Greetings to all:
Before computers, Ipods, Notebooks, and even television, there was a simple way to entertain ones self. Men and women alike, old or young, didn’t matter, would sit on the front porch and whittle. They would use a small knife which was generally kept very sharp, to peel small slivers of wood off a large branch or board. This wasn’t to create anything for the most part, but a past time to whittle away the day.
Most young people today wouldn’t understand doing something so simple and seemingly unproductive. They would argue, time would be better spent in front of a TV or playing a computer game, something like that, but not whittling. But, it wasn’t just whittling that was the goal; it was also a time of reflection, spending time thinking what it meant to be human, something many of our folks could do a lot more of. It had a practical side as well; it produced shavings for the wood stove to help start a fire for warmth or cooking, or used in the garden as mulch.
For me, whittling has a spiritual element as well; while shaving small slivers from the branch many scriptures come to mind. How we are grafted into the family of God according to Romans eight, and as I remove another sliver, it reminds me we can be broken off as well. Each shaving reminds me of the stripes Christ received for my sins. How each sin is removed one stroke at a time, until a very clean, shinny stick sits where a rough, dirty, swollen branch once was.
You see whittling wasn’t replaced by something better; it was replaced by something that helped us forget about Christ and the Father in heaven. Maybe we all could learn more, if we spent more time whittling. Our minds would be open with hardly any interference at all, and with each stroke of the knife, God could speak to us.
Two ministers were rushing to catch a train. Afraid they were late, one looked at his watch but found it had stopped. “This is awful,” he said. “I’ve always put such faith in this watch.” “This is once,” said the other, “when good works would probably have served better.”
Why is there such turmoil over works in the religious community? Are we afraid of the implications of the word work? Without works, our declaration of faith has no grounding. We can proclaim from the highest mountaintop,” I have faith,” but it means very little in actuality, because we can proclaim anything. I can proclaim to be a Harvard professor, having no proof I earn any degrees or went through the training; I can’t substantiate my claim.
Works show our faith; they validate our heart, our willingness to follow Christ. And in truth, doesn’t the mainstream churches believe in works, they just don’t want to use that terminology because they may have to admit to a few things they reject. They believe if you do well you go to heaven, and if you’re bad, you go straight to hell. What determines whether you’re good or bad, your works of course!
Works are evident even where they’re dismissed. Leaders of great authority in the most popular churches say works are dead. The truth is, works have always been a fundamental structure of God’s church. Feeding the orphans, taking care of the widows, and obeying Christ, these are our greatest works. These are the efforts that show our faith, without one we lack the other. Don’t let the world fool you into believing works are nothing, when they’re everything when it comes to showing your faith.
How much garbage can we consume spiritually before it affects us in very serious ways? When we think about what we see and hear on a daily basis do we take time to evaluate the consequences it may have upon anyone of us. There’s a story that goes something like this.
A mother was peeling vegetables for a salad when her daughter, recently home from college walked in the kitchen. In their conversation the daughter mentioned she was going to go to a questionable movie that evening with friends. Her mother reached down picked up a handful of garbage and threw it unceremoniously into the salad. “Mom!” said the shocked young lady. “You’re putting garbage in the salad.” “I know,” replied the mother, “but I thought that if you didn’t mind putting garbage in your mind, you certainly wouldn’t mind a little bit in your stomach.”
Humans are spiritual sponges; we tend to soak up the things that appeal to us. When we’re younger the appealing things are violent videos, horror movies, and X rated comedies. All these things tell us, “It’s okay to expose ourselves to more and more.”
But what’s even more troubling as we become older and wean ourselves from questionable things of our youth; garbage takes on a new form in religion.
Religion, for the sake of religion, isn’t religion. What do I mean, you ask? Not all religion is good, and not what the world considers bad religion is wrong, let me explain. Most of today’s religion is based upon old religions; they’re just in a different package made to look new. But the fact is, they’re very old beliefs based upon the sun, moon or stars, which God condemns us for worshiping.
There is one religion that has never changed, and the world hates it bitterly. But it’s the one religion that is good for us. It’s like the salad we eat everyday, full of healthy food, which have always been good to eat and are good for us. It’s the peelings that are garbage, and many religions are just that, scrapings from the good, and as my mom always said, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Teach your children better choices, both in life and spiritually.
It is said, it takes a thousand words to paint a picture. Today I believe it would take many more words than a thousand to paint even the most basic of images. Words have become cheap so you get more for less. They’re often broken and unrecognizable so you have to use more to get the same results.
Many words today seemed lost to us, because they’re not used in everyday conversations like they once were. Words like honor, people on the streets have other words to replace its meaning; gangster seems to be the preferred slang. Words like dignity, respect, aspire; endeavor, resiliency, and courage are words that have great meaning, they’re words that we all can appreciate. But these words are mostly used in our nation’s military institutions; they’re very common within the ranks of those who defend our society. You won’t find them used on the streets of Detroit, Saint Louis, or Chicago except by those that battle daily the drugs, thieves, and murders who have a language of their own.
Forgotten words for forgotten peoples; does a nation first lose its morals or its language; or, are they both tied together? Do words lift us up, or pull us down? The answer is in the language of the Constitution of the United States, The Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. These are uplifting words ground in truth and dreams of a people. They’re words of a moral peoples willing to die for their convictions and give all they have for there very existence.
Read these words written by men of courage and conviction again, then listen to the language on the streets and you’ll soon come to realize why we suffer as a nation. We’ve forgotten these words; they don’t resonate as they once did. At one time in this nation these words were taught to every child old enough to read, now they are rarely spoken in the institution of learning, even colleges.
When we become ignorant as a nation, then those that have the reigns of power will become our dictators. Only through knowledge do we sustain our freedoms, only through words once spoken but now forgotten by many can we remain a nation of God.
Do you go straight to heaven when you die? The majority of the world and clergy would say absolutely, yes you do! I’ve heard countless sermons given in front of grieving family members telling them; their loved one was up in heaven at that very instance. People are taught the soul is eternal and it has to go somewhere when we breathe our last breath. It has to go to heaven or it will wind up in hell, or even worst yet be doomed to wander the earth scaring the hell out of everyone.
Where do we get this idea, this doctrine, because, it’s not taught anywhere in your bible. I heard that, “how would I know,” you ask. Scriptures give us unadulterated truth, man lies to us, can you believe that? If not; then, find eternal soul in the bible. Not there, am I right? Find where it says, “you go to heaven when you die.” That’s not there either, is it? You might want to say, in the scriptures it says, “Where I will be you will be also.” True enough, but where does the bible say Christ will spend the next thousand years after His return? Good old terra ferma is where, read Revelations 20, yea the whole chapter, it will be good for you, and add 21 if you get ten extra minutes in your day. We’ll spend a thousand years on this world with Christ as spiritual beings, doing His work, doesn’t sound like the heaven I’ve always heard about.
The bible speaks of resurrections John 5:29 says there are two resurrections of man, so where do we fit? Let me tell you a few more secrets, John 3:13 says, “No man has ascended into heaven, except the son of man.” Another one you can highlight 1Cor. 15:20 Christ first, then His church; after that, the rest of the dead are raised. Wow, add all that up and I’ll ask once more. Where do you get the idea from the bible, you go to heaven when you die, or your soul somehow lives on? Do you believe man, or do you believe scripture?
I had a friend that always went around saying, “Jesus is cool.” He would say it all the time, and any time he got the chance where it would fit in a conversation. One day, I decided to ask him why he was constantly saying, “Jesus is cool.” Especially since he rarely darkened the door of the church he claimed to be a member of. His response to me was, He liked his style, Christ was loving, caring and forgiving, totally unlike the one in the Old Testament. He didn’t hold all those old laws over our heads and make us do things we didn’t like. “What things are those,” I asked him, trying not to offend him. His reply, “You know, those things. I dropped it there to proceed down a different course of questions I thought would be more productive.
I asked him, “Have you ever read John chapter 1: verses 1 through 18?” “Sure I have” he said confidently. “Then you know who Christ is, because it states: ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.’” “Yea, so what are you saying,” was the response as though I had said something trivial.” “Do you understand English,” was my next question. “So you’re saying Christ had something to do with making the earth?” Yes, it’s very clear,” I assured him, “read it yourself.”
“Then why doesn’t it say Christ was God in the Old Testament?” which was a very good question from him. “Oh, but it does,” was my comeback. In 1st Corinthians 10 verses 1-13 the scriptures make it absolutely clear who Israel was following in the dessert, “verse 4 states: and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
“What do you say to that?” I asked my friend. “I have a bible at home and it doesn’t say any of that,” was his reply, and end of conversation. Jesus is cool, my friend was right, but He was the creator, the one that gave the laws to Moses. Hebrews says, “He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.” Have you looked in your bible lately to see how you’re worshiping, perhaps it time you checked, just like my friend.
Many years back, I was in a conversation with one of my college professors and we were discussing religion. He asked during the conversation why I did certain things different from his beliefs. My response was, because we are instructed to do them according to scripture. He replies back in no uncertain terms, “I’m saved by grace.” That was the end of the conversation, to him there was nothing more to discuss, being saved by grace was the end all of everything religious to him. There was nothing else he needs to do, or no other consideration needed to be examined. It was like being saved by grace gave him a license to disobey God when it didn’t suit his vision.
Does being saved by grace give one cart blanc to choose whether or not to obey God? Is there more to do after being saved by grace? Or do we just towing the line with man’s traditions? Does God expect more from us than just lip service? Last question, does being saved by grace means we have absolute salvation? Some might say you’re bound for hell if you keep sinning, how does that work?
We have a Father in Heaven that loves his children. If our physical father loves us but expects us to obey him, what then is the difference with God? Some Christians go out of their way to disregard God’s will. I’m saved by grace, but that’s not the end of the relationship with God, it’s the beginning. Christ said JH 14:15, “If you love, keep my commandments.” Guess he was just joking according to some, but if you are a true believer, being saved by grace is the entrance in the Fathers house. Sinners won’t make it through that door, because sin is the transgression of the law, 1JH 3:4. My Professor was saved by the grace of God, he claims. He didn’t need to follow God’s will any longer, mans was good enough. I’m not good enough for Christ, but I will follow his will, how do you feel about the grace of God, is that all you need?