That ????? 2020

2020 is a most inexplicable year for members of the human race. Neck deep fighting a world-wide killer. Hearts feeling fears, anxieties and questions – deeper and stronger and longer than ever experienced before. Many have lost loved ones without the closure that comes by being with near as they pass. No gathering for a funeral service. No burial. Human hearts are being bruised and battered – north, south, east and west. What do we do about our hearts?

We are mandated by our Creator to take care of our hearts. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Pro. 4:23 (NIV). Such a thing was neither natural nor intuitive with me. “My heart is to be crucified, not fed,” I said, “There is a great commission to fulfil, who cares how I’m doing on the inside!”[1]  So, over some decades I have learned a few things that I want to pass on about “guarding our hearts” during this difficult time.

1. Be honest with yourself. We talk to ourselves all the time, an inner monologue from morning to night. Listen in. Examine it. Look for half-truths, minor twists of reality, or even outright lies within your monologue. Many of us possess a negative bent that is not helpful to ourselves, and not honoring to our Creator and Lord. Time to clean up our inner monologues.

2. Feel what you need to feel. Don’t criticize yourself for how you feel. Hear that? Give yourself a break – a hundred breaks a day. Feelings are human, the mechanisms are built-in by our Creator Himself. They are a result of what is happening within and without. When we find ourselves down, down in the depths, feel it, but don’t take it out on yourself. Own it, but realize that it is temporary. You are not defined by, nor locked into these feelings.

3. Seek help. If you can’t physically be with the people you need, then pick up the phone, get them online, connect with them however you can. Connect with a trusted friend or family member or professional counselor or pastor. It is OK to bawl our heads off with someone on the other end. Do this when the occasion calls for it. But let this be a part of something bigger. Seek help for healing. Listen to ones you trust. Let them help you with your inner monologue. Let them correct your skewed assessment of yourself. Face the fact that you are loved. That some people might be willing to give their lives for you.

4. Let your heart lead you into the arena of the spirit. Feelings of loss, loathing, loneness, and despair might seem to come from the depths of your being. It indeed feels that way. But you are more than body and soul. Everyone is more than a body plus a soul. There is a core nature residing in us, deeper, stronger, and truer than our hearts or souls. Every human is a physical, social and spiritual being. This spirit creates a connection with the Spirit of spirits, the Creator Himself. Let the troubles warring within us lead us to HIM.

How can this happen? How can we “know” an Eternal, Invisible, Spiritual Being? Please consider these following 4 things.

1. He who made us is repeatedly summoning us to meaningful relationship with Himself. This may not make logical sense. It may go against what you have come to believe and how you feel. But perhaps your reading this far is part of His summoning you to come. Can you be open to take a few steps in His direction?

2. The Creator gave humans such great power and responsibility that from the beginning, the health and future of this universe was placed in our hands.  Yep. You read that right. God is a generous delegator. He created the living, breathing, growing masterpiece of our universe and handed over ownership and management to the first humans (Gen. 1,2). Those humans did the absolute worst thing [outright disobedience] and things went downhill from there. But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

3. Every good thing you see, acts of kindness by yourself and others, acts of forgiveness, people like our health workers who serve above and beyond their occupation. The beauties of our natural world all around us, if we simply take an honest look. See these signposts showing us the original design of the Creator, and what is in His heart. He is a Being of love, imagination, beauty and generosity.  The deepest needs and longings of our hearts will find their answer in Him and His people, but how is this possible?

4. There is something in the Bible called “the mystery of the gospel”, “the mystery of Christ.” It is something everyone needs to hear and consider. If you know some Christians that you trust, please talk with them. Ask them to help you come to Christ. If you would like to respond to this post please feel free to do so. I can be reached directly at  Let your heart lead you deeper, lead you to discover the Spirit side of life.

There is more to life than we have experienced yet. More to this life on earth that God has planned for us. During these difficult times, listen to your heart, search for the Spirit, come to connect with the True and Living God. I will close with a most popular greeting. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]  

[1] This has been called “worm theology” (based on a misapplication of Ps. 22:6). It denies the effectiveness of Jesus’s death for today. It denies the Fatherhood of our heavenly Father. And it denies the cleansing, renewing and empowering work of God’s Spirit within.

[2] 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phi. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 The. 1:2

Start of Journey

I was set on a journey by this message on Twitter. The journey is painful, lonely, costly. I am maybe 1% along and determined to continue to the end.

My ignorance of the background of hundreds of millions of people is shameful. Yes, their history was never taught in school, repressed for whatever reason. But if I said I cared about them, why did it take up to a few days ago for me to ask Google to tell me who Jim Crow was? This is not right.

How I would like to see my relatives, friends, friends of friends also enter this painful but enlightening journey. We will be better people for doing it. How about you?

Blessings everyone.

Beyond Geo-Centrism

Time for a Paradigm shift

1. Pre-science and anti-science earthlings might argue over whether the earth was flat, or round, or something else; but they would be united in the idea that the earth is a fixed point and the sun is the moving object. The sun obviously comes up on one side of earth and goes down on the other side. So, the earth is a fixed point with all the celestial bodies moving accordingly. This is Geo-centrism.

Geo-centrism made sense. It was a convenient and obvious way to envision our universe. It makes us very important.

2. A scientist, Copernicus, after considerable study, and with considerable opposition, “blew-up” this misconception and turned it on its head. He replaced Geo-centrism with Helio-centrism (Helio = Sun).  Astronomy clearly showed that the earth is merely one planet, among several others, that rotates around the center of our “solar system”, our mighty sun!

This understanding makes us humans seem a bit smaller, but at least things remain orderly, and we have a solid, fixed point that our daily routines revolve around. Whew.

Helio-centrism made our planet rather less impressive, but still left us a very easy and convenient way to visualize the universe. Our mighty sun, who welcomes us every moring, is the fixed point, the centerpoint of physical existance.     

This was perhaps the biggest, most famous paradigm shift in science. The movement from Geo-centrism to Helio-centrism was so big that it shook up science, philosophy, religion, and worldviews all over the earth.

A Greater Shift

3. But this obviously isn’t the end of the story. Astronomers continued their research and it became obvious that the Sun is not the almighty, fixed point that we might want it to be. Nope. There is a whole galaxy of suns out there, with uncountable moving parts similar to our mediocre sun and solar system.

There is a whole lot of movement out there. And, our galaxy is just a mediocre galaxy among billions of other galaxies.

What has this knowledge done to us as human beings?

We moved from:

  1. Kings roaming the magnificent center of a Geo-Centric universe. To
  2. Nobles on a great planet orbiting the grand Center of the Helio-centric universe. To
  3. Tiny microbes, clamoring all over each other, on a tiny spec of a planet, orbiting a mediocre star, in the midst of a bland galaxy, moving aimlessly amidst billions of other expansive galaxies. We hang out in the non-nil-nada-centric, incalculable, never-ending “fallout” from a huge, big bang.

This is certainly not ego-building material.

Indeed. Astronomy is a very difficult field of scientific study to live with.

Science tells us about our world, our physical make-up, and the physical ways and laws of this universe. But this is a small part of what us humans really need.

It doesn’t calm our fears. Doesn’t unite our souls. Doesn’t show any future promise.

Science is great, but it doesn’t deal with the biggest issues of life. Why do we exist? Who are we in relation to everything else? How is it that we study and conceptualize so long and hard and yet come up with very different answers? Is it even possible to know what life is all about?

Consider some Ontology

We know within ourselves that certain things are true. Such as, Human life has worth. If a leader wants to sacrifice the life of 40,000 people in order to save 200,000, we want to exhaust every possible way to save all 240,000 lives. We do this when humans are involved, but not if it is ants or fish or camels. This is who we are. We know within ourselves that human life has great, intrinsic value.

We know (whether we admit it or not) that life, in some form or another, continues after the grave. Evidence for this is found in the debate above.

The necessary shift

4. Individuals, families, communities, regions and nations of the world need to move out of the  “non-nil-nada-centric” understanding of the universe into the actual universe. The universe created by the most creative, intelligent, powerful, magnificent Being in existence.

God is GOD

He must be the center, the foundation, the focus… of any paradigm, any understanding of life, the world, the universe, human existence, past, present, future, etc.. We can pretend to live life apart from God, but such actions are the efforts of ignorance (Ps. 14:1).

  • “He is the Creator of everything that exists.” Jer. 51:19.
  • He is everywhere throughout the universe. “’Can anyone hide from me…? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ Says the Lord.” Jer. 23:24.
  • He is active in earth’s affairs. “I am watching, and I will certainly carry out my plans.” Jer. 1:12; “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jer. 29:11.
  • He placed mankind as the center of the created universe, because we have a connection with God that nothing else has. “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign…”.  “’Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,’ says the Lord.” Jer. 2:11-12.

He is a personal being. He is a social being. He exists in dynamic relationship from eternity to eternity. He always has been and always will be magnanimous, loving, and true. He wants you and me and everyone willing to live in dynamic, daily relationship with HIM.

Live and grow and enjoy living every day the GOD centric universe!

Reading the Bible with God at your side

Episode 2[1]

This heading may seem strange, unusual, perhaps irreverent. Yet, reading the Bible while conscious of its Author’s physical presence will make a huge difference to your reading. He becomes the proverbial “elephant in the room.”[2] You can’t ignore Him. He doesn’t go away. You are obligated to relate everything you read to HIM.  You must respond.

Arriving at what we call the second verse of the Bible, some unexpected statements appear.

It’s a murky, confusing scene! “Formless and empty” is the created earth. “Covered with darkness” are the deep waters.  And “hovering” over this darkness is the Spirit of God.  What? How? What?

One’s mind wants to run down many “rabbit trails” with questions and answers and arguments and debates, but Oooops! Almost forgot. The Author is still right here in the room! What now? You look around feeling rather self-conscious.

Stop your racing mind! Realize that minuscule, human minds are no match for Almighty God! It is His Word! Time to at least bow your head, admit confusion, and ask questions humbly!

You are a God of order, not disorder (1 Cor. 14:33), so how does this “new heavens and new earth” begin in such a mess?

Also, you are a God of light, and in you is no darkness at all (1 Jo. 1:5), but why is your earth “covered with darkness?”  I would really like some answers, Divine Author!

Silence. You bow and ask again. Silence still.

Then a thought comes to mind, something to explore. Maybe this thought came from Author Himself.

The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we want to know.

We can’t get answers from the Bible if the answers aren’t there! If the answers aren’t there, then God must consider those questions as not so important! It is actually healthy to have unanswered questions. Questions keep us humble and seeking. Two health-inducing qualities! 

It might be time to get on the ol’ knees again. “Author, I want to trust you, that you both know and do what is best.”

Somehow Deuteronomy 29:29 comes to mind and you look it up.

“The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” Amen.Leave the questions hanging. Time to move on, tomorrow, to the exciting next 6 days!

[1] Episode #1 happened in relation to Gen. 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And involved stooping to the ground in amazement.

[2] Large, out-of-place, unavoidable, can’t get out of your mind, makes one feel awkward, small, vulnerable,….

Reading the Bible with God at your side

This heading may seem strange, unusual, perhaps irreverent. Yet, reading the Bible while conscious of its Author’s physical presence will make a huge difference to your reading. He becomes the proverbial “elephant in the room.”[1] You can’t ignore Him. He doesn’t go away. You are obligated to relate everything you read to HIM.  You must respond.

An Example

Words that have become so familiar suddenly take on a new light. What is your response to Genesis 1:1 (when the Creator is there in the room with you)?

                “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

You might start with a simple “Thank you Lord, for creating this universe and giving me the opportunity to live in it.” 

But have you really recognized the “elephant in the room”? 

Isn’t the above response rather flippant and casual? 

Fall on the ground before Your/The Creator!  Be in awe! Stay on the ground for a few hours in the presence of such a One! Recognize this Living, Personal Being who created all things and is aware of little-ol’-you, and is there at your side!

This is a taste of what “Reading the Bible with God at your side” is about. The Bible is His book, His message, His truth, His word to you and everyone else on this planet.

[1] Large, out-of-place, unavoidable, can’t get out of your mind, makes one feel awkward, small, vulnerable,….

Clashing Value Systems – Western vs Majority World

A significant awakening or realization is spreading around the globe. People recognize a major divide between how societies understand life, how they interpret the world around them, and upon what foundation they base their values and morals. The desire is there to understand and connect across this divide.

Two main issues create this divide between what can be called “Western Cultures” (which form Western Worldviews)[1] and a “Non-western Cultures” (which form Non-western World views). These two issues can be labelled as follows:

  1. Collective Identity (Collectivism) differentiated from Individual Identity (Individualism).
  2. Honor/Shame values and morals distinguished from Guilt/Punishment values and morals.[2]

Collective Identity and Honor/Shame values conjoin in Non-western Cultures.

Individual Identity and Guilt/Punishment values conjoin in Western Cultures.

Human beings are inherently blind to our deepest assumptions, gained unawares from early childhood through enculturation. These assumptions are so pervasive and integral they create blind spots and selective learning that colors most everything we do, even as we approach the Word of God.

Which Side of the Divide?

Research clarifies which side of the divide original authors and readers of the Bible functioned. Therefore, readers of the Bible who grow up on the other side must add an extra step to their study and interpretation of God’s Word.

The Bible expresses its messages almost exclusively in the vocabulary and thought forms of Collective Identity and Honor/Shame values.

Consider for a moment the book of Romans and its themes, then consider this statement:

“Did you know the words ‘shame’, ‘honor’, and ‘glory’ appear 40 times in Romans (while ‘guilt’, ‘innocence’, and ‘forgiveness’ appear only twice in Romans)?”[3]

Yet, much writing and preaching on Romans in the western world emphasizes guilt and punishment with God as judge. Commentators and preachers of Romans present the gospel primarily as a forensic message, yet a brief vocabulary count doesn’t back this up. Let this be a wake-up call.

Understand the Divide

Every human being is born into things bigger than themselves. Everyone is born into a family, consisting of a nuclear family and a larger extended family. Each individual and their families are part of larger connections, perhaps a clan and a tribe, but certainly a community, a society, and a nation.

People in the majority world focus more on these bigger things – these connections – while the western world does less so.

Western societies place great focus on the individual. A child must learn to “think for themselves.” Know right and wrong, good and evil, and how to be a good and productive citizen. They are being prepared to eventually “be on their own,” i.e., be independent, self-aware, and carve out their own unique identity and niche in life.

Individualism: People raised in an “individual oriented” family and society have within themselves a set of assumptions and outlooks-on-life (world view) that they may be unaware of and are dramatically different from the majority people on this earth. These people (the author being one of them) need to look over the fence and study those majority people and how they tick (Collectivism).

This is of great importance for someone studying Jeremiah (both the person and the book) because neither Jeremiah nor any of the people he dealt with were British or American or 21st century or individualistic. The writer of Jeremiah had no awareness of individualistic assumptions and values that Westerners now bring to his text. He addressed his writing to a population that shared his non-western assumptions and worldview and values and interests. We, as educated readers, are obliged to go the extra mile to bridge the gaps of time and culture and understand the ancient text as originally intended.[4]

Understand Collectivistic (rather than Individualistic) Thinking

There are two parts to understanding the ancient world (and current majority world) who see and think collectively.

  1. Group-interest Outweighs Self-interest

People who grow up and flourish in collectivistic cultures are not self-centered; their ethics and values do not emanate from themselves. They are self-aware, but their awareness tells them they are a part of a larger group of people that is more important than themselves as individuals. Group-interest far outweighs self-interest. Their identity, focus, and confidence is gained as a member of their group.

  1. Two Audiences in View

It is within this strong Collectivistic thinking that Honor/Shame (HS) dynamics function.

Honor/Shame oriented people navigate each day not focused on their own happiness or welfare. They look outside themselves, to the whole group or groups (starting with the family) in which their identity rests.

They are ever aware of two audiences.[5]

  1. The first and most important group watching them is the people within their own identity group. Each individual in the group wants to please and honor and strengthen their group through their behavior, words, and their physical and monetary contributions.
  2. The other group consists of everyone outside their group. Outsiders are constantly watching and appraising them. The HS person wants their own behavior and words to reflect well on the reputation and status of their group. Each individual wants to contribute favorably to their group’s honor, importance, and strength in the eyes of all outsiders.

These perceived audiences are very real and their influence goes deep to the core of HS orientated people.[6] Awareness of these audiences directs the individual’s behavior and decisions constantly and such a lifestyle is normal in their eyes.

Children are not taught an abstract list of right and wrong, they are directed to bring joy and honor to their people. Moral accountability is found in this desire to honor and bring honor. HS ethics are not abstract, they are concretely relational.

Two Guiding Priorities

Honor/shame people are certain of two things:

  1. They belong to a group (or groups) of people and need that group more than the group needs them. The group will stand by them just as they must stand by all others in the group. Fulfilment comes in making favorable contributions. And the primary people appraising them is their group themselves, not outsiders.
  2. They know they represent their group in the eyes of all outsiders. What they do as an individual should always honor and strength the group.

Therefore, the priorities are this: 1, The group is imperative, and I am a small part. I increase my worth as a contributing member. I must always be loyal to my group. 2, My group must appear good and honorable to all those outside the group. The strength and health of my group is of prime importance to myself and everyone in it.


What this means for understanding Jeremiah

Jeremiah’s call to be spokesperson for the Living God caused an upheaval within him. Submission required a major paradigm shift. Namely, unquestioned loyalty to family and people must to be exchanged for unyielding allegiance to the Living God.

Jeremiah knew instinctively there would be clashes between these parties. Major clashes. He is impelled to speak against the entrenched behavior and attitudes of his family and people. They will view him with disdain; as disloyal, forsaking their group, shaming them in the eyes of others. Something their son or brother or uncle should ever do.[7]

[1] These are broad categories with subgroups and variables, and only generalities are offered here.

[2] The focus in many circles of Biblical study is very much on this second issue, but it will be argued here that the first one (identity) is foundational and must be the starting point for bridging the gaps in understanding.

[3]6 Places Honor & Shame Hide in the Bible”, Posted on July 31, 2014 by www.HonorShame.Com. [A very informative website, by the way].

[4] Fortunately, Biblical scholars have been aware of this in recent times and have given concentrated study on the issues involved.

[5] This “two audiences” claim is overly simplistic, but it is used here for a purpose. There is elasticity (rather than rigidity) in these two groups/audiences.

[6] The strength of this social, relational “connectedness” is revealed in statements like the following. “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.” Pro. 25:18. See also Jer. 18:18.

[7] This is the context and impetus behind Jeremiah’s “awkward” laments. They may be seen by us as self-pity, unfit for a man of his caliber and calling. “Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb.” “Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame.” Jer. 20:17, 18. This is different from self-pity. It is grief over the seeming betrayal and failure in the eyes of those he cared about. It is frustration over knowing what his people need, but them not seeing it. “I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief.” Jer. 8:21.