This is the place for meditations on the journey. Comments and thoughts welcomed. Please be 'civil'!
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Before he offered the world his best impression of a man trapped in a sardine can, Kaleb Whitby had never even been in a car wreck. Now that he has — walking away from a massive 26-car pileup in on Interstate 84 in Oregon on Saturday with exactly two Band-Aids and some ice — the 27-year-old farmer has some serious thinking to do.
“Thank God that I’m still alive,” Whitby told the Oregonian. “Now I’ve got to go figure out why.”
Divine sources did not immediately respond to this reporter’s repeated requests for comment, so for now we’ll just have to attribute Whitby’s improbable survival to good old-fashioned luck — and no small amount of it, either. More than 100 people, a dozen of them injured, were involved in the pileup, which unfolded about 30 miles east of Baker City, according to the Oregonian. Hours after saying goodbye to his pregnant wife and the couple’s 2-year-old son, Whitby was headed to Council, Idaho, when the accident occurred, according to the Oregonian.
When I write this article each morning I find inspiration in many places. Sometimes I awaken with an idea in mind and sometimes I come to my computer with and empty head, so to speak. Your probably know by now, if you have read very many of these articles that I have a particular view of God. Father is a very good term for God because He looks upon each of us as a potential daughter or son. God wants a loving relationship with each of the 7.3 billion people on planet earth.
For me, many of the “why” questions as cited above are answered by the fact that God wants us as sons and daughters. There is not some massive reason that can only be answered by looking at the big picture as represented by the cosmos. The answers can be found by looking within; because that is where God desires to dwell. How does that happen? How can God dwell within my heart when He inhabits the entire universe? The question really answers itself. God does inhabit the entire universe; therefore He is already in your heart in one sense. The sense that He desires to live within your heart is a matter of faith; or believing certain facts and making a decision.
The fact is that God loves the entire world because He made it and He made it good. That fact includes each person on the planet. Potentially, each man, woman, and child on planet earth are called to become daughters and sons of God. To make that come about God sent His Son, Jesus, to reveal God the Father to us and show us the way to the Father.
When a person experiences a remarkable escape from death such as Kaleb Whitby in the above news item; it is very appropriate to consider if there is some divine intervention involved and that there is a divine reason for the survival. When I went back to the computer a few moments later I was unable to find the article so the reaction of the reporter writing the news item is only from my memory. The reporter claimed to have inquired of God about the incident and received no reply. I am not in any way saying that the reporter is not a believer or that he was being irreverent. What I am saying is that the answer to Kaleb’s question is actually given in the Bible. The incident of the accident is simply a means of getting Kaleb’s attention so that he will actually ask the questions.
The bottom line is that God wants a relationship though His Son, Jesus Christ, with each one of the 7.3 billion people on earth.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Why do I Follow Jesus Christ?
The current events in the world cause me to pause and consider why someone would follow the teachings of Mohamed. I know that the massacre of the 12 at Charlie Hebdo headquarters is attributed by Muslims in the west as emanating from radicalized fringes of Islam. However, we are witnessing angry reactions all over the world in areas that are majority Muslim. None of the reactions reported seem to be peaceful at any level. It would seem that the attitude in the Muslim world is that no one has the right to disobey their view of the way things should be. This attitude appears to be more pervasive than as if it emanated from only radical fringes. It would seem that anyone with an attitude of negotiation and reason in the Muslim world is simply killed.
The word in Arabic for God is Allah. The claim in the Muslim world is that we are worshiping the same God. I do not believe that the evidence supports this claim. Allah is not the same God as the Father of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The belief in the Muslim world is that they are descendants of Abraham through Ishmael. Many who currently surround the tiny country of Israel angrily work for the destruction of Israel simply because they are Jews. Essentially, this would mean that descendants of a half-brother want to destroy the descendants of the other half-brother. What sense does this make to any reasonable person?
I follow Jesus Christ. In most situations I would call myself a Christian. However, the history of Christianity does not generally reflect the teaching or the life example of Jesus Christ. In effect, while Jesus taught us to wash one another’s feet; the history of Christianity shows that Christians would more likely cut off the feet of another who disagreed with him. Historically, any person claiming to be a Christian who was in power would insist that those he had power over would agree to his form of doctrine or suffer death. This attitude is certainly not unlike the attitude of Muslims who hold positions of power today.
The problem today is exacerbated by the increase in firepower. In Biblical times the key phrase of those who would meet a tragic end was to die by, “famine, plague, and the sword.” Now, although famine and plague may still haunt much of the world the idea of “sword” has taken on an entirely different meaning. We now have rifles, explosives, bombs, and almost infinite means to deliver death in large swaths.
The population of the world was less than a billion all through history until about 1830 when it is estimated we reached our first billion. The world population now is more than 7.3 billion. Even with extremely high numbers dying in violent ways the steep rise in population numbers will continue its rise. Famine, plague, and sword do not make a dent in our population increase.
All of the problems with the huge population of the world, religious infighting, terrorist activities, disease, violent activity because of territorial dispute, criminality, drug addiction, and the list goes on forever; can only be solved by one thing. All of the problems are solved by being a follower of Jesus Christ. This is why I am a follower of Jesus Christ. This is why I am going to Kenya, Africa, and preach and teach how to follow Jesus Christ. I will not be recommending any doctrine of any denomination. There is no denomination of Christianity that can teach the ways of Jesus because the very fact that they have a doctrine precludes following Jesus. If a doctrine exists there is an opinion of how someone else should think and behave. That in and of itself is the opposite of what Jesus taught and lived. Jesus taught to wash one another’s feet; not cut them off.
My reason for following Jesus is that I believe He lived the way of love that is the answer to all of mankind’s problems.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Vengeance is Mine
“Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,
`Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living,
That his name be remembered no more.’
But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind,
Let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.
“Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, `Do not prophecy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands’—therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: `I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.’” (Jeremiah 11: 18 – 23 NIV)
The above scripture is the account of God’s reaction to the threat against Jeremiah from his hometown folk. It may seem contradictory that in one article I label “It is all about love;” and the very next day I write an article “Vengeance is Mine.” Are we talking about the same God? How can it be that God would provide salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ; provide the Holy Spirit to empower and guide the growing Church; and then produce vengeance in regard to specific situations in the world?
Before I attempt to answer those questions let me quote another prophetic scripture from Daniel that describes another very specific situation of love mixed with vengeance:
“As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
“`Seventy `sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish [Or restrain] transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place [Or the most Holy One].
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One [Or an anointed one], the ruler, comes, there will be seven `sevens,’ and sixty-two `sevens.’ I will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two `sevens,’ the Anointed One [Or an anointed one] will be put to death and will have nothing [Or death, and will have no one; or death, but not for himself]. The people of the ruler who have come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolation have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.’ [Or `week’] In the middle of the `seven’ [Or `week’] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple [Or wing] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him [Or it]. [Or And one who causes desolation will come upon the wing of the abominable temple, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolated city] (Daniel 9: 23 – 27 NIV)
The quotation from Daniel has some alternative translations noted in the footnotes of the NIV. I have included these in brackets for the consideration of the reader. Some of the alternative readings you will see support my argument regarding the fulfillment of this prophecy and some do not. I will state my interpretation of the fulfillment of this prophecy and leave it in the reader’s judgment to do what the scripture says, “Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision.”
In very brief form my interpretation of the fulfillment of this prophecy in Daniel:
Israel was taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar during the time of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was threatened because the word of the Lord that came to him was to call Judah and Jerusalem to repentance so that the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple would not take place. Three times Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, besieged it, and took the city. The first two times the treasuries of the temple and the royal treasuries were taken to Babylon and placed in storage there. The third time the rebellion of the kings of Judah was so severe that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the temple. All during this time Jeremiah was urging the officials and the people of Judah and Jerusalem to yield to the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar because this punishment was sent by God to bring them to repentance. In his prophecy of the exile Jeremiah had been very specific in declaring that the exile would last 70 years. This prophecy was what Daniel was responding to in his prayer recorded in chapter 9.
The word and vision given to Daniel recorded in the later part of chapter 9 was God’s answer to Daniel who was trying to understand the sweep of history and God’s part in history. The call in verse 24 was a continued call to repentance. Jesus appeared at the end of the 70 weeks (490 years) and concluded the call to repentance. John the Baptist and Jesus both based their ministry on the call to repentance with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” At the beginning of the last “week” Jesus was baptized by John and began His 3 ½ year ministry culminating with His death on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of all of the Mosaic Law as He was sacrificed as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” At the moment of His death the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom signifying the end of the sacrificial system. The Jews were still being called to repentance during the beginning of the Church that started in Jerusalem and remained centered there until the martyrdom of Stephen. Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin was the final call to repentance of the Jewish nation that had begun at the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem 490 years earlier. After that period of mercy was completed with no positive response from the Jews; the rest of the description of Daniel 9: 27 was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. There is no other “he” referenced from 9: 24 through 9: 27 except the Anointed One. We can see in the first part of the passage the Anointed One refers to the Messiah or the Christ. In the last reference to “he” we would like to think that this cannot be the Anointed One. It must refer to some other person. However, the time for the repentance of the Jews has come and gone. God has sent the Anointed One to complete that call to repentance. The Jewish leaders rejected Him and killed Him. Now, in the last sentence of the prophecy we see the fulfillment of the decree for the city poured out by the glorified Son of God. Jesus is the “he” who “will set up an abomination that causes desolation.” It is the glorified Christ who orchestrates the vengeance against the city. It is sad. It is the culmination of 490 years of call to repentance. But the end result is the spread of the gospel of love to all the nations.
This is why on one day I can say, “It is all about Love,” and on the very next day say, “Vengeance is Mine.” I am saddened by the senseless violence in the world today with much of it centered within the Muslim community. But I can also understand that a time will come for vengeance as well as a time for love.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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It is all about Love
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4: 7 – 21)
I realize that this is a rather long quotation; but when I started with “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God,” I didn’t seem to find a stopping point. I began thinking about our relationship with God as being established and grounded in love and how most people miss that point. Most people seem to extend the concept of obedience demanded by the Ten Commandments into our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our relationship with God then becomes obedience to dogma or doctrine rather than a love relationship. This happens easily because although we are spiritual beings we live in physical bodies and much that we observe is through the physical.
For example: The above quote has, in part, “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.” How do we, then, describe the Spirit working in our lives? Paul describes the working of the Spirit in us by a combination of physical and spiritual terminology. Physically Paul says to not live according to the flesh: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 16 – 23 NIV)
We see how difficult it is to describe behavior guided by the Spirit in terms that are purely spiritual and make no reference to the physical (in this case desires of the flesh). The problem quickly arises because we concentrate on the part of the passage that says to not satisfy the desires of the flesh and forget that the whole point is the walk by the Spirit. We make obedience to the idea of not doing certain fleshly things the point rather than walking by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is an exercise in love relationship and not an act of obedience to dogma or doctrine.
This concept is especially difficult to grasp for those who have been taught that obedience is the proper approach to religion and that relationship is expressed by obedience. I know of one way to remedy this situation. Develop the love relationship. This is done by confession of sin, repentance (desire to change and expression of that desire), and asking for forgiveness. This process, repeated as often as necessary, constantly increases the love relationship between Father and daughter or son. What this process does is transfer the concept of obedience to the concept of relationship. The concept of obedience builds a wall while the concept of confession builds a relationship. I realize that confession takes into account disobedience; but as time goes by confession deals with the disobedience and the love overcomes the sin until the relationship becomes everything and the sin falls away.
In the development of the love relationship there will be stages just as there are stages in the development of a child. One of these stages will be when you have the sense that you can do anything because you will always be forgiven. This stage is overcome or “gone through” when you realize that what you are doing that needs forgiveness is hurting God and others. That pain that has borne and is willing to continue to bear does not enhance the love between God and son or daughter. We then desire to not cause God pain and that area of sin falls away.
Another area of development is a feeling like you have never sinned. This is not true but the forgiveness of God is so awesome you might feel like you have never sinned. This is a good thing when taken in perspective. You are becoming more like Jesus who actually never sinned. Living in a state of forgiveness is much like having always lived without sin. This feeling, when taken in perspective, gives an increase in faith and a power in prayer. Keep going in the love relationship because it is all about love.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Love Will Prevail
“On the morning of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Maclean’s contributor Scott Gilmore filed this column. In the Jan. 29 issue of the magazine, he expands on his argument:
“On Jan. 7, Islamist gunmen ran through the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo screaming “The Prophet is avenged!” By coincidence, at the very moment they were killing the journalists, the International Space Station passed silently over Paris.
“Consider that for a moment.
“As terrorists committed a primitive act of tribal savagery in the name of a prophet who lived 1,400 years ago, right above them, orbiting through space, was the most sophisticated expression of mankind’s ability to transcend ignorance and fear with hope and reason.”
The above was copied from a news report published on the internet. Mr. Gilmore continues the article to show that the Muslim world has largely isolated itself from major development in the world and that isolation is continued and made worse by terrorist acts. There are several measurements or indicators of his argument but I believe the most telling is that Muslims are isolating themselves largely by Muslims killing Muslims. Although the extremist elements constantly berate Western culture and the Western way of life; the violence is largely Muslims against Muslims.
To quote Mr. Gilmore again:
“Internecine conflict in the Islamic world is endemic. The unrelenting Shia and Sunni schism dominates it, but it also includes tribal and ethnic divides. In 2013, there were 12 Western victims of terror attacks compared to 22,000 non-Western fatalities.”
I work and live my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that love as expressed by Jesus is the ultimate answer to the conflicts in the world. One of my constant struggles through the years is to understand and express the milieu or social/religious context from which Jesus emerged. The exodus from Egypt and the subsequent conquering of the Promised Land by the Israelites would appear very similar to the current violence among Muslims. For example, in the very ancestry of Jesus was a woman who survived Jericho because she had hidden the two spies sent by Joshua. All others in the city were completely exterminated. Even though the text justifies the event by noting the 400 years of the sins of the inhabitants; it is very difficult for us in the modern Western world to understand such violence. It is especially difficult to get our heads and hearts around such events when we see similar acts of violence carried out today for declared religious reasons.
I do not know the religious or spiritual views of Mr. Gilmore whose article I have quoted above. The editors and staff of Charlie Hebdo, however, are avowed atheists and produce the satirical magazine as a statement against (in part) the irresponsibility of religious totalitarianism. I am not an atheist. On the contrary, I believe in a very personal God who has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. I agree, however, with the editors of Charlie Hebdo about the dangers of religious totalitarianism. How, then, am I to interpret the events expressed in the Bible and the historical events since related to the development of religion?
I must be simplistic because of space but also because of the way my mind works. It would seem apparent from the reading of the history of Israel as expressed in the Old Testament that God was attempting to communicate with and live among the people who had descended from Jacob (Israel). This attempt largely failed because of the continued rejection of God by the Israelites. By the time Jesus was born the descendants of Israel (now called Jews because the survivors were from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) had developed their religion to a very strict keeping of their interpretation of the Law of Moses. The conflict that developed between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews was about the different interpretations of the Law.
Jesus’ interpretation was based on His view of God as a loving Father full of grace and love. He forgave sins, healed the sick, and delivered from demonic oppression. His opponents, the Jewish leaders, were appalled when He forgave sins, forbade healing on the Sabbath because it was work, and accused Him of delivering from demonic oppression by the power of demons. Perhaps the most telling contrast between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was illustrated by their positions concerning death. I am not referring here to their philosophical or religious attitudes; but to their use and control of death.
Jesus overcame death. He was crucified, died, was buried, and then rose from the dead.
On the other hand, the Jewish leaders believed that the death of Jesus would preserve their religion. It was not true. When they killed Jesus something entirely remarkable and unexpected happened. Jesus didn’t stay dead. Love prevailed.
The Muslim religion is just another expression of the same thing that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day believed. The Muslims who are killing one another and threatening to destroy the West believe that death will bring about the preservation of their religion. Their use of death to enhance and preserve their religion will fail, and is failing, just as the use of death by the Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus failed.
It is difficult to grasp an over-all perspective of what God is doing in history. The expressions of atheists and secularists cannot grasp God in history because, on the one hand, they do not believe God exists, and, on the other hand, they believe the advance of history is the work of humanity. Truly we must be aware of the dangers of religious totalitarianism, no matter what form, and we need to recognize the contributions of mankind to his own well-being; but it is also good to be aware that a loving, gracious Father is sovereign over all. Love will prevail.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Show Us the Father
“Jesus answered: `Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’?” (John 14: 9 NIV)
The recent massacre in Paris at the satirical publication headquarters of Charlie Hebdo was declared by the perpetrators to be in retaliation for repeated publications of cartoon depiction of the prophet Mohamed, founder of Islam. The first edition of Charlie Hebdo published after the massacre featured a cartoon depiction of Mohamed crying under the headline “All Is Forgiven,” holding a sign, “Je suis Charlie.” Part of the reaction of the staff at Charlie Hebdo was to laugh that part of the support was the ringing of bells at the nearby cathedral Notre Dame because they claim to be basically atheistic. I began to think about my reaction and what I believe to be what the reaction of Jesus would be.
What the magazine is attempting to do is make a stand against religious totalitarianism. In my opinion they have every reason to make such a stand. If nothing else has been revealed by the massacre at Charlie Hebdo the fact that the world is full of religious totalitarianism certainly has. Most obvious is that the radicalized Muslim is insisting that all in the world think exactly like they do. However, at least 50 attacks and threats to Muslim buildings and organizations have occurred in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and immediate environs alone. France has found it necessary to post 10,000 security forces around synagogues, schools, mosques, and other vulnerable religious institutions in fear of violent reactions.
When we speak of religious reactions and persecutions we must not forget the past Christian transgressions. There are those, including myself, who find it very difficult to use the name “Christian” without careful explanation because of the intolerant history of “Christianity.” It is very difficult to say but all that the “Muslims” are doing has been done to them and has been learned from what “Christians” have done to those who followed their religion in past years. A casual reading of the history of the Middle Ages including the Crusades will show an almost unbelievable intolerance demonstrated by those claiming to follow the teachings of Christ.
In modern times we find that Hitler, with all of his teachings and acts of violence and intolerance against any who were not “Aryan,” including Jews, was supported in large measure by the “Christian” church in Germany. Today, there are those who advocate intolerance and hatred against any who disagree with them; whether Muslim or Christian. The bottom line is that any who are intolerant of any other is wrong.
An honest reading of the life, teaching, and actions of Jesus will find that His life purpose was to demonstrate love for others rather than teach a specific form of religion. In fact, those who opposed Him during His lifetime did so specifically because His teaching threatened to destroy their form of religion. He taught toleration and acceptance above all. Love was the first and only form of relationship. He demonstrated the power of love by healing and deliverance from spiritual oppression. He was crucified at the insistence of the religious leaders of His day specifically because they desired that He be eternally damned. In their belief anyone who died in the manner of being hung on a “tree,” which is what a cross was, would be forever cursed. The ironic truth is that because Jesus died in that manner, He took upon Himself our curse. Since He was without sin there was nothing that the curse or even death could cling to. Therefore, on the third day He rose from the grave and shook off the curse and death and proved we can have eternal salvation by believing in Him.
Therefore, I will follow Jesus anywhere and do anything He asks me to do. I know that anything He asks me to do will be based on love first and foremost. My task is to love and to serve just as Jesus loved and served.Write comment (0 Comments)