Here the young man was given the instruction he asked for, although he wasn't pleased about the details.  Now, obviously, God's earthly plan and instruction for each of us is not going to be the same; we all have a very different walk from each other.  Not all of us are required to sell all our goods, or travel to some far away mission field; that would be pointless, since these days the mission field begins right outside our door.  But it would be interesting to see how many of us might be brave enough to ask Jesus the question today, "What must I do that I might inherit eternal life?"  Forget WWJD?  What would Jesus have me to do — right now?

Here's how I personally believe the saving and losing works out: the Holy Spirit is continually flooding us with the power to do the right thing, much like we might be living on the banks of an endlessly flowing bloodstream full of everything nutritious, and the wind is always at our back pushing us toward the stream — all we have to do is go down and reach out to take that which will give us life (there's power in the blood, if you will).  These banks, however, are quite steep, and rocky.  At the top of and beyond the banks is everything that will hurt us.  If we slide down, we'll get what we need, but because of the rocks we'll possibly get hurt on the way.  Because so much effort is being put forth to save us, it takes greater effort to stay where we'll get hurt.  This constant resisting of the Spirit seems to me to be the one thing that will eventually kill us — for now and for eternity.

Jacob of old dreamed of a ladder that stretched from heaven to earth, and on this ladder were angels hurrying back and forth, up and down.  Make of that what you will, but I believe it would require a little blindness to think that heaven has no interest in the affairs of man.

If all of this sounds far too simple, I invite you to find a scenario in the Bible that illustrates any indifference on the part of God regarding the salvation of those of us who, without Him, would be totally defenseless against evil.  That just wouldn't appear to me to make any sense at all.

Just my take on it ….


Monday, September 3, 2012

"Showers of Blessing"

By Tony Harriman  •  

Not everyone enjoys rain.  On rainy days some of us just stay inside curled up by the fire with a good book; some take up the battle of tidying some long lost area of the house; Some idle away the hours in front of the TV.  If you don't like the rain, you don't like it.  Hard to change your preferences; no drop-down window in the human program.

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But then there are the people who thrive under the magic droplets.  That's where a large part of me belongs. I'm a puddle-splasher; I own hats and waterproof stuff designed to keep the outside out and the warmth in. When I lived in England I never thought of myself as being a rain lover.  And I never thought of anyone else in the country as being fond of the wet … until I moved to the southern USA.

Let me back up a little. As a kid growing up in rain-soaked England, I and the rest of the soccer team dreamed of a day when perpetual sun-shiny days would inexplicably commence, and we could spend our waking hours deciding which beach to go to next.  And there was the fishing to consider.  Of course, fish eat when it's raining, but it was so much more fun tracking them down when the sky was dry.

During the summer months English people do all they can to spend a fortnight somewhere sunny: Blackpool; Southend; Whitley Bay; South Shields; Torquay; Penzance, to name but a few places around the coastline.  It's like the wet batteries have to be charged ahead of the trip through the next fifty weeks.  If this charge doesn't take place, the journey is made that much harder.

There's a flip side to this English coin: When English people move from England to sunnier climes, and live under an almost totally blue sky — doesn't matter where: Mediterranean or Caribbean — our genetic likes and dislikes diet suffers a loss somehow, so that when the low rainy skies do come, it's almost like a friend or loved one has come to visit us.  Eventually though, just like any visit, there's a time for it to be over and we can go back to life as usual.  The rain should leave and the sky should lift and breathing should re-commence.

I'm not sure if anyone really understands how genetics work.  We can definitely see patterns of physical strengths or weaknesses being passed on through each generation; but how about likes and dislikes?  Are preferences learned only from the ancestors above us?  Is the disposition to enjoy city living over country living something that's programmed in at conception rather than learned?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Some other time I suppose we can look at what the experts have to say.

Imagine living in a world that got no rain.  I mean, what's the rain for, anyway?  It just gets everything wet, and of what use is that?  Well, oddly enough, every living thing on the planet needs water in some measure or other.  Water facilitates circulation in the living organism.  Liquid water is what makes planet earth different from all other celestial bodies we can see with our telescopes.  There's lots of water floating around the galaxy, but none of it usable.  If the circulation of water on the planet should stop, everything would die — pretty quickly — just like the creatures living around any of the water holes anywhere in Africa; once the water dries up, the last living creature in the water passes away.

Imagine there being no cause for songs such as:

"I Can See Clearly Now" the rain has gone.

"Walking in the Rain" with the one I love.

"Singing In the Rain."

"Laughter In the Rain."

There are many modern examples, but these are a handful that I like.

Let's make a turn here and explore what might possibly be learned from the rain about the personality and person of God.

Very few people, if any, fully understand the need for God in their lives. Most of us have some kind of idea that God had something to do with our beginning, but we don't really recognize what need there is for God in an ongoing sense.  Bible believers can verse-rehearse how God keeps everything alive.  NEW Testament Christians recognize and sing about the need for Jesus in their lives moment by moment.  I feel like we have a notion of the need, but no real understanding of the details.  Perhaps we can learn something from the rain;  let's try it out:

Let's squeeze down and open out the very big world into a smaller shape that will fit the course of your life from beginning to end.  The first thing you will notice is that the rain is not falling everywhere at the same time.  Perhaps the next thing you would spot is that there appear to be more areas where the rain has accumulated than there are dry areas.  You would see that the rain is always making its way downward, following the path of least resistance until it settles.  You can see that where the water is moving, things are living; where it's not moving, things are stagnant.  Notice that the creatures living in the water are being constantly bathed with new water, and if they were to stop resisting the tendency downward, they would eventually perish in the type of water for which they were unfitted.  You see that the rain is constantly renewing itself through the process of circulation.  Simply put, the water goes up, the rain comes down, up, down — constantly.  The process is beautiful, and takes some pretty sophisticated equipment to duplicate.  Now notice that the rain washes away the crud which has coated the things of our world, carrying it eventually to the sea where it is lost forever.

Now take a moment to re-read the above paragraph, and where you see the words "water" or "rain," replace them with the term "Spirit of God."  I believe you'll see a very bright picture of the process God uses to keep us alive; I'm talking primarily about keeping us alive day by day, but I feel that the eternal process will probably utilize pretty much the same mechanics: living cycles of life-giving Spirit keeping us alive — forever.

With the new term inserted, explore how different the times are in your life.  There are times when you sense the Spirit of God flooding you; other times you can sense barely a trickle.  There are times when you feel totally covered up with the dirt of this world, and only the refreshing showers from God can cleanse your soul.  There were times when you chose not to move continually upward away from that which would kill you, and you found yourself choking in the saltwater.  It's interesting to me that the water continually pushing you downward is the same water that keeps you clean and alive; not sure what to make of that.  Have to think about it.

There's an expression used throughout the Bible known as the Latter Rain; it's also known as a time of refreshing.  The word "latter" means "last."  I could flood you with a lot of references here, but I'm going to let you look up "Latter Rain" and "Refreshing" for yourself.  In short, it appears that the Bible refers to a moment when the Lord pours out His Spirit for the last time; and this is not a local shower, everyone gets drenched.  Then it seems that our experience goes one of two ways: either we get washed away with the crud in the flood, because we haven't the strength to swim against the tide, or … the crud gets washed off of us because we have strengthened ourselves to continue the struggle upward.  Same Spirit, two different results.  I have no clue how long that Spirit Moment will last, but it probably won't stop until the last lump of crud is washed down to the bottom of the sea.

"But what about …?" I hear someone thinking.  Well, you're going to have to think that through for yourself.  For now, try to enjoy the rain, it's very cleansing.

And that's just my take on it ….

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