Alienated Urbanites

On wooden pews this side of comfort, we settled into an old “church building” that was built two hundred years before. The old Dutch architecture of the premises glowed with antiquity and reverence.   With the usual “church building culture” of yesteryear, the ornate pulpit was elevated so high that we assumed the preacher had to take oxygen in order to complete a full sermon. The hard and smooth worn wooden pews made spectators out of all of us as we quietly listened to expositions of Scripture resonate from the speaker of the hour. We sensed coolness in the atmosphere that was mixed with orthodoxy.   Nevertheless, we breathed an air of solemnity as we witnessed a tear here and there trickle down various cheeks.   And then we erroneously concluded, “This religion is cold and dead, and the spectators have no relationships with one another.”

We were cold dead wrong. Our judgment came two centuries too late. When the old church house was built two centuries before, the people were as neighborly as neighbors could be. It was a relational era in history when “church buildings” were actually meant to be only “places of community worship.” They were not designed to be four-walled factories to manufacture superficial relationships, nor the site of religious concerts.

We grew up as the last remnants of this type of rural neighborly culture in America.   When holidays came around, we remember when the entire rural community would come together to celebrate and commune.   When there was a school function, all the people in the region were present. Everyone! Well . . . almost everyone. (There was John who lived alone by himself down the road in an old debilitated shack.   We called him a “hermit” because he wanted to be left to himself. But in the entire farming community of the York District of Stafford Country of Kansas, there was only John who wanted to be alone. No church-house assembly with others would have changed John from being a hermit.)

Back in those days, when Sunday morning came, no one had any thought of allowing different church meetings to separate us as a community simply because we all shuttled ourselves off to sit on pews in different premises throughout the area.   We were still a connected community.   The premises where we all sat on Sunday were constructed for Bible teaching and worship of God. Places of worship were never constructed in an effort to establish relationships between the attendees of any particular community.   The people were already community with relationships before they showed up at the premises of their respective “church.” Communities were “one another” before they came together to worship with one another.

But the modern urban culture has changed us. Modern metropolitan existence has alienated us from one another as citizens.   In our efforts to chase money in the urban business world, community relationships are sacrificed for job promotions. In rushing from one appointment to another, we simply bypass one another. The consequence of our alienation is that the “hour of worship” on Sunday morning has become an effort to rewire our relationships. We seek to inject some relational experience into ourselves in order that a temporary and superficial connection sustain us until the next meeting. Some churches use Wednesday nights to check the wiring unless our relationships become frayed before Sunday. Our wiring is simply disconnected with too many “closing prayers.”

Ever hear the statement, “I went to that church and no one greeted me.” The one making such a statement “went to church” with the wrong expectations. Spectator assemblies of disconnected people do not establish relationships. The one who has made such a statement usually had few relationships before he or she showed up at the doors of the sanctuary.   Those who have strong relationships with others do not show up at the assembly in order to “get something.”   They show up to give worship to God.   If we seek to establish “one another relationships” at an assembly where worship is to be poured out, then we are out of touch with those with whom we should already have a relationship.   Assemblies of the saints were never intended to establish relationships. They exist because relationships already existed. The early saints were together daily because they already had a relationship with one another because their common obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:46). They were not together in order to establish relationships with one another. For this reason, it is never the prime objective of the cross-cleansed community of God to construct cathedrals where relationships are to be established.

And in the context of this subject, Hebrews 10:24,25 has since the beginning of the alienated community been twisted out of its historical relational context. The entire context of the Hebrew letter is about maintaining a vertical relationship with Jesus who is the Son of God and our high priest. The context of 10:24,25 is that those who have this vertical relationship with Him should already be in a horizontal relationship with one another. When we take our community relationships with one another that we already have outside our assemblies, and bring such into our assemblies, then expression love is manifested for one another. The connected must then determine in assembly how their love for one another is to go into action through good works in our communities.

There is nothing about legalities in a genuine relationship that is built on love. If our community as “church” exists because we are pushed together by a legal command, then the premises in which we assemble becomes cold and orthodox. Our assembly becomes theatrical. We will get nothing out of being with one another if we are legally driven to one another. But if we are drawn to one another through love, then regardless of the premises, we will explode into worship of the One who shed blood to make us one united body. Physical premises then become irrelevant to our assemblies.   They are convenient, but they are not the foundation upon which we establish our community with one another as the children of God. It is for this reason that the saints who meet under a tree have as much a relationship with one another as those who meet in an air-conditioned/heated orthodox cathedral. Places and premises mean nothing in reference to the “peculiar” people who are precious in the heart of the Prince of Peace who poured out His blood for them. When we are connected with one another outside our assemblies, then our worship, as Jesus explained, can take place anywhere and at any time (John 4:1-38).



Biblical Research Library

Book 35:   Worship God

Book 36:   Worship Freely

Book 43:   Exercising Sobriety & Self-Control





Frustrated Discipleship

The problem with experiential religion is that it does not challenge us to change our behavior because we validate our religiosity with the experiences of our lives, particularly our assemblies with others who are of a similar belief. We thus live as frustrated disciples who have a difficult time in directing our behavior according to the instructions of the word of God.

The primary problem is that the experientialist is seeking faith-confirming assemblies that conform to his narcissistic (self-centered) psychology. He is not looking for the God of the Bible who is seeking true worshipers who would come to Him on His terms (See John 4:24).   And in particular, he is not seeking a God who gives commands and demands obedience.

If one uses the word “boring” in reference to any assembled worship of God, then the bored should know that they are seeking an assembly that pleases themselves.   Such narcissistic “worship” could not be further from the true worship that Abraham experienced with his family in his wanderings, and David with his sheep in quiet meadows.

When our assemblies must be choreographed in order that we not become bored, then we can be assured of one specific truth: We are focusing on what we want, and thus we have become immune to what God instructs us through His word. In satisfying our experiential desires, we personally push God and His word away in our efforts to create a “worship” that awakens the spiritual deadness of unchanged lives. God’s word, therefore, becomes peripheral to our assemblies, for our faith is validated by our self-imposed emotional experiences we idolize in our assemblies. The experientialist can continued with an unchanged life in walking away from an exciting assembly.   But those who are legally dead spiritually, and do the same. Dead legalism experiential assemblies have one thing in common: Both reasons for assembly of the legalist and the experientialist allow the adherents to continue unholy living outside the “hour of worship.” With the switch of a “closing prayer,” both go on their way, having been justified by either the legal performance or experiential ecstasy of the assembly.

Adherents of experiential religion can arrive at the altar on Sunday morning with a drunken hangover, but still feel justified before their god if they have an emotionally driven experience in assembly. The legalist does the same in a different way. As long as legalities have been performed, the attendee who may be living in adultery before the assembly has justified himself to go home and continue the same adulterous relationship after the assembly. The arguing of the husband and wife before the “opening prayer,” continues on the way home after the “closing prayer.”   The religious experientialists has a particular problem with such “double tongued” religiosity. As long as the experientialist can validate a superficial spiritual relationship with the god he has created in his mind, which god he supposes condones an unrighteous life-style, then no change in life is necessary. This is the spirit of idolatry. To the experientialist the Holy Spirit writes: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, IS A LIAR. And the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). But to the legalist, the Holy Spirit writes: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). The experientialist seeks to be a disciple by minimizing, or being ignorant of, the commandments of God after the “opening prayer” and before the “closing prayer,” while the legalist seeks to be legally correct in his assemblies while minimizing or ignoring the needs of his brother before the “opening prayer” and after the “closing prayer.”

In reference to discipleship, experiential religionists have a particular problem in being led by a false validation of faith. Since the commandments of God are minimized as the foundation of faith for the experientialist, he then must find something to take the place of his Bible (the commandments of God). He thus substitutes Baal for Bible. The spirit of idolatry takes over. The imagined and exciting god who moves the experientialist to hysteria in assembly becomes the validation of his religiosity in life. Every Sunday experience is an event to resurrect the “emotional idol” that validates one’s faith until the idol is raised again the following Sunday.

John 6 is a record of time of truth in the ministry of Jesus. When people could no longer “experience” the free handouts of fish and bread, they left Jesus (John 6:64-66). The experience of filling bellies with fish and bread will sustain a physical life, but it takes the words of Jesus to produce and sustain eternal life (John 6:63,68; Romans 10:17). But many of the people who wanted to be disciples could not handle the words. They thus turned away from Jesus (John 6:66).

In their carnality, some of the Corinthians made the experience of tongues and prophecy the center-of-reference for their assemblies (1 Corinthians 14). They were so drawn to the experiences, that confusion characterized their assemblies. The unbeliever who might visit their assemblies, Paul wrote, had enough sense to conclude that they had all gone mad in their narcissistic assemblies (1 Corinthians 14:23).

We must never forget that it takes commandments, not experiential concerts, to draw us closer to the One who can preserve us for eternity. Idolatry is defined as something outside us that is used to spark an emotional response within us. Worship is defined as a spirit of gratitude within us that pours out thanksgiving to the God in whom we live, move and have our being. Grateful hearts need no outside stimulus to worship.   If our assembled worship is diminished when the electrical power goes out, then we know we have created an idol.   Failure to pay the electricity bill may reveal that one has created an idol that must be plugged in before it can be set up as Nebuchadnezzar’s great idol, and come alive and be played before the people. Sometimes it is best to fall into the company of God-tamed lions than to bow down before the idols of men (See Daniel 3).

Continued research:

Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith

Book 44, Biblical Research Library





Experiential Religion

Not long ago we were lounging in the humble house of one who was an “ex-preacher” of a particular urban church. There too across the room was the brother-in-law who was the ex-band leader of the same group. These two men told us a very intriguing and relevant story that could be repeated many times over throughout Christendom today.

In the hands of our aged preacher friend was an old dilapidated and cherished Bible that was inscribed with laborious marginal notes that evidenced many faithful years of diligent Bible study. His brother-in-law likewise clutched the Sacred Volume that also revealed the same evidence of a sincere love of God’s word. These two “exes” revealed to us a misguided journey in their ministry where they confessed that they in the past had made a wrong turn in their leadership that lead to their demise.

As church leaders in the changing times of the postmodern urban church in which they ministered, they explained that the young people started leaving “their church.”   They were going over to neighboring altars where prophets and bands were theatrically entertaining on stages with ear-piercing concerts and performances that led the people into a rapturous hysteria that would equal those of the Ephesian temple of Diana. Our two discouraged hosts explained that the experiential younger generation of “their church” had become bored with Bible preaching and study. With itching ears, they explained, the youth were drawn to the experiential assemblies that neighboring temples offered. The youth were thus leaving what they considered a “worship” from which they “got nothing” and was boring, and going to an experiential assembly where their narcissistic personalities could be nourished with the noise of a modern-day religious concert.

When the flight began, the preacher and his brother-in-law explained that they said to themselves, “We will do likewise in order to retain our young people.” So the brother-in-law started a Sunday morning concert that would appease the ears of an experiential generation who sought an outward stimulus to generate an inward response. He and his band friends thus organized and commenced to play their hearts out before a people who had become “bored” with Bible.   Their instrumental play went from background to foreground as they turned up the amplifier to generate some emotional response from the temple attendees. After the theatrical concert was over, the preacher stood up and vigorously preached the word of God the best he could.

But then they realized something that puzzled both of them. The young people were still leaving. So they asked the young people what the problem was. The answer shocked the two leaders. “We love the band,” the youth responded, “but we are not so much for the boring Bible sermon that follows.”

Eventually, the preacher who loved his Bible, with his brother-in-law, who loved the same, realized the futility of their efforts to compete in the urban environment of neighboring temple concerts that drew great assemblies of young experiential religionists. But it was too late. Both of our belated leaders concluded that if this was the experiential road on which many temple religionists desired to continue today, then they must start over again. So there they both sat in their home together with their wives, families and Bibles. It was there that they sought to start again a solemn assembly of worship of the one true and living God, who, without the need of any hearing aids, seeks to be worshiped reverently in spirit with focus on His revealed truth.

Not long after another preacher in our area recently called, and then related to us the same story over a cup of coffee. “The young people want to come together to jump up and down in experiential praise,” he related, “but they could care less for the preaching of the word of God.” There was frustration in his voice when he said, “I’m fed up with it. I want to start over with a group who truly loves to study and teach the word of God.”

We are stunned as the following judgment of God seems to be continually repeated over and over again throughout history:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge [of the word of God], I will also reject you so that you will be no priest to Me. Seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

Continued research:

Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith

Book 44, Biblical Research Library





Theatrical Religion

Have you heard of the spectacle of religious showmanship that has been circulated throughout the world on the Internet? It seems that there was this bazaar religious reality show sometime in the past where several preachers climbed upon an altar and started jumping up and down on a sacrificed animal like a troop of drunken monkeys on steroids.   They were screaming at the top of their voices, which screaming eventually made their voices so hoarse that they could no longer speak. They then resorted to cutting themselves with knives in order to excite an entranced audience of onlookers. The preachers were so intense in their outlandish performance that blood gushed from their severed veins and was strewn on the audience, many of whom were likewise stirred into an hypnotic frenzy of uncontrollable emotionality.   It was a display of religious nonsense.   Some in the audience were moved to uncontrollable rolling on the ground. Some were crying out at the top of their voices. Others just fell to the ground as stunned mummies because of what they saw in the behavior of the preachers. They laid there emotionally paralyzed in the exhaustion of a semiconscious stupor. We are sure you did not miss this hysterical display of reality religiosity that has gone viral throughout the world.

If you looked closely at this theatrical picture of a religious extravaganza—maybe somewhat embellished by our imagination of the account—you could notice that there was this one preacher seated off to the side by himself from the enraptured crowd.   He was calmly watching the outrageous behavior of the entire spectacle. He was unmoved by all the horrific experiential display of humans who were emotionality out of control in their fit of hysteria. After observing this psychotic and misguided religiosity for some time, do you know what he did? He mocked the theatrical preachers. He mocked them by chiding that they appeal more intensely to their god that they had created after their own imagination: “Cry aloud,” he mockingly chided, “for he is a god. Either he is meditating or he is busy or he is on a journey. Perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

We are sure you have read the account of this theatrical spectacle. If not, then you can download from the Internet the Bible book of 1 Kings that gives an historical account in chapter 18 of this bazaar event. It is interesting that this event has been circulated on the Internet for years, but it is seldom read by those who seek to lose themselves in their own ignorance of the word of God. 1 Kings 18 is an ancient record that reveals how long experiential religion has been with us. Theatrical religiosity is an obsession of misguided religionists who believe that their release from their struggles in life is a Sunday morning outburst of emotional unaccountability.   It is an obsessive behavior that we seek to move into our religion by justifying our biblical ignorance with the plagiarized word “worship” from the Bible. In our efforts to validate the being and behavior of a god we have created after our own experiences, we imagine a god in our minds whom we have subjected to sitting and listening to our obnoxious theatrical performances.

We thus create this idol god whom we would narcissistically worship, and whom we suppose would accept as worship our religious theatrics. We produce the most exotic and spiritually toxic assembly by which we reassure ourselves that such experiential events must exist every Sunday morning when we seek to “awaken our idol god from his sleep,” or call him back in our minds from a “journey” on which he may have gone. The more noise we can amplify, and the more rabid our emotionality can become, the more we dupe ourselves into believing that our hysterical extravaganza will call him up from the quietness of his sleep in order to give attention to our worshipful chaos. So we combine the deafening noise of a rock concert, plus the preachers’ rhythmic cheerleading cries, and then suppose that we have awakened our god out of his sleep in order to administer a spiritual placebo that will carry us through to the next Sunday extravaganza. It will be then that we will again proceed through the same theatrical ritual of jumping up and down on a vainly offered sacrifice while severing our emotional veins with unspiritual knives.

So you think we are being somewhat critical? You think we are mocking when we chide these theatrical religionists with the words, “Cry aloud, for you suppose he is a god! Maybe your god is asleep! Maybe he is on a journey!”? You are exactly right. We stand with Elijah, the prophet of God, the preacher who mocked the 450 Baal preachers in 1 Kings 18 who had lost their dignity before an audience of people whom they had led into the captivity of uncontrolled religious hysterics. These preachers had sacrificed the word of God for an experience of religious theatrics by which they thought they could conjure up the dead god they had created in their own minds. They presumed that their emotional hysteria on the stage of the altar would lead the people to believe in the nonsense of their misguided religiosity that was void of any knowledge of the Bible. The biblical record of this theatrical spectacle proves that nothing has changed among some religionists since the day Elijah challenged the Baal prophets on Mount Carmel almost three thousand years ago.


Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith

Biblical Research Library


Islam … And the rest of us

When discussing the subject of Islam, the “rest of us” is everyone but a Muslim. The Hindu, the Shinto, the Buddhist, and even the Christian, are included in the “rest of us.” The political Muslim seeks to make this clear so there will be no confusion concerning the teaching of the Quran and the implementation in society of its “constitution” (sharia law). We would like to think that all faiths (religions) are somewhat the same in reference to morals. In some areas this is true in reference to most basic morals. But this is not true in reference to the totality of the teaching of any particular faith, especially political Islam. For this reason, the political Muslim strives to help the “rest of us” understand the very nature of true Islam. The personal struggle of some Muslims to modernize Islam in order that they conform to being citizens with the “rest of us” in secular governments is somewhat difficult. Maybe the following will help the “rest of us” better understand the dilemma of the Muslim, and in particular the political Islamist:

  • In theology and practice, Islam encompasses the totality of the human experience. According to the Quran, there is no such thing as a separation between religion and state. For the Christian, the existence of a secular state is necessary, for in this separation, state never takes control of religion, and vice versa. When the Holy Spirit said to every Christian, “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1), we understand that there is a difference between the state (“governing authorities”) and faith (religion).   When the Holy Spirit explained that the “governing authority” (state) was given the “sword” by God in order to prevent anarchy (Romans 13:4), Christians get the point. Being separate from the “governing authorities,” Christians do not have the authority of the “sword” to enforce their faith on others. But with the political Muslim, there is no separation between religion and state. And for this reason, political Muslims will perpetually be resistant to the existence of a secular state in which they would reside as citizens along with the “rest of us.”
  • In the beginning of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad was initially a war lord. In order to accomplish his “secular” ambitions in the Middle East in the early part of the seventh century, he mustered his adherents together both politically and theologically. Unlike Jesus Christ, Muhammad led a military conquest to acquire territory by preaching to his followers both his theology and political ambitions. He built a new state by capturing and holding a particular territory of land, making Mecca in Saudi Arabia the capital. In order to accomplish his political end, therefore, there could be no separation between the faith of the followers and his political ambitions. Thus state functioned through the implementation of sharia law (“civil law”).   For the political Muslim, therefore, sharia law must always exist in contrast to the governance of any people through secular (nonreligious) civil law. For the political Muslim, state and religion are one.
  • For Christians, Jesus was the Word who was revealed as God’s message (gospel) to man. As the bearer of the message (the good news of the Word), the Son of God was incarnate into the flesh of man (John 1:14). Eventually, the message of the gospel (good news) was recorded in words of men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) in order that the message not be lost or distorted throughout history (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). But for the political Muslim, the very Arabic words of the Quran are the direct and literal communication of Allah to man. It is this communication, this written word, that is sacred. And since it is believed that this “incarnation” of Allah in the words of men came directly to Muhammad in Arabic, then the distribution of the true word can only be in Arabic. For the Christian, translations of the Bible can never change the message of the gospel.   But for the Muslim, translations of the Quran into other languages are always questionable, for the “true word” can never be exact in a translation. For Muslims, therefore, the text of the Quran in Arabic can never be dismissed, and must always be idolized as the “incarnation” of Allah.

Now here is the challenge for the political Muslim: Political Muslims can never settle for residence in a secular state wherein is guaranteed the freedom of all the religions of the “rest of us.”   As a state religion, Islam is the religion that establishes the constitution of the state, and thus, must govern the function of all other religions in a politically controlled Islamic state. And unless Islam becomes the sole politic of the state, forming its policies and determining the judgment of its courts (sharia law), then the political Muslim can never feel comfortable as a citizen with the “rest of us” in a secular state. Political Muslims, therefore, find it difficult to assimilate into the culture and society of a secular state. Their very existence as Muslims makes it difficult for them to accept the fact that they must simply join the “rest of us” in allowing a democratic government of elected authorities to maintain the sword of the state through secular civil laws.

Those Muslims who have modernized in a secular state, therefore, are not considered true Muslims by those political Muslims who are citizens of a supposedly true Islamic state.   In fact, political Muslims who are seeking to follow the Quran in its literal application, seek to make the modernized Muslims, who are living comfortably in a modern secular state, feel guilty about their modernized life-style. This is why some modernized Muslims in a secular state can be “radicalized” by a recruiting political Muslim who seeks to restore the life-style of a society that is trapped in poverty in the mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of the Middle East. If one is made to feel guilty enough about going to a shopping center and fulfilling the material desires of the flesh, while his “brother” suffers in a struggle to survive in a hostile environment in the Middle East, then eventually he will take out his frustration on those who encourage him to indulge in fulfilling the desires of the flesh in a secular state.

If those of a secular state demand that a Muslim must assimilate into the culture and politic of a secular state, then we must understand that the modernized Muslim, with great struggle, must remove sharia law (his civil constitution) from this faith.   If in a secular state a Muslim stands up and brandishes the constitution of the secular state in which he lives, giving allegiance to it, then you can understand that with great sacrifice he has compromised a great deal of the authority of his faith (the Quran) by conforming to the demands of a secular state. As a part of the “rest of us” we would commend this commitment, but we also understand that those Muslims who seek to modernize with the rest of the world in order to maintain peace, are doing so with great sacrifice of some of the mandates (sharia law) of the Quran. And they are doing so by separating themselves from political Muslims who claim to have established again a true Islamic State.

We thus indeed commend those modernized Muslims in their efforts to convince the “rest of us” that they too do not want to go back into a “dark age” socioeconomic environment where there are no hospitals and modern medicine for their children when they are sick and nigh unto death. If the “rest of us” can understand this struggle of the modernized Muslim, then we can exercise a little more support, and less suspicion. They too want to live in a state where secular civil law guarantees the right of all citizens to discuss their religious beliefs in an environment where there is no fear of physical reprisals.

Suggested reading

Book 56

The World As It Is

Chapters 8-15

Biblical Research Library

Device Disconnection Disorder

I confess. I am self-diagnosed with occasional attacks of DDD (Device Disconnection Disorder). It is an electronic disorder that sometimes makes me socially disengage.   I am sitting here in front of my device (computer) communicating to you somewhere on the other side of the world.   OK, it’s great that I can do this, for we both know that we would never have any contact with one another whatsoever if it were not for our devices. However, you are there and I am here, both of us being non-threathened by any personal contact with one another, and thus, guarded in the sanctuary of our seclusion. The only contact that we have with one another is my statement in this Inscription, and possibly . . . I say possibly . . . your “like” or “amen” to what I am saying. So I welcome you to the Internet world of social reclusion wherein we both protect ourselves from any face-to-face engagement, thus risking rejection, if not some confrontation.   We are both secure in our “keyboard” relationship with one another.

Device Disconnection Disorder is becoming an increasing social phenomenon, if not relational dysfunction. CNN recently ran a focused documentary on young people in Japan who have quit school.   They quit school and confined themselves to a reclusive box (room) wherein their only contact with the personal world is through their devices (smartphones or computers). There are over a half million young people in Japan who have chosen reclusion over social integration. In CNN’s interview with one of these young teenagers, the response was, “I do not like personal engagements with others.” This teenager now represents what has become a social dysfunction of the real world in which we now live.

Has that which brought so many people into electronic contact with one another becoming the demon that is separating so many from personal encounters with one another?   Have our devices become social Trojan horses that discourage young people from learning the social skills of personal relational behavior?

This is not a story of fiction as I sit here in my reclusive cocoon and connect with you on the other side of the world through my device. The World Wide Web has become that Trojan horse embedded in our social “connection” to the point that we now justify ourselves to be isolated in our non-threatening quarters. In his extensive article entitled, Tyranny of the Mob, Joel Stein opened his recently released article in Time Magazine with the statement that “the web is a sociopath with Asperger’s” (Time, August 29, 2016). It is sociopathic without social values, and thus cultures our inability to socialize with one another.   According to Stein, and a choir of psychologists, our DDD has moved many into a dysfunctional relationship that if the battery runs down, or the electricity goes off, we are totally disenfranchised from one another. We are at the point that if a restaurant has no WiFi, we will not eat there. And horrors, if we drive down a road where we loose our connection.

The disconnected millions in society that now “enjoy” this “connected disconnection” through their devices has led them to what psychologists call “online disinhibition” (Ibid). Connectors through impersonal devices have allowed their personal inhibitions to explode on others through what is called trolling. Trolls are people, who in their anonymity and invisibility, relish online freedom in order to tweet out garbage on others, which garbage they would not spew out if they were a risk of their garbage being thrown back in their face in a personal encounter with the one on whom they spewed. Stein explained that trolls are “monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people” (Ibid). And if you don’t think that tweeting garbage is a present social dysfunction, then consider the arena of American politics that has been thrown into the quagmire of a media rubbish bin.

Christians dealt with this problem of humanity long before it was exemplified through the Internet via our devices. Back before devices it was called malicious gossip and slander. And the Holy Spirit had a corrective answer to this social dysfunction. His first remedy to correct unspiritual trolls was by command: “Do not speak evil one of another” (James 4:11). His second remedy was to draw the spiritual trolls out of their places of obscurity by mandating them to be in the presence of those with whom they might be tempted to troll: “And let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:24,25). You cannot be a “monster” who “hides in darkness” if you claim to be a Christian. Christianity is about face-to-face relationships.

Society has spent thousands of years in building social mores whereby individuals can in dignity relate with one another in their personal relationships.   Individuals who suffer from DDD are tempted to circumvent these social mores in a time of personal depression, rejection, and discouragement. We are thus tempted, through unspiritual tweets and comments, to project on others our misery. We find a placebo of relief by downing a few pills of criticism. If you discover that you have become an unspiritual troll suffering from DDD, our advice is to first render yourself to the above instructions of the Holy Spirit. Come out of your cave of criticism and find real people with whom you can connect face-to-face. We must be willing to forsake our devices in order to find real friends. We must not forsake our friends by confining our “relationships” to electronic connections. And on that advice, I will seek not to be a hypocrite. I will now leave my computer and the confines of my cocoon, and go find someone with whom I can do some face-to-face time over coffee. (I’ll leave my smartphone at home.)



No Love Without Law

The Bible records the words of Jesus concerning the most important commandment (law) of all commandments: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). And the Holy Spirit defined this loving of God in the statement, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments [laws]” (1 John 5:3). There is no loving of God unless one obeys they laws of God.

Now apply this definition to what Jesus said was the second greatest law: “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving one’s neighbor as himself is to obey law in reference to one’s relationship with his neighbor. Civil government is ordain by God to establish law in order that there be order among the citizens of a country. “Therefore, whoever resists authority [of the government], resists the ordinance of God. And those who resist will receive judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).

The problem with addiction to drugs is that the addiction works against the second greatest law among citizens of a nation. Government laws against substance abuse are established for the purpose of maintaining civil order among citizens of a country. Drug abuse is almost always the problem of those citizens who have no financial basis by which they can support their addiction.   THE ADDICTED, THEREFORE, MUST RESORT TO STEALING FROM THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS. Crime rates sore in those communities where drug addiction prevails.   The drug addicted citizen cannot maintain any love of his neighbor when he persists in stealing from his neighbor in order to continue his selfish addiction. He does not love himself, for he is destroying his body. And in his self-destruction, he does not love his neighbor for he or she must steal in order to continue the addiction. It is for this reason, therefore, that there can be no law and order in a drug addicted society. If a government for and by the people would maintain law and order in a society where substance abuse is running rampant, then it has no option but to crack down on drug users. The citizenry, therefore, must make a decision. Either they as a government for themselves be lenient with substance abuse and theft? Or, will they rise up against all forms of drug abuse and its consequences?

The Man In The Moon

As children, we were told about the “man in the moon.” So at night, we gazed intently at the moon in order to see this man.   But he was not there. He was only the imagination of some creative mind.

Some never grow out of their childish desire to imagine God after their own physical and emotion image. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord’s throne is in heaven. His EYES behold. His EYELIDS test the children of men” (Psalm 11:4). And thus the childish adult concludes, that just as he has, God also has literal eyes and eyelids. In missing the metaphor of such statements in the Bible, our spirit of idolatry moves us to create a god after our own physical image. In our yearning to conceive of a god with whom we can identify, we bring God down to the definition of our earthly terms. Some even go so far as to carve an image of their imagined god in a stone or piece of wood. In all our child’s play to create a god with whom we can better identify, we forget that God is spirit, and the definition of “spirit” is that there is no physical form (John 4:24).

Our efforts to create a god after our own image results in a very unfortunate conclusion.   If the God of heaven were no greater than the appearance of a physical man, then there could never have been an incarnation of the Son of God into the flesh of man. Statements in the Bible as John 1:14 would simply be theological contradictions: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” If the Word were already flesh – some supposedly conclude that Moses saw some fleshly hinder parts of their fleshly god – then there could never have been an incarnation of God who “was made flesh.”   If the Son of God were already flesh, then His incarnation would have been only a parallel transfer from some location in the galaxies to this planet.

Our spirit of idolatry urges us to move even beyond the creation of a being who conforms to our physical image. We seek to create a god in our minds who is no greater than our own emotionality.   It is true that “he who does not love does not know God, FOR GOD IS LOVE” (1 John 4:8). But we must not confine the extent of God’s love to the limits of our own capacity to love. Human loving is only a beginning to understand the God of love. We must remember that when our love toward our fellow man has reached its limit, God’s love continues without limits. It must. Upon repentance, the most vile person can still be brought into the loving “arms” of God. God’s love could have extended to Hitler if only Hitler would have truly repented of all his wickedness. If we believe that God’s love could never have extended to such lengths, then we have limited the love of God to our idol god who is no greater than our own capacity to love.

We thus use the English word “incomprehensible” when speaking of the God of the Bible. We do so because there are no words in any dictionary of man that fully defines God’s existence, being and character. We catch a glimpse of His love through His loving behavior as it was demonstrated through the sacrificial offering of the incarnate body of the Son of God on the cross of Calvary. This “incomprehensible” act of love is recorded in the pages of the Bible, but with the limitation of the words of our dictionary.   If we throw away the Bible – as many do in their failure to study the Bible – we would be driven to create a god after our own image and according to our own limited love. (Idol gods are always humanly defined gods.) People who do not know the Bible, therefore, can never know the loving God of the Bible. Without the recorded message of the incarnation and cross, we are doomed to limit God’s boundless love to the boundaries of our own limited love. In our ignorance of the Bible, we become idolaters, worshiping a god whom we have sculptured according to the limitations of our own limited reasoning.

We believe in a loving God who is beyond the words of our dictionary.


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Gambling With Faith

The atheist and Christian are in a confrontation of faiths concerning origins. Both believe in a beginning, whether launched by a Big Bang, or the whispered word of a Supreme Being. Neither atheist nor Christian was there when it all began, and thus each depends on faith in Who or what started that which now exists.   Both fervently analyze extracted bones, or dig in rocks, in order to seek some solution to the beginning of all things. Nevertheless, each promotes a faith as to how all things began.

In order to answer the question concerning the present existence of life, the atheist is subject to the theory of evolution, which theory he labors zealously to convince others that it is actually “fact.” The Christian, on the other hand, holds to a faith in the power of a Creator, who, sometime in the past, spoke life and the material world into existence. He too is zealous to convince all that his faith must be accepted because his faith too is based on geological, biological, plus Bible “facts.”

So here we are in a confrontational debate where there is mutual rejection of one another’s faith.   In reference to beginnings, the atheist rejects the answer of a Creator, and the Christian rejects the answer of materialistic evolution. It is a passionate standoff between dedicated “theologians” or “philosophers” who reject the faith of one another because each contents that his faith is the answer for the existence of that which now exists. Unfortunately, some on both sides of the debate seem to forget that both beliefs concerning origins is a matter of faith, for neither was there when it all began. Each faith concerning origins, therefore, depends on deductive reasoning from what we now presently observe.

So with whose faith would you side? Now consider this: Both the atheist and the Christ will die. If the atheist is correct, then the Christian, when he dies, loses nothing in reference to his faith, which in the end, was false.   There really was no God.   Nevertheless, because of his faith he lived as if he would give account of his behavior before an eternal Judge.   He lived a good life. He helped others. He lived morally the best he could because of his belief that he would eventually be held accountability for his behavior.

On the other hand, the atheist, when he dies, sits with a tremendous gamble if the Christian is right. He lived according to the mandates of human laws, and his desire to do good to his fellow man. He sought to be a good citizen only because of the motivation that a peaceful and orderly society is best for humankind. But if the Christian is right, THEN HE MISSES OUT ON EVERYTHING!

With whose faith are you willing to gamble? We would rather live with the Christian’s faith, with the hope of being right, than with the faith of the atheist, with the possibility of being wrong.


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Growing Into Eternity Together, II

B.  Stay young in spirit.

If one finds himself with the spirit of the “evil days” in mind, then he does not have to remain in the bondage of despair.   Life is too short to spend time on wishing we were young again, and then become cranky in spirit during the rest of our few years on this earth. Whether we are 40 or 80, we must think positive. We must not be surprise that age will bring its marks in the flesh, but this does not mean that fleshly marks that come with years be accompanied with marks in the spirit. We must not have remorse over those things in the past for which God has already dealt to us a bountiful portion of grace and forgiveness. We must be as Paul when he was sitting in a cold prison cell in Rome: “… one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are before (Ph 3:13). These are wise words to the aged. But he was not finished. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph 3:14). To Paul, the past had passed. His focus was on the future. Because he never lost his vision of good things to come, he was worthwhile for God’s business until the end of his life. An aged body may hinder our mobility to put ourselves in the presence of others, but if we maintain a youthful spirit, others will seek to put themselves in our presence.

The key to maintaining a spirit of youth is to focus our interest on something that is worthwhile to others. We must never pity ourselves in whatever portion of trials that life has dealt to us. We must always count it with all joy when we fall into different trials (Js 1:2), knowing that our faith must be tested to the day we die (Js 1:3). For this reason, we must never give into troubles and fears. In order to guard oneself from being critical of others, we must always keep our minds on saying something good about others. We may make ourselves feel good by gripping about the government or others, but doing such only encourages our spirit of negativity.   And the more negative we become about life, the less others will desire to be in our presence.

Worship is the cure for negativity, for in worship one focuses his mind on the One who gave all for us. Worship is inherently encouraging. It refocuses our thinking off ourselves for a moment in order to concentrate on the God of all creation. Worship is the best medicine for those who have been stricken with the virus of negativity. We once attended a small assembly of saints in a house in Cape Town, South Africa.   Before the assembly, in came an aged sister who needed someone on each side to bring her broken body to a seat in the assembly. Regardless of her apparent physical disability, she had a continual smile on her face. Her spirit was delightful.   She had learned the secret of how to maintain a spirit of youth through worship. After struggling for two city blocks to make it to a seat of relief in the assembly, she forgot all her aches and pains for a moment as she poured out her heart in thanksgiving to the One who would eventually give her a new body (See 2 Co 5:1-10).

C.  Eternal relationships must be nourished.

Every Bible student remembers the aged Anna.   She was at least 84 years old, but continued her ministry at the temple. She served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Lk 2:36,37).   She had discovered the secret to growing old with a good spirit. One is never too old to serve, for in serving, as worship, one is focusing on others. Anna may have been somewhat immobile, but she still served God. She was the embodiment of the promise of God in Psalm 92:12-14:

The righteous will flourish like the palm tree. He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish in the courts of our God.   They will bring forth fruit in old age.

Emmanuel Kant was in his 70s when he wrote Anthropology, and The Metaphysics of Morals. The Italian opera composer, Guiseppe Verdi, was 74 when he produced the masterpiece, Otello. At 80 he produced Falstaff, and then at 85 the famous opera Ave Maria, Stabat Mater and Te Dum. At 79 Oliver W. Holmes wrote Over the Teacups. At 83 Alfred Tennyson wrote Crossing the Bar. Productivity has no age limits.

When in one’s aged years, it is a time to be proud, not regretful. In one’s latter years he or she must remember, “With the aged is wisdom, and in length of days understanding” (Jb 12:12). “The gray head is a crown of glory, if it is attained by the way of righteousness” (Pv 16:31). It had to have been some aged person who remembered the preceding words of the Bible when he or she wrote,

Let me grow lovely growing old,

So many fine things to do;

Silks and ivory and gold,

And laces need not be new.

There is healing in old trees,

Old streets a glamour hold.

Why not I as well as they,

Grow lovely, growing old?

The responsibility of the aged couple is to help one another grow old gracefully. A tender nudge, a patient word, and a loving smile will signal years together and spiritual growth. It is not as Agnes and Andy. Agnes complained to Andy, her aged husband, “You haven’t said you loved me for years.”   Andy responded, “I told you I loved you when we got married. When I change my mind I’ll let you know.”

When an aged couple arrive in the twilight of their years together, their words are more custom made to express every thought.   Barbs have been filed from words of disagreement. Roads that led to disagreements have been posted with signs that read, “Road Closed!”   The beauty of aged couples is that they have learned to fine tune their communication in order to make their relationship carry them on the road that ends in eternal dwelling. Heaven will be much sweeter when they recognize one another in their eternal rocking chair. At the age of 70, the best advice I can leave for the aged is to wake up every morning with goals to do, knowing that this will be the best day of your life . . . considering the prevailing physical circumstances.

[End of series. The book, Building Eternal Relationships, will be published on the website as Book 69 in the Biblical Research Library:]