Faith and Information

When I was in Bible school, I had a professor who recounted a story of a dream someone had that made an impact on him.  Consequently, all these years later, I have to say that it had a profound impact on me as well.  Here is the scene:

“The scene was the depths of hell.  With minimal light, a man could be seen rushing through the dark corridors of hell in frantic search of someone.  Amid the screams and cries for mercy, this man would plunge into the dark corners, grab a man from the shadows, pull him into whatever light he could find, and then throw him back into the shadows.  From cell to cell and dark shadow to dark corner, this man was reaching, grabbing, and searching.  The man who was having the dream and observing the behavior of the frantic man in hell, somehow asked the question, ‘who are you looking for?’  The man’s quick reply without pausing from his quest was this: ‘I am looking for the pastor who lied to me.'”

This scene can evoke a million questions which I will not address in this blog, as I want to focus on one:  “Are there consequences for what we believe or disbelieve?”

James 3:1

3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

In this age of information with authors, televangelists, radio personalities, bloggers, and even spiritual gurus at the public gym, I find that information about spiritual and eternal things becomes passed around so casual as one exchanging recipes.  For much of the spiritual advice, I find there are no tangible or real consequences for belief or disbelief “just as long as you believe something.”  Some of my “Christian” Facebook friends subscribe to horoscope posts, and talk about their karma, while my non-Christian friends post scriptures like “Judge not lest you be judged.”

Everyone dipping into the belief systems of another, choosing the things they “like”, and calling it their beliefs, makes for a flavorful stew, but sadly, has little to do with truth. Truth by definition is exclusive.  If one thing is true, it has the ability to call other things false.  Through the lens of truth we are able to see the things that are counterfeit.  But it gets tricky when truth is extracted from context, mixed with myths, or taught only in part–leaving the consequences of belief or disbelief, obedience or disobedience out.

Here is some criteria I use when evaluating “spiritual truths” from authors and teachers who claim to be Christians:

1. If they have to discredit or re-make the Bible or Jesus, the Author of its message in order to make their truth work, they have walked away from the “truth” they espouse.

2 Timothy 4:1-4

4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2. If there is a clear spiritual penalty for the disbelief of, or disobedience of a spiritual principle and they do not teach it, they are contributing to a dangerous lie.

3.  If their teaching pads their wallets by emptying yours, they are likely insincere in their care for you.

Matthew 10:8

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

4.  If they say they love you, but do not attempt to turn you from a known path of spiritual destruction, then they are double-minded and unstable, and you are not the better for it.

James 5:19-20

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. 

5.  If they do not lead you to scripture in search of your answers, but opinions instead, they are their own religion, borrowing only in part from the faith they claim.

1 Timothy 1:3-7

3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

6.  If their lifestyle and behavior, or the lifestyle and behavior they espouse wouldn’t look good on Jesus, then it likely isn’t the model for you.

Titus 1:16

16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

1 John 1:5-7

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

7.  If they deny that Jesus is God’s Son, the Christ, then they are liars according to 1 John 2:22-23

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. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

There are consequences for beliefs, and consequences for disbelief.  The Bible couldn’t be any more clear on this.  So please, as much as you may read blogs or Christian books, or watch Christian television, please read that much more of God’s Word–the Bible. You and I need to have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus.  Our lifestyles need to be lifestyles of repentance and humility before God and before one another.

 

My Purple Wall

It was 2009, and I was with a group of musicians, pastors, and authors traveling in Italy, ministering in churches and other venues in worship and music.  We took a day to sight-see and visit Pompeii, the ancient city near Naples that was completely buried in ash when the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, blew in 79 A.D., burying both the landscape and the people.  The now excavated area reveals stories and wonder, tragedy and beauty. Pompeii left evidence of its spiritual climate and morality in its art and culture.  There were things to cringe at and things to enjoy.  Like many cultures before it, it had a story to tell.2004-01-04 13.36.11

We toured the ruins of homes, temples, courtyards, and gardens.  We visited the glass protected forms of people buried in ash, who became molded by the eruption into permanent statues that were hollowed as they decomposed.  It was both horrific, and sobering.  For me it was a lot to take in.2004-01-04 14.46.362004-01-04 13.46.19

After a few hours of hiking around and viewing the remains of this civilization, I rested my elbows on a stone wall overlooking  a garden area and began to process.  One of my team members came over to ask me what I was thinking, and the thoughts spilled out in a jumbled heap.  Those thoughts are what fuels this blog today and they begin like this:

I wonder if the woman who lived in this house ever thought that almost two thousand years later, another woman from the other side of the world would be standing in her house and looking at the painting on her wall?  When she or her husband decided on that color of red to create the decorative stamp-like trim around their ceiling, was it their favorite color?  Or the the most available color?  When they inlaid the mosaic patterns into the floors and doorsteps of their homes, did they ever imagine that Americans would be stepping on and around them in the year 2009?2004-01-04 13.47.15

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Because God has set eternity in my heart, and the realization that my actions affect the lives of others around me, my thoughts travel deeper than the colors on the wall.  I wrestle with the fact that everything I do is recorded in time.  Even if I never write it down, or photograph the moment,  it is made a permanent record that God alone controls, and can be excavated at any time when He is ready to reveal it.  Every action has a consequence.  Every action has an opportunity to be seen, and if not now, years down the road.  Like Pompeii, my life tells a story.  For those of you who read my blog “Time and Eternity” and possibly watched the video attached, you will see some of the reasons for the words I am typing.

There is no action that you or I perform that does not have an effect on another.  Even the color of our walls or the state of our spiritual lives will have an effect on someone–somewhere, somehow.  There are no “personal decisions” or “personal faiths” that affect only us, even though we make many decisions on our own with the convictions and understanding we currently possess.  Our actions constantly set something into motion.

We cannot reverse time, or take back things we have said or done.  We can repaint walls, or move to new cities, renovate homes, and demolish buildings, but the records of our actions remain unchangeable outside of the mercy of God and His ability to wipe away our sins.2004-01-04 13.00.17

I painted two walls in my house deep purple.  I like the color very much.  As I rolled the color on, I thought about Pompeii.  I thought about my choices, and their choices.  I pondered whether or not my home would ever be visited in the future by someone from another culture.  Would they see my purple wall and wonder why I chose that color, or why my home was laid out the way it was with a library in the dining room?  Would they find my photographs, or journals, and peer into my life?  What would they find?  What would they contemplate?wall

For many reasons God keeps a record of our lives and actions.  One thing I know is that because there is a historical record of lives lived before me, I have an opportunity to reflect on history, then consider my life, my actions, my future, and call out to God to direct my path and the paths of the ones He has entrusted to me.  History is another form of God’s grace extended to me.  As Edmund Burke said:  “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Today you and I have choices.  Choose well.  Choose with the input and wisdom of God.2004-01-04 13.49.42

Set it Into Motion

Take a few minutes to watch this video above before you read this blog.

Over the last seven years, I have been on a journey to love God with all of my mind.  I have grown up loving God with all of my heart, and soul.  Through music and art, through worship and prayer I have encountered the depths of God.  Now, here in my mid-life years, God has drawn my interest to reason, physics, philosophy, apologetics and the elements that prove God reasonable, plausable, imminent, and present.  I have homeschooled my kids for many years which has also contributed to my appetite for learning once again, and so it was as I stumbled upon a video about quantum physics that I began to awe and wonder at the presence of God in the very nature and movement of elements in the sub-atomic world.  (Don’t worry, I’m not too smart about that subject yet.)

I am not a scientist, and I have much to learn, but I am a communicator and I want to understand how to communicate what I have learned as it relates to my life and walk with God.  Many of you have read my musings in the “Deep Thoughts” category of my blogs.  So here I am again, contemplating what I have learned and discovering its application

I have often thought of life as a set of points on a line that travels into eternity.  The line would begin with my birth, and then as I grew, memorable events would be plotted on the line as a dot.  For instance, the first time I sang a solo as a four-year old girl in front of people was memorable.  Other major points would be when I got my driver’s license, my first date, my wedding, and the births of my four children.  The dots continue from there.

What I am learning though, as I study God’s word and explore fields of physics, is that every decision that I make is not just a dot on a line of eternity, but is a moment where something is set into motion.

Think about Adam and Eve for instance.  In the garden their lives were intertwined with the life of God.  They communed together and enjoyed one another’s company.  The day came when they made a decision to figure out life on their own.  They chose to master their own ideas of what good and evil were and they ate from a forbidden tree.  From that moment, sin was set into motion.  Now it wasn’t just Adam and Eve’s lives affected, but like the pendulum’s in the video above, their action caused action and relationship between the rest of mankind as well as nature itself.  The Bible states that “Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, (Romans 5:12) and was later conquered and paid for by one man, Jesus Christ who changed the pattern  through grace and mercy.

Trace the stories throughout the Bible and find moments of decision and you will find the consequences still playing out in our modern day history.  Some consequences have been blessings, like Rahab’s faith in God, that changed her from a prostitute into an ancestor of Jesus Himself.  Other decisions, like disobedience, caused the nation of Israel years of exile, attack, and punishment.  Every point of decision was setting something into motion.

I ask myself this:  “What am I setting into motion?”

Notice, in the above video, that there are times that the pendulum’s seem to swing independent of one another as if they have their own pattern and plan, only to then rejoin a choreographed “dance” so to speak with the others beside it.  Somehow, and again this is in the sub-atomic realm, every pendulum is in relation to one another and acts accordingly.  My life is no different.  My neighbors, my family, my circle of relationships are affected by my decisions and behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I cause the behavior of others by my actions because we are all accountable before God for our own decisions, but I am saying that the way I act, react, and respond to the people around me either sets up a dance of blessing or cursing.  And if I persist in my behavior patterns, either positive or negative, the effects will still be felt long after I have passed away.

When my children or children’s children sit and talk about their mom, grandma, great-grandma, etc… they will have many stories to choose from.  Maybe because I will leave them in blogs, but more likely because they will be passed on from others who knew me “back in the day”.  My children will carry on my legacy.  They will pass on my strengths and my weaknesses.  My grandchildren will “dance” to whatever I put into motion in my lifetime.

I still have so much to learn.  My mind can’t take it in fast enough, but what my mind cannot comprehend, my heart seems to already know.  Every decision has a consequence.  Every action stirs a reaction.  Every life sets something into motion.  I have choices.  I want to set Grace and Truth into action in my life and in my lifetime.

Crime and Punishment

Dear Friend,
I’ve heard that you have been going through a tremendous trial of physical pain and loneliness. I wanted to say that I am so sorry for the suffering you are going through. I want you to know that I am praying for you and I know that God will make a way for you through this.
I overheard someone else talking to you about your trial, and though they meant well, the things they said just weren’t true. They told you to bear up under this trouble and be tough. They said you needed to prove to God that you were sorry for your bad behavior from the past and if you could somehow carry this weight without falling apart, it would be a good sign to God that you were really sorry for walking away from him in your youth and then maybe He would help you and take your pain away. They implied that what you are experiencing now is the punishment for your sins….but they were wrong.
Friend, what you are experiencing now are the effects of a world full of sin. Because of Adam’s sin against God way back in the Garden of Eden, the Bible tells us that sin entered the world through one man, Adam. Now there is pain, suffering, death, disease, lying, stealing, cheating, and the list goes on.
Specifically, you are experiencing  a consequence of a poor decision. A decision that God forgave you for years ago when you repented. This is not a punishment that you can “pay for”. You cannot prove to God any kind of worthiness or toughness of spirit to motivate Him to take the pain away.
Don’t you know that He already desires to take your pain away? Have you not read Isaiah 53:4-5 which says:

4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

He desired to heal you then, His desire is for your healing now.
In His crazy, wonderful grace and mercy, Jesus decided, before the world was even created, to bear the wrath of God’s judgement for your sin and mine. It was supposed to be ours…the wrath and death and eternal pain, because we are guilty, but Jesus bore it for us instead. He became sin for us. He endured death for us. He experienced the wrath of God’s judgement for us. He said “It is finished!”.
No more sacrifices need to be made. No more checks can be written to pay for our debt. It’s paid in full.
There is no Karma following you. In fact Psalm 23:6  says “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Forever mercy and grace shall follow you because of what Christ has done.
There is no way you could quantify your good works against the righteousness of God. There is just no comparison. And even if you could bear up under the weight of it all by yourself, God has already removed the weight and placed it on His Son. You are invited now, to share in God’s pleasure. You need to know that God is in a good mood and so happy to see you and be with you.

Psalm 103 Of David.
1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Your Father in heaven forgave you the moment you repented and threw your sins as far away as the east is from the west.

Micah 7:18-19

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

You need to know that God loves you and demonstrated that love through Jesus His Son.  He has already paid for all sin, so your payments are not necessary.  You need to know He delights in you.  Approach Him without fear.  Bring Him your pain, confusion, lonliness and need.  Let Him have it all and let Him be your All in All.
Know that you are loved and cherished.  You are in my prayers.

Sincerely,

Cate Morris