Eating an Elephant: Even God?

Wondering what God has to do with eating an elephant?1 Wondering if this piece is going to discuss the All Mighty’s eating habits? Rest assured, that is not the case. On the other hand, I am going to write of things related to God.

If you are an atheist, you might want to click on something else. This piece may make absolutely no sense to you, but you might be amused by some of the things said here. They might even give you ammo to use the next time you argue with one of us Bible Thumpers.  Also, some of this has nothing to do with a god, real or imagined. Rather it has to do with changing society, one small bite at a time.2

Creighton Abrams intended his comment about dining on an elephant to make a couple of points. One is obvious. It is impossible to eat anything the size of an elephant in one gulp. Beyond that, it has a second, less obvious meaning. Butchering, preparing and eating an elephant would take time, which indicates one should not dilly-dally around in processing the beast. One should get started, as early as possible.

About this time, if you are still tuned in, you are wondering, “Where is this going?”  I know I would be.  So, here is where this is going. Something has been eating the elephant of civilization and society for a long time, and modern technology is speeding up the process.  For instance, take the title of this piece. Eating an elephant is clear, but “Even God,” what does that mean?

Encyclopedia Britannica states the tragic poet Agathon was born in ancient Greece around  445 B.C. At some point in his life, Agathon is credited with saying, “Even God cannot change the past.” Certainly, in those days of poetry, philosophy, and great thinkers, the idea that Agathon might make such a comment is not unbelievable. What is a bit difficult to believe, if one thinks about it, is that people today still give the line credibility.

Now, if you are an atheist, skeptic, or just someone looking for an argument, that last sentence may have gotten your attention. You may be saying to yourself, “Yep, he is one of those Kool-Aid drinking religious nuts.” Possibly, but hear me out.

First, why would I say people today give Agathon’s comment credibility? I say that because it is a thought being shared in social media, which is where it came to my attention. It is being shared, apparently, as a motivational quote, and one can see why. If someone is hurting over past mistakes, or obsessing over them, the idea that even an all-powerful God could not change things might help them move on. 

For the record, I could find nothing that would help understand what a Greek tragic poet meant by the phrase being discussed. His work has largely been lost, and little is known about him. Still, it would make sense to believe he meant it as it was written, and as it might now be used. Don’t cry over spilled milk, as even God cannot change the past.

When I saw the meme my comment to the post was, “Really! How would we know?” The person posting the meme’s reply was, essentially, don’t shoot the messenger! He pointed out he didn’t write these things. He just shared them.  

To be fair, the person sharing the advice shares many such bits of so-called wisdom. In each case, it is reasonable to assume he is sharing them with good intentions. However, his intentions do not matter in this case.

This alleged quotation from an ancient writer, intentionally or unintentionally, attempts to put God in a box. The author may have been well-intentioned, but essentially, he was saying God is not all-powerful, at least temporally. That is a problem, for believers.

The God of the Bible is an all-powerful, all-knowing God. The Bible teaches He knew us before we were born, and one source lists 100 passages making that point. This and other factors lead many to believe God exists outside of time. Thus, He exists or can exist, at all points in time.

Of course, the debate on that issue is far from settled, as a quick internet search will reveal. Yet, if, as many believe, God does exist outside of time, He might be able to change the past. This would be especially true, if, as some believe, the universe is some form of simulation. In that case, there is likely a reset button or command available. Whatever the reality, what does all this have to do with the title of this essay? 

The nature of God is one of the all-time elephants humans attempt to devour and digest. Is God real, mythical, or a delusion is a question many have asked for thousands of years.  Christians, Jews, and others have pushed the idea that one swallows the idea more or less whole. Some Skeptics, atheists, and those who believe in other higher powers often take a similar approach to debunking what they see as a fairy tale. 

Others attempting to debunk, as they see it, the myth of an all-powerful God recognize the need to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Agathon’s quotation may be one of those bites, and it has been around since before the birth of Jesus. Regardless of the motivation behind the original utterance or publishing of the comment, the comment does imply God has limitations.

Preaching or philosophizing that God is unable to control time, is one small swipe at the concept of God as many see Him. My comments and this piece to some degree are my attempt to help others realize the seeds of doubt can be sown in a seemingly harmless aphorism. Which takes this back to my original response to this quotation.

There was a time when most theologians likely believed in the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the Bible. Oh, there were skeptics, detractors, and people attempting to teach other traditions, belief systems, or ways of life, but Christianity believed in the God of the Bible.

Over the centuries, naysayers and others have attempted to chip away at these beliefs.  Today, there are theologians and biblical scholars who do not believe in the God of the Bible. They may say they do, but their beliefs put limitations on God. One such limitation, is the idea that God, like man, is stuck in a time continuum. If that is the case, even He could not change the past. They are eating the elephant of disbelief one bite at a time and sharing it with those around them.

Which takes me back to my original comment about this bit of wisdom. How would we know?


1See The Media Circus for the inspiration for the title.

2For those who worry about the smallest possible grammar issue, the term society is used in a global sense to indicate the larger human society of which all humanity is a part, without regard to geographical, social, racial, or other differences.

© – – 2019

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In Excelsis Deo

For a few years as a child, my mom thought I might have a singing career. She had my little brother and me singing in everything from school programs to church functions, for the short time we went to church. My most explicit memory of my performances was a Christmas program at Bluff Springs Elementary School, near Azle, Texas. David and I were singing Silent Night, and I forgot the words at one point.

Okay! I did not forget the words! My first ever “girlfriend” was in the audience, batting her eyes at me, and I got a bit distracted. I am not sure which was more embarrassing, flubbing the lyrics or everyone knowing I was paying more attention to her than the baby Jesus. Whatever the truth of the matter, I still remember that sinking feeling when I started singing the wrong words.

That was not the end of my singing career, such as it was. No, that happened when I tried out for a real singing position in junior high. My mom insisted I give it a shot and even came to the audition with me. It was not a great audition. My voice was changing, I had no idea what the notes on the music meant, and the teacher stared at me as if I had crawled out from under a rock. I gave up any formal music training that afternoon. The music teacher was kind enough to blame the problem on my voice changing, but I knew the truth. I sucked!

Of course, when you gotta sing, you gotta sing. I sang along with the radio, the record player, the television, and the movies. True, I sang mostly under my breath. I did not want anyone to hear me, but it still counted in my book. I just liked to sing. I had a great shower voice, in my opinion, and in my years as a street cop, I could rock out with the good-time radio on the night shift. I probably scared off a few bad guys driving around my district singing along with the Eagles or Willy. The bad guys probably thought I was crazy. Who wants to deal with a crazy cop?

Of course, all good things come to an end. Promotions, children, education, and other responsibilities made me hang up my air guitar. For years, singing took a back seat to everything else. I really did not know how much I missed it for years. Then, in the mid-90s, I became involved in a para-ministry of sorts. It incorporated music into a life skills or life change program.

One of the challenges of the program was to “stretch” yourself. Essentially, that meant performing a song picked for you by the training team, in costume, in front of a bunch of people. Talk about a blast! It was fantastic and one of the reasons I was involved in the program for the next decade. Nobody cared how well you sang, and you could screech to your heart’s content, it was about having fun and letting your hair down.

That program helped me find my way back to God and to church. Yes, it was that kind of seminar. It was open to anyone, and if all one could handle was a higher power, they were okay with that. Still, the focus behind the scenes was Jesus. My next musical step came in 2009. It was then I realized singing along with a record, or even singing as part of the congregation was not enough. Thankfully, the choir at my church welcomed everyone who wanted to give it a shot. Training, reading music and having a real voice were desirable traits, but folks like me were welcome. It was here, I found the true meaning of the quotation at the top of the page.

Singing of any kind can make one feel good. It can make you feel upbeat or at least less stressed. That is why many sing in the shower or sing along with the radio. Of course, singing along at a concert is a given. Singing makes you feel better, if you let it, but the quotation above is limited to a degree. Singing “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” at karaoke night or driving down the road can be fun. If you are musically inclined, breaking into song in response to something heartwarming can leave you with a warm glow for hours. But, what does, I am happy because I sing, really mean?

I could not find an explanation from the author of the quote. I did see some comments that might make sense, and most were similar to my own thoughts on the matter. Yet, in most of these, there seemed to be a gaping hole. What does it really mean, I am happy because I sing? You may feel differently, but for me, true happiness is more than the adrenaline rush and release, one may feel singing a favorite song or two. Yes, those are great and important, but the happiness that comes from singing alone can be short-lived.

My experience indicates true happiness comes from why one sings. I know some professional singers. They love entertaining others. They love making people feel better, helping them forget the challenges they will face when they leave the venue, and deal with the world again. Letting a gifted singer distract one for a while is terrific, and both parties can feel better as the night draws to a close. Still, there may be something missing.

Forty-plus Sundays a year, my wife and I sing in the choir at church. Fifty-one Sundays a year, we feel blessed to have that privilege. One Sunday a year, we not only feel blessed, we are truly blessed by having that privilege. We just finished that Sunday, really that weekend as the choir sang six times from Friday evening to Sunday evening.

Five of those were our Christmas Cantata performances. Our Cantata service is performed to bring glory to His name. That made us happy in a way hard to explain. Singing can make one feel happy, but singing praises to our Lord goes beyond happiness. It brings joy and peace one must experience to understand.

Remember that the next time you sing a hymn in church.  Singing hymns is not simply a group activity and tradition. It is a time to let our Lord and Savior hear us praise Him.  It is also a time for us to feel His love in return. That’s where true happiness comes from.

© -2019

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A Thanksgiving Thought

Social media this week is filled with memes and personal posts urging us to remember those whose Thanksgiving Day may not be spent with family and friends. Those posts are a call to be thankful for police officers, firefighters, the military, and others whose Thanksgiving Day will be spent standing between the rest of us and chaos.

Prayers, good thoughts, and thanks of some sort directed toward first responders and others is appropriate and deserved. Yet, this past weekend, I was reminded there are others we should keep in our thoughts and prayers this week.

As this is being written, two old friends are facing their first Thanksgiving alone. No, they will not be without friends and family, but they will be without their partner, their soul-mate, and spouse. One has been dealing with the loss for months, while the other’s tragedy occurred as Thanksgiving plans were being finalized. In both cases, the absence was sudden and unexpected. One minute two are one, and the next minute that team is ripped asunder.

No, this is not something one expects to read at this time of the year.  This is the time of the year for reading uplifting stories about blessings and celebrations around the country, if not the world. Stories, blogs, and memes should be focused on how wonderful we feel sharing holidays with families and friends while praying our favorite football team makes the playoffs.

This year, God decided to remind me giving thanks is not easy for everyone during the holidays. Whether it occurred a few days or a few decades ago, some will be feeling a sense of loss while others are counting their blessings. While some are overeating and imbibing, others will be wishing they had one more chance to hear a voice, feel a hug, or see a smile that is now a memory.

In closing, let me suggest that each of us remember Thanksgiving and Christmas are two rough holidays for many.  So, as we give thanks for our blessings, and celebrate the birth of our Savior, I pray everyone reading this will remember those who sacrifice much of their holidays to keep us safe in prayer.

As you are doing so, remember there is someone, possibly even someone close to you, who may be having trouble being thankful or feeling blessed at this time of year. They need your prayers as well.

In Him

© – 2019

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
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When the Light Fades

In some ways, every day is like the day before.  The sun rises, and the sun sets. The wind blows, or leaves hang motionless from the branches. Rain falls, or dust fills the air.  Yes, in some ways every day is the same, and then, there are the days that are different. Yes, the sun rises, and the sun sets on those days. Yes, the wind blows, or the stillness seems foreboding.  Then, something happens, and that day is different. 

One of those different days for me was a Sunday when I was eleven. I cannot forget the day, or rather I choose not to forget the day. It was the day worldly life began pushing me away from my church, my faith, and my God.   

We stayed home that day, unlike most Sundays. Most Sundays we arose and went to church.  We drove the dusty lane from home to a two-lane twisting farm road leading past the little white church by the lake.  Along with a handful of others, we crammed into the place for Sunday School and then Brother Max’s message for the week.  Be it the message of salvation, the call to sacrifice, or the encouragement to love your neighbor, we grew closer to each other and our Lord. 

We left the little church filled with the Spirit.  We left looking forward to Wednesday evening when we returned for prayer meeting and youth groups. We left knowing Jesus loved us, and God looked out for us.  We left feeling the world was a great place to love and be loved. Even on dark days, on days when the rain came down in sheets, we left feeling the light that led us. For me, that light began to fade, the Sunday we stayed home.

Don’t misunderstand. We had missed church before, for one reason or another.  Sickness, travel, dad having to work on a Sunday for some reason, or other reasons kept us away a few times.  This Sunday was different. There was no reason not to go. We just didn’t. Instead, we slept in, ate a late breakfast, and acted as if it were a Saturday.  That lasted until Brother Max drove up a little after lunch.  

The pastor was no stranger to our place. He joined us for lunch after church regularly, but he was not there for lunch on that day.  Not only that, it appeared he was not welcome, as dad was out the door and in his face almost before his car stopped. Mom kept my brother and me inside. We could not hear what they were saying, but it was clear they were no longer friends.  After a few red-faced minutes, the pastor jumped in his car and drove off. 

I would not see or speak to the pastor again for more than a decade. When I did, the discussion would be more civil. The tension, though, would be roughly the same. Max’s presence was not welcome. His unannounced visit was understandable. In some ways, it showed he was a good man at heart, as he seemed to mean well. Still, he was the wrong preacher at the wrong time in my mind.

Max’s unannounced visit was in March 1969.  To be fair, he came hat in hand to express his sympathy and condolences over the death of my brother in Vietnam.  The problem was not with him, it was with me. 

Two years before the Sunday in the front yard of our little farmhouse near Azle, Texas, Brother Max baptized me.  I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I was filled with His light. When the two men who led me to Jesus the Christ, ended up in a verbal brawl in the front yard of my home on the Sabbath, that light dimmed. 

By the time the pastor showed up on our doorstep in 1969, my anger, life in general, and my father deserting us a few years before destroyed any tolerance I had for anyone claiming to be a Christian, especially a pastor. In my opinion, I wanted nothing to do with a God who would allow people like Brother Max, my father, and a few others I had known to represent Him on this earth.

As it turned out, the incident in 1969 marked the end of the first leg of a journey through the wilderness that was triggered by the brawl in the yard. For the next two-plus decades, I did everything I could to distance myself from the foolish child who climbed down into the cold baptistry of that little white church. Not to mention, the men who led him to that frigid water, and all the people who tried to “save” him over the years.

Since you are reading this, you know somewhere along the way I grew up.  I realized men were imperfect, even fathers and pastors, and they were not the reason I should believe.  Men, even the best of them will disappoint somewhere along the way, and a believer cannot let their weaknesses define his or her faith.

Thankfully, God did not abandon that twenty-two-year-old who told Brother Max to take a hike on that day in March. Instead, He continued to work on me. Twenty-four years later, I ended up on my knees asking Him for another chance.  

The story of the walk from angry young man to grateful believer is not pretty. At the same time, it is magnificent, as it teaches how patient and forgiving God is.  I shared part of that story in Tortured Path, maybe I’ll share more of that story as time goes on.  

Blessings to you and yours.

© – 2019

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One Man’s Treasure

Ah, parables! Merriam-Webster defines a parable as follows, “a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.” To me, biblically at least, parables are often riddles. Riddles, for the record, are defined as, “a mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed.” For instance, consider Matthew 13:44.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (ESV)

It would seem to the casual reader this was a reasonably straightforward parable. A guy finds something of value in a field.  He conceals it so no one else can see it.  Then, he sells everything he has to buy the land.  Wow! How much clearer could it be? That depends upon whom you ask.

In this case, it seems there are at least three questions one might have or lessons one might learn from this verse. First of course is the question of the treasure. What is it? Second, who is the man? Third, are the man’s actions ethical or righteous?

Wait! You say.  The treasure is the kingdom of heaven.  It says so right there in the first few words.  At least, it implies the treasure and the kingdom are similar.  As for the man, who cares?  Someone just scored a fortune, and Jesus wants to use the story to teach us something.  What difference does it make who he is?

I am not sure how much difference it makes.  Still, there is disagreement over the meaning of the terms in this verse. Some argue the man is a believer who discovers the kingdom and realizes how valuable it is.  Others believe the man is Jesus, and the term kingdom is used to represent believers or the church. Be that as it may, it is the third question that caught my attention during a recent Bible study.

I was blissfully unaware of any controversy over the man’s actions.  It was a parable after all, and they are supposed to be somewhat mysterious.  On this day, the leader of the class made one of his off-hand semi-sarcastic comments to the effect we were not going to discuss the ethics of the man’s behavior in hiding the treasure.

This piece is a testimony to the fact he piqued my curiosity with his witty little aside. My first thought was how I would have taken his comment in my younger days.  I was quite the skeptic, and I am confident I would have pounced on the question of the man’s honesty.

I would have crowed that Jesus, God’s own son, used the unethical, possibly illegal act, of a man to make a point about the value of the Kingdom or Salvation.  Then I would have driven home the point that I found it odd no one seemed to question the man’s behavior when teaching about this verse.

The question of righteousness or moral behavior on the part of the finder would seem to matter. That is if the person is a believer or seeker. It might matter even more if the person reading the parable is an unbeliever doubting his atheism.

Thankfully, I am no longer a skeptic.  God gave me a wake-up call several decades ago,  and I am writing today as a believer and lover of God and His word.  That does not mean, I do not ask questions, and the comment by the Bible class leader led me to ponder one.  Are we overlooking or misunderstanding part of this parable?

The short answer to my question seems to be yes. People who gloss over the fact the man in verse 44 acts surreptitiously to obtain the treasure in the field may be missing one point in the parable. Please note, I am not assuming the man did anything wrong. Instead, I am saying most biblical scholars seem to gloss over any question of motive or ethical behavior. I could only find a handful of sources that acknowledged the matter, much less discussed it.

One claimed the man’s actions were allowed under Jewish law. The pastor making that point stated it was not an issue because it was clear the owner of the land did not know of the treasure.  If the owner did not know of the treasure, he did not own it under Jewish law. Since he did not own it, the buyer did not need to disclose it or compensate him for it.

I am not confident that argument would carry much weight today. The battle over mineral rights has made it almost impossible to buy land in some areas without at least some haggling over the possible value of as yet untapped, possibly even unknown, minerals. Legal technicalities aside, the idea that the person finding the treasure failed to disclose it should be of concern in other ways.

The New Testament makes it clear believers are not supposed to live as others live. If someone demands our shirt or tunic, we are to let him have our cloak as well. (Matt 5:40) If someone strikes us on one cheek, we offer him the other. (Matt 5:39) If someone treats us poorly, we are to show him kindness. (Romans 12:20) Finding something of value on someone else’s property, then hiding it so you can buy the land for a bargain does not seem to mesh well with those concepts. That sort of behavior seems to be more twenty-first century than first-century.

It is difficult to believe Jesus the Christ would use an example of immoral behavior to make His point. Nor does it seem likely he would use a legal technicality to make the actions of the man in verse 44 acceptable. So, if Jesus is not resorting to some form of verbal legerdemain to make His point, what is He doing? Maybe the following will help shed some light on the matter.

In verses 45-46 Jesus shifts from some unknown treasure to something clearly valuable. Specifically, He says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Today, pearls are everywhere, natural, cultured, and fake.  That was not the case in biblical times. In those days, pearls were more precious. Here, it is clear both the seller and the buyer knew the pearl was valuable. Also, this was a transaction in the marketplace. There was little possibility of wrongdoing by either party. That is not the case with the man in the field.

The buyer of the field found something of immense value to him. Something he then hid so he could keep others from knowing about it, including the owner of the land. That was important because he had to sell everything he owned to purchase the land. If anyone found out he was trying to buy the property, it is probable he feared the price would go up or others would bid.  So, what could make the man’s actions righteous in this situation, and not merely an attempt to gain something of value without anyone else knowing?

Keep in mind, the man stumbled upon the treasure.  It was something that could have been found by anyone. Additionally, there is no indication he was the only person with access to this land.  In fact, there is nothing said about why he was there.  It would seem he was not treasure hunting, though he might have been scavaging for roots, grains, firewood, or other things of moderate value the owner would not care he took.

Yet, when he found the thing of value, he hid it so no one else could see it.  That brings up another little problem.  I cannot find any place in the Bible that says one is to hide the Kingdom, the Gospel, or the nature of Jesus.*  Persecution might have been a concern, but this is a parable.  It is not a treatise on evangelism or discipleship.  The parable included the hiding of the treasure for a reason, but the message is not necessarily what one might think.

The treasure in the field and the pearl are juxtaposed to drive home a point.  Many may see the value of something worldly, while only a few may understand the importance of a heavenly treasure.  Perhaps, that made it acceptable for the man to hide the treasure in the field.

The treasure was worthless to many. They could not see its value. They are looking for a pearl.  Something they can hold tight and savor in private, or possibly something they could sell for a profit.

The kingdom is something so valuable we should be willing to sacrifice everything to obtain it.  Yet, it is something we are to give away to others who can recognize its value, and there is the key. It may have been acceptable for the man to hide the treasure at the moment because the owner could not recognize or accept its true value. Of course, the question then becomes, what did the man do with the treasure after he purchased the field.


*Yes! I know Jesus told a few people not to tell how they were cured or who He was.  He had his reasons for giving such directions, but they are not related to this topic.

© AnOldSinner – 2018

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A Question of Relevancy: Jonah the Racist?

Many churches strive to make their teachings “Monday morning relevant.”  Whether one is speaking of the sermon delivered from the pulpit or an Adult Bible study lesson, the question of relevancy seems to be stressed quite often in some circles. Sadly, in some cases, finding relevancy is a bit of a problem.

For example, consider a sermon preached earlier this year. The pastor was a younger member of this particular church’s teaching team. The teaching team was working through the Book of Jonah, and the pastor’s mission was to discuss Jonah’s anger with God. As I am sure you remember, Jonah, after a good deal of resistance, obeyed God by delivering God’s warning to the Ninevites. They and their city would soon be destroyed.

Unfortunately, from Jonah’s point of view, the Ninevites believed the prophecy and relented of their sins. As is His habit, God was merciful and spared them. To say the least, Jonah was a bit unhappy.

The story of Jonah ends without resolution. We are not told what happens to Jonah, or the Ninevites, for that matter. We can assume they were not destroyed in forty days as Jonah prophesied, which may be one reason he was upset. False prophets were not well thought of, and if God did spare Nineveh, Jonah’s reputation might suffer. In fact, some commentaries on this book express the thought that Jonah’s pride was a big part of his anger. Unfortunately, that was not part of the sermon on this day.

On this Sunday, the primary reason for Jonah’s anger was racism. At least, that was the point made by the pastor delivering the sermon.  There was also an allusion to his nationalistic side, but racism was the word of the day. It was also a way to make the lesson relevant in some ways to the modern audience. In fact, an older pastor, when asked about the use of the term racism, noted the younger pastor was a millennial.  He believed the pastor preaching that day used the term because it would make sense to younger believers.

While the older pastor’s comments made sense, they did not sit well with this writer, which is why you are reading this piece. To me, after spending the better part of four decades researching, teaching, and lecturing on diversity issues, calling Jonah a racist makes about as much sense as calling Donald Trump the most soft-spoken president in the modern era. With that said, this young pastor is not the only one preaching this message.

An internet search using the term “Jonah was a racist” will locate sermons and essays covering several decades pushing that idea. Yes, it is possible to find the occasional rebuttal piece such as this one. Unfortunately, most recent articles or sermons offering an explanation for Jonah’s ire claim racism to some extent.

To make that claim, these individuals, including the young pastor, must ignore Scripture and often their own understanding of Scripture. The sermon in question is a good example. The pastor made the charge of racism. He then went on to explain all the non-racist reasons Jonah had for hating the Ninevites.

For the record, a racist is someone who dislikes, mistreats, hates, or discriminates against others simply because of their race. A racist does not trust someone simply because their skin is of a different color or their heritage is from another racial background. In the case of Jonah, most authorities, including the pastor giving the sermon, clearly laid out Jonah and God were upset with the Ninevites because of their actions, not their skin color or genetic background.

In fact, one can argue, racially speaking, there was little difference between Jonah’s people, Assyrians (Ninevites), Babylonians, and other people groups in that geographical reason. Racial variances began to appear as one moved farther into the African continent or further east toward what we know as Asia today.[1] Racism, however, is a convenient explanation of Jonah’s resistance to God’s actions if one views it from the vantage point of twentieth and twenty-first-century America.

The problem is our job is not to make the Old Testament conform to modern thinking.  That is not Monday morning relevance. We need to find a way to apply Scripture to the contemporary world in a fashion that makes sense. This book of the Bible makes that point clearly in a way that does not require a pastor to play to current societal issues.

Jonah was judgemental, angry, and sought revenge against the Assyrian people, particularly the Ninevites, as Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.  Yet, his feelings for the Ninevites had nothing to do with their race. It was their past actions that mattered to him. Still, his anger in Jonah 4 was not against the Ninevites.  It was against God for being merciful.

It is, of course, easier to say Jonah was racist than explain Jonah was just like many of us. There are times we do not like God’s plan.  We may not like God’s mercy when it comes to those we feel need to be punished. In short, we can be just like Jonah, and it has nothing to do with racism, and neither does the Book of Jonah.

[1] Some would argue this point, but there is little credible evidence that racial differences were at play in this conflict.

© – 2019

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Survival of the Fittest?

Adherents to Darwinism believe in survival of the fittest. To be clear, when Darwin’s devotees discuss the idea of survival of the fittest, they are not saying the most physically fit creature or creatures survive. Thankfully, species survival is not nature’s version of American Ninja Warrior, Olympic competition, or a battlefield. If it were, God might have given responsibility for His creation to some species other than humankind.

If you are now expecting some deeply spiritual or philosophical discussion of humanity’s dominance within the animal kingdom, you will be sorely disappointed. The purpose of this piece is to point out that individual humans often survive when any reasoning creature would expect them to perish.

For the record, I am not speaking of heroic deeds in battle or putting one’s life at risk to save another. Instead, I am writing about circumstances highlighting God’s mercy or, if you prefer, nature’s whimsy. For example, consider the saga of a fellow named Willy.

I was reminded of Willy not long ago while heading to the sprawling metropolis of Krum, Texas.1 On this day, I followed my phone’s directions to see how the route it suggested compared with the one I thought was best. I must admit, it was challenging to give the app much credibility when it insisted it was directing me to “crooom.”

Language algorithms aside, the directions were pretty good. I am not 100 percent certain it was a better route than the one I would have driven. Still, it worked, and the road led me past the place Willy should have died in the early 1970s.

Okay, Willy is a pseudonym I’ve assigned to this guy for two critical reasons. First, as I was reminded not long ago, when real names are used in stories such as this, family members of the person discussed may read the post. If, as in this case, the post or essay is not flattering, they may be offended or hurt by the truth about their relative. Second, I knew so many “Willies” over the years, I cannot remember all their actual names.

This Willy was a hardworking guy as I remember it. In fact, he worked so hard during the week, he needed to relax as quickly and thoroughly as possible when the week was done. In plain language, that means Willy cashed his paycheck around the corner from his job and started pounding beers until the week was, at best, a hazy memory. On a good weekend, Willy would make Monday morning without ending up in jail, but Willy did not have a lot of good weekends.

By the time I met Willy, he was on a first-name basis with most of the local law enforcement community. He was also beginning to realize he faced the possibility of becoming a long term guest of the state if he did not change his ways.

I would love to tell you that Willy swore off alcohol, started going to church, and never stepped into a jail cell again. Of course, that would be a complete fabrication. The real story is less heartwarming but quite fantastic. It started on a Friday or Saturday night just after closing time.

Willy was headed home from his favorite watering hole when he attracted the attention of a local Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) unit. When the trooper hit his red lights, Willy hit the gas. Yep! That was Willy’s plan to avoid jail, outrun the cops.

As the city officer working in the area, I was dispatched to backup the DPS unit. I did not have much to do as the incident was pretty much over when I caught them. You see, Willy tried to make it to the interstate, where he hoped his hotrod Pontiac would prove fast enough to make his getaway.

Willy’s plan worked for a while. He headed northwest out of town, attempting to make it to the highway. It was not heavily traveled at that time of night, and that Pontiac would really fly on a straight road. Whether it would have outrun the DPS unit is something we’ll never know. Willy encountered some problems, which might have been obvious if he’d been sober.

The first problem was the so-called muscle cars of that era had lots of horsepower. That means they could go fast! I can testify speeds of well over an indicated 125 mph could be achieved on the open road in a car such as Willy’s. Of course, I never drove that fast in my personal muscle car. I only drove that fast while pursuing someone like Willy.

Yes, those cars were fast. Their biggest shortcoming was in the stopping department. As both a young hot rodder and later a young police officer, I can attest to that reality. A four hundred horsepower, three thousand pound car had, for the most part, the same brake system as your grandmother’s hot-water six in those days.

The second problem was, in a way, related to the brake issue. The road Willy chose dead-ended at the interstate in a rural area, with minimal lighting. In fact, the only light came from the truck stop near the intersection, and that was more blinding than illuminating.

Another problem was a driver could not see the truck stop or the intersection until he topped a hill a few hundred yards south of their location. Willy was traveling well over 100 miles per hour when he crested the hill.

I do not know when Willy realized he had a problem. I do know he locked his brakes when he recognized his situation. His car left long skid marks before it left the pavement. They led right up to the bar ditch, which the Pontiac jumped, slamming into the overpass embankment. If I remember correctly, the front bumper plowed up 60 feet of sod before the car came to a rest.

When I arrived on the scene, the senior DPS officer was on the radio, calling for assistance. The younger officer, fresh out of the academy, was standing next to Willy’s smashed Pontiac’s passenger door. He was staring into the passenger compartment. When I reached the car, I realized why the rookie was simply standing there pale-faced gazing into the vehicle.

When the Pontiac hit the embankment, Willy had a death-grip on the steering wheel. That was evident from the fact it was almost ripped off the steering column. Then, momentum slammed him into the steering column, likely crushing his chest. Next, his face hit the dashboard, and the spray of blood indicated he hit nose-first. Before Willy’s body was thrown into the passenger side floorboard, his head cracked the windshield. As it stopped, the rear end skewed right, throwing Willy to the right. He came to rest, with his head jammed into the right kick-panel.

From outside the car, it appeared there was a headless body crammed into the space a passenger’s feet would normally rest. Either that or Willy’s head was jammed through the kick-panel and stuck in the fender. In retrospect, that was not possible, but it looked that way. Still, we could not assume he was decapitated or dead from blunt force trauma.

Accordingly, I reached in through the driver’s window, grabbed his belt, and pulled. Willy was not a small guy, and he was dead weight at the moment. The body shifted some, but I needed help. Suddenly, the young trooper came out of his daze and helped. He reached in from the other side and grabbed Willy’s arm and shoulder, pulling him enough that he rolled partially onto the seat. We were both amazed when he took a breath.

If you are wincing at how we were handling Willy, or his body, keep one thing in mind. This was long before the days of EMTs, Paramedics, and Mobile Emergency Rooms. We were waiting for a funeral home ambulance, likely driven by a college student. He might know basic first aid but would not be as qualified as either of us to assist the driver. Also, we had to do something to determine if the driver was alive or we needed to call a Peace Justice to declare him dead. Back to Willy, drawing a breath, which is the point of this story.

The guy was still alive! He was breathing! We yelled to the senior trooper, and he said the ambulance was coming over the hill. About that time, Willy made a horrible rattling noise in his throat and stopped breathing. We quickly pulled him out of the car, laid him on the ground, and he took a breath. Whew, maybe this would not be a fatality accident after all.

Willy suffered multiple severe injuries. As I surmised when I saw the car’s damage, the steering wheel crushed his chest upon impact. His face hit the dashboard, royally messing up his face, forehead, and what have you. His head did smash the windshield, and it was slammed into the kick panel. While transporting him from the local emergency room to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the accompanying nurse said he quit breathing three times.

Doctors at Parkland told his family he would probably not survive. If he did, he might be severely brain-damaged or a vegetable in the vernacular of the time. Six weeks later, he was back in Denton, walking around and as cognitively functional as before. True, he was in an upper-body cast, but he wasn’t taking that last sleep in the family plot.

So, is there a moral to this story? Is there a lesson to be learned from this experience? The most fundamental moral of this story, depending on how one thinks of God, the universe, good and evil, is the fittest are not necessarily the ones who survive. Willy should have died on the side of the I35 at US77 overpass in Denton County that evening. The fact he did not raises a few questions.

My theological education and my belief system lead me to believe there was a reason for his survival. Perhaps he did sober up at some point. Maybe he became a volunteer helping others deal with their alcohol problems. Or, at worst, his experience led one of his buddies or family members to change their ways.

My old cop and pragmatist sides tend to think Willy, along with many other hard drinkers I ran across as a police officer, ended up the primary character in a fatality accident or other tragic incident. Yet, I know several people who did change, and they managed to do it without hitting a highway embankment at high speeds. One can only hope that when God shows His mercy to someone, such as Willy, someone else is paying attention.

 1 1970 Population 454 

© – 2019

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Inerrantly Speaking

The Holy Bible, depending upon whom you ask, is either the literal word of God, a well-meaning but poorly written attempt at a morality play or something a group of scam artists developed to fleece ignorant peasants out of the what little treasure they had. Adding to the arguments and confusion surrounding the Bible is the fact within the options mentioned above are numerous hybrid points of view.

For example, some Christians may believe the New Testament is holy, but the Old Testament is a horror story. On the other hand, some atheists will claim the entire Bible, and all other “inspired” or religious works are myths. Then again, others may acknowledge some moral or philosophical value to the books.

Yes, the battle over the Bible has been raging for centuries.  Is it true, is it fiction? Is it a tool to control the easily influenced, is it a morality manual for how one should live? Whatever one believes about the Bible, one point of view should raise the hackles of believers, skeptics, and atheists alike.

Understandably, the thought that one could believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God is offputting to atheists and skeptics. The idea that anyone could have any significant knowledge of the Holy Bible and believe it is God-breathed is ridiculous to them. In the opinion of many, there are so many mistakes, conflicts, clearly fictional stories the book cannot be taken seriously. Believers, on the other hand, find it hard to fathom the inability of nonbelievers to see the Truth in the “Good Book.” [i]

If, as I am suggesting, these two ends of the belief spectrum regarding the Bible are understandable and rational, where is this piece going?  It is attempting to point out the danger of at least one belief system near the middle of the Judeo-Christian bell curve.  In between those who believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God and those who think the idea of a creator god is ignorant, if not laughable, lie a plethora of other views.  As noted above, one of those views should concern believers and naysayers alike.

Spiritual inerrancy is one of those terms most take for granted. We may not know precisely what someone means, but when the question of inerrancy comes up, it seems to be an excellent way to avoid saying the Bible is wrong.  Some who use the term admit they use it as a way to avoid confrontation over what many see as biblical inaccuracies or conflicts.  Others use it as a way to attack those who consider literal inerrancy a reality. They will claim believing the Bible, even in its original form, is the actual word of God prevents believers from seeing the higher spiritual truths within Scripture.

If that last sentence does not send chills up a believer’s spine, he or she may need to go pray about it for a while. What those individuals are saying is essentially what humanists and others push through their belief systems and traditions. Humans, in one way or another, can create or find a way of existence surpassing what the Bible teaches, and makes God unnecessary. Even those using the term may not realize that is the truth of their beliefs, but that is the reality of what they espouse.

Oh! I can almost hear the cries of hypocrisy, blasphemy, bigotry, and ignorance coming from those who read this and feel I am letting my mouth, okay my keyboard, overload my backside.  How can he say such a thing? We are not denying God! We are merely rejecting the belief that the Bible is the definitive, inerrant word of God! It is so limiting, and God wants so much more for us. The idea of inerrancy is keeping poor immature Christians from realizing how much they can achieve by looking beyond the typeface.

To be clear, they may be right. I may be the false teacher or prophet in the room. I may be the one listening to the whispers of the serpent telling me to think for myself.  I may be, but consider what else I have to say before condemning me to be stoned.

If the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, what does that mean?  Does it mean we can pick and chose which parts we believe? Does it mean we must doubt anything in the Bible that does not seem to be provable or supported by empirical data?  Does it mean our morality is dependent on the whim of the current culture, as many seem to believe today?  It would seem that is the case when one reads and hears some of the things people in the spiritual inerrancy camp say.

If the Bible is not the true word of God at some level, what is it?  Which stories are to be believed?  Is the God of the Old Testament the God of the New Testament?  If the Red Sea was not parted, Jonah was not swallowed, and the great flood was an overflowing creek, do we really need to fear and worship God?  Which brings us to the final thought.

The Bible is the saga of God’s plan for mankind.  From the Garden of Eden to the Second Coming, the Bible tells the story of God’s desire to create and nurture humanity.  Yes, there are parts of it we cannot understand.  Did it really only take God 144 hours to create the universe, including Adam and Eve?  Or, was that a man’s attempt to explain the inexplicable when an eternal Creator inspired the man to share the story?  The what ifs could go on for many pages, but I hope I’ve made that point.  Here is the rest of the story.

The Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22:21 tells the story of man’s salvation and ultimate destiny.  If the Bible is only a tall tale written to provide some moral or spiritual compass for those willing to dig into it, then Jesus the Christ is a figment of someone’s imagination.  If that is the case, the atheists, worse the nihilists, are correct, and life is essentially meaningless. Find the higher spiritual purpose in that!

[i] An informal name for the Bible, not to be confused with the humanist bible, The Good Book.


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Of Kings and a President

When it was clear Donald Trump would be our president, I was more than a bit concerned. Specifically, I told friends, “I pray he is our David and not our Saul.” As it turns out, he is a bit of both, and history will decide which reign his presidency most resembles.

If the paragraph above has you wondering what I’ve been drinking, let me assure you that is not the case. The only thing influencing me at the moment is my knowledge of biblical history, and it was the influence leading to the comment invoking the ancient kings. Consider the reference to Saul.

Saul was the first king of Israel. He was chosen by God when the Jews cried out to Him for a king. They were not happy with the leadership of judges. They wanted a king, just like all the other countries and tribes. They wanted someone who looked like a king, talked like a king, and acted like a king. God gave them Saul because he met their criteria.

The same can be said about President Trump. Many Christians and others were calling out for a change in leadership. By that, they did not mean a shift from one party to another. They wanted someone different, someone not part of the political swamp, and in stepped Donald Trump. He was precisely what the people were asking for at the time, which is why I referenced Saul in the first place.

In some ways, Saul’s story is a cautionary tale. Similar to the old adage, be careful what you wish for. Saul was a decent king for a time. Then he got himself into trouble with God. As the Bible teaches, crossing God was a risky business in Old Testament times, and Saul paid the price for his hubris. In fact, God sent Isaiah to anoint Israel’s new king long before Saul fell on his sword, which brings us to David.

The Bible teaches God ordered Samuel to anoint David as the future king when David was a child. He was chosen by God when he was still living at home with his family, and it would be years before David the man became king. In the interim, David did many good, even great things, and stayed faithful to the Lord God. After Saul killed himself to avoid being captured by his enemies David assumed the throne.

David was a man after God’s own heart and did God’s will. He also did a few things that were not God’s will, such as taking another man’s wife and orchestrating that man’s death. Later, he, as had Saul, decided he could move forward without God’s blessing. God chastised David for that move.  Yet, there was a difference between Saul and David.

David was allowed to live a full life. It was not without trials and turmoil, but in the end, he was still God’s chosen king. In fact, Jesus came from the line of David, which is a significant statement about how God can use a sinner to produce the future King.

For the record, this piece is not about politics. It is about the origin of one’s faith as a Christian, and how that faith leads you to see the world around you. Some people believe God appoints or allows certain people to come into power, as in the cases of Saul and David. Others believe God has no hand in such worldly matters, either because He chooses not to meddle, or He does not have the power to interfere. It is that divide which triggered this piece, and an article to be posted in the future. Either way, my comment stands.

I still pray President Trump is our David and not our Saul. At the moment he displays characteristics of both, and only time will tell if he falls on his sword, or marks the beginning of a new and better era for our nation.

© – 2019

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Trailer Hitches, Latigos, and Christ

I thought I’d heard every allegory, comparison, or simile one could imagine when it came to preaching. I’ve heard a pastor use M&Ms to make a point about generosity, and I’ve listened to a Bible study leader equate Job with ants. Those may not be at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are certainly a far stretch from comparing Jesus with a lamb or a shepherd.

Still, when a preacher starts talking about trailer hitches and latigos on Easter Sunday, you can be sure of two things. First, you are in a Cowboy Church. Second, you are going to experience an exciting sermon, and when he brought belt buckles into the equation, the humor made a point that was hard to miss. If you are wondering how these items can be used in an Easter message, you are in the same place I was Easter morning.

Before going into the sermon itself, I must make another point. If you’ve never heard traditional hymns performed by a country group with a steel guitar, you have missed something. With that said, I had one regret on this Easter morning. They did not sing “The Old Rugged Cross.” They did last year, and it was unbelievable. This year, one of the group did a solo of “He’s Alive.” It was amazing.

All right. Let’s get back to the message. To keep this as short and sweet as possible, the message was simple. Cowboys, boaters, and campers trust their expensive trailers, equipment, and livestock to a simple little steel ball every time they hook up their treasure to a truck. In the words of the pastor, a cowboy will trust tens of thousands of dollars worth of his stuff to a twenty-dollar trailer hitch ball. He went on to use a “ten-dollar latigo” and a fancy belt buckle to emphasize his point.

You don’t want the trailer hitch to break. You don’t want the latigo to break while you ride, and you certainly did not want Pastor Tim’s belt buckle to fail during the sermon. The pastor is a bit on the hefty side if you get my drift. Cowboy humor aside, the pastor used these examples to make his point.

As with the items mentioned above, we seem to treat the resurrection as one small part of the story. After all, Jesus raised people from the dead, and the Bible tells stories of others being called back to life, at least temporarily. Even today, we hear stories of people being clinically dead, but coming back to life due to modern medicine or miraculous means. In reality, the resurrection is one of the essential aspects of the story. Without it, we have nothing.

That was the point of Pastor Tim’s sermon. Without the resurrection we have nothing. The crucifixion of Jesus was horrible. He suffered greatly, and as the Bible teaches, he was a substitutional sacrifice for humankind. However, many creatures were sacrificed to atone for sins in the past. None of those sacrifices led to a guarantee of salvation and eternal life. By itself, the death of Jesus was not enough.

The question then becomes why was his sacrifice not enough. As the pastor saw it, the resurrection was necessary because Jesus said it was necessary. He said he would be crucified, buried, and rise again in three days. If he had not been resurrected, He was either deluded or a liar. At best, if he were not resurrected, he was simply another prophet. Another teacher, spreading a message. A message with no more validity than the preaching of others attempting to ride His coattails.

The resurrection is the trailer hitch to which we can hitch our future. It is the latigo that will keep us riding toward eternity with the Father. It is the belt buckle that holds our faith and hope together.

As with any sharing of a pastor’s message, these are my words, not necessarily the pastors. This was the message I heard him speak. To listen to the sermon yourself, click here. It is well worth a look.


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