Which Tree are You Eating From?

From the very beginning, God gave man a choice of eating from two trees. Our very existence would be determined by the tree we ate from. Before we decide which tree to eat from, we should probably look at the fruit that each one offers and the consequences from eating from each tree.

THE TREE OF LIFE

torrent-3119822_640

 

Type of Tree: SPIRITUAL 

Fruit: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL. Galatians 5:22

Emotional Result from Eating from the Tree:  CONTENTMENT  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:1

Motivational Driver: HUMILITY

Path to the Tree:  DELIBERATE CHOICE. “Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Ultimate Result from Eating from the Tree: ETERNAL LIFE

 

THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

tree-736885_640

Type of tree: FLESHLY 

Fruit: SEXUAL IMMORALITY, IMPURITY, DEBAUCHERY, IDOLATRY, WITCHCRAFT, HATRED, DISCORD, JEALOUSY, FITS OF RAGE, SELFISH AMBITION, DISSENSIONS, FACTIONS, ENVY, DRUNKENNESS, ORGIES. Galatians 5: 19-21

Path to the Tree: DEFAULT SETTING AT BIRTH. “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5

Emotional Result from Eating from the Tree:  LUST  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1John 2:16

Motivational Driver: PRIDE

Ultimate Result from Eating from the Tree: Eternal Death

 

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TWO TREES SET BEFORE US:  CHOOSE LIFE

I Know That I Don’t Know

dreamy trendy black woman sitting at table

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Last evening I listened to a black sportscaster and a black minister talk about the current problems in our society. They shared some of the experiences they had when they were growing up and I realized something: “I know that I don’t know what it is like to be black growing up in our society.” 

Mind you, I have had black friends and have interacted with many on a personal level. My father hired a black woman to take care of us when we were teenagers. He ordered Ebony magazine and had us read it so we could have an understanding of their culture. As a teenager, I protested outside of an establishment that wouldn’t allow blacks to be members. All that said, knowing about them and even knowing them has still not given me a true understanding of what their experience has been like.

In all of my interactions with my black friends, they have never shared their negative experiences with me. They bore their burdens quietly and with dignity and were a continual example to me. They never used their skin color as a reason for not succeeding at whatever endeavor they were trying to accomplish. One of my friends grew up in the south and I never heard her complain about the treatment she or her family must have received. I always waited for the subject to come up but it never did. One time she was talking about someone who was unkind to her at the store she worked at. Her comment was, “Oh well, they just don’t know any better.” That was her attitude…the people were just ignorant, and of course, they most certainly were.

I spent about an hour last night thinking about my friends and what it has been like for them. I was struck by the suffering they must have gone through each and every day just being a different color than the rest of us. This morning my heart has been expanded by allowing a part of their suffering to become my own. I can only join the Gaither Vocal Band and sing:

“I KNOW A CHANGE IS COMING, LET IT START IN ME.”

A News Fast

administration articles bank black and white

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The news from these last two weeks has been difficult to process. It has affected me emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I am sure that I am no different from the rest of you. When the news gets overwhelming to me and it begins to get me down, that is when I need a reset. I need to take a break, spend time with nature, or do something to rejuvenate my mind and heart.

Last night, I decided I would go on a news fast. For a few days, I will focus on the Lord, His word, and other positive things. Going on a news fast will allow me to get a better perspective, an eternal perspective if you will, of the world. I know my worldview will become more hopeful as I place my mind on the truths of God’s word.

Some of you have shared with me that you don’t even watch the news anymore. I can certainly appreciate your reasons but I can’t quite seem to do that myself. Taking a break from it will accomplish what I am looking for…peace of mind and a different perspective on current events. 

You might not need a news fast but I would encourage each one of you to take a break when needed and fill your minds and hearts with things that will uplift and encourage you. As the Scripture says:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

There is a day coming when there will be lasting peace on earth. The Prince of Peace will reign and He will establish true peace and justice on the earth. We can all take hope knowing that one day He (Jesus) will make all things right.

Hyenas are Easy to Hate

hyena-315125_640

Have you ever watched one of the National Geographic specials on television about the Serengeti? Especially beautiful are the migrations of the gazelles and zebras as they cross the plains. If you look closely though, following them in the tall grass are the hyenas. I watch them with horror as I see the packs get into position to attack one of the weak or the young of the herd. At that point, I can’t watch the program any longer, I really can’t. I turn the television off because I am so angry at the hyenas. If there ever was an animal that is easy to hate, it is the hyena.

As I watched the demonstrations in the last few weeks, I noticed the hyenas at the edge of the crowds. I knew instinctively that there would be trouble as they tried to take advantage of an already volatile situation. And true to form, they looted businesses, burned buildings and beat innocent individuals, some of them even to death.  I grew angry as I watched them throw Molotov cocktails and destroy what it took people years to build. My anger continued towards them and my heart became hard when I thought of them. There was no love for them in my heart at all.

As I was thinking about them and the destruction they left in their wake, the Lord convicted me of my attitude. He doesn’t want me to have hate in my heart, even for those who hurt and destroy other people’s lives. Of all the crazy things, He wants me to have His kind of love for them, Agape Love. Agape Love is a love that loves unconditionally no matter what someone has done. He wants me to pray for them and pray they will see the error of their ways and turn their lives around. If that’s not enough, He even wants me to pray a blessing on their lives.

So, I have begun to pray for them because I don’t want hate to get a foothold in my heart. At first it was difficult, but as the days have gone by, it is getting easier and easier to pray for them. I haven’t been able to pray that God would bless them yet, but my heart is getting softer and even that doesn’t seem like such a stretch any longer.

I don’t know how you feel about hyenas, but if you are struggling with anger and a bunch of negative emotions, talk to the Father of Lights about it. He will give you His Agape Love. It will fill your hearts and you will find your attitudes changing. In the end, only Love will change the day; not force, not violence but God’s love producing goodwill in our hearts towards all men.

The Service for FREE SPEECH Will be Held Tomorrow

mourning-108781_1280

The service for FREE SPEECH will be held tomorrow in the Chapel on campus. Although the Chapel is a building held in disdain by many professors and students, it was the only place that would allow her service to be held. 

FREE SPEECH was born several millennia ago in Athens, Greece at the Socratic School. There she was taught about forming cohesive and logical arguments and debating them with others. She spent her early years on Mars Hill where for centuries men with different philosophical ideas shared their thoughts. Even the Apostle Paul went to Mars Hill to share his beliefs on the invisible God whom the Athenians worshipped. 

After several centuries FREE SPEECH decided she wanted to travel the world. She tried to be admitted to many different countries but she was not allowed in because of the danger she posed to the minds of their citizens. Almost all of the countries that allowed her in eventually treated her badly. She was imprisoned from time to time because various emperors, kings and dictators hated her ideas and wanted to silence her.

She found a friend in the United States in the 1700’s and came to spend much of her time there. She was healthy and strong until the late 1980’s when she contracted the virus Unpopularity. She thought this virus was benign but it actually opened her immune system up to another more virulent virus called Political Correctness. That virus turned out to be malignant and though it didn’t kill her immediately, she was in ill health after contracting it.

Due to her illness, she was rarely seen on campus after the turn of the 21st Century and few professors or students knew she actually existed. She lived in a back room at the library where she had been exiled by those in Academia. Because so few people came in to read and study, she was seen only rarely by a handful of students. Those that did know of her existence were afraid to talk about her for fear of reprisals.

She died quietly on campus one day when Political Correctness placed a small amount Group Think in her water glass. No one noticed she had expired as she had not been out of the library for well over a decade. When we heard of her demise, we sent in a Pathologist to confirm our suspicions. He was able to make a positive ID on her and so we have decided to hold a memorial in her honor.

She is survived by her first cousins: INDEPENDENT THOUGHT and  CRITICAL THINKING. Other close relatives include: ROBUST DEBATE AND INTELLECTUAL INQUIRY. Her best friend LADY LIBERTY will conduct the service and her husband COURAGE will speak on her behalf.

In lieu of flowers, those who knew FREE SPEECH believe her preference would be for each of you to go to a library and read a book of your choice (yes, even a Bible if you want to) and share the ideas you’ve learned with someone.

There will be plenty of parking behind the Chapel as only a few on campus knew she existed at all and will be attending. She will not be missed by many at the college as she was always a thorn in the sides of her professors and most students were afraid to associate with her. 

Hope to see you tomorrow!

IF We Believe Black Lives Matter, then…

protesters holding signs

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

IF we believe Black Lives Matter, then why don’t we protest outside abortion clinics in black neighborhoods? Why are we not holding up signs that say “Defund Planned Parenthood?” After all, Planned Parenthood was founded by none other than Margaret Sanger, a woman who believed in eugenics. Planned Parenthood clinics were deliberately placed in black neighborhoods to give women a “choice” when it came to birth control.  Since the early 1970’s, over 20 million black babies have been murdered in America. That’s not counting the countless thousands of black babies that have died on the African continent in an effort to keep their population under control.

IF we believe Black Lives Matter, then why are we not working with State School Boards and City School Boards to make sure education money is equally allocated so that inner city schools get their fair share of the tax revenue? Schools in poor black neighborhoods are notoriously underfunded and the literacy statistics are there to prove it. There has got to be a way to equalize funding within the state system and support a better educational system within low income communities.

IF we believe Black Lives Matter, then why are we not working with State Legislatures to stop incentivizing single parent families with our state funded programs? Why are we not working towards helping restore two-parent families within the back community? Two-parent families would give children the support and modeling they need in order to become a success in today’s society.

IF we believe Black Lives Matter, then why are we not outraged with the thousands of black lives lost each year with black on black violence? Can we not join with those who are working hard to stop gang violence and their control in our inner cities? This is one of the saddest problems going on in our inner cities and one of the least talked about in the press. 

IF we believe Black Lives Matter, then why would we encourage the police departments to be defunded? Don’t we know that it will be the poorest of the poor who will suffer the most from the lack of police protection? Are we really thinking about black lives when we use those slogans and support those ideas?

IF we own a Corporation and we support the Black Lives Matter movement, then why aren’t we bringing jobs back to our cities so that young black people can have the opportunity to get decent middle class jobs and have a shot at the American dream? 

We can hold up signs all day long that say “Black Lives Matter,” but what are we actually going to do to show that black lives do matter? There are plenty of people within the black community who are working hard to deal with these issues and they could surely use our support. Most of these issues are not about race, they are about economics and educational inequality. At the end of the day, blacks are no different than whites. They want to be able to get a good education, have a decent job that can support a family, own their home and live in a safe neighborhood where they are respected by others. 

Phileo – A Personal Cure for Racism

girls-462072_640

I must have heard the term “racism” at least a hundred times last week; but what does it truly mean? The primary definition in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capabilities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority in a particular race.” That is one definition for the word but it is not the only kind of racism in the world. A lot of racism is ethnic or religious and has nothing to do with the color of a person’s  skin. Visit any country and you will find people who believe they are superior to another group of people who share their same nationality. Many believe they are superior to those living in the countries along their borders.

How do we get those beliefs inside of us and where do they come from? If we examine our own belief systems, we will see that most prejudice inside of us has been taught to us since the time we were small children. Remarks may have been made around our home or in the neighborhoods we lived in about people who were different than us. Did we always agree with those remarks? Probably not, but somehow those attitudes may have wormed their way inside of us in a way we were not aware of at the time. We could also have had a bad experience with someone from a different nationality or ethnicity, and so we formed a generalization about those that shared the same characteristics as the person that hurt us. 

I believe that racism is a form of hatred. We may have even heard the words, “I hate that person because they are…you fill in the blank. Racism hates because of the racial, ethnic or religious differences of those around us. It is very easy to generalize about people groups, especially when we don’t know the individuals personally. We don’t believe we are bad people when we hold those kinds of beliefs, we think it is only natural to feel that way.

Natural or not, we need to confront those beliefs and seek to change our attitudes towards those who are not like us. Jesus told us to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”  There are many kinds of love in the world but the kind of love we need is “phileo.”  The word phileo is from the Greek and it means “friendship or brotherly love.” You’ve heard of Philadelphia…same root word.

Will it be easy to change? No, it will take time and determination. Every time we begin to generalize or think ill of those who are different than us, we must catch those thoughts and reject them. We must learn to view others as fellow human beings, our brothers if you will, whom we need to learn to love and care for. If we can personalize that love and reach out to others with that same kind of caring we would give our own brothers, it will go a long way in solving the problem of racism. 

Remember, we cannot fix the world around us until we can fix ourselves. 

Image by Cheryl Holt. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Wolves Among the Sheep

wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-2577813_640

This week we have watched demonstrations and riots across the United States. There have been legitimate protests and illegitimate riots. Many of those demonstrating peacefully have been blamed for the rioting and looting that took place. Why? Because people couldn’t tell the difference between the sheep and the wolves. 

So, how do we recognize the wolves among the sheep? At times, they may look pretty much the same, but a closer look will show us they are two completely different species.

Sheep travel in flocks. They are plant-eaters and docile. Sheep do not think for themselves and follow whoever is leading them. Sheep will trample the grass they are walking on but do not leave a trail of destruction behind them; the grass will grow back on its own. Sheep are awake during the day and sleep at night. 

Wolves travel in packs. They are carnivores and rapacious. They have a leader and a malevolent plan for  chaos and violence. They rip and tear their prey and leave a trail of destruction behind them. They will steal and kill without a second thought. Wolves  are nocturnal, they may hunt during the day but primarily come out at night to attack their prey.

We have been watching wolves among the sheep. Let us be clear-eyed and discerning. If you can’t tell the difference between the two, then study the species until you can. One may seeming look like the other but they are not the same and we would be well served knowing the difference.

One thing is for sure, the sheep have been seeking peaceful meaningful change in our society. The wolves, on the the other hand, have wreaked havoc and are seeking the destruction of it. 

Image by SarahPickertArt.

Courage

hand-1917895_640

Have you ever wondered what is wrong with the human race? How can we continue to hate and hurt each other? You’d think that after a while (several thousand years) we would have learned our lesson…apparently not. The killing of George Floyd this week and the subsequent riots (notice I didn’t say protests) are an indication of the hatred and malice that exist in the human heart. 

When I watch the events taking place on the streets of some of our major cities, I just shake my head. I am saddened by the lack of leadership within the ranks of the rioters and it makes me miss some of my heroes. Take Mahatma Gandhi, for instance. He helped liberate his country from English colonialism. His philosophy of non-violent protest changed an entire nation. It took a lot of courage and character to react non-violently in the face of senseless violence but he became the Father of modern India and an example to the whole world.

Gandhi influenced another of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. He also believed in non-violence and through his preaching and example, he was able to lead this country out of the dark ages of racial segregation. It took courage and character to  stand toe to toe with the police but he and his followers were able to do it. They received the respect of the majority of Americans who wanted the insidious doctrine of racial segregation legislated out of existence.

If we want to honor the memory of George Floyd and every other American who was killed unjustly by a police officer, we must behave in a way that commands the respect of the people. The vast majority of Americans were appalled by the murder of George Floyd and were more than anxious to see the perpetrators brought to justice. However, the burning, looting and wanton destruction of property have elicited a different reaction to this tragedy. 

Now, all the American people can see are violent protests and angry mobs pillaging and looting. The tragedy of George Floyd is being obscured by the riots and the spotlight that should be on his death has now been shifted to the angry mobs. Make no mistake, it doesn’t take courage to torch a car or loot a business. It takes opportunism, greed and disrespect for the property rights of others.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. threatened the status quo. Their courage in the face of evil was a shining example of how society could be changed by the practice of non-violent protests. The agitators who are leading the violent protests will not change society; they will only leave a wave of destruction in their path. Nothing will justify their behavior and they are certainly no example of courage or character. 

Image by truthseeker08. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Dead Relics

person holding up a jaw bone with teeth remains of an animal

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND on Pexels.com

“Henry Ford believed the soul of a person is located in their last breath and so captured the last breath of his best friend Thomas Edison in a test tube and kept it evermore. It is on display at the Henry Ford Museum outside Detroit, like Galileo’s finger in the church of Santa Croce, but Edison’s last breath is an invisible relic.”  Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World.”

For the past few months, humanity has endured the pandemic. It has been worldwide, impartial as to race or sex and devastating to the elderly and infirm. The virus has caused fear to be rampant among millions and millions have sought security in a variety of ways. Some have sought security in their religion, others have sought it with their friends and family, while others have been at a loss as to where to find it. Some have even sought their security from dead relics.

What are dead relics? Dead relics are material items from the past. They may be parts of bodies, clothing, pieces of art, wood, rocks, or strands of hair to name just a few. Some ascribe an almost magical force to them, hoping they have the power to keep one safe. In some cultures, people wear them on their bodies or around their necks as a talisman. You’ve seen the pictures in National Geographic and so have I. 

There are several problems with placing our confidence in dead relics but here are just a few. Have you ever visited a holy site and people are selling relics? Do you really think they are what the sellers claim they are? I mean really, how many pieces of the cross of Christ are there? If I bought one and kept it near me hoping it would protect me, I would only be deluding myself. The truth is that many “sacred relics” are fraudulent, packaged only to make money for the seller.

As we move forward and attempt to reintegrate into society, we each must ask ourselves a few questions, “Where am I getting my security from? Is it coming from the living God or from dead relics?” These might seem like odd questions but in reality we must come to terms with them as we move forward. Security is a primary human need and we will all seek it in one way or another depending on our belief system.

We have a choice though. There is a living God waiting for us to seek Him and ask Him to be our Protector and Friend. We only have to ask, it’s our choice. Dead relics or the Living God? 

“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.”  Jeremiah 10:10.