Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Shadows (Page 1 of 16)

Would God prefer a democracy or a constitutional republic for our nation?

The terms “democracy” and “constitutional republic” refer to different forms of government, each with distinct characteristics. While we tend to use these terms interchangeably, they have important differences.

  • In a pure or direct democracy, all decisions are made directly by the citizens who participate in the decision-making process. This often involves voting on laws and governing policies. Citizens control the decision-making process through a “majority rule” principle. Democracies have proven to be most practical when they are used to govern small, homogenous communities that can easily gather to make decisions.
  • In a constitutional republic, the powers of the government are pre-established and limited by a constitution that clearly outlines both the individual rights of citizens and the specific powers of elected officials. This is our nation’s present system. We elect representatives to make decisions on our behalf. The majority cannot override the rights established in the Constitution in a republic.

There is a general principle that stands behind our republic, which is found in one of our nation’s earliest documents. The “Mayflower Compact,” created on November 11, 1620, was an agreement among those who were to settle in New Plymouth, otherwise known as Plymouth Colony. It was written and signed by 41 men aboard the Mayflower, consisting of Separatist Puritans, adventurers, and tradesmen. The document established how they would govern themselves and specifically stated that they, the people of this new colony, derived their right of self-government directly from God. This idea of personal rights granted by God superseded “majority rule” and changed the role of our government forever. It may be the major principle that separates our nation from all others who claim to be democracies.

(Romans 13:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

One of the classic criticisms of a pure democracy is the potential for the majority to oppress the rights of minorities. If the majority dictates every decision, there is a risk of overlooking the interests and rights of smaller or less powerful groups.  The verse above suggests that governments are established by God and that people should obey and respect the authorities in power. However, God and His authority are also to be honored. Scriptures are clear in this: “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29). Even the democratic process cannot ignore our covenant relationship with God. That relationship is based on rights and rules that cannot be discarded, even by a majority vote.

History shows us that even democracies have been prone to political instability, especially in times of economic downturns or social unrest. Frequent elections and changes in government contribute to uncertainty and affect long-term planning.  Many times, leaders claiming to be democratic are tempted to adopt populist policies to appeal to voters in the short term, even if these policies are not in the best interest of their country. This short-term focus can lead to fiscal irresponsibility and inadequate planning. Just look at our national debt if you need convincing. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” This verse suggests that even the decisions and actions of rulers (leaders) are subjugated to God’s judgment. While the Scriptures don’t explicitly command governments to obey God, our Bible implies that the decisions of leaders are held accountable to God.

For a pure democracy to be effective, it takes a high level of political knowledge among voters. If citizens are not well-informed about the issues, they may make decisions based on misinformation or emotion rather than a clear understanding of the consequences. Abortion is just one of those issues. We can also look at the ethics and reliability of our media to understand this risk. The truth in reporting current events, an unbiased portrayal of history, and even God Himself are often missing from our news media networks today. Special interests can influence opinions that sway democratic processes. Add to this a biased educational system, and the rights and freedoms of a purely democratic society can be at risk.

Have we succumbed to the “tyranny of the mob,” leading to impulsive or emotionally charged decision-making rather than careful and reasoned policy choices? Elected and unelected officials most often lack the expertise to make informed decisions on complex issues. There is constant pressure to implement policies that are popular in the short term, even when they have negative long-term economic consequences. Our open borders are just one example. Democracies are also susceptible to manipulation through misinformation, propaganda, or foreign interference, potentially undermining the integrity of the electoral process. When voter turnout is low, an unrepresentative portion of the population determines election outcomes. In 2020, 66.8% of the citizen voting-age population voted in the presidential election, the highest turnout since 1992. Yet, over a third of our population did not bother to participate. It is not getting better. Percentages are much lower for local and off-year elections.

In constitutional republics, locally focused representatives are meant to guard against becoming distant from the concerns of their constituents. Our forefathers not only knew this but had experienced both tyrannical rule and biased populism. Too many times, the electoral process was subject to issues such as gerrymandering, campaign finance concerns, and voter disenfranchisement. Our history shows us that there was always the risk that powerful elites or special interest groups could capture the political process, influencing policy in their favor to the detriment of the broader population. It happened in the 1700s, and it still happens today. While constitutional republics emphasize the protection of individual rights, there is still a potential for the majority to infringe upon the rights of minorities. Of course, the complexity of the constitutional and legal framework in a republic can make it challenging for citizens to fully understand and engage with the political process. Yet a nation’s citizens must remain engaged to sustain both their constitutional rights and freedoms. Freedoms can easily be lost simply by placing the wrong leadership in power.

But what does God want for us? In Christianity, for example, our beliefs are derived from the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God Himself. The Bible emphasizes justice, righteousness, compassion, love for one’s neighbor, and submission to the will of God. In a democracy, decisions are made through majority rule. The risk is that the majority may not necessarily be godly people. This can lead to a situation where the rights of minority groups are disregarded for purely secular beliefs. If the majority consistently enacts laws or policies that discriminate against or infringe upon the rights of a minority, it can be seen as a violation of individual rights. In a democratic system, if there is a concentration of power in any part of the government without adequate checks and balances, it can lead to abuses, including violations of due process, restrictions on free speech, and even unwarranted surveillance.

Our Bible does not explicitly discuss modern forms of government, including democracies or republics, as these political systems developed long after the biblical texts were written. However, some principles found in the Bible can be interpreted or applied in discussions about Godly governance.

Justice and Righteousness: In general, in all forms of government, the populus and government are expected to be fair and honest in their dealings.

  • (Micah 6:8) – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  • (Proverbs 21:3) – “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
  • (Isaiah 1:17)“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Rule of Law: The Bible emphasizes the importance of justice, righteousness, and the rule of law. Concepts such as fairness, impartiality, and the just treatment of all people are consistent with democratic and constitutional principles.

  • (Romans 13:1) – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
  • (Romans 13:7) – “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  • (1 Peter 2:13-17) – “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

Respect for Authority: The Bible often speaks about the importance of respecting authority and leaders. While the Bible may not prescribe a particular form of government, it encourages believers to submit to governing authorities.

  • (Romans 13:1-7) – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Welfare of the People: The Bible contains many passages that highlight the importance of caring for the vulnerable, seeking justice, and promoting the well-being of society. These values align with the goals of many societies. A constitutional republic, however, adds the elements of individual rights and personal responsibility. These align well with God’s plans for humanity.

  • (Proverbs 31:8-9) – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
  • (James 1:27) – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
  • (Galatians 6:5) – “for each one should carry their own load.”

Conclusion

God has given humanity rights, like the right to life, liberty (freedom), and the ability to define their own happiness (free will). While God has also given humanity a set of laws to follow, God has also allowed each to choose where to place their faith. However, within the scope of God’s Laws, humanity does not have the latitude to redefine them or ignore them without suffering the consequences of God’s judgment. In that regard, we are not a democracy. The majority cannot override the Laws of God. We also cannot call ourselves a republic unless we honor the rights God has granted to all humanity equally. It is impossible to create, build, and/or sustain a nation without a firm reliance on God.

(2 Chronicles 7:14) – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

While the above verse specifically addresses the people of Israel, we can apply it more broadly to the idea that a nation seeking God’s guidance and turning away from sinful behavior will experience blessings and success. “Theophany,” the visible manifestation of God to humankind, can be found in our history. His providence, which is the protective care of God, contains the very footprints of our Creator. To lose history is to lose touch with God Himself.

Contemplations

  • Are you concerned by the loss of trust in our educational systems and government agencies?
    • Ideas to Explore: The test each must pass is whether they are Godly in their treatment of the populous. Is our nation moving closer or farther away from God?
  • When you vote for a candidate that does not honor God, do you think that God gives you a free pass?
    • Ideas to Explore: We have here the question of whether God holds us accountable to vote for officials who support and follow God’s Laws. Will you be judged along with those who break God’s Law if you elect those people to run our country?
  • How do you respond when a politician or government agency establishes a rule that breaks God’s Laws?
    • Ideas to Explore: What is the proper level of activism? Would you sin if your government told you to sin?
  • Our subsequent generations are confused. They see very little hope coming from religion. What are you doing to help dispel this sad situation?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do you share your faith and faith-filled opinions? What do your children and grandchildren see you do when asked to ignore God’s Truth?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

What if your enemies cannot be redeemed?

To begin, let’s define what is meant by redemption. The world defines “redeemed” as being freed from captivity, released from blame or debt, or exchanged for something better. Our Bible adds God’s merciful response on behalf of His people to the definition of redeemed.

(Exodus 6:6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”

In Leviticus 25:47–49,  we are told that redemption is part of God’s plan for the world. The New Testament further modifies the definition by adding Christ’s death on the cross. He paid for our sins and our debt to God to ensure our salvation (Mark 10:45). But what happens when there is an enemy that pursues our destruction and cannot be swayed toward peace? How does God handle such enemies? Let’s look back at a few examples to understand God’s view of redemption.

In the book of Joshua, after the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the leader of the Israelites, and God instructs him to lead the people into the Promised Land (Canaan) and conquer it. In the process, the Israelites are commanded to destroy the Canaanite cities and eliminate their inhabitants. One of the better-known stories is about the fall of Jericho, where the walls of the city are said to have collapsed after the Israelites marched around it for seven days. The Israelites were instructed not to take any spoils from cities in Canaan. The question of why God might be dissatisfied with Canaan becomes the real question about redemption.  Why did God give up on Canaan?

The Bible provides descriptions of the practices of the Canaanite nations that were considered morally and spiritually objectionable from the perspective of God.

  • (Leviticus 18:24-30) – This passage describes the detestable practices of the Canaanites, including various forms of sexual immorality, child sacrifice, and other immoral behaviors. The Israelites were warned not to engage in these practices.
  • (Deuteronomy 18:9-12) – In this passage, the Israelites are warned against practicing the abominable customs of the people living in Canaan, including divination, sorcery, interpreting omens, witchcraft, and consulting with mediums and spiritists.
  • (Deuteronomy 12:29-31) – The Israelites are cautioned not to inquire about how the Canaanites worshiped their gods and not to imitate their detestable practices, such as sacrificing their sons and daughters in a fire.
  • (Jeremiah 7:30-34) – This passage describes the Valley of Ben Hinnom (Gehenna) and the practice of sacrificing children by fire, which was associated with the worship of the god Molek.

In theological terms, the conquest of Canaan is considered part of God’s plan to establish the Israelites in the land promised to them and to demonstrate God’s judgment on an immoral nation, the Canaanites. This is all part of the covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants. What angers God is not ours to define or debate. It is our task to understand God’s nature and what is considered righteous or sinful. An additional example, like Canaan, is found in Isaiah.

(Isaiah 10:6) – “I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.”

As a historical note: Canaan now encompasses the whole of present-day Israel, Gaza, Jordan, Palestine, the West Bank, and the southern parts of modern-day Lebanon and Syria. Judges 1:27–33 describes the failure of the Israelites to complete the conquest of the land by removing the Canaanites. Israel made the Canaanites slaves rather than doing as God had commanded and took advantage of the spoils of war, something that God forbid them to do.

As another example, the prophet Jonah’s mission to the city of Nineveh was to deliver a message of warning. The people of Nineveh, in response to Jonah’s message, repented, and God relented from the disaster He had planned for them. When a nation with a history of wrongdoing turns back to God, they receive His mercy. The Book of Nahum is a prophetic text reminding us that God’s mercy is not unconditional. Under the Assyrian Empire, Nineveh again became known for its military conquests and brutal treatment of conquered peoples. Nahum prophesies the downfall of Nineveh and describes the reasons for God’s judgment against Assyria. The Assyrians were depicted as a wicked and oppressive nation, and their capital city, Nineveh, was seen as a center of cruelty and violence. The prophet declares that God is against Nineveh because of its evil deeds and destroys the city.

The territory that forms the Assyrian homeland in our Bible is currently divided between present-day Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

  • (Nahum 1:11–15): These verses speak of the wickedness of Nineveh, describing it as a city of plots and schemes. The Lord declares judgment on the city for its cruelty and oppression of other nations.
  • (Nahum 3:1-7) – These verses further elaborate on the sins of Nineveh, highlighting its violence, deceit, and exploitation of other nations. The city is condemned for its immorality and idolatry.

The book of Nahum vividly describes the fall of Nineveh, with imagery of the city being besieged, breached, and ultimately destroyed. The destruction of Nineveh becomes a divine act of judgment, a consequence of the Assyrians’ cruelty and unrepentant ways.

In the New Testament, the theme of redemption and reconciliation is defined through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian message emphasizes that through faith and repentance, individuals and nations can find forgiveness and salvation. The message’s focus is on the transformative power of God’s grace and the possibility of redemption for those who turn to God. These stories remind us that God is active in His creation. He was active during the days of Joshua, the Canaanites, and the Assyrians in Nineveh. God is active today in our world, including the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.

Our world has enemies today. Some can be redeemed, and some cannot. God, however, is still in charge. Placing our faith and trust in God’s Truth continues to be the most important response to evil that humanity can make.

“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.” ~ George Washington

Contemplations

  • How important is “truth” in evaluating world events, our nation’s behaviors, and our enemies?
    • Ideas to Explore: Truth from media, governments, educational institutions, etc.
  • Is every act of war permissible?
    • Ideas to Explore: The world seems to have a code that women and children should be spared the pains of war. That is rarely the case. How do you reconcile the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, such as women and children?
  • What if your enemy will never seek peace? Does this change any of the rules of war?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does God permit us to defend ourselves? How does God permit peace to exist between those who cannot be reconciled?
  • Is our God a God of peace, war, or both?
    • Ideas to Explore: God loves His creation. To what extent will God permit destruction to ensure that peace can exist?
  • Israel has existed for 3,000 years, spoken the same language, worshipped the same God, and sought lasting peace. Why do you think their right to exist is the basis of so much hatred?
    • Ideas to Explore: Much of the world does not honor God. Most of the world is busy redefining what is sinful and what is not sinful. What does the Bible’s history tell us about conflict and reconciliation?

 

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    NIV New International Version Translations

Anger versus Hatred, what is the Difference?

It is time to look at anger and hatred. We see a lot of both in our world today. Although related, anger and hatred are two distinct emotional states. Anger is a basic human emotion, a response to a perceived threat, injustice, frustration, or provocation. It is usually temporary. In certain instances, anger is the impetus for healthy responses. It can motivate someone to address problems or defend themselves. Hatred, on the other hand, is a much more intense and enduring emotion. One of its key characteristics is its longevity. It can last a lifetime and even be passed on to subsequent generations. Another characteristic of hatred is that it often involves a strong desire for harm, destruction, or ill will towards the object of hatred. When the object of hatred is another human being, we have a serious problem.

Both our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, expressed anger. However, in the Old Testament, there are no direct instances where God expressed hatred. We can find numerous instances where God expresses His displeasure with the behavior of individuals or nations. God’s anger always led to God’s just judgment. In the New Testament, Jesus focused on love, compassion, and forgiveness. While He expressed anger when Temple priests desecrated “His Father’s House,” (John 2:16) there is no explicit instance in the New Testament where Jesus is described as hating someone.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” This suggests that anger is a natural emotion, but it can lead to sinful or destructive behavior. It also suggests that the prince of hatred is Satan. The hatred and ill-will are expressed biblically in 1 John 3:15, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” This implies that hatred is seen as a much more serious matter, equating it with murder in terms of its spiritual consequences.

(James 4:1-4)1NIV New International Version Translations – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Our world does a good job of teaching us how to hate! When someone believes they have been wronged or mistreated, they may harbor feelings of resentment and anger. If these feelings are not resolved or addressed, they can fester and intensify over time, eventually turning into hatred. Our world takes advantage of anger and adds to its intensity. Societal or cultural factors can also play a significant role in the growth of hatred. If a society promotes intolerance or fosters division, individuals may be more likely to develop and harbor hatred towards those who are perceived as different or as enemies.

Repeated negative experiences with a person, group, or entity can also lead to the development of hatred. For example, consistent mistreatment, discrimination, or harm inflicted by someone or a group can nurture strong feelings of hatred. Hatred can be fueled by fear and prejudice. When individuals or groups are demonized or dehumanized due to differences in race, religion, nationality, or other characteristics, it can create fertile ground for hatred to grow. We see this today in our schools as “bullying.”

It is important to recognize that anger is usually a temporary emotion that arises in response to a specific situation or trigger. It can dissipate relatively quickly once the triggering event is resolved or as time passes. Hatred, however, is a persistent and long-lasting emotion that can endure for an extended period, even from generation to generation. Hatred may not even be tied to a specific event and can persist even when the object of hatred is no longer active. In summary, it is hatred that is inconsistent with God’s Truth, and our quest should be to find ways to both recognize and subdue hatred.

Our World Today

Misconceptions, stereotypes, and misinformation can contribute to the growth of hatred. Because of technology, misinformation travels at the “speed of light.” When individuals hold false beliefs about a person or group, it fuels negative emotions. We see this in the growth of anti-Semitism worldwide and even within our nation. When individuals also lack the skills to resolve conflicts or address grievances healthily and constructively, unresolved issues evolve into deep-seated, multi-generational hatred.

(Matthew 10:22) – “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Where you find perverse interpretations of God and Christ, you also find fertile ground for hatred. The history of religions, including Christianity, is filled with examples of destructive hatred. The Bible often emphasizes forgiveness and reconciliation. In Matthew 18:21–22, Jesus teaches about the importance of forgiving others: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times,’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Don’t misinterpret Jesus’ statement; He is not saying you have no right to self-defense. In Luke 22:36, Jesus tells His disciples to carry a sword “He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.‘” This verse acknowledges the need for self-defense or protection. In Exodus, when a thief is killed in the dark, there is a good chance that the homeowner acted without animosity or premeditation. But if a homeowner kills a thief when nothing in the circumstances hinders his judgment, he is without excuse. This would be an intentional act and be considered murder. The heart and one’s motives are everything to God! “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Anger is justice, but hatred is revenge. Proportionality in self-defense is a reflection of God’s sense of justice, where the response should be commensurate with the threat.

(Exodus 22:2-3) – “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. “

Accountability and repentance are still required by God. However, for the repentant thief, we are also to forgive. The Bible distinguishes between anger and hatred by acknowledging the presence of anger as a natural human emotion but warning against the destructive and sinful nature of hatred. It emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, love for enemies, and self-control in managing anger and avoiding the development of hatred.

In a world where social media reigns supreme, everyone should be careful of the “SHARE” button.  “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” (Leviticus 19:11). We should all strive to share God’s Truth. However, to stoke anger into hatred or to deliberately pass on provocative and hateful messages works against God’s plan for a just and peaceful world. James 1:19–20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Seeds of anger usually lead to negative consequences. We live in a world where some individuals find a perverse satisfaction or emotional release in hating someone or something, which only encourages the growth of hatred.

The Big Exception

(Psalm 97:10) – “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

God would like you to hate evil. The psalmist addresses the people of Israel who love God. However, despite their love for God’s righteousness and justice, they don’t have the same heart for righteousness and justice in their own lives. Humanity is often angry at the trouble sin causes but does not hate sin enough to repent and abandon sin. Where does this leave us? This study is about anger versus hatred. When we fail to understand the perspectives and experiences of all parties, it becomes easier to let hatred develop. But what happens if a group is so entrenched in hatred that it cannot be redeemed?

(Habakkuk 2:1-5) – “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.’”

The prophet Habakkuk argues with God about His apparent unfairness, letting other nations, who are even more sinful, harm Habakkuk’s nation, Israel. God’s answer to Habakkuk is the same answer we need to hear today. “I am in charge,” says God. “Stand back and watch Me,” says God. “I will punish all with the justice they deserve. However, it will be on My terms and at My timing,” says God. And what is our part in all of this as we wait upon our God? Without forgiveness, there will always be hatred. Without Christ, there can never be forgiveness. Our Savior sums it up for us so well! “Treat others just as you want to be treated” (Luke 6:31). It is really that simple. Share the Good News!

Contemplations

  • Where have you experienced hatred?
    • Ideas to Explore: School, work, family, etc. Give some time and think about whether you were witness to anger or hatred.
  • Why does the hatred you noted above exist?
    • Ideas to Explore: First, think about the perspectives of both sides. Was there ever an attempt on both sides to just forgive each other? Who stokes the hatred, and who profits from it?
  • When the innocent are impacted, the hatred intensifies. Is that why the innocent are so often the victims?
    • Ideas to Explore: Think of all the historic, unjust acts that harmed innocent people. In each one of them, who were the instigators, and who profited from the hatred?
  • Why did religion harm so many people?
    • Ideas to Explore: Were there causes that were just? Were there evil causes?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

What is Secular Globalism?

We hear a new term lately, “secular globalism.” This refers to a worldview or ideology that emphasizes the elimination of religion and promotes interconnectedness for the entire world. It is characterized by a belief in the separation of religion and state. It is based on a theory of prioritizing reason, science, and evidence-based thinking over religious beliefs to shape a better society. In other words, it calls for decision-making without any consideration of one’s faith in a Creator. The historical form of globalization has always been tied to military conquest. You may have heard of secular globalism from the United Nations. It is part of their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.1 https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/21252030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development%20web.pdf. We can also add China into the mix as they too have a grand plan in the so-called “Chinese Century” to dominate the world.

Our Bible gives us an excellent example of secular globalism: The Assyrian Empire, from the late 25th or early 24th century BC to 605 BC, controlled vast swaths of Babylonia, Egypt, and the Holy Land. While technologically advanced for their time, the Assyrians were also brutal warriors who murdered, tortured, and enslaved their enemies. The Assyrians were globalists in that they were bent on world conquest. God used the Assyrians to punish and exile the ten northern tribes of Israel for the sinful things Israel did to provoke God to anger (2 Kings 17).

The most well-known Biblical example of God’s opinion on globalization might be the attempted construction of the Tower of Babel in the 21st century BC. It was a time after the great flood that there were no cities scattered in the world. Rather than filling the earth as God commanded (Genesis 9:1), mankind rebelled, deciding to centralize in one city and not be scattered over the earth (Genesis 11:4). This construction effort was spearheaded by Noah’s great-grandson, King Nimrod (whose name means rebel”). God, in response, confused their languages, thus forcing the people together into new groups by dialect.

The idea of a city with a watch tower, when viewed together, represents the creation of what today we call a community. Babel’s builders believed that bricks would provide economic and social stability, ensured by shared religious and military establishments. To the people, Babel meant a utopian environment that could survive against any enemies. Babel failed, of course, because of God’s response. By dividing mankind’s language, God forced dispersion so that man could never unite long enough to rebuild another community like Babel elsewhere (Genesis 11:8-9). God’s Covenant of the Rainbow had been for Noah and his heirs to spread His Kingdom over the earth and, in turn, depend on God, not humans,  for safety and sustenance (Genesis 9:1-17). 

On the surface, the idea of secular globalism, “One World Nation,” may not seem all that bad. Among other things, globalization seems to hold an answer to the world’s financial troubles. This would be a world where people from diverse backgrounds could coexist, collaborate, and address global challenges together. As a society, it would emphasize the importance of universal human rights, equality, and social justice, regardless of religious or cultural differences. Societal priorities would include addressing issues such as poverty, climate change, and social inequality through collaborative efforts among nations and cultures. Rejected, would be diversity and values established as religious principles. If this sounds a bit utopian, it is. Secular Globalism is humanity’s attempt to create “Heaven on Earth” but do it without God’s help.

Globalization is “the act extending an influence on all parts of the world.” It involves the emergence of a single world market or society. Our Bible shows that any time humanity has attempted “globalization,” it becomes a wicked and ungodly empire. Its rulers emerge to enslave and attempt to control the destiny of the world. We are told repeatedly through God’s Word that we should oppose globalization.

(2 Corinthians 4:4)2NIV New International Version Translations – “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The author of secular globalization is Satan himself! It is interesting to note that humanity’s (and Satan’s) final attempt at globalization will include a resurgence of “Babylon,” which started the globalization effort so long ago (See Revelation 18 – It is worth the read).

(Isaiah 2:6-9) – “You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs. Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled—do not forgive them.”

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that faith exists when people hear God’s Truth, believe God’s Truth, and obey God’s Truth. Their biblical faith comes from knowing, believing, and using what God says in His Word making it a constant part of their life. No one should be surprised when the secular world does all it can to attack the Bible. After all, God’s Word tells us that humanity “loved darkness rather than light(John 3:19). The illogical message of Secular Globalism is that you can create Heaven without its Author. And who will the authors of this new human world be? Politicians, wealthy people, scientists, generals, presidents, kings; just who is great enough?

(Romans 3:23) – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

1 Kings 12:25-33 records the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel’s final downfall. Fearing the loss of political control over the ten tribes because of their long-standing religious ties to Jerusalem3The capital of the other Kingdom, Judah (1 Kings 12:27), King Jeroboam instituted a state religion designed to meet his peoples’ needs for convenience and his own need for power. He built two shrines, one in Bethel, at the southern extremity of his kingdom, and the other in Dan, near its northern boundary (1 Kings 12:29). King Jeroboam then exiled the Levites (the tribe of priests established by God) and created his own priesthood (1 Kings 12:31). In the king’s final move, he negated the Sabbath commandment by Executive Order (Leviticus 23:1-3, 23-44). Jeroboam’s disregard for God would take hold in Israel and never leave. Hence, God would banish the northern ten tribes and scatter them until none existed. The southern Kingdom of Judah would be exiled to the Babylonians. Once again, we see that God holds leadership to their responsibility of leading His people to Him but the people are still held accountable for their actions! There are no exceptions to this in God’s Word.

We know that the final empire before the return of our Lord will be a true global government, ruled by the Antichrist, also called the beast and the lawless one (Revelation 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The final global leader will have “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation,” and he, along with the False Prophet, will force all people to take his mark. This future global leader will control all financial transactions (Revelation 13:17) and all religious observance (Revelation 13:8). Refusal to worship the Antichrist will mean death; but to give in and try to save yourself will mean eternal punishment from God (Revelation 13:15; 14:9-11). All mankind will need to make a choice!

You see, God has always had a different plan. His plan calls for globalization under the headship of the King and Redeemer, Jesus Christ (Revelation 19–20). There will still be individual nations under Christ’s rule (Zechariah 2:10-11). The faithful will eternally enjoy a time of righteousness and true justice (Isaiah 11:3-5). What does any of this mean for you? It depends on the very foundation of your faith.

Where are your faith, your beliefs, and your morality coming from?  Radio, television, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPads, etc. have not only changed our daily routines but have become a major influence on our attitudes and the priorities impacting our lives. Each year, fewer people in the world care about God’s Truth. God has been removed from schools, our justice systems, universities, and governments. The secularism of humanity is winning right now. Do you like Satan’s world better? His world gives us abortion, more than two sexes, crime, human trafficking, drugs, war, and the collapse of the family unit to name a few. Our response must never accommodate the world! God calls us to change the world!

What more could our God do to get our attention? In the Book of Amos, God’s history shows that He uses “natural” disasters to teach people lessons, to bring them to repentance, and to correct their ways. Do you believe this? 

(Amos 4:6-13) – “’I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.’ He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name.’”

Secular globalism worships its own success, not God. It places confidence in humanity and worldly powers. Secular globalism is driven by the quest for wealth and control over people. Globalists also push for a common world value system too. Through laws and executive orders, governments want to tell us what is moral, and what is right. The globalist sees the Bible’s values such as love, justice, compassion, and stewardship of the earth as inadequate to addressing today’s global challenges. Christ’s command to love one another emphasizing care for the marginalized and oppressed, advocating for justice and the well-being of all people is not enough for those who want to control God’s world themselves.

Secular globalism, with its universal set of values and norms, destroys the rich diversity of cultural, religious, and traditional practices across the world. Under the common “One Nation Strategy,” there is also a loss of sovereignty. There are no longer individual nations. To “level the playing field,” there must be inequality and marginalization because benefits will be equally distributed to all regardless of their effort or creativity. The death of freedom quickly follows. Does any of this sound great to you? Why then, should you trust God when our world is full of violence, sickness, and disease? Or is the real question, why shouldn’t you trust God? Rest in the confidence that our God is loving. His history is one of fairness and perfection. For thousands of years, God has sent saints, people of faith, prophets, and martyrs as witnesses to encourage us to stand strong and trust in Him, not in this fallen and sad world.

(Psalm 118:8) – “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.”

Contemplations

  • Do you believe that God punishes sin?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is it a matter of timing? What does history tell us about God and punishment?
  • Of the leaders that have pursued world dominance for themselves, who have succeeded or even come close?
    • Ideas to Explore: Most who have tried have died violent deaths. Is the human need to be free more powerful than to be ruled over and taken care of?
  • Do people in pursuit of power ever sacrifice for the good of others?
    • Ideas to Explore: Look at the castles, mansions, estates, plantations, and private islands and see if those people were secular globalists. If so, did they serve the people, God, or themselves?
  • When you exercise your right to choose a leader, do you first ask yourself, does this person bring me closer to God?
    • Ideas to Explore: If your answers are: makes me happier, makes me wealthier, makes me safer, makes me healthier, you are missing the point. The only point you need to check is whether that individual makes me closer to God.

 

 

God’s Contract with the World

Formal contracts are important for several reasons in business, law, and personal relationships. They serve as legally binding agreements between parties, outlining the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of each party involved. In the event of a dispute, a formal contract provides a clear and enforceable framework for resolving conflicts. When God is involved, we call such agreements covenants. A covenant refers to a solemn agreement or promise made between God and humanity. Four important ones are worth looking at carefully. God’s covenants were to serve as binding agreements between parties. They outlined the rights, obligations, and responsibilities between God and humanity. In cases of dispute, it was and still is God’s covenants that provide us with a clear and enforceable framework for resolving our differences with God.

The first one, known as the Adamic Covenant, covers humanity’s responsibilities to God as His new creation. It has two parts:

The covenant was based on Eden and the innocence that existed there. The Adamic (or Edenic) Covenant outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17). The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, as well as God’s provision for that sin (Genesis 3:15). The second part of the covenant came after the fall, when God extended His grace to both Adam and Eve and saved them from immediate death.

(Genesis 3:16-19)1NIV New International Version Translations – “To the woman, he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor, you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’  To Adam, he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, you must not eat from it, cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, a paradise, with only one restriction: they were not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. However, they were tempted by the serpent (Satan) and ate the forbidden fruit, thus disobeying God. As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve realized their nakedness and felt shame. God then expelled them from the Garden, cursing them and humanity with the consequences of sin, including pain in childbirth and toiling for food. We call this the “Fall of Man or Original Sin.” The Fall of Man represents the moment when humanity’s perfect relationship with God was broken due to disobedience, and sin entered the world. It is the foundation of Christian theology and defines our beliefs about human nature, sin, and the necessity for redemption through faith in Jesus Christ (See Lostpine’s Study: Three Guesses and the First Two Don’t Count). 

Next was God’s covenant with Noah and his family, the survivors of the Great Flood.

(Genesis 9:1-17) – “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. ‘But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood, I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.’ Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’”

In Genesis 9 Noah receives a covenant from the Lord. Part of the covenant removed the prior restrictions against eating meat, allowing Noah and his family to kill animals for food. However, the allowance came with this provision “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (Genesis 9:4). One reason God prohibited the consumption of animal blood in the Old Testament was to teach respect for the sacredness of life. Blood is viewed as a symbol of life throughout the Bible (Leviticus 17:11). The Bible’s first mention of the word blood is found in Genesis 4:10 where God asks the murderer Cain, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” The shedding of blood represents the loss of life. In the New Testament, the “blood of Christ” is a common figure of speech for the “death of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:19). It is through Christ’s sacrifice and blood, spilled upon the cross, that we are given life again!

We then have God’s promise to Abraham in the Book of Genesis that his descendants would become a great nation and inherit the land of Canaan. This covenant is foundational to the history and identity of the Jewish people.

(Genesis 15:1-6) – “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.   I am your shield, your very great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

Here again, we see God involved with His people. And once again, we see that the plan of the Incarnation of His Son, Christ, was always part of the salvation of humanity. It would be through Abraham’s genealogy that David, King of Israel would be the seed for the human genealogy of Jesus, the soon-to-be Christ, our Savior.

Along comes Moses, called the Mosaic Covenant (Sinai Covenant). This covenant was established between God and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It includes the Ten Commandments and various laws and regulations. It came approximately a thousand years, or possibly thousands of years, after Noah and the flood. The Mosaic Covenant forms the basis of the Mosaic Law and the Old Testament. It remains, even today, the principal guide to the world’s morality. Here we find the details of the terms and conditions of an agreement in a structured and organized manner. This helps all parties involved to clearly understand what is expected of them, reducing misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The Mosaic Covenant is different because it is conditional. This covenant brings either blessing or curse depending on Israel’s obedience or disobedience (See Lostpine’s Study: Is Anything Sacred Anymore?). Two of the first covenants (Adamic, and Noahic) were made between God and mankind in general and were not limited to the nation of Israel. You can find the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 19-24.

Ending the Old Testament Covenants is the foretelling of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This New Covenant is a covenant made first with the nation of Israel and, ultimately, with all humanity. In the New Covenant, God promises to forgive sin, and there will be a universal understanding of God in the world. Jesus Christ would come to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and create a final new covenant between God and His people. Because we are under this New Covenant, both Jews and Gentiles can be free from the penalty of the Law. All are now allowed to receive salvation as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).

On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, His disciples prepared the Passover meal. The traditional Jewish Passover feast commemorates God’s rescue of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Jesus applied elements from this meal—bread and wine—to establish what He would accomplish on the cross as a permanent reminder to us all. When He took the cup of wine and blessed it, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; compare with 1 Corinthians 11:25). In referring to the new covenant, Jesus was announcing that through His death and resurrection forgiveness of sins would be made available to all and that humanity could once again live in communion with God (2 Corinthians 3:6). John 19:14 indicates that Pontius Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified at the same time the priests sacrificed the Passover lamb in the temple. The timing was more than coincidence. It signified that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Contemplations

  • Contracts have obligations – What do you think our obligations are now that we are under a New Covenant?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are the other covenants, the penalties of malfeasance, still in effect? Must we accept Christ’s death as truth and seek Him as our Savior? Or all we have to do is love, right?
  • Do you think that some of the “curses,” the penalties of prior covenants, are still in effect?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does God still administer punishments? What might they be?
  • Do you think that humanity lives like it has contractual obligations with God?
    • Ideas to Explore: How would you tell? What are the behaviors you would expect to see if people still felt obligated to adhere to our covenants?
  • What are your thoughts about Christ always being part of God’s plan for redemption?
    • Ideas to Explore: (John 1:1-4) Christ was always part of the Universe. God was always seeking a perfect fellowship with His creation. This speaks to both the Design and Purpose of the Universe.
  • When you partake in communion, where does your mind take you?
    • Ideas to Explore: The Last Supper with Jesus; To the hill named Golgotha as a witness to the Cross; To the Upper Room along with the Apostle Thomas (doubting)?

 

 

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The Antichrist – Is He Real?

The concept of an Antichrist is typically associated with a person who will come in opposition to Christ, in the days just before Christ returns to establish His kingdom. The idea of the Antichrist is primarily found in the New Testament, particularly in the books of 1 John and 2 John, as well as in the Book of Revelation. At the same time, the Bible warns that many in the world have the same spirit as the Antichrist and oppose the work of God. “Even now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18)1NIV New International Version Translations. This person is not Satan but will use every evil device of Satan to oppose the work of God. The Apostle Paul uses the term “the man of lawlessness” to describe these individuals (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The Antichrist is described as the embodiment of evil with great power to deceive those who would follow him. What are we, the modern Christian, to do with these warnings? Maybe more importantly, who are the lawless people among us today?

(1 John 2:18) – “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour”.

The word Antichrist is a combination of two words: “anti” which means “against” or “in the place of,” and “Christ,” which means “anointed one.” Therefore, we could conclude that anybody who opposes Christ or attempts to take His place is an Antichrist. The original “Antichrist” is Satan, who has opposed Christ throughout history. Even before humanity was created, Satan sought to displace Christ (Isaiah 14:12–14; Ezekiel 28:12–13) and has since inspired all opposition to God and Christ in the world. The coming of the final Antichrist means that the coming of Jesus Christ is imminent. However, no one can be sure when that day will come. There is plenty of speculation to go around, but it is not yet a national holiday on our calendar! This means we need to be discerning and not be misled by those who oppose God’s Truth. It is best to just always be prepared.

The Apostle Paul gives us some pointers to be on the lookout for. “And then the lawless one will be revealed… The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). The Apostle Paul describes the work of this lawless person this way: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Paul’s words depict an arrogant power that opposes the freedom of religion and permits no rival to receive the worship claimed for itself. This power assumes to sit “as God.”

Lawlessness is defined as “a state of disorder due to a disregard of the law.” Do you think our country has descended into lawlessness? When leaders do not follow the laws and when citizens do not care about the laws, we have disorder and chaos. What would you add to the list? Lack of border enforcement, drugs, human trafficking, burgeoning debt, or what about gender-neutral showers and bathrooms? Just think about the damage being done by the indoctrination of our children. What about God’s Laws? When we do not honor the 6th commandment (Exodus 20:13), we have over 1,000 abortions daily. Not honoring the 8th commandment (Exodus 20:15) brings us theft on such a scale that we are seeing businesses closing or moving just to survive. Dishonoring the 5th commandment (Exodus 20:12) gives us a complete breakdown of the family unit. Oh yes, we have a state of disorder due to the disregard for the laws and the Laws! It does not matter whether it is God’s Laws or humanity’s laws, the people of lawlessness are well on their way to destroying a great nation.

Our response must be to become more discerning and not be misled by those who oppose God’s Truth. The goal is to avoid being led astray into this falsehood of beliefs. The most important thing should be to yield our lives to Jesus Christ and then get to know more and more of the Truth God has given us in His Word, the Bible. While there is no universally agreed-upon set of characteristics for “people of lawlessness,” the following are some common themes and characteristics that are often associated with the Antichrist and death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul:

  • Opposition to Christ: Anyone seen as being a direct opponent of Jesus Christ and Christianity is suspect. This opposition may take various forms, such as denying the divinity of Christ or working against the spread of Christianity. Many faiths offer a promise of eternal life. However, it is only through Christ that we receive the wisdom and discernment to repent, and then receive forgiveness for past and future sins.
  • Deception: Expect deceit and manipulation to be part of Satan’s lawlessness. There will always be a component of lies meant to lead people away from God’s Truth. It is often done by redefining sin. It comes as a serpent’s whisper, “Surely you will not die.” Omitting information and concealing the truth should be considered lies when they are done with the intent to deceive. In addition to false statements, deception encompasses statements that misrepresent or distort facts, as well as the withholding of information. People can deceive through outright false statements or by strategic silence.
  • Charismatic Leadership: The Antichrist, and his many understudies will possess great charisma and worldly leadership qualities. These skills will be used to gain followers and exert influence on a global scale. With a populace dependent and addicted to social media, what took a generation to infiltrate in the past will ravage society like a raging forest fire. It makes one wonder if the Antichrist will even use TikTok Influencers to change public opinion. Always look for a humble heart before you sign up to follow someone!
  • World Domination: Some theologians suggest that the Antichrist will seek to establish a global empire or system of control, often referred to as the “Beast” or “Babylon” in the Book of Revelation. The one-nation concept is already being discussed as part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Here, our world would operate with perfect equality under a single leader. As people are required to swear allegiance to one nation or leader, we would have effectively taken upon ourselves the “mark of the beast2The mark of the beast has been interpreted to also mean allegiance to an AntiChrist..” Because of “perfect equality,” we would all be enslaved together!
  • Blasphemy: The Antichrist is often depicted as engaging in blasphemy against God and Christ, making claims of divinity or divine authority. Whether this power is gained via the loss of religious freedom or through the forceful application of rules, it is simply an attempt to remove God and Christ from society. The good news is God wrote His Truth down for us!
  • Persecution: Unfortunately, history has shown us that there has been a constant assault on Christians. It goes on today in virtually every country, including our own. We are told that when the end times come, it will be even worse! Just remember that if hate is present, it is not of God!
  • Appearance of Peace and Prosperity: This idea of “people of lawlessness” may initially appear as a peacemaker or harbinger of prosperity. By the time the “Truth” is known, many find themselves entrapped in the true nature of destruction. You can find God’s footsteps in our world’s history. To lose history is to lose God Himself!

Conclusion

While the Antichrist is associated with end-time events, including the great tribulation, Armageddon, and the final judgment, history shows us that “people of lawlessness” have been impacting our world for thousands of years. You may even know of a few in our contemporary world today! The passages below suggest that there were already “antichrists,” or individuals and spirits opposing Christ, during the time the Apostles Paul and John wrote their letters.

(1 John 2:18) – “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”

(1 John 2:22) – “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.”

(1 John 4:3) – “But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

(2 John 1:7) – “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

It does not matter whether we interpret these passages as the Antichrist, a symbol of spiritual deception and opposition to Christ, or anticipate future figures who embody these characteristics and play a significant role in the disruption of the world. Remember this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-18).”

Contemplations

  • Should anyone be concerned about the “end times?”
    • Ideas to Explore: Jesus Himself said He doesn’t know when they will be coming (Matthew 24:36). Shouldn’t our concerns be about a relationship with Jesus?
  • Do you know of “people of lawlessness” either in history or in our present world?
    • Ideas to Explore: Leaders who do not follow their nation’s laws. Leaders who do not follow God’s Laws. Chaos caused by lawlessness through the improper application of restorative justice.
  • What is the responsibility of those who select (vote) to make sure we pick humble leaders who follow both our nation’s laws and God’s Laws?
    • Ideas to Explore: Biblical consistent message about obedience to both humanity’s laws and God’s Laws. The pain and suffering caused by lawlessness.
  • Why do people gravitate toward those who are charismatic rather than those who are knowledgeable?
    • Ideas to Explore: Charisma is not bad, but it can mask a deceitful heart. We want to “like” our leaders. The media has influenced our opinions.
  • Where would you go to learn how to spot “people of lawlessness?”
    • Ideas to Explore: Churches may not teach the skills. The Bible. History. People you trust.
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    The mark of the beast has been interpreted to also mean allegiance to an AntiChrist.

Is there such a thing as overconfidence?

Overconfidence has been called the mother of all psychological biases. First, overconfidence is one of the largest and most frequently found biases to which human judgment is vulnerable. The second way overconfidence earns its title as the mother of all biases is by validating the other decision-making biases. Overconfidence ended Napoleon’s plans for victory in 1812, sunk the Titanic in 1912, and in 2001, finished off Enron, once one of the largest and most respected energy companies in the world. If we use a Bible story as an example of overconfidence, we find that all four Gospels record where the overconfident Apostle Peter denies Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’  betrayal in the courtyard of the high priest1The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is told in the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75; Mark 14:29-31,66-72; Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 13:36-38, 18:25-27, 21:15-19.. We are all encouraged to be confident in our faith, in the work of our Savior on the Cross, and our eventual eternal glory. But is there such a thing as being overconfident?

(1 Corinthians 10:12)2NIV New International Version Translations – “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Peter was very sure of his faith. “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. (Matthew 26:33-34)” Jesus knew better. When we are faced with the real fears of life, our human response to survive kicks in. If we are to take the Apostle Paul’s advice and “be careful,” what does that entail?

To begin, there is a subtle, but important, difference between confidence and arrogance. Both are related to self-esteem, the way that a person feels about themselves. Confidence comes from a high intrinsic value, and understanding that self-worth isn’t measured by achievements, failures, or the opinions of others. Remember, we were created by God in His image! Arrogance, however, comes from a sense of superiority over others. Unfortunately, the only way to sustain an attitude of arrogance is to keep others in their (so-called) place. To make sound decisions in life, to have healthy relationships with others, and to avoid a life of mistakes, our world requires that you approach life with a plan. We will look at both a secular set of guidelines for living and overlay our Scriptures for building a “confident” faith-filled life.

A great starting point is to regularly reflect on one’s abilities, knowledge, and limitations. Time in contemplation and prayer is worth its weight in gold. There is also a reason why regular worship attendance and group Bible studies are healthy for adults and children. It is in these safe settings that people can listen to others who also share their faith walk, compare life stories, and be open to feedback and/or even criticism from others. These are the places where self-improvement can take place. The verse below emphasizes the value of heeding correction and learning from it to gain understanding and wisdom.

(Proverbs 15:31-32) – “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.”

Surrounding ourselves with people who challenge our ideas and beliefs will encourage open and honest discussions with others to gain different viewpoints. We should avoid echo chambers where our views are constantly reinforced without critical examination. The Bible encourages believers to engage in dialogue, seek counsel, and interact with others in a way that fosters their personal and spiritual growth. Surrounding yourself with people who challenge your ideas and beliefs can lead to greater understanding, wisdom, and a more robust faith if the interactions are conducted in a spirit of respect and humility. It’s important to engage in such interactions with an open heart and a willingness to learn and grow rather than simply to win arguments.

(Proverbs 1:5) – “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

We must recognize that the world is complex and unpredictable, and not everything can be fully known or controlled. A little humility goes a long way. It is healthy to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. When making decisions, we should always consider the potential for unexpected outcomes and factor in a margin of error. Trust in God’s wisdom. The call to faith in God is to seek His guidance in navigating the complexities of life. The passage below reminds us that God’s understanding and plans are beyond our comprehension, highlighting the complexity of His divine wisdom.

(Isaiah 55:8-9) – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Making good decisions in life requires a process for life. The failure to fully consider the “causes and effects” of one’s decisions and actions leads to nothing more than regrets. “And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 11:64). Peter was overwhelmed by the events of Jesus’ arrest, trial, beating, and pending death. Fear and doubt crippled his ability to think through the events of that night. Taking time, thinking through our decisions, praying to God for guidance, and relying on the Holy Spirit for inspiration, will do more to comfort a weeping soul than humanity’s best salve.

(Proverbs 14:15) – “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.”

Our world often teaches that “you can do anything.” Unfortunately, along with this lofty goal often comes disappointment. Achievable goals require planning, preparation, education, practice, and dedication. It is also good to assess your progress periodically and adjust expectations when necessary to avoid overestimating your abilities or outcomes. For example, the passage below underscores the importance of counting the cost and planning carefully before embarking on a project or goal. The same holds for one’s faith. What are your plans to strengthen your faith in Jesus? Do you have a plan? Is there an educational component to your life to learn about your Savior? How is your dedication to your goal going?

(Luke 14:28-30) – “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.'”

The process of knowing Jesus is a journey. The destination is spending eternity with Him. Building a personal relationship requires that we get to know who Jesus is, why He came, what He did for humanity, and what our role is in Jesus’ plan of Salvation. The Gospel’s message has a human component to it. We are asked to participate in this world while living in His world waiting for the next. One’s faith walk is meant to keep us curious, always learning and growing. The verse below encourages believers to approach their work and endeavors with dedication, which can include the pursuit of knowledge and skill. It is called the “Good News” for a reason!

(Colossians 3:23-24) – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

In our world today, those who have placed their trust in Jesus will no doubt be told they are wrong. This world hates that which is good! This world hates Jesus. Whether you realize it or not, there is an assault on your beliefs. It is OK to ask yourself why you hold certain views and whether they are based on evidence or personal biases. The world tells us that there is no God and to place our faith and trust in governments. Practice mindful meditation and prayer to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Engage in regular self-reflection to assess your behavior and decisions. The verse below encourages believers to test and critically evaluate teachings and beliefs, holding on to what is good and true.

(1 Thessalonians 5:21) – “But test them all; hold on to what is good.”

Finally, recognize that you are ultimately accountable for your actions and decisions, both positive and negative. How confident are you in what you believe? You will not get out of this world alive! Faith requires a willingness to admit when we are wrong and take responsibility for our mistakes. Repentance requires a change in direction that includes a reliance on Jesus Christ. Overconfidence is to think that you can make it to heaven on your own. It just doesn’t work that way.

(Romans 14:12) – “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” This verse underscores the ultimate accountability of every person to God for their actions and decisions.

Conclusion

In summary, the Bible teaches us that we will ultimately answer to God for how we live our lives. We are encouraged to use self-examination, confession of wrongdoing, and the pursuit of righteousness and good deeds, while at the same time, recognizing that God’s mercy and forgiveness are available to those who seek them through faith and repentance. After Peter’s denial, Jesus lovingly forgave and restored him to a place of trust. Peter was the “rock” that Jesus built His church upon (Matthew 16:18). Jesus forgives and restores those who place their faith and trust in Him to a meaningful purpose in His service. In this, we can be confident!

Contemplations

  • Do you see the link between bias and overconfidence?
    • Ideas to Explore: Bias can cloud logic and self-reflection. Overconfidence is often valued by society, whereas righteous confidence is viewed as a weakness. Hatred often hides bias.
  • Why is self-reflection in short supply in our society today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Too many people claim to be experts. Lust for power. Too busy.
  • Is it important in life to have thought through the hard issues ahead of time?
    • Ideas to Explore: Should youth think through ethical quandaries in advance? Group discussions give multiple perspectives in advance of life’s crises.
  • Where do youth get to think and talk through hard ethical issues, those about life and death choices?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are our educational institutions failing here? Is there an open and honest dialogue happening in church youth groups? Can social media function with these topics? Have our family structures degraded?
  • How do you personally protect yourself against becoming arrogant?
    • Ideas to Explore: Asking others to hold you accountable. Practicing humility through servanthood. Spending time with Scriptures. Please add more.
  • When was the last time you participated in a discussion about death?
    • Ideas to Explore: Death is shocking, fearful, sometimes painful, and typically comes as a surprise. If your faith says don’t fear it, you should be the first to lead the discussion.
  • 1
    The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is told in the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75; Mark 14:29-31,66-72; Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 13:36-38, 18:25-27, 21:15-19.
  • 2
    NIV New International Version Translations

Do we have a New Existential Threat for our Nation?

In an article published by Raw Story1Raw Story is an online news publication that was founded in 2004. It is known for covering current national and international political and economic news, as well as publishing its own editorials and investigative pieces., Mr. Azarian, a neuroscientist, explains his concerns about new future human threats. The true “existential threat,” according to Mr. Azairan, to our nation is actually “stupidity.” At first glance, it is easy to pass this over as sarcastic humor. However, on further examination, Mr. Azarian was quite serious about his precept. He states, “Although the term ‘stupidity’ may seem derogatory or insulting, it is a scientific concept that refers to a specific type of cognitive failure. It is important to realize that stupidity is not simply a lack of intelligence or knowledge, but rather a failure to use one’s cognitive abilities effectively.2Cognitive neuroscientist explains why stupidity is an existential threat to America – Alternet.org[/ref].” If one considers some of the more recent positions on men giving birth, the expansion of gender identities, draconian COVID policies, unchecked migration, the seeming lust for war, or even the controversial positions being taken due to climate policies and energy, should our nation be concerned?

The precept being discussed here is that intelligence can be categorized into three groups: (1) Those who are very smart, (2) those who are average, and (3) those whose intellect is underserved. The latter group, however, tends to think that they are smarter than the rest of the people, maybe at times, even smarter than God Himself.  Lostpine thought that it was worth the time to understand the terms “stupidity (ignorance,)” and see what our Bible says about it. Here is what we found.

The idea of “ignorance” or “stupidity,” has been studied under a term called the “Dunning-Kruger effect2https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-the-dunning-kruger-effect-4160740
.” It is based on cognitive bias, the tendency of people with low ability or low competence in a specific area, to overestimate their skill level. Individuals who lack expertise or knowledge in a specific area often believe they are more competent than they are. This bias was first described in a research paper published by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in 1999. The Dunning-Kruger effect is typically depicted as a curve, with a peak representing the point where people with a moderate level of skill tend to accurately assess their abilities, while those with lower levels of skill overestimate their abilities, and those with higher levels of skill may underestimate their abilities. In essence, the less competent someone is, the more likely they are to overestimate their competence. If we are to make any sense of this observation, the task must be to understand, if we can, why this happens. 

  1. Cognitive bias: Our brains have a natural tendency to protect our self-esteem, which can lead to biased self-assessments. The Bible does not specifically use the term “cognitive bias” because this is a modern psychological concept. However, the Bible does contain teachings and principles that address aspects related to human thinking, decision-making, and the potential for personal biases. Many of these teachings emphasize the importance of wisdom, discernment, and seeking God’s guidance to overcome various challenges that can lead to cognitive biases. Here are some relevant principles:

(Proverbs 2:6)3NIV New International Version Translations  – “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The Bible encourages seeking wisdom and understanding, which can help individuals recognize and overcome cognitive biases. The pursuit of facts protects a nation from the impacts of both bias and threats.

(Proverbs 18:17) – “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” This verse highlights the idea that initial impressions or biases may not always reflect the truth, and it’s essential to always consider different perspectives.

(James 1:5) – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” The Bible encourages individuals to seek God’s wisdom when facing difficult decisions to avoid potential cognitive biases. Prayer for a discerning mind should be the first place to go for answers. Today, this is a serious problem because we have removed God from Government, Education, and in many cases, Families.

(1 Corinthians 1:18-19) – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'” This passage reminds believers that human wisdom can be flawed, and that true wisdom only comes from God.

(Philippians 4:8) – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” This verse encourages a focus on virtuous and positive thoughts, which can help counteract negative cognitive biases. Whenever hatred is present, we can be confident that it is not of God’s making.

  1. Lack of self-awareness: People who are not very skilled in a particular area may lack the knowledge and experience needed to accurately assess their performance. The Bible does not explicitly use the term “self-awareness” in the same way it is understood in contemporary psychology and self-help literature. However, there are several passages and teachings in the Bible that touch upon themes related to self-awareness, self-examination, and humility. Here are some relevant verses and principles:

(Proverbs 28:26) – “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” This verse suggests that overconfidence or trusting in oneself too much can be unwise.

(Proverbs 11:2) – “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Humility is often associated with self-awareness and a willingness to acknowledge one’s limitations. What is interesting is that the group, those with lesser knowledge, are typically also lacking in humility. This deficit exposes the threats because of their poor decision-making.

(Matthew 7:3-5) – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This passage emphasizes the importance of self-examination and addressing one’s faults before criticizing others. 

(Romans 12:3) – “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” This verse encourages believers to have a balanced and realistic view of themselves.

(1 Corinthians 8:2) – “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” This verse underscores the idea that true knowledge and self-awareness involve recognizing the limits of one’s understanding.

(Galatians 6:3) – “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.” This verse warns against self-deception and the dangers of overestimating one’s importance or abilities.

  1. Incompetence: Incompetent individuals may also fail to recognize their own mistakes because they don’t have the expertise to identify them. Again, the Bible doesn’t specifically use the term “incompetence,” but it does contain principles and teachings that touch on the concept of competence, wisdom, and diligence. While the Bible emphasizes the importance of striving for excellence and being responsible, it also recognizes human limitations and the need for reliance on God’s guidance. Here are some relevant verses and principles:

(Proverbs 22:29) – “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” This verse highlights the value of competence and skill in one’s work, suggesting that those who are diligent and competent will excel in their endeavors.

(Proverbs 10:4) – “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Diligence and competence are often associated with success and prosperity.

(Colossians 3:23-24) – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” This passage encourages believers to approach their work with excellence and diligence as if serving God.

(1 Corinthians 10:31) – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This verse emphasizes the idea that all actions should be done with a sense of responsibility and competence, as they are ultimately done to honor God.

(Proverbs 18:9) – “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” This verse warns against laziness and the negative consequences of incompetence or negligence in one’s responsibilities.

(Ecclesiastes 9:10) – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” This verse underscores the importance of giving one’s best effort and being diligent in all pursuits.

  1. Overconfidence: People with low competence may have an inflated sense of confidence, which can lead them to believe they are more capable than they are. The Bible has several verses and teachings that caution against overconfidence, pride, and arrogance. It emphasizes the importance of humility and recognizing one’s limitations. This is where the existential threat is formed, from people, who may enter positions of our nation’s leadership. God’s greatest leaders were also humble people.

Judgment in this area should be avoided. We live in a world of special needs children, handicapped adults, and even mental illness. Unfortunately, you can also add to our concerns economic issues, povery, even physical diseases. The overconfidence at issue here is that which comes from being proud, vain, and narcissistic, not someone struggling with real issues. There is nothing wrong with pride when focused on personal achievement, family or our nation. Here are some relevant verses and principles we should focus on:

(Proverbs 16:18) – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” This verse warns that excessive pride and overconfidence can lead to downfall and negative consequences.

(Proverbs 27:2) – “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” This verse encourages humility and advises against self-promotion and bragging.

(James 4:6) – “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'” This verse highlights the idea that God opposes those who are proud and self-confident but favors those who are humble.

(Proverbs 3:5-7) -“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” These verses emphasize the importance of trusting in God rather than relying solely on one’s own wisdom or understanding.

(1 Corinthians 10:12) – “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” This verse cautions against complacency and overestimating one’s spiritual or moral strength.

(Proverbs 25:27) – “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.” This verse suggests that excessive curiosity or overconfidence in understanding complex matters can lead to trouble.

(Romans 12:3) – “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” This verse advises against thinking too highly of oneself and encourages a balanced self-assessment.

Conclusion

As individuals gain more knowledge and experience in an area, they often become better at assessing their abilities accurately. In other words, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to diminish as people become more competent in a particular area. Why should this be important to us? First, it highlights the importance of humility, self-awareness, and continuous learning. The root of many societal problems such as bullying, demeaning the handicapped, and other prejudices of all kinds come from a lack of discernment and an overabundance of arrogance. The Dunning-Kruger effect is about people who think of themselves as above the “rest!” You know, those with little patience who are judgmental and have haughty attitudes. Remember, however, that all people on the Dunning-Kruger curve are valued equally by God. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus healed people with various disabilities, including the blind, the lame, and the lepers. These stories are about Christ’s compassion for those who were suffering and His desire to alleviate their physical and emotional burdens. (Matthew 9:27-31, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 17:11-19). We can see here the purpose and importance of a foundation of humility. Humility is the springboard for compassion, education, and prayer. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

Expertise and competence often require ongoing effort and a willingness to acknowledge one’s limitations. The responsibility to “KNOW OUR FACTS” falls squarely on our shoulders. It is not only our responsibility to fact-check everything, but it is our very salvation that rests on how well we do this task. James 1:22 urges, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Knowing the Word of God is not enough; believers are encouraged to apply it in their lives through obedience and action. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one (Ezekiel 22:30).” Yes, there are people in our world who think they have more skill, knowledge, and power than God Himself. They are an existential threat to our nation. God, however, is not the threat! 

Contemplations

  • What is your response when you hear someone in a position of authority make a ridiculous statement?
    • Ideas to Explore: Ignore them? Check it yourself. Review what God’s Word says about the topic. Stand firm in your rejection of such a statement. Do you rebut the absurd?
  • Where do you see examples of people who have risen beyond their skills and knowledge levels, only to be having negative impacts on our nation and its citizens?
    • Ideas to Explore: Politics, maybe within the bureaucratic machine that runs our lives today, or how about our educational systems, or news media? Is our entertainment industry or even our businesses making decisions that put the well-being of a nation first? Is the problem with us?
  • Now take a hard look at the cities and States in trouble. Add to that list, the spiraling national debt. Next, look at the callous disregard for the well-being of our nation’s people. Finally, try to comprehend the hundreds of thousands of young people dying of drugs and criminal trafficking. I am sure you can add a few more things to this list. Why does this keep happening?
    • Ideas to Explore: People do not understand God and His Truth. The people are not “fact-checkers.” The sin of selfishness is alive and well. Is the problem with us?
  • Here we sit, a nation divided, with hatred on both sides of the divide. Why?
    • Ideas to Explore: What are your ideas that can explain this phenomenon? Is the problem with us?
  • 1
    Raw Story is an online news publication that was founded in 2004. It is known for covering current national and international political and economic news, as well as publishing its own editorials and investigative pieces.
  • 2
    Cognitive neuroscientist explains why stupidity is an existential threat to America – Alternet.org[/ref].” If one considers some of the more recent positions on men giving birth, the expansion of gender identities, draconian COVID policies, unchecked migration, the seeming lust for war, or even the controversial positions being taken due to climate policies and energy, should our nation be concerned?

    The precept being discussed here is that intelligence can be categorized into three groups: (1) Those who are very smart, (2) those who are average, and (3) those whose intellect is underserved. The latter group, however, tends to think that they are smarter than the rest of the people, maybe at times, even smarter than God Himself.  Lostpine thought that it was worth the time to understand the terms “stupidity (ignorance,)” and see what our Bible says about it. Here is what we found.

    The idea of “ignorance” or “stupidity,” has been studied under a term called the “Dunning-Kruger effect2https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-the-dunning-kruger-effect-4160740
  • 3
    NIV New International Version Translations

The Sheep and the Goats – Politics of Religion

(Matthew 25:31-33) – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

Many people remember these provocative words from Jesus.  We find them in the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. A quick summary points to what is to come, a separation of people before the final Judgment. Most of us can relate to the sheep as those who will receive the eternal inheritance of God’s Kingdom. All the nations of earth are to be gathered before Christ, and He will separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. Those who are righteous are compared to sheep, and they are welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. The rationale is that they fed the hungry, gave drinks to the thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited those in prison. The unrighteous, represented as goats, are condemned because they did not perform any of these acts of kindness.

The choice of sheep and goats is symbolic. They represent choices that were made by humanity.  Sheep are often seen as gentle and obedient, symbolizing the righteous and faithful. In the context of this parable, they represent those who have shown compassion, love, and kindness to others. Their acceptance into the kingdom of heaven reflects the rewards for righteous behavior. Goats, on the other hand, can be more stubborn and unruly. In this parable, they represent those who have neglected or failed to show love and compassion to others, thereby facing condemnation. It’s not about the literal choice of animals but the symbolic representation of human behavior and values. This parable encourages believers to live out their faith by helping those in need and caring for the less fortunate as a demonstration of their love for God. We are discouraged from caring only about ourselves.

The parable is a moral and ethical teaching, highlighting the importance of good deeds and compassionate actions as part of one’s faith and relationship with God. It appears that the choice of whether you are a sheep or a goat is left up to you. There goes that “Free Will” thing again! It is also legitimate to ask if there is any way to tell what you have become in life. In other words, what would the key indicators be that you are a sheep or have become a goat? Let’s look at some of the characteristics that could come into play in such a separation:

  • Acts of Compassion and Mercy: The parable emphasizes the importance of showing compassion, kindness, and mercy to others, especially those in need. It suggests that one’s actions toward the less fortunate reflect their relationship with God. This is something that growing churches focus on today.
  • Responsibility for Others: The parable teaches that individuals are responsible for caring for the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. It emphasizes the idea that helping others is a way of serving and honoring God.
  • Judgment and Accountability: Jesus is conveying a concept of a final judgment where individuals will be held accountable for their actions, particularly in how they treat those in need.
  • Eternal Consequences: The parable also implies that one’s actions in this life have eternal consequences, leading either to the reward of eternal life or the punishment of eternal separation from God. Unfortunately, consequences are seldom addressed anymore. It has become all about social justice.
  • Identity with Christ: Jesus identifies Himself with the needy, suggesting that when we serve and care for others, we are also serving and honoring Christ. By associating Himself with the disadvantaged and vulnerable, Jesus teaches His followers the importance of compassion and empathy. He is showing that God cares deeply for the marginalized and expects His followers to do the same. This reinforces the idea that love and care for one’s neighbor are central to biblical teachings.
  • Challenging Hypocrisy: Jesus often criticized religious leaders of His time for their hypocrisy and outward displays of piety without genuine love for others. By identifying Himself with the needy, not the religious institutions, Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of those who may claim to be religious but neglect the practical needs of those who are less fortunate.
  • Revealing the Nature of God: Jesus’ identification with the needy also reflects a broader theological truth about God’s character. He is portraying God as a God of mercy, justice, and compassion, who identifies with the suffering and offers redemption to all, regardless of someone’s social status.
  • Inverting Social Hierarchies: In the society of Jesus’ time, the wealthy and powerful often held high status, while the poor and marginalized were often looked down upon. By identifying himself with the needy, Jesus challenges these social hierarchies and demonstrates that in the Kingdom of God, true greatness is measured by one’s willingness to serve and care for others. We have these same issues today in our world. God has been very clear about His opinion on leaders feeding themselves while God’s sheep go hungry!
  • Testing Hearts and Actions: Jesus’ identification with the needy also serves as a test of his followers’ hearts and actions. He challenges them to examine their deeds and whether they are living out their faith through acts of love and kindness, especially towards those who are less fortunate. The Christian Church today is struggling with these same issues. Does the Church stand for God’s Truth, or does it look to enrich itself? This identification reinforces the idea that salvation is not solely about faith or religious rituals but also about living out one’s faith in practical ways. It connects the concept of discipleship with actively caring for those in need as an integral part of the Christian journey.

Another question that we should be asking ourselves is whether this separation by “choice” has already started. Are the politics of religion forcing people to pick whether they will exist as a sheep or a goat? Gallup, Inc., a well-known American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C. is known for conducting worldwide public opinion polls. In a recent poll on religion and politics, they concluded that “Everything else being equal, the more religious the individual in the U.S. today, the higher the probability that the individual identifies with or leans toward the Republican party1 https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/510464/politics-religion.aspx.” In an aggregate of five other Gallup surveys conducted from May 2021 through May 2023, they also confirmed the extent to which Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to have no religious affiliation. Twenty-six percent of those without any religion, identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with just 11% of those without any religion who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. The magnitude of this religion gap had increased over the years, with changes coming from the Democrats, not Republicans. Studies also confirmed that those without religion were more likely to support liberal policies such as abortion and transgenderism.

Evidence of this movement can be found in the increasing hostility against conservative-leaning politics. For example, the Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently listed practicing Catholics as “potential terrorists.” Is it, then, legitimate to group the “Religious Right” and the “Republican Party” as one homogenous group? As Republicans increasingly dominate the group of those who remain religious (per Gallop’s Surveys), we are seeing a general pullback from religion in part because religion (like so much else in American life today) has become politicized. In another recent article2https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/america-is-experiencing-a-great-dechurching-what-s-happening-to-all-the-church-buildings/ar-AA1gm7ho?ocid=emmx-mmx-feeds&PC=EMMX01, the author writes about the “De-churching of America.” He noted that about 3,000 new Protestant churches opened in the past several years while 4,500 closed. Whether we admit it or not, there is a lot of choosing going on in our nation today. These choices have eternal consequences.

(Romans 12:2) – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

It is easy to mistake the connection between religion and politics for the merits of a specific political party. Nothing could be farther from the Truth.  The point lost in most surveys is that most religions, including Christianity, work toward social cohesion and love for one’s neighbor (Are these the sheep?). With politics comes disagreement, conflict, argument, and the destruction of one’s opponents (Are these the goats?). The point to take away from these studies is that religion can and should have a positive impact on our world. This includes its influence on morality and positive social behavior, its influence on charity and giving back to the community, and its contribution to social cohesion and solidarity (national pride). A continuing decrease in church attendance by society can have significant consequences for the health and viability of our country going forward. It is within the traditional churches that we find our youth programs, missions, and outreach, responding to Jesus’ calls in Matthew 25:31-46. It is within our churches that people learn how to become the future disciples of Christ!

Because we have been created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ’s work on the Cross, we belong to God. It is our obligation to fulfill His will as His workmanship, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) and “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). We not only have an obligation to God but also to ourselves to discern and fulfill His will for our lives. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). This is the only path to find a meaningful existence on this earth.

(Matthew 7:21) – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Contemplations

  • Do you find it possible to discuss politics with family and friends anymore?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are we now silent to avoid conflict? Has respect left political discourse? Who is driving the hatred?
  • Have some of the churches left their members? (adoption of liberal policies)
    • Ideas to Explore: Have churches, to accommodate the world, adopted policies that run counter to biblical values?  Because a church says it is right (or wrong), what do you do to make sure it is “Right with God?”
  • Do you have family and friends that do not go to church?
    • Ideas to Explore: Maybe you don’t go either? Do you know why you or your friends don’t go? Are the reasons sound enough to risk eternal separation from God? Is it just a matter of finding another church? Are there deeper issues?
  • Why do you think it is so hard to help the poor?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do you know who the poor are that Jesus was talking about? Are there people who are just not willing to work for themselves? Should the “lazy” be included in the definition of “poor?” What about the great displacement of the population – Was Jesus talking about people illegally crossing borders to find opportunities?
  • Do you understand history well enough to know that the loss of religious freedom has preceded every dictatorship and major world conflict in the past?
    • Ideas to Explore: When someone hates history or tries to rewrite it, do you know why? Are leaders, the wealthy, enriching themselves at the expense of conservative people? Is your freedom today at risk?
  • Do you think God cares if you are a Republican or a Democrat?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does one side hate more than the other? Does one side respect God’s Truth more than the other? What group would you separate the political parties into (sheep or goats)?
  • There is no doubt that heaven will be filled with Republicans, Democrats, and many other religions. There is also a high probability that hell will be filled with some Republicans, Democrats, and many other religions. It is not our role to pick and choose who will be in either place. That is reserved for our Savior to sort out. The only question you need to be concerned about is whether you know where you will be.

    • Ideas to Explore: You should know for sure!

 

 

Doubt – Faith’s Greatest Enemy

Do you ever have doubts about your faith? Maybe a doubt or two about a Bible story and how it seems impossible to be true?  If you do, you are normal. Doubt is a state of uncertainty or lack of conviction about something that is true, valid, or even whether what you think, see, read, or hear is reliable. According to the Oxford Dictionary, doubt is “a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.” It can also mean “to feel uncertain about” or “question the truth or fact of.” The philosophy of doubt comes from the ancient Greek world. Its philosophy is part of Greek rhetoric that emanated from the art of reasoning about one’s existence. The Greeks used doubt as an instrument of persuasion. The ancient philosophers Portagoras, Socrates, and St. Augustine used the concept of doubt in their teachings and writings. The word “doubt” has been used since the Middle English period. It comes from the Old French “douter” and “doter” and the Latin “dubitare.” “Dubitare” means “to doubt, question, hesitate, waver in opinion” and is related to “dubius” meaning “uncertain.” The word “doubt” also means “a lack of conviction or to lack conviction in.”

Doubt can arise from various sources, such as a lack of information, conflicting evidence, personal biases, or a natural inclination to be skeptical. It plays a crucial role in critical thinking and decision-making, as it prompts individuals to seek more information, evaluate evidence, and consider alternative perspectives before reaching a conclusion. Doubt can range from mild skepticism to deep uncertainty, and it can impact how people approach beliefs, knowledge, and choices in their lives.

In the Bible, doubt is often portrayed as a lack of faith or trust in God’s plan, wisdom, or promises. Doubt is a potential obstacle to a strong relationship with God and can be contrasted with unwavering faith. Biblical doubt is the challenge that individuals must overcome to strengthen their spiritual connection and commitment to God. Doubt is a natural part of a believer’s journey. Doubt can even serve as a test of one’s faith, providing an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding. The first use of doubt was handed to Eve by Satan.

(Genesis 3:4)1NIV New International Version Translations “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

Satan slips doubt into Eve’s mind concerning a command that she was given by God. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan replied with a denial, which is a strong statement of doubt: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).

Thomas’s Doubt (John 20:24-29): You remember “Doubting Thomas.” After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas expressed skepticism about the event until he saw and touched the wounds on Jesus’ body. Jesus responded by encouraging faith: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Doubt in Prayer (James 1:6-8): James, Jesus’ brother, discusses the role of doubt in prayer. He states that when someone prays while doubting, they are like a wave of the sea, tossed and driven by the wind. The passage suggests that doubt can hinder one’s effectiveness in prayer.

Elijah’s Doubt (1 Kings 19:1-18): The prophet Elijah experienced doubt and fear after his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. He fled into the wilderness and questioned his purpose. God addressed his doubt by revealing His presence through a gentle whisper, demonstrating care and guidance even during moments of uncertainty.

The Israelites’ Doubt (Exodus 16:2-3): After the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they doubted God’s provision in the wilderness and complained about the lack of food. Their doubt and lack of trust in God’s care led to forty years of challenges and lessons to teach them how to rely on God as they traveled to their promised land.

Abraham’s Doubt (Genesis 15:1-6): Abraham, known for his faith, expressed doubt about God’s promise of offspring because he and his wife were getting older. God responded by reaffirming His promise and crediting Abraham’s belief as righteousness.

Peter’s Doubt (Matthew 14:22-33): Maybe the best biblical story to show the damaging effects of doubt is the story of Peter walking on water. In a moment of perfect faith, Jesus calls Peter out onto the water to come to Him. Here we see the interplay between faith and doubt. Initially, Peter steps out of the boat in faith, but when he notices the strong wind, he begins to doubt and starts sinking. Jesus rescues him and chides him for his “little faith.”

Satan is still doing the same old trick today. Quite effectively, I might add. Effective action or behavior no longer becomes the purpose of thought. Philosophical thought starts to feed on itself. The search for truth becomes the goal of eliminating doubt and reaching supreme knowledge. Society today has become fragmented into groups that begin to question or hesitate to accept any claim, idea, statement, or situation due to their perceived lack of evidence, conflicting information, or the presence of conflicting emotions. This is how humanity begins to doubt whether its very Creator even exists.

Why is a doubt so concerning? A Pew Research Center study conducted just after the 2016 election found 64% of adults believe fake news stories cause a great deal of confusion, and 23% said they had shared fabricated political stories themselves, sometimes by mistake and sometimes intentionally. Fake news has only gotten worse since that survey was taken. It is an unfortunate truth that we all must face: fake news will live forever on the Internet and be embedded into the world’s base of knowledge. Even as Artificial Intelligence grows in acceptance, it too will be used as part of the vast pool of human knowledge. That which is not true has been created to seed doubt in the minds of humanity forever. Just as Satan owns our world, so do his seeds of doubt.

Human brains are not wired to contend with the pace of today’s technological change. The speed of communications and the ubiquitous nature of technology have spawned an era of the Internet of Things (IoT) which is contaminating every aspect of humanity.  The future information landscape will have fake information crowding out reliable information and being used for scams and mass manipulation. We run the risk of simply giving up on being informed participants in civic life.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

If faith is destroyed by doubt and Satan is the master of seeding doubt, has he won? How will you seek God’s Truth, remain faithful to His Word, and receive His Grace, and eternal life? The answer lies in God’s Word and how doubt has been resolved in the past through renewed faith and direct experiences with God. These biblical experiences provide us with a sense of confirmation and reassurance. Plato (a disciple of Socrates) concluded that the ideas in the world overtake the practical dimension of truth. All of Plato’s work was oriented towards showing the supreme value of truth. Plato believed that knowledge emanated from God (he believed in a unique deity) like a light. Those who were the furthest from the source were the most ignorant and primitive. As Plato moved towards the “light” through knowledge and faith, his world of absolute ideas guided him to become a historic and significant philosopher.

(Matthew 21:21) – “Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done.’”

Contemplations

  • There is only one contemplation question in this study: If there is a time when all the information you hear through the media, from our leaders, from cable news, from the Internet, and from this world can no longer be trusted, how will you know if what you are being told is God’s Truth?
    • Ideas to Explore:
      • Will you read all the books written by famous theologians to get their opinions?
      • Will you spend your time validating all you see and hear against what God’s Word says?
      • Will you do what Solomon did—try to get rich, do everything, own everything, enjoy all worldly pleasures, and see if Solomon was right?
      • Will you pray constantly for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to guide your decision-making?
      • Will you pursue learning views that are contrary to your present opinion to understand all sides of worldly issues?
      • Will you think through and then share what God has done for you with all you meet?
      • Will you serve others as Jesus served His disciples, washing their feet?
      • Will you always use God’s Truth to compare the sources of all you hear?
      • Will you seek and find a church that challenges you to be more like Jesus every day?
      • Do you think that we are already at the point where you cannot trust what you hear from our world?
      • What will you do to seek God?
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    NIV New International Version Translations
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