April 23, 2011 Comments Off
I am writing this on Easter Sabbath — the Sabbath during which Jesus Christ rested in the grave, dead to the world and to heaven, until he was resurrected early Sunday morning. I want to invite you to discover God on your own terms this Easter. By that I mean you should reason out for yourself who God is for you, why you believe in Him, and what that means for your life as you see it from this day forward.
It is vitally important that each person who calls himself a believer in God, or an atheist if you will, know exactly why it is they take that stance and how that decision has affected them. If they are just blindly going to church, and following a faith they believe only superficially, they will have wasted one of their most important faculties: that of free will. For I believe that faculty is a gift from God, and it was given to us specifically so that we may choose to acknowledge Him — or not.
To help guide you in your discovery of God on your own terms, I have selected three videos below that I’d like you to watch. These videos may be unsettling for some, but they are important, because for one thing, they will help distance your belief in God from organized religion (which I think is key in getting closer to God), and for another thing, they express the thinking of two very lucid people, who have synthesized for us the problems that arise when a church gets too big for its britches — when it gets big enough to pass laws, torture and kill people.
You may realize that I point my finger at the Catholic church, but I do not blame them directly, or say that other churches are better. Any one church that might have been in their place would have acted the same way; make no mistake about that. A rose by any other name would still have the same painful thorns. Once a church gets big enough to become an institution with worldwide influence, they will abuse their power. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the church is not immune from corruption, as history states in horrid details about every such church organization.
I often think atheists are the best people, in a sense. Whatever they believe, most of them have reasoned it out and have to live with their decision, day in and day out. They live their lives with the painful knowledge that they will end within the span of 70 short years, more or less, and they will be gone, completely, when they die. If they do something good, they do it because they think it’s right, not because they expect to go to heaven for it, or because they want to expunge their sins through it. If they’re decent people, and most of them are, they do it because it’s their nature to be so, not because their Bible tells them so, or their church commands it. If you’re being good or decent because you expect to go to heaven, I’ve got news for you — you probably won’t get there. God doesn’t want people who do things because they expect something back from Him. He wants people who do good and decent things because it’s their nature to do them. Therefore, I suggest we all start learning a thing or two from atheists.
I hope you’ve taken the time to watch these videos, and will take some more time this Easter weekend to think things over. May you awake one day soon with a newfound personal perspective on your faith, on God, and your life from this point forward.
June 26, 2010 § 5 Comments
One of the things I keep hearing is that I ought to turn the other cheek when someone does me wrong, because I’m a Christian. That I ought to love a bad person and make amends for him or her, because that’s what God would do, and that’s what we’ve been told in the Bible.
Really? I don’t think so.
Only a superficial reading of the Bible, or as most Christians do, a non-reading of the Bible, coupled with what a minister or priest or preacher once said, lead to that sort of understanding.
A Christian in doubt need only consult his or her Bible to see how God deals with the wicked, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Even Jesus Christ, while on Earth, didn’t waste His time with the wicked. Look through the Gospels to see how he dealt with the pharisees and the moneychangers in the temple. And see His instructions to the disciples regarding the cities that would not listen to His message.
Why then do pastors keep clinging to the same clichés when it comes to Christian behavior? Perhaps they love the touchy-feely message of the New Testament, which would be a wrong reading of the gospels. Perhaps they’re not comfortable with judging others. Perhaps they themselves are superficial and haven’t taken the time to read through the Bible properly. Who knows… What I do know is God doesn’t waste His time with bad people. Jesus condemned their behavior constantly, berated them, judged them and warned them to change, then left them to their own devices. Remember free will? It still applies, for both good and evil.
What then of turning the other cheek and all the rest of it? Yes, we ought to, when it’s someone we love, or when it’s someone who we see is trying to lead a good life but has stumbled, someone who’s made a mistake but wants our forgiveness. Jesus constantly forgave His disciples’ shortcomings and glaring defects, because they were trying to obey Him, and He wanted to work with them. He went into Matthew’s house (the tax collector) because he wanted to be good in spite of his bad lifestyle. He associated with good people, stayed with them, spent time with them, but only tolerated the bad ones, or eliminated them from His daily walks altogether.
Some might say we don’t have His insight into the human soul, so we can’t tell who’s truly good and who’s truly bad. Perhaps, but I don’t think He’d begrudge us if we eliminated someone from our lives who is constantly gossiping about us, or making things up about us, or lying to others about us, or lying to us. And He’d definitely not mind if we had nothing more to do with someone who’s tried to cause us harm, physical or financial or some other kind. It’d be foolish of us to continue to associate with those kinds of people, both from a worldly and Godly point of view. You can keep turning the other cheek to those people, and they’ll keep on slapping you. They don’t deserve our kindness, nor our time, nor our consideration.
Keep this in mind the next time someone says you ought to turn the other cheek… And if you don’t believe me, search your Bible.
March 12, 2010 § 2 Comments
This is an illustrated story with a powerful message, and it explains why we each have our cross to bear, and why we need to keep going even when it seems too heavy. I got it via email a while ago and I don’t know who the author is. I’d love to give credit, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments below.
February 18, 2010 Comments Off
Mary Ann Brussat wrote in “Spiritual Literacy”:
“People go to religious services and yet continue to pollute, take excessive profits, encourage wars, oppress, foment political division, maintain racial injustice, and promote their own moralistic agendas at the expense of a deeply moral responsiveness to a world in trouble.”
What’s worse, those people often use religion as a badge of honor in their own materialistic quests for power, glory or money. That’s not the kind of religion and those are not the kind of people I want to know. And on top of all that, they’ll think themselves righteous. Instead of focusing on the intended spirituality of religion, they focus on theology and fundamentalism, as if those are God’s saving graces. They go through rituals forgetting the meaning of the word, which is “correct action”, not compulsion. Instead of experiencing God in their lives, they focus on devotional discipline, legalism, righteousness by works, and moralism.
They end up leading tortured lives, committing acts that create pain and suffering for others, all the while thinking they are bravely bearing their crosses and achieving righteousness, oblivious to the wrong path they’ve taken a long time ago. Yes, it is possible to lead that kind of a life, and as the Bible teaches, “by their fruits ye shall know them”. They may think they’re doing God’s work, and doing the “right thing for this country”, while they’re paving a quick way to destruction for all involved in the mess they’ve made.
I don’t even need to mention names, because you can quickly spot those people using the criteria outlined above. Many of them are prominent politicians, authors, pastors and TV show hosts, and they’re all doing their darnedest to achieve their misshapen, defective goals without regard for true morality and the rights of others. They’re “moralists”.
Robert J. Ringer described what he called “the Absolute Moralist” as:
“… looking deceptively like any ordinary human being, who spends his life deciding what is right for you… If he believes in Christ, he’s certain that it’s his moral duty to help you ‘see the light’. In the most extreme case, he may even feel morally obliged to kill you in order to ‘save’ you.”
Yes, folks, we have many deranged and prominent people like that in this country of ours.
Quotes obtained from a wonderful book which you should read, called “The Art of Serenity” by T. Byram Karasu, MD.
February 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
Let’s do a little Bible math. We’re going to put a few knowns together with an unknown to see if we can get a logical result, not the horror story stuff churches have spread around for centuries.
Common dogma: Man + Sin = Death + Hell (Brimstone, Eternal Torment, Fires, Wailing, Etc.)
Common sense dogma: Man + Sin = Death (see below for explanation)
In both cases, there are a few givens that must be noted. The funny thing is they apply to both cases equally.
| The punishment for sin is death, as the Bible plainly states it. What happens after death is the subject of much imagining, yet the Bible also plainly states that the dead are dead, for good.
| Jesus died for our sins, as the Bible also plainly states it.
Now let’s elaborate on the logic behind the conclusion pointed out above. The solution can be found, as with other Bible questions, in the life Jesus led while on earth, and in His death. His life was a model, a perfect example of the close relationship, the oneness that man can achieve with God, and His death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
→ If Jesus died for our sins, then the complete punishment for sin must be death.
If the punishment for sin is death, and if Jesus died for our sins, then permanent death, not hell, is what we, too, can expect if we die as sinners. If we are Christians, we must accept that conclusion as true, or we put at risk Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It means we don’t really believe in Him, as He asked us to do. You see, if we believe extra punishment, like hell fire and brimstone, is needed beyond the sinner’s death, then Jesus didn’t really atone for our sins.
That’s because, as we all know, He died on the cross, was buried the same day, and was raised back to eternal life on the third day. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a mention of Jesus burning in hell for our sins while in the grave. Therefore, if Jesus’s death was enough sacrifice for our sins, and keep in mind He was carrying the full load of sins for all humanity, then the complete punishment for sinners must be death.
Let me state this again so it registers with you. It’s a crucial part of our Christian faith that Jesus died for our sins and paid in full for them. If he did, then the punishment for sin must be death and death alone, not eternal torment, or brimstone, or the devil with a pitchfork turning you over in the fire.
If the latter were the punishment, then Jesus didn’t really die and atone for our sins, since He didn’t partake of the real punishment. And that can’t be, since it’s one of the cornerstones of our Christian beliefs. Do you see how the wrong dogma falls apart when you think about this?
If you’d like to have it explained in more detail, watch this video called “The Lake of Fire“.
July 16, 2009 § 5 Comments
In a new encyclical, entitled “Caritas in Veritate”, or “Love in Truth”, Pope Benedict XVI calls for the formation of a “true world political authority”, which would enforce global economic, environmental and immigration policies in order to construct a new world order that “conforms to the [Catholic] moral order”. He’s wrong to do that, on many levels, as explained in more detail here.
Most of the encyclical sounds nice, and most Christians would agree with at least some of the things he’s saying, except I, along with others, believe he has no God-given authority to call for such an order — in spite of the assumed authority that Catholic popes have granted themselves historically. The Pope calls himself Christ’s representative on earth. If so, he would do well do remember Christ’s words (quoting from source):
“Jesus Christ, whom the Pope claims to represent here on earth, very clearly said that [His] “kingdom was not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight . . . but my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). A political body “vested” with “power” to ensure “security” and “compliance,” as the Pope recommends, will obviously have to use a police or military force. What qualifies the Pope to make recommendations or suggest policies for the creation of such an entity?”
Furthermore, “some may argue that the Pope is not suggesting he or his church be in charge of such an authority, but rather proposing that some other body take these steps to stabilize our world economy. And yet this cannot be the full argument. The letter makes clear that the policies carried out by the entity would be to construct a “social order” that “conforms to the moral order.” The Pope’s choice of words is telling. He does not say “some moral order,” or “a moral order,” but “the moral order.” He clearly has a certain moral order in mind. Could this be any other moral order than the one articulated and taught by the Catholic Church?”
Second, we must always remember the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and all of the countless millions killed at the hands of that putrid religious zealotry. All of that was done in the name of the Pope and allegedly in the name of God, and the reason they could do it was the Catholic church’s control of Europe’s various governments. We cannot ever let history repeat itself like that.
Third, most may have easily forgotten or not even been aware of the Catholic church’s recent efforts to reinstate the Sunday Law, under the guise of a “national day of rest”. If that were to happen, it would be a form of religious persecution, where those who choose to worship on another day, like, for example, on Saturday, which is the true Biblical Sabbath, would slowly but surely be ostracized and persecuted for their disobedience of the legal day of rest, namely Sunday. If the church got its hands on a world government, you can only begin to imagine the measures of persecution that would be introduced, one after the other, in the name of the new “moral order”.
We must continually strive to dissuade any church or group of churches from attempting to control or influence world governments. World governments should be “worldly”, guided by a set of generally accepted moral rules and left to themselves, not controlled by a church. The churches would do well to remember their kingdom is in heaven and is to be ruled solely by God, not by fallible human beings. If they’re dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in this passing world, they’d better get on their knees and pray for the faster return of Christ, not try to build empires of their own.
July 14, 2009 Comments Off
I was reading Ezekiel 33 this morning, and verses 7-9 state perfectly why I feel the need to write here at Dignoscentia.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”
As a believer in God and in God’s Law, I feel the need to share what I have learned from the Bible with others, in the hope that if they’re doing something that may be wrong, they might learn it’s wrong and turn from it. I’m not saying what I write is necessarily right — who knows, I could be wrong too — but at least I’m trying to shed light on the truth. I’ve always said that it’s each person’s responsibility to seek out the truth for themselves. It’s not about forcing people to believe in certain things or behave in certain ways. It’s about letting them make free, yet informed choices about their beliefs. If I can only get someone thinking and searching for the truth and for the right path in their life, then I’ve done my job.
Here’s how God feels about it:
“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right — if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.”
“None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.”
Those were verses 11-16 in the same chapter (33) in Ezekiel. Now isn’t that something to rejoice about?
April 11, 2009 Comments Off
The byline for this psalm is “a psalm, a song for the Sabbath day”. It’s yet another mention (among countless in the Bible) of the Sabbath’s importance, and I’m not referring to the false Sabbath of Sunday, which many obstinate and misguided churches are lobbying for, but the true Sabbath, Saturday, which was sanctified by God from the creation of the Earth.
As a photographer, I couldn’t agree more with verse 5: “How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” The more time I spend in nature, seeking natural beauty, and the more I examine that beauty, the more I realize how great God’s work truly is, and how beautiful He made this Earth before we spoiled it. As for the second part of this verse, I don’t know if we’ll ever know how profound God’s thoughts can be. We are too limited to realize how He thinks, how much He loves us, and how He cares for us.
The rest of the psalm is eschatological, and includes clear references to the destruction of the wicked, and to everlasting life with God, in heaven and here on the renewed Earth:
“Though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” (verse 7)
“For surely Your enemies, O LORD, surely Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (verse 9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (verses 12-14)
Verse 15 echoes the promises made in Daniel and the Revelation, that all will realize God’s perfect nature and goodness, and will proclaim it aloud, saying: “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Not all of the promises made in this psalm are prophetic. Some are for the present. Verses 10 and 11 say:
“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.”
My Bible’s footnotes indicate the term “horn” refers here to one’s strength. The original Hebrew version is likely even clearer on that meaning. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that God sometimes blesses His faithful ones during their lifetimes, not just in heaven. He chooses the time and method, but when He pours out His blessings over them, there is no mistaking His hand. I can attest to this myself, and I’m sure many others can. When we’re in the direst of circumstances and things cannot possibly be solved by human means, He works something out miraculously and we are delivered in a way we could not have imagined if we hadn’t seen it.
Praise be to God!
March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments
Some of the most beautiful promises of reassurance I know of are contained within this psalm:
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)
“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11,12)
“I will rescue him; I will protect him.” (Psalm 91:14)
Aren’t those promises amazing? I don’t know about you, but shivers run down my spine when I read them. To think, God will personally command His angels to protect me completely, no matter what the circumstances! All that He asks in return is:
- Make Him my dwelling place (Psalm 91:9)
- Love Him (Psalm 91:14)
- Acknowledge His name (Psalm 91:14)
That’s not too much to ask, is it? Of course, the key is to dwell in the Lord, as verse 9 says. How does one do that though? It’s got to be a symbolic statement, one that likely refers to keeping our minds on God, all day, every day, and inviting Him into our lives. It’s a natural extension of that second thing we must do in order to qualify for His full protection, which is to love Him, as verse 14 above says. Or, as another Christian puts it, to dwell in the Lord is to keep His word in our minds all day — to study the Bible carefully and to meditate upon it. Once we love Him and dwell in Him, it’s only natural that we acknowledge His name, or that we speak about Him to others, and give Him credit for all the blessings He bestows upon us.
The wonderful thing about God is that He loves us so much He’ll protect us even when we don’t love Him. He’ll bless us even when we curse Him. He is truly amazing. I’ve heard stories of people who were atheists or pagans, and yet God protected them in terribly dangerous situations. What do you think happened afterwards? Many became Christians. They began to believe in Him, to love Him, and to acknowledge His name publicly. They realized He exists, and He watches out for all His children, even though He may not always answer our prayers the way we expect. Yet if only we could see His angels at our side when in dire circumstances, we would know He never fails to deliver on His promises.
He doesn’t falter. Only we do, and that’s the hard part to accept, isn’t it? The Bible is full of God’s promises, and yet we have a hard time believing them, because we either don’t think He, who created the entire Universe, has the power to help us, or because we think He slighted us in the past when we prayed for something and didn’t get it. But that’s our pride that stands in the way, isn’t it? We can’t seem to be able to swallow it down and to accept the fact that God did what was ultimately best for us, even if it wasn’t the outcome we expected. Let’s face it, sometimes, when those arrows come our way, as verse 7 says above, we may be among the ones that fall, not among the ones that are left standing. Don’t ask me why — only God knows that. The thing to do is to put it in His hands and let Him figure things out. Let the chips fall where they may, knowing He is in control.
I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn.
February 14, 2009 Comments Off
Here is a short passage from Isaiah 46, verses 6 and 7:
“Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.”
Notice the ridiculousness of the situation: a human being will create an object out of inanimate metals, set it on a pedestal in their home, and start praying to it — what’s worse, they’ll expect results.
Some may read this and say it’s no longer relevant. It’s what the ancient people did. But let’s look around the world and we’ll soon find out that this is still practiced. In some religions, people won’t bother to carve out gods from metals or stone. They’ll pray directly to stones. Or they’ll pray to the trees, or to nature itself. Then there are those religions that still pray to statues that depict human or animal likenesses, and they’re dominant in some parts of the world.
What’s worse, the practice of praying to graven images or statues isn’t limited to pagan religions. It happens right under our noses in the Western world. All you need to is to enter a Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal or Anglican church, and you’ll see statues of Jesus Christ or Mary, or the apostles, or of some saint or other, to whom the people pray and cry. They light candles to them and lay flowers at their feet, hoping in earnest for an answer when God clearly forbids it.
These people have forgotten the Ten Commandments, haven’t they? Here’s what God Himself wrote on the tablets of stone He gave to Moses:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:7-9)
When one looks at these things through the lens of God’s Word, the matter becomes very simple: you shall not do it. When human reason enter the equation, we hear excuses like “But this is only a likeness that reminds us of God. We are really praying to God, and this helps us imagine Him.” The list goes on and on.
Problem is, God won’t listen to these excuses when it comes time for the final judgment. He won’t care what you intended to do. He clearly forbids the worship of statues and graven images, and all who call themselves believers in God should obey His wishes.