A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

August 31, 2014

Hebrews 13:8-9

Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages).  Do not be carried about by different and varied and alien teachings;

     As I have ventured into deeper discussions of the Bible and what it has to tell us in these times, I have been amazed at the extremes of belief systems of those who choose to comment on the posts.  These belief systems have ranged from fundamental traditional religion, in which some of my thoughts have been labeled heretical; to those who have developed a radical theology derived from other sources and men, and who see my opinions as misguided, misinformed, and naive.
     But I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  That has been the history of the Church since nearly the beginning, and the Bible gives us multiple warnings to guard the Faith.  1 Timothy 4:1 says, "But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,".  
     The Bible also tells us that the time will come when men will not endure the sound teaching of God's Word, and will fall prey to false ideas and theories, developed to please their own ideas of truth.  Paul talks, in 2 Corinthians, of "super apostles", so to speak, who will infiltrate the church and disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.  But he warns that they are really disciples of Satan, who himself, can appear as an angel of light.  We see that today, in those Churches who espouse Replacement Theology and other anti-Semitic doctrines. 
     The prophet Isaiah warns of those who will call good "evil" and evil "good".  Who, more than Church Leaders and devout Christians, should heed that warning?  What is your, or your Church's, position on homosexuality, abortion, Israel?  
     The Bible teaches us that in the End Times there will be a One World Religious system fostered by the Anti-Christ and his False Prophet.  This Prophet will be empowered by Satan, and will offer a religion that will seek to pervert and transform Christianity; deceiving many Believers.  Revelation 13:11-12 tells us that this Beast has "two horns like a lamb and speaks like a dragon."  He will emerge like "a lamb", with seemingly faultless Christian qualities; but what he tells the Church will be controlled and directed by Satan.   His message will be tempting to those who do not truly know and understand the Word of God.  And how many Christians does that describe in today's world?
     Finally, while Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever ... so is His message, the Word.  What he told the 7 churches in the Book of Revelations applies to us today, and makes two things perfectly clear:  He is PRESENT and He is acutely AWARE of how the Church (both Leaders and practicing Christians) are performing their mission.  He accuses them of losing their love for Him, each other, and lost sinners;  He accuses them of Idolatry and Immorality;  He accuses them of having a "good reputation" of abiding in Him, while there is no evidence; and lastly, He accuses them of being sick and lost, and not even knowing it.  
     How could this happen?   How could the Church (both Early and Modern) stray so far from the path He marked for us?  It is one thing for earnest Believers to disagree, in love and respect, on the finer points of a scriptural passage; or even to thoughtfully discuss the historical ramifications and language differences that can lead to different understandings --- as long as the Holy Spirit is central to your discernment.  It is when we wander into man-made philosophies and views, and don't ask for wisdom and knowledge from God, that we are "carried about by different and varied and alien teachings".  Then our beliefs can become distorted, and influenced, and false.  Let us be careful to heed all these warnings, remain true to the Word, and treat each other with love and respect. 

     In the spirit of remaining true to the Word, I personally worship God on the Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and keep it Holy as He instructed, giving thanks for my Salvation and His promises of Eternal Life.  However, I also respect my faithful Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world who still worship Him on Sunday.  I choose to post a Scripture reading on this day to reach the most people, and I do it in the spirit of harmony.  Any day that I choose to Honor, Exalt, and Glorify Jehovah is a good day!

August 30, 2014

What White Privilege?

     When you have the top-rated hosts of Fox News debating White Privilege, and one of them actually believes it exists, then I guess it's time to give my humble opinion.  So, just what is this so-called social issue of "White Privilege"?  Well, it depends on who you ask ... If you accept Wikipedia's definition, it is "a term for societal privileges, existing in predominantly white societies, that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, or economic circumstances."
     OK, let's break this definition down.  According to the Government census figures, non-Hispanic Whites constitute 63% of the population.  First of all, I don't get that term, "non-Hispanic White"; is there such a thing as "Hispanic White"?  Would that be referring to bi-racial Hispanics? Anyway, I guess we're supposed to consider non-Hispanic Whites as "completely" White, right?  It's all so confusing!
     So, if that figure is correct, then 63% would make White people greater in number than other races.  Now what is meant by "societal privileges"?  With a little digging, I stumbled upon some information that showed me the root of this unproven social issue.  It seems that the idea owes some of its conceptualization to a 1988 essay on privilege by Peggy McIntosh.  It doesn't surprise me that I had no idea who she was, because she is an American feminist and anti-racism activist, the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, and a speaker and the founder and co-director of the National S.E.E.D. Project on Inclusive Curriculum; it's all about diversity and multi-cultural and socio-economic equitability.
     So, in 1988, just what did Ms. McIntosh view as "privileges"?  There are many, according to her:
Ability: being able-bodied and without mental disability.
Class: can refer to both economic status and social class; both determining opportunities and participation in politics, education and vocation.
Education:  this privilege opens doors to higher paying careers, and can confer unearned credibility on an individual.
Gender and Gender Identity:  Ms. McIntosh maintains that certain sexes can be over-represented in leadership roles and supersede authority; while the old cultural expectations of gender should no longer apply -- we need to expand our acceptance and inclusion of different gender identities.
Passing:  This is the ability to appear to belong to another group and claim the advantages of a more privileged group.  (Isn't this a rather outdated concept in our new, inclusive societal model?)
Religious:  This privilege purports to have one’s own religious practices and observances recognized as the norm.
Sexuality:  In 1988, she could claim that Heterosexual privilege included the assumption that everyone is heterosexual; not anymore.
Racial:  Whoever has the power, money and influence is recognized as "privileged".
     Now, here we are in 2014, just a mere 26 years later, and Ms. McIntosh's theories are being taken to a new level.  In the light of the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri, many in the media want to blame "White Privilege" as the root of what they perceive as blatant racism.
     They will tell you that if one person's black skin puts them at a disadvantage, then another's white skin gives them a decided advantage.  It was interesting to see two, obviously successful, white Media personalities debate the racial issue.  While Bill O'Reilly suggested that "the state of families, the culture and personal responsibility” are the real issues at hand, Megan Kelly concluded that statistics show that "black children are four times as likely to live in poor neighborhoods as white children, and in the St. Louis area there is documented white flight … the whites take off, these become black neighborhoods. The schools, they get forgotten, and the black population feels forgotten."
     First of all, let me tell you that I spent my formative years in the St. Louis area; near East St. Louis to be exact.  Yes, Whites had begun moving out of the neighborhoods as they became more successful and moved up the social ladder.  And, yes, Blacks moved into those neighborhoods -- good, modest, and clean neighborhoods.  At first, there was pride in their new homes, as they celebrated their own move up the social ladder.  But then came the push for LBJ's Great Society, a carefully planned and executed set of social reforms that we were told would lead to the elimination of poverty and racial injustice.
     Instead, it introduced the concept that the American people "owed" the poverty-stricken and racially suppressed races something for the injuries they had suffered.  The effect was a loss of pride and the temptation to accept government hand-outs, instead of providing a hand up and the means to improve one's lot in life.  Several generations later, we see the results:  the family unit has been destroyed, and millions are enslaved to the welfare system and see themselves as victims.
     So, is this a result of "White Privilege"?  As far as I can tell, Affirmative Action takes away the excuse that "Whiteness" gives undue opportunities.  And what about the fact that Asians and non-English speaking immigrants have been able to overcome our unfamiliar language and culture to succeed at unbelievable rates and at incredible levels?  There goes that excuse that "Whiteness" ensures the highest level of success.
     And now "academics" like Ms. McIntosh and her followers want to somehow claim that "Whiteness" is an adjective that attaches itself to all the other "Privileges".  But I don't get it, because when you take a look at her list, I'm not feeling very privileged.  We're made to feel guilty if we're White, so our social class doesn't appear to give us any benefits.  And try being a White student applying for a college scholarship.  Good luck there!  Next, if I'm straight and identify myself as strictly female, then I'm showing showing my gender bias and am prejudiced against gay people.  Then there's my Faith; Christians aren't exactly in the "privileged" category, in case you haven't noticed.
     Nope, overall, I would say that if "Privilege" means to exempt (someone) from a liability or obligation to which others are subject, then being White has not afforded me the opportunity of Government-sponsored irresponsibility.  I believe every person born in this country has the freedom to become whatever he/she wants.  It is up to the individual to work hard and earn it.  Do some have it easier than others?  Of course, they do; but I don't resent my rich, white friends because "they have it better than me".  I've know from the time I was a child that I would have to work hard for anything I accomplished, and I never expected it to be given to me.  I'm not sure what drives Academics and the Media to buy into this nonsense, but it serves no purpose except to further divide us.  But maybe that's the plan ....

Ephesians 6:4-5    "Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load." [Common English Bible]

August 29, 2014

Onward, Christian Soldier: The Time To Take Up Spiritual Arms Is NOW!

DISCLAIMER:  I am not an expert on Spiritual Warfare, and in fact, am just beginning a serious study of the power and authority we have been given in the name of Jesus.  As I gaze upon the world today, I am becoming increasingly aware that this is a weapon we need to be employing.  This post is a "Beginner Course", so to speak, and the following is my developing hypothesis, in the hopes that you will solemnly and thoughtfully consider this matter.

     This post may not be of interest to many; nor might the necessity of it be understood by a majority of readers.  But all one has to do is look at a sampling of the headlines over the last couple of days, and I can assure you that it is a subject that needs to be discussed.
     I'm going to start by asking the question, What do all these news stories have in common?  Russian Troops Invade Ukraine; ISIS Strips 250 Soldiers, Leads Them To Mass Execution In the Desert; Babysitter Stabs Father For Refusing To Have Sex With Her; Stranger Fleeces Church With Sob Story... I could go on and on; the newspapers and internet news sites are full of them.
     So, what is the answer?  Very simply, it is that mankind is in a spiritual war with God's Enemy.  But the understanding of this concept precludes that one comprehends and accepts that not only does God exist, but that Satan is real; and that he employs a multitude of devices and forces, in his position as "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4).  It is important that 1) we recognize it is our duty to fight against this Enemy; 2) the four important areas of his influence; and 3) we have a power stronger than his.
     Part of Satan's delusion is that both the Unsaved and Christian can be presented with his power and influence through movies like The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and The Shining; or through music by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, both of whom claim to be "possessed" by demons.  Yet most of today's Christians are not engaged in battling these spiritual entities because they've never been taught that they are to be engaged in such a battle, nor how to go about it.  "Onward, Christian Soldier" is nearly a lost conviction.  (Please don't think I am confusing Spiritual warfare with the Crusades.  Those were human military campaigns, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, for a variety of religious, economic, and political reasons -- and I call into question the part that Satan played in their execution).
     A couple of weeks ago, I alluded to a private gathering I attended, in which the author of Psalm 91: God's Umbrella of Protection, Peggy Joyce Ruth, spoke.  I am very fortunate to be part of a body of Believers who are listening to the call of the Holy Spirit to come out of the apostate Church.  Mrs. Ruth introduced us to the concept that, as Christians, we have a job to do as part of this End Times generation.  We have been given authority over Satan; we were created to rule over the enemy -- not the other way around.
     So, all this sounds like good "church-y" theology, right?  And you are thinking, what does this have to do with the headlines of the day, or the lyrics to Katy Perry's song, "Dark Horse"?  Well, they are all manifestations of who we are battling, according to our go-to Scripture on Spiritual Warfare, Ephesians 6:12:  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

     It is imperative that you understand the true meanings of these four forces of Satan.  The Greek meaning of the word for PRINCIPALITIES describes things in a series, such as leaders, rulers, and judges; it signifies rank and organization.  This informs us that the Satanic kingdom is highly organized, and Satan is at the head of this kingdom; and there is a rank of ruling spirits under him that are subject to him and assigned over areas such as nations and cities.  (When you consider some of the decisions of the world's rulers and look at their actions, it is not hard to imagine that they are "under the influence".)
     Remember the reason the angel was delayed with bringing God's message to Daniel?  It was because he was engaged in battle with "the prince of the kingdom of Persia".  We must grasp the reality that Satan, as the Enemy of God, can have a powerful effect on the leaders of nations, states and cities.  It is necessary that we realize that our spiritual warfare not only includes our individual lives, but communities, our nation, and the world!  This is not just some Biblical folklore, folks!  Kings, and Presidents, and Shahs, and Imams can all be at the head of Satanic Principalities.  And they derive their POWER from their spiritual leader, Satan.  That's the second force that we battle.
     The Greek meaning of the word, Power, implies "authority", and tells us that the demons Satan has placed over various areas and territories have been given the authority to carry out whatever orders they've been assigned... Satan's orders that result in deception, control, and destruction.
       But, as we take our positions for battle, we need to understand that we have even greater authority; the authority of the name of Jesus.  Our authority lies in the power of That Name, and demonic entities are forced to yield to the authority of the name of Jesus.
     Both PLW and I can personally attest to the power that the utterance of that name has against a demonic force.  Sadly, the Church has this same power and authority, (through the Name), that was given to it initially, by Jesus, Himself; yet, we've lost the knowledge that it is at our disposal.  We don't have to pray and wait for God to come to our rescue.  Through our Salvation and our baptism in the Holy Spirit, God has provided us with the necessary weapons to engage in spiritual warfare and actually become a formidable and mighty, militant Church!
     The third force to be reckoned with in our spiritual battle is the RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD.  When Adam fell through sin, Satan was given dominion over the world, but he is nonetheless a defeated foe of our Lord.  The Devil is really just a trespasser in this world, and he has no legal rights over us Christians.  Our debt has been paid by the blood of Christ, and we belong to Him.
     So, if he's doomed to defeat, why does Satan still seek to rule this world, and why has he gained such success through his "rulers"?  It is simple:  the Church has not recognized or risen up in the power and authority given it.  It's time that we use our spiritual weapons and strength, and take the offensive to the Enemy!  But the Church and Believers have to recognize that this battle cannot be won politically or socially ... we cannot change things by getting out the vote, or accepting new social paradigms.  In fact, a secular activist group (The American Humanist Association) recently revealed that 24 members of Congress have privately admitted they don't believe in God.  So, do you really want to go to Spiritual War with these guys on the front line?
     Finally, the fourth force that we embattle is SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES.  Obviously, the key here, is "wickedness".  In the Greek, that word means "depravity; malice; plots".  That can encompass all kinds of spiritual battles against pornography, the occult, "Black masses", or even a babysitter who has allowed a spirit of sexual addiction to rule her impulses.
     The point is that we have very real spiritual enemies.  They are the enemies of both God and man.  And while we Christians have the promise of victory in heaven, we still can be afflicted and tormented here on earth.  The key to our victory in this realm is to use our authority as it has been given us.
     All the mayhem and chaos we see in the world is not going to go away "if we just try to get along", or if we compromise with the Enemy.  The disorder and turmoil is a result of the battle between spiritual forces in the heavenly realms and upon this earth.  It's time that we get into the fight!  We have been given the authority (through the power of Jesus) to bind the power of the Devil, and to set free those he has made captive.   And we need to be exercising that authority NOW! 

This is an exhaustive and many-layered subject for Christian study; far too sweeping for a single post.  But it is a discipline that needs to be encouraged and strengthened as we face the last onslaught of the Enemy.  For a more in-depth study of how to wage Spiritual Warfare, I highly recommend the celebrated book, Pigs In The Parlor: The Practical Guide To Deliverance.  It is a book filled with practical information for the modern Christian Soldier.  And I offer you this Warfare Prayer to fortify you and further embolden you.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4    "For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.  For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,"  

August 28, 2014

Our Food and Our Health

     I don't know about you, but I need a break from headline news ... it's not that I want to stick my head in the sand; it's just that I need to devote a little "head time" to my own needs.  And I guess I've arrived at this moment as I'm approaching my annual Labor Day assessment of our self-sustaining lifestyle.
     Both PLW and I are striving to become more self-sufficient and "organic" in how we live.  We just filled the freezer with fresh, hormone-free beef, and picked up our bi-weekly supply of raw milk.  And we are blessed to be part of a growing network of friends who are embracing this lifestyle, as well.  Although we don't mind being called "preppers", it's become as much about being as healthy as we can, and making our own decisions about what we put in our bodies.
      As counterintuitive as it might seem, there is an undercurrent in our state and federal governments that would deny us private citizens the right to grow our own gardens; or trade at farmers markets; or share our free-range chicken eggs -- all a part of our American heritage.  If it was good enough for my grandparents, then I'm pretty sure it is healthier for me.  Who wouldn't make this choice instead of the over-processed, hormone-laced, antibiotic-injected, and nutrient-deficient food presented at our local supermarkets?
     Although we are rather new to this lifestyle, we are eagerly learning what works best for us in our climate and growing seasons.  Our next big move will be to square-box gardening, in the hopes that we can conquer our ever-present nemesis, the weeds.  Any suggestions from those of you who have perfected this method will be gratefully appreciated.  We're hoping that the use of wicking beds will also help us fight this unrelenting drought.  And PLW is even going to introduce a worm motel!  Oh, the joys of unconventional gardening!
     But, seriously, this lifestyle is coming more and more under scrutiny in our over-regulated culture.  It is not only a matter of small farmers, who choose to sell directly to the consumer, and are battling Big Agriculture; but we private citizens are under the microscope for daring to raise our own cattle and butcher them without the all-important USDA stamp of approval.  Making your own cheese, or fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut are all suspect, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  This is becoming such a problem, that there is even a "food rights" movement!
     Do we really want some bureaucrat in D.C. to have authority over the food we eat?  Because they won't stop at regulating dairies and butcher shops.  There have even been isolated cases of investigations into school bake sales, church-sponsored potlucks, and neighborhood lemonade stands.  Is it really about "food safety", as the authorities would tell us?  Or is it more about control and the suppression of individual rights?  Because by trying to make foods "safe", the nutrients have been stripped, and I have long felt that artificial foods have contributed to the mutation of our cell structure, leading to cancer and disease.
     Certainly, they're not going to try to convince us that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are safe or healthy ... are they?  Because I'll take my chances with raw milk or grass-fed beef, before I'll choose food that has been subjected to fertilizers, pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, and aspartame.
     I hate it that everything is becoming a struggle between private citizens and an encroaching government.  It's not enough that our health care is no longer between us and our doctors; now, they want to take away our choice of the very foods we eat!  But I figure that if I can eat more organically, (minus the additives that will slowly erode my health and send me to a government-controlled doctor), that I will, very simply, be healthier.  And there's an additional benefit:  I am, in my own small way, asserting my individual rights and control over my own body.  Bon appĂ©tit!

1 Corinthians 6:19   "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,"    

August 27, 2014

Will Our Technology Destroy Us?

     There is no doubt that we live in an advanced technological world.  Everyone is "wired", and our "progress" finds us all becoming slaves to machinery and equipment supposedly developed to improve our lives.  I recently read an interesting article on Truthstream Media, in which the author, Daniel Taylor, pointed out that both C.S. Lewis, the lay theologian and Christian apologist, and George Orwell, the noted author and skeptical Christian, both came to the same conclusion:  that sooner or later, the human race would pay for its obsession with power and self-glorification.
     They both lived just prior to the explosion of the "computer age", yet their words are incredibly prophetic:
•  “Dreams of the far future destiny of man were dragging up, from its shallow and unquiet grave, the old dream of man as god…” – C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 1945.
•  “All superfluous life is to be wiped out, all natural forces tamed, the common people are to be used as slaves and vivisection subjects by the ruling caste of scientists, who even see their way to conferring immortal life upon themselves. Man, in short, is to storm the heavens and overthrow the gods, or even to become a god himself ... we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realizable.” -- George Orwell, The Scientists Take Over, 1945.
      Both men have accurately portrayed the lust for ever-more interactive relationships between man and machine.  And I think they correctly foresaw that it was all about power and making man "little g" gods.  But this is nothing new ... it is the same rebellion and self-glorification that occurred at the Tower of Babel and throughout all the ages.  But the difference now is that scientists are not so much interested in "storming heaven" to overthrow God; they are hell-bent on developing ways that simply don't acknowledge He even exists.  It's all about making God irrelevant, and finding new ways of controlling us.
     That's what the transhumanist movement is all about... incorporating technology with the human body to effectively live forever; to control human memory, human sensitivity and vulnerability; and to limit human intelligence.  The end result will be what British historian E.P. Thompson called "Exterminism".  In his own words, Thompson explained it this way:  "Exterminism designates those characteristics of a society which thrust it in the direction whose outcome must be the extermination of millions...".
     Now, I can guarantee you that all those who are addicted to their technology systems will call me old-fashioned and out-of-step.  They are lining up to receive the next innovation that will enslave them.  But when scientists are proclaiming victory by replacing human organs with artificial ones; wanting to inject nanobots into my blood stream; and proposing that I store my brain in "the Cloud", then I don't think it's too preposterous to consider that computerized robots may one day declare us a threat or unnecessary!
     And believe me, they are selling the lie in every commercial, every movie, in our music, and every form of entertainment.  We are being sold the concept of "radical human evolution, aided by technology."  Some scientists and futurists go so far as conceiving a new species when all this revolutionary technology is applied to the human race.
     In his article, Taylor writes, "Technologies for the improvement of human performance are at the center of transhumanist thought. Most of these technologies begin with military applications, and only after a period of use by the military or black operations are they unveiled to the general public. In 2008 the JASON group, the Pentagon’s top scientific advisers, warned that the U.S. military could face enemies with technologically enhanced abilities. These capabilities include brain-machine interfaces and pharmaceutical drugs that enhance cognitive abilities."
     Is this the kind of world you want to live in?  Me neither, but the following quote is enough to have me praying, "Come Lord, Jesus!"  Taylor expresses this ominous opinion: "Some scientists are predicting that getting chip implants will become mandatory due to overwhelming societal pressure. Cybernetics scientist Dr Mark Gasson told the Sydney Morning Herald that, 'It’s not possible to interact in society today in any meaningful way, without having a mobile phone. I think human implants will go along a similar route. It will be such a disadvantage not to have the implant that it will essentially not be optional.' "
     In the end, each of us may be confronted by the power-hungry and spiritually-bereft who are determined to rob us of our innate "God-ness".   For those of us who have the Spirit of God within us, nothing can separate us from the hand of our Lord.  But I fear for those who will embrace such Godless "progress"....
John 10:29     "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from my Father’s hand."

August 26, 2014

Teach Them To Fish ....

     I am what you would call a pessimistic optimist.  I am no Pollyanna who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.  I know that my life on this earth is going to get worse before it gets better.  On the other hand, I absolutely know that the darkness in this world will never extinguish the Light.  And I relish the stories of people who refuse to give in to the defeatist and hopeless messages that inundate our social commentary.
     With all the negativity in the news, it's time we take a look at two men who are making a difference.  I saw a segment this last weekend on CBS Sunday Morning about Salemtown Skateboards, and want to share their story with you.
Will Anderson, Owner
     You might think that in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in American history, you would be crazy to think of starting a new business; especially in a low-income neighborhood called Salemtown, outside Nashville, TN.  But Will Anderson and Jacob Henley took their mixed bag of personal histories that include drug addiction; a Masters Degree in Divinity; and a lifelong love of skateboards, and became determined that they could make a difference.
     As their website says, Salemtown Board Company is a "story began with a dream to change our city, even just a little bit, through making beautiful skateboards. All of our boards are cut, shaped, finished and painted 100% by hand. They’re functional works of art that are built to be ridden hard just like the original sidewalk surfers. But they also help us create jobs for some of our high school- aged friends here in our neighborhood in Nashville, TN. That's why we do what we do."
     Henley makes it very clear that although he loves designing and making one-of-a-kind skateboards, his top priority is to mentor and inspire young people in Salemtown, a neighborhood where 70% of the kids grow up in homes without fathers.  During the dark years of his life, Henley frequented the inner-city projects and saw the depravity and brokenness that is a result of no fathers in the home, and no positive role models.  But it's obvious that Henley has seen the Light, and is a true believer in "loving thy neighbor" -- so much so, that when he decided to make a difference, he set up shop in the heart of Salemtown and, together with Anderson, his partner, they are reclaiming lives.
     Anderson will tell you that Salemtown Board Co. is selling "July in every month; the beach in any state; summer year-round; and the joy that I get from making and riding these boards."  But he will also tell you, "Until just about a year ago, the highest source of income was the government ... welfare."  He and Henley are trying to change that by teaching neighborhood kids about discipline and dedication to a craft.  At the shop, each of the boards is cut, sanded, painted and finished completely by hand and is branded with the signature Salemtown "S."
Kendrius Smith
     Anderson laments that it is easy for the average American to donate money or food, or give away school supplies to the downtrodden ... "but it's a lot harder to teach" -- in other words, what these kids need are people to get involved on a personal level; to shape lives.  As clichĂ© as it might sound, Salemtown Board Co. is the embodiment of teaching these kids to fish, rather than giving them a fish.  I find it not only inspiring, but encouraging, to find this Biblical axiom going head to head with the entitlement/welfare system.
     That's exactly what Anderson and Henley are doing through their small company.  They only have a handful of employees, but young men like Kendrius Smith, and his fellow employee Brandon Smith, are not only getting the opportunity to work and earn a good salary (above minimum wage), but they are "learning to work"; which Anderson says, when added to "pride in doing good work" will help propel them to greater opportunities and achievements.
     In fact, through the mentorship offered by Anderson and Henley, Kendrius has discovered an interest in sports therapy.  As the company grows, the increase in profits will allow the owners to help Kendrius save up for college.
     Anderson and Henley don't think they can change the world with a skateboard company ... but they think their employees just might be able to accomplish that goal.  "If they're able to grow up to be men who can love their families and their communities, and we produce two of those ... then, that's worth it."
     And just think what this world could be if such hopelessness was replaced with encouragement ... one person at a time.  And notice the words that Anderson used in describing his hopes for Kendrius and Brandon ... "men who can love".  It's really that simple ... Love God and love your fellow man ... and just watch the Light triumph over the darkness!

1 Thessalonians 5:11   "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing."

August 25, 2014

Is It All Smoke and Mirrors?

     There are so many things going on in this world that are all striving for our attention ... massive earthquakes; the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel; the uncertainty of an ebola outbreak; the illegal immigration debacle at our southern border; civil unrest in our heartland; and the growing persecution of Christians and the rise of IS (Islamic State) --- just to name the top contenders!
     I had determined that today I would write about the beheading of journalist James Foley and what this means for all Americans.  I bolstered my courage to watch the video; not really wanting to allow that image of evil to enter my mind, but feeling that, somehow, I owed it to this fellow American.  Perhaps I thought that by watching his death, it honored his life.  Plus, how could I possibly ignore this horrendous event, or take no notice of it, as if it never happened?  It is time we Americans face the fact that Evil is coming ever closer to our comfortable, secure lives.
     I said a silent prayer, asking God for some small semblance of courage as I witnessed Mr. Foley's extraordinary courage.  I braced myself and clicked on the button to start the video.  As the cowardly jihadist grabbed the back of Foley's head and placed his knife at the victim's throat, I braced myself.  And I was soon asking myself, what did I just see?  Certainly not the complete act of a head being cut off; yet at the end of the video, I'm pretty sure it is Foley's severed head lying on the back of a supposedly lifeless body.
     Before I go any further, let me say that I am not aligning myself with the myriad of conspiracy theorists or false flag proponents.  I am simply saying that yes, I believe James Foley was killed and most likely beheaded, but I do not believe that video is an accurate portrayal of this evil act.  So where does that lead me?  To be honest, I'm not really sure... anymore than I am sure of anything that I am being shown in this world.  
     More and more, I am becoming convinced that what is presented to us as facts may be a complex web of deception; designed to push us toward a preset and calculated response.  Can we believe anything based on outward appearances, or is it just a pretense; the invention of an imaginary situation to yield a desired result?  We all know that technology is so advanced that videotape of a purported event can be forged, doctored, or manipulated to look like anything the imagination can create.
     By now, you might be thinking I am a really skeptical and suspicious person; that I am seeing the bogeyman behind every incident or event.  It's not the bogeyman, my friends, for he is an imaginary evil spirit used to frighten children.  No, I'm beginning to think that the real deal, the Devil, is working his deception in, and around, and upon the earthly realm and its leaders, in efforts to instigate undesirable and violent actions that will move his agenda forward.
     I am not denying that actual warfare is going on in Gaza; or that the ebola virus is present and killing people; or that a young black male's death in Ferguson, Missouri has resulted in rioting and violent protests; or even that Christians (and journalists) are being beheaded.  I believe all this chaos is happening.  I'm just not sure that we are being told the truth about the origin, the cause, or the motive behind the event.
     Yes, I know that all evil doings come from Satan.  And I know that he schemes to keep us from a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.  But I also believe to the depths of my soul that he can manipulate the message we receive from these chaotic and lawless events by using men to control our perception and our response.
     I find myself no longer able to believe everything I see at face value.  I sense the Enemy's presence in every narrative and every image that is presented to us.  The more shocked and unsettled we become, the more receptive we are to his lying whispers.  His strategy is really very simple ... keep us from the peace that comes from trusting the Lord, and we take our eyes off our refuge in the coming storm.  Bombard our minds with visions of grisly death and social pandemonium, and we begin doubting God's ability to protect us.  And ultimately, if he can crack open the door of fear, he is home free and we will accept any counterfeit solution to guarantee our safety.
     In the final analysis, our focus should not be on whether these recent events are 100% bona fide or not.  The real take-away we should perceive are the attempts to achieve the pre-determined consequences planned by the Devil and those whom he influences.  In reality, we need to make absolutely sure that we know and discern the real Truth ... God's Truth.  When we resolve to dwell in the secret place of the Most High and under His sheltering shadow, we will not be moved by the turmoil or the lawlessness.
     Remember:  We are not designed for destruction nor deception.  Let the evil ones demonstrate their scheming tricks and strategies to those who would be fooled.  Let us keep our eyes, our minds, and our hearts on the One who is faithful to keep His promises... smoke and mirrors are not necessary to convince me of His Truth.

1 John 5:19   "We know [positively] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] is under the power of the evil one."

August 24, 2014

Hebrews 12:14

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness 
without which no one will see the Lord.

     This Scripture speaks to me on a very personal level today.  For the past two days my husband and I had the joy of helping our niece move into her college dorm.  As her aunt and uncle, we had the luxury of stepping back and observing all the freshmen as they experienced this first major step towards a new stage in their lives.  Some showed exaggerated confidence; but most exhibited a mixture of apprehension, uncertainty and excitement.  And I thought of all the young people across the country undergoing this same event, and of their parents who were letting go; many for the first time.
     What were all the moms and dads thinking, as they dealt with their own emotions?  I know what I would wish for each of these young adults .... and it is the words of Hebrews 12:14.  Whether it be the first year of college, where one is on their own in the world for the first time; or us "seasoned" veterans who interact with the world in a myriad of ways, we should all pursue peace with everyone we come in contact with.  That "peace" is the harmonious contentment that comes from seeing others through the lens of the Gospel. 
     I watched my niece and her two new roommates; young women who were meeting for the first time.  They were the embodiment of what it will mean to find that peace.  They are from different backgrounds, different races, and different parenting styles.  Yet, they will need to learn to regard each other with respect and appreciation for their differences.  Shouldn't we all be "striving" for that same peace?  
     Additionally, I would tell my niece and her fellow freshmen to pursue the holiness that this Scripture encourages.  Do not conform to this world and all the temptations that will be presented to you.  You will be told that this is your time to experiment with new ideas, new morals, and new adventures; a time to stretch your parents' boundaries and set your own limits.  I am not naive enough to think that she will not test those boundaries; we all have done so, because we are not perfect.  But she is much further in her walk with the Lord than I was at that age.  So, I would remind her that God has called her, and her unique faith sets her apart from those who do not know Him.  She can be "of" this world, but not "in" the world ... an apt reminder for us all.
     And lastly, I love this Scripture because it tells us that we can live our lives in peace and holiness (separated unto God), thereby having a powerful influence upon others; showing them the image of God in the midst of their daily existence.  
     I love this University that our niece is attending.  As we drove up to the dorm, with three family cars loaded to the hilt with the makings of her home for the next nine months, we were greeted by a volunteer group of college students from a local church.  I have never seen such organization or such calmness coming out of what is normally chaos on "move-in" day.  Each family was greeted with smiles and offers to help carry the loads to each student's room, along with an invitation to join them on campus for ice cream later that night.  It took all the stress, work, and tension out of the situation and allowed both parents and students to enjoy the process of getting to know one another.
     Isn't that what this Scripture is telling us?  Serving others, with their best interests in mind, not only establishes a sense of peace and fellowship, but sets you apart from the selfish concerns of the rest of the world.  You show others what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and most importantly, you have the opportunity to influence others, and show them what He has done in your life.  
     So my prayer for my niece is that she will enjoy her college years, and have fun as she explores who she is.  She is about to begin her race of faith, and knowing her heart, I am certain she will finish strong.  I pray that she will reach her full potential in what Christ intends for her, and I feel quite sure that she will bear much fruit for His kingdom, as she influences others through her example.  May we all do the same ...

August 23, 2014

Fear Not ...

     Only those who choose to be blinded can ignore what is coming upon the earth.  It is hard to pretend that anything else is on my radar, or that I need to be writing about something else.  The threat of rampant disease is present in Ebola; mass persecution and death is evident in the march of ISIS's army; civil unrest is on our TV screens in Missouri; nations rise against nations; and the earth is robbed of peace and stability.  And that isn't even considering all the things happening to the earth: unprecedented and unusual weather events, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.
     All of this combines to produce fear and confusion among all people.  Even those who profess faith find themselves wondering where this will all lead, and if we will be protected from the manifestations of wickedness among men.
     I am like you; I am an individual who fights my human emotion of foreboding, dread, and worry that is elicited every time I read a headline or hear a news report.  I want to be strong in my faith, and I want to rely on the protection that is given to me in Psalm 91:  that I will be delivered from the deadly pestilence, and the snare of the fowler (one who participates in deeds); that I need not be afraid of the arrows (the evil plots or slanders of the wicked), or the terrors that come by night.
     It is easy to read that although a thousand may fall at my side, or ten thousand at my right hand, it will not come near me.  I am told that I will be a spectator as I witness the wicked's reward.  I take great comfort in those words ... but it is not enough to read and hope that the words are true.  I (we) must know and trust that we can rely on their Truth.
     I honestly don't know how those who do not believe in God are able to traverse these days.  Perhaps they have enough material possessions that they think evil will not touch them.  They are not reading the Bible, and therefore do not see what is prophesied ... that "men will swoon away or expire with fear and dread and apprehension and expectation of the things that are coming on the world; for the [very] powers of the heavens will be shaken and [a]caused to totter."  (Luke 21:26, Amplified version).
     We Christians know that recent world events mean that what Jesus talked about in Matthew 23 and 24 are about to take place.  Our Christian brethren in Iraq certainly are experiencing it first-hand! But are we prepared to face it and take our stand for Christ?  Are you willing to raise your hand and say, "Yes, I will die for Him?"
     A friend recently asked, "Don't you think Christians in our Churches will willingly espouse their faith, when and if, we are called to defend it?"  Sadly, I had to answer, "No."  No one is preparing them to experience what Christians in Iraq or Africa are facing.  I think too many American Christians are too attached to their homes, their possessions, and their comfort.  If forced to convert to Islam or lose their "stuff" or their families, they will gladly yield, and sacrifice their alleged loyalty to the true Son of God.  Too many of us are "soft" Christians who can't comprehend the true meaning of the word "sacrifice".
     So, I am spending my days fortifying myself in the Word; reminding myself of God's promises and His faithfulness to those who love Him.  I know that the Enemy will increase his attacks against me, and I am determined to use my authority to call upon the power of Jesus, which is in me, to defeat Satan's every scheme.  You see, I know that Jesus, in me, is greater that Satan, who is in the world.
     And if you are not a Believer, and think this post offers you nothing, I want you to know that I am praying for you.  Because there will come a moment in the near future when you will be presented with a choice; and it will be a decision that will effect you for eternity.  You do not have to yield to the assault, and you can have victory in evil times.  Because I can promise you one thing:  Evil is increasing upon the earth, but I know that I can call on the Lord, trusting and relying on His deliverance.  I want you to have a personal knowledge of His love, His mercy, and His Salvation.

Isaiah 41:10     "Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice."

August 22, 2014

What Is Our Christian Duty To Illegal Children?

     The State of Virginia's Department of Education (VDOE) has issued a memo to all 132 of its public school divisions, reminding them of the updated guidance from the federal government regarding the enrollment of illegal immigrant children in their school systems.  Breitbart.com has reported that over 2,850 unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors have been placed with sponsors in Virginia.
     And now both the State of Virginia and the Federal Government have declared that these children can now be considered "homeless", because according to Virginia law, they meet one of the definitions of a homeless child, namely ‘unaccompanied youths who are not in the physical custody of their parents, who... are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or other causes.'
     What's more, they could be eligible for benefits under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.  Under this federal law, school districts must appoint a local liaison to ensure, among other things, that (1) children and youth eligible under McKinney Vento are identified; (2) that they immediately enroll in, and have a full and equal opportunity to succeed in, the schools of the district; and (3) they receive educational services for which they are eligible, and referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health services, and other appropriate services.
     As if this isn't incredible enough, the VDOE memo reiterated the requirement that school divisions “must immediately enroll homeless students” and must do so regardless of whether or not they are able “to produce the records required for enrollment" .... which includes records of vaccinations!  In fact, the VDOE memo stresses that even if the children cannot provide the required health and immunization records, the schools “must immediately enroll" them.
     To begin with, I am shocked that American taxpayers are expected to provide health and dental care; and presumably, the cost of school books, etc.  But to subject our schoolchildren to the possibilities of disease and infections from unvaccinated children is not only unreasonable, it is dangerous -- especially since an American child is not allowed to register for school without the required vaccinations!
     OK, that's how my human, practical side looks at it... this is unsustainable, costly, and presents viable health risks.  Then, as a Christian, I ask myself, "But how many times does the Bible talk about taking care of the widows and the orphans?"  I checked and found no less than 25 references to "orphans" or the "fatherless".  I read Scripture and know that we are to provide and take care of the needs of those children who have no one to take care of them.  But how are we to regard an overwhelming and manufactured crisis of over 63,000 orphans imposed on unsuspecting communities?  As Dr. James R. Edwards, Jr., expresses in his excellent article "A Biblical Perspective On Immigration Policy", I must now come to a conclusion on how my faith will influence my political opinion on immigration, just as it has on the issues of freedom of religious expression in public life, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
     As Dr. Edwards points out, when a modern Christian goes to Scripture to determine his beliefs on a public policy issue in present-day America, he might find it difficult to reconcile his beliefs with the societal rules of Old Testament Israel.  Ultimately, it is a question of the biblical role of civil government, as well as the Biblical principles of justice and mercy.
     We are all familiar with the Romans 13 admonition to obey secular authorities, as they have been placed in their roles by God, Himself.  This argument is often used by both Christians and non-Christians to say that we are to obey all laws and ruling authorities --- "whether the individuals in charge are personally characterized by godliness or not."
     I believe Dr. Edwards is correct when he says, "The authority God delegates to civil government focuses on justice, not mercy", (with mercy usually coming from individuals).  But within the concept of justice, is the accompanying element of punishment; "or else justice is not just."  He further elaborates by saying, "Earthly rulers are to guard their own citizens against evil in the world and in the hearts of men. And God holds rulers accountable for their official conduct."  As citizens, we understand that this authority given to our rulers is a protection against those individuals or forces that would do our nation harm.
     Therefore, it makes sense that we would expect that the first priority of our immigration policies would be to benefit us, the citizens of this nation.  Secondly, we would expect that those foreigners who disobey our laws would be subject to punishment or expulsion; that there would be strict rules for their admission into our sovereign nation.
     In Old Testament Israel, "sojourner" or "alien" signified "a temporary stay".  Whether aliens chose to reside temporarily or own property without becoming legal citizens, they were afforded equal standing under the law; i.e., they enjoyed the benefits of the rule of law.  But there was the rule of law they had to obey!  In fact, Old Testament passages makes clear that foreign residents were to comply with Israelite laws, such as Sabbath observance.
     As a Christian, it goes without saying, that I feel compelled to help these children who have been manipulated and used to force an immigration policy down the throats of all Americans.  They deserve our compassion and our help, as we can provide it.  If they need clothes and food, we need to provide it.  If they need comforting and encouragement, we should supply it.  Their immediate physical needs should certainly be met.  But when policy steps outside our rule of law, as established by those rulers God has placed over us, then we must step back and assess how it affects our nation.
     There is something else that Dr. Edwards points out, and I find Scripturally true.  God regards borders as meaningful and important.  We see that in His detailed description of the borders of the Promised Land, and the borders established for each tribe of Israel.  Because boundaries are important to God, we see examples of the "invasion" of aliens across Israel's borders as a judgment or curse against them for rebellion.  (We certainly can't deny that we deserve the same!)
     Another of Dr. Edwards' points is well-made:  "In short, the Old Testament teaches fair treatment of resident foreigners, with certain requirements of the aliens related to religious and civil legal standards. It also instructs that aliens were to assimilate to the Hebrew culture."  That has long been a problem with those crossing our southern border.
     I think part of our problem in this battle to determine an appropriate immigration policy [that satisfies both the secular populace as well as Christian believers], is that those who have been given legitimate civil authority to command justice, are now attempting to legislate mercy.  Nowhere, in the Bible can I find where mercy is exhorted from society; only from the individual.  I do not see where Jesus advocated a public policy of "spreading the wealth" or forcing a society, as a whole, to give to the poor, the widow, or the orphan.  It is always to be done on the part of the individual, not the government.
     I urge you to read Dr. Edwards's thesis in its entirety; he covers the topics of Migration in the Bible, including Humanitarian Migration; as well as The Immigrant's Responsibility.  I believe, along with him, that it is imprudent to strictly base this country's complicated immigration policy on a handful of Scriptures that differ wildly with our present circumstances.  Yet, there are definitely applicable Biblical principles that should be observed.  It is up to wise men and women to establish our laws, applying both justice and mercy where each is best fulfilled.
     We are to all corporately obey our civil laws, and individually extend mercy to our fellow man.  It is when the civil government oversteps its jurisdiction and tries to enact laws forcing mercy, that the balance prescribed in the Bible begins to collapse.  It's simple:  More harm is done than good, and nobody prospers.  We must find a way to solve this difficult situation; by both obeying the law of the land and showing compassion and mercy to our fellow man.  God help us!

Psalm 146:9    "The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin."