Monday, December 26, 2005

# 116: What Money Can and Cannot Buy/Do

It is totally understandable and natural why money is a necessity in life. It would be impossible to live without it. It is also comprehensible why no one would purposely desire to live in poverty. Nevertheless, as necessary as money is, there are basic human needs that money can’t supply. And these are the needs that God is concerned with, which only He can bring into existence. Also, the negative repercussions of riches will be exposed along with the effect it will have on wealthy Christians and those who seek wealth. Beyond that, the question that will be explained in detail is the elusive answer of why the complete New Testament has not one good word to say about wealth, money, riches, prosperity, the desire for money, or wealthy people. You will readily become aware of how Jesus Christ deems wealth, the perception of wealth via credit, or the desire for wealth as the forbidden apple for all who desire to be His followers. This next quote, along with another 20 or so more verses—which will appear at the end of this post—for some reason does not tell the whole story about the love of money or the harm it does. When the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy in 1st Timothy 6:10, he says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Still, he does not answer the question of why the love ofor money is evil. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ commands Christians not to engage in the desire for wealth, which usually leads to an extravagant lifestyle. This post will attempt to give a clear and succinct (short and not-so-sweet) answer, and then elaborate in further paragraphs. By the way, this section will contain some repetition, especially with pertinent details.

Here is the answer, and it is guaranteed that you will never hear it preached from behind any pulpit: Wealth and the desire for wealth is one of the best, if not the best, GOD SUBSTITUTES (replacements for God) in existence. God cannot compete with man’s/woman’s desire for wealth. God will, in most if not all cases, end up the loser. You might be thinking, If God is all-powerful, how can money be more powerful than He is? Answer: God gave all humans a free will; in order to defeat wealth, He would have to take our free will away. And He can’t do that and still be called a God of love. If He did take our free will away, we would be worthless puppets, and He would be no more than a tyrannical God. Therefore, it is not money/wealth, but our desire for it and what it can do for us that He cannot conquer in this age.

Actually, the best, if not the only, way to drive a desire for prosperity out of one's life is to find/experience one of greater value: Guess what it is? Repeating, actually, money is of no value in and of itself. It is therefore not money that has value; the value lies in the power money has to buy and do whatever the possessor desires. Since that is true, the above verse should read, “For the love of the power that money can produce is the root of all kinds of evil.” One of the reasons God is against Christians having excess money is that, in most cases, it separates instead of bringing people closer to Him. Remember, the only time a person goes after whatever is when he/she is aware of a need; the greater the need, the greater the desire to fulfill that need, be it spiritual or material. Although I will hesitantly say, which is a bit contrary to Scripture, that there may be wealthy people who truly love the Lord and their neighbors in desperate need, who denounce wealth, and who generously give most of what they make, save the bare necessities. Then the question remains: What are the bare necessities of the wealthy?

There are only two wealthy believers mentioned in the gospels: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The question I pose is, How long did they remain wealthy with all the needy in the early church in Jerusalem? I will quote Acts 4:32. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” If one reads between the lines in the above verse, it seems to indicate that the seemingly almighty power that wealth wields is contrary to all that God desires for His people. Here is a hard choice for anyone in his/her right mind: Almighty God, or the almighty, powerful dollar? Of course, as the Apostle Paul said, “If I am out of my mind, it is for the sake of God. . . .” 2nd Corinthians 5:13. That verse implies that Christians have to be out of their [worldly] minds in order to live and believe as Christ commands.

In God’s sight, what are some of the negative qualities that tag along, as ever-present shadows, in the lives of wealthy “Christians”? One of the most prevalent, though quite unknown, attributes of wealth is that it deceitfully says, “I can satisfy all your needs”; nevertheless, we have many human needs that money cannot touch. As is written in Mark 4:19, “. . . but the worries of this life, THE DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful,” [emphasis added]. Also, wealth, or even the perception of wealth, makes people believe they are mighty gods, along with a feeling of being invincible. Here are more: The emotions that wealth produces are what offend God: emotions that mimic attributes that belong only to Almighty God. When people are mindful of being barefoot and hungry (human frailties), they can be made aware of the needs that God alone can provide. Let me mention just a few more. Rich people lack true, inner contentment, which money cannot supply. The reason is that wealth has always been an unstable commodity, as it was in 1929—here today, gone tomorrow, whereas Godly contentment works in all circumstances: in the good, the bad, or the in-between. As mentioned in previous posts, money can’t give the love humans need. Wealth is not conducive to making a person humble. It cannot make a person more understanding and sensitive to the needs of others. Money does not make for a better person. The desire for “enough money” can never be satisfied. A rich man was once asked, “Does your money really make you happy?” He answered, “Absolutely not, but it lets me choose my misery.” Another wealthy person was asked, “How much money do you need when you can say, ‘Now I have enough’?” She answered, “Just a little more.” You see what I mean?

Here are a few more of God’s pet peeves: Wealth makes people proud, arrogant, and causes them to look down on those not as well-off as them. It gives a false belief of being high and mighty, and being superior to the rest. Wealth produces greed, wastefulness, gluttony, insensitivity to the needs of the less fortunate, and worst of all, laziness, which leads to an unhealthy life. For instance, engaging in physical activity is one of the best health promoters. But what happens when there is plenty of money and little desire or time for a chore that requires a little physical exertion? It is farmed out to professionals, such as having the grass cut, shoveling the snow off the driveway, doing any form of landscape maintenance, etc. Along with that, take a look at what wealth does inside the home: one may have someone clean the house once a week or refrain from cooking many meals, therefore going to restaurants too often (all restaurants attempt to make their food scrumptious, at times with unhealthy additives, and at the sacrifice of nutrition). Prosperous people believe they have the world at their beck and call; in essence, that is true. In short, whatever makes for an easy life is embraced. I am sure there are plenty of exceptions. Here is one: About 36 years ago, I had a doctor friend who was way ahead of his time. He was a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. His motto was that only he did all of the “stupid work,” as he coined it. He would not allow his children, wife, or anyone else do anything that required physical exertion. He rode his bike and walked whenever possible. And I am sure, with a few exceptions as just mentioned, that most wealthy people fall into some, if not most, of the above categories. But worse than all the above, the most distasteful amenity about wealth, in God’s sight, is that it replaces a need instead of producing a need for what God has to offer. And one wonders why. With all the luxuries this world offers to the wealthy, they have little or no need or time for what God offers, other than possibly a semblance of goodness. Remember, God demands to be the most valuable entity in one’s life. God won’t settle for playing second fiddle to wealth or even the desire for wealth, which could, in ways, be more damaging than wealth itself.

Notwithstanding, all of the above does not apply to the secular crowd, unbelievers, counterfeit Christians, and those of other religions. To them, the aforementioned attitudes and pleasures of wealth are priceless gems. And I can understand why. All college students hope to graduate, get a good-paying job, and ultimately make big bucks; thus, have life easy as their wealth accumulates. And most who didn’t get a higher education work their buns off, hoping for the impossible dream: to somehow become rich. I truly believe the vast majority of the world’s population would readily admit to having dreams and desires of being wealthy, although, for the vast majority, they are illusionary pipe dreams.

Therefore, when Jesus Christ downplays riches and an easy life, He is bucking the desires of almost seven billion people. For some who desire to heed to the commands of their Savior, this could appear to be their ultimate sacrifice. Not so. As they grow into the ways of the Lord, they will realize what a blessed life it is to be more than content with as little as possible (frugality), while they seem to always have enough to be exceedingly generous when the occasion calls for it. But it is extremely important to make known that it is Jesus Christ doing the giving, and we are only His helpers. If we give without telling it is Jesus, we receive all the credit and God gets no glory. No glory for God, no Godly credit for us. We do this work to make known the will of our great God, Savior and Lord. The above station is where I am at, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the wealth in the world. Amen. Here is an amazing phenomenon: The DESIRE for worldly wealth, possessions and attitudes usually disappears—not necessarily overnight—to the point of not recognizing the person living in one’s body. That will happen, but only to the degree that one’s life actively corresponds with the Word of God. This uncontainable, secret joy of living with only the basic essentials could easily be called a Godly windfall of windfalls (serendipity), to say the least. The main, if not the only, reason I have this blog is because I am compelled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ to share the complete gospel, to the best of my ability, with all that are aware of a need/desire to live life to the fullest, without the need for WORLDLY BAGGAGE.

I know all this Godly talk about the degradation of wealth by the New Testament will never fly in a world society which is predominantly money-oriented and wealth-seeking; this includes even a majority of people who call themselves Christians, and understandably, since they were taught by “religious experts” the exact opposite, since who knows when. But to put it more bluntly, the avoidance of wealth will never be accepted by the Christian community no matter what the New Testament of the Christian Bible commands, or how clear it is made in this post. Although Christ Jesus already knows it, still, that is not good news for Him; He wants all men/women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

This is what irks me more than words can describe: preachers on TV and elsewhere who preach material prosperity (the prosperity movement) for all generous Christians. And the greatest transgressor is the Trinity Broadcasting Network. They say, “You can’t out-give God. God desires the very best of everything for His people.” Sure! You wonder why the mega-churches and TBN are flourishing, those who preach this unbiblical but pleasing message. The only thing is, the very best of all things is to receive the love, goodness, and power of Jesus Christ. Throughout the New Testament, this message to abstain from having or seeking financial wealth is by all means the most unnatural and absurd anomaly that God commands. That is the reason the majority of church-people will either make some type of miserable excuse to disobey it, just blatantly ignore it, or attempt to water it down until it fits their present lifestyle, and then simply go on with their churchy Christianity.

If potential Christians were told the whole truth about the conditions and commands the New Testament requires for living the genuine Christian life before being asked to commit their lives to Christ, or to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the size of the Christian church would be an extremely small fraction of what it is now. And, most likely, the majority of adherence would be true Bible-believing Christians. I say “Bible-believing Christians” because a person can’t truly believe the Bible unless and until they know what is in it—by personally reading it and then reading it again, and then meditating, studying and retaining key verses, while not depending on what the devious, greedy, lying, conniving clergy say is the Word of God. Of course, even though I quite often bad-mouth the clergy, I know that God has a few who are an exception to my analysis. And their church attendance will, most likely, be small. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another . . .” Did you know that before the 1920s, credit was not available to most people in the United States? That was a time in America when only wealthy people could live the highlife. But since then, almost anyone can now live a wealthy lifestyle on credit. With good-paying jobs, a husband and wife could easily buy a palatial estate, new motor vehicles in the three-car garage, expensive furniture throughout, and have a good line of credit to buy all that the human heart can desire plus a few other amenities only the wealthy can afford—all this on credit, without a cent in the bank. Therefore, I ask, Are these people wealthy who strictly depend on credit? Absolutely not. It is only an appearance/illusion of wealth, although in God’s opinion, they are in the same category as those that are actually wealthy, because it is not so much what one has that God condemns, but the power, attitudes and desires this type of wealthy lifestyles creates. This is worth repeating. The fact of the matter is that wealth by itself is not the main offender; the culprit is the extravagant, though ungodly, ATTITUDE of people who live or desire to live high on the hog. People that are void of inner values that give contentment, which human words cannot describe, are mainly the type that attempt to full that cavity with things of material value.

As I have said previously, I don’t expect to win a popularity contest or have a large number of hits on this post for writing this hard-nosed part of the Gospel message. That is okay. If I hear anything from the Holy Spirit/God, He keeps saying, “Just continue writing and I will take care of the rest.” I know there are some who read my posts just out of curiosity, and there are others who take to heart what is written and then check to see if it corresponds with the New Testament teaching.

Repeating, all I can say is to please read the Bible to see if I am just making up this hard-edged Christian stuff. Nevertheless, I am quite joyful that God has given someone the courage and audacity to make known vital information which most people/Christians are not aware of. I do this regardless of who gets intimidated or enraged, or what will happen to me, knowing there is nothing to lose and everything of true value to gain.

All Bible verses are taken from the New International Version New Testament. These are some of the verses that will corroborate what has been written in this unpopular post, which will be extremely difficult to accept or put into practice.

1) “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1st Timothy 6:6-10.

2) “What is highly valued among men [money] is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15.

3) “Your silver and gold are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” James 5:3.

4) “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’ [There are prerequisites before following Jesus]. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” Matthew 19:21-24. Jesus, in essence, is saying it is impossible for prosperous, rich, or wealthy men/women to be Christians.

5) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have . . .” Hebrews 13:5.

6) “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.” James 5:1.

7) “You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13.

8) “The Pharisees [the guys that Jesus loved to bad-mouth], who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” Luke 16:14. Will some readers also sneer at Jesus and me for being so hard-edged? I think so.

9) “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your reward.” Luke 6:24.

10) “In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” James 1:10.

11) “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” Luke 12:15.

12) “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said to himself, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:18-21.

13) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.

14) “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, LOVERS OF MONEY, boastful, proud . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2nd Timothy 3:1-5. [emphasis added].

15) “. . . not a lover of money.” 1st Timothy 3:3.

16) “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33. Some may be thinking, “Does this leader of His stupid religion think we are jerks? What we have worked hard for all our lives? He wants us to give it to some poor bas . . . .? No thanks, I’ll stay where I am and enjoy listening to a pleasing and relaxing Gospel.”

17) “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. . . . The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment . . . [Abraham speaking to the rich man in hell] ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’” Luke 16:19-25.

18) “. . . not greedy for money but eager to serve.” 1st Peter 5:2.

19) “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted . . . .” Luke 12:33.

20) “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” 1st John 3:17.

In summation, it is a disgrace to Jesus Christ when anyone who calls oneself a Christian leaves this world without becoming aware of what little, if any, power money has for acquiring things of true and lasting value.

The following definitions are from Webster’s College Dictionary: Rich: "having more than enough of material possessions.” Wealthy: “much money or property.” Prosperous: “well-to-do; well off; having continued success." Do American Christians desire to be rich, wealthy, and prosperous? I won’t answer that. All a person has to do is to somehow convince himself/herself that they do not seek or have more than they need, and then the complete message in this post would not include them. That is the easy way out and may lead many straight to the dregs of eternity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

# 115:The Diversity of Christmas

This post will tell the history—the good and the not-so-good—of the most popular holiday in America. First, the history: The main quote is from the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia. Christmas: “Scholars believe that it is derived in part from rites held by pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic tribesmen to celebrate the winter solstice. Christian festivals, generally observed by Christians since the 4th century, incorporate pagan customs, such as the use of holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, and wassail bowls [used for much drinking]. The Christmas tree, an evergreen trimmed with lights and other decorations, was derived from the so-called Paradise tree, symbolizing Eden of German mystery plays. The use of a Christmas tree began early in the 17th century in Strasbourg, France, spreading from there to Germany and then into northern Europe. In 1841, Albert, Prince Consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, introduced the Christmas-tree custom to Great Britain; from there, it accompanied emigrants to the United States. Meanwhile, Dutch settlers had brought to the new world the custom of celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and they especially celebrated St. Nicholas Eve, when gifts were given to children, of whom the saint was patron. British settlers took over the tradition as part of their Christmas Eve celebration. Santa Claus, the name of the legendary jolly, red-garbed old man, who in the United States is said to make and distribute gifts and greeting cards, is a corruption of the Dutch “Sint Nicolaas”.

The lack of one person in the origin of Christmas was Jesus Christ. He was not mentioned once in all the early history of Christmas. I am not certain when the official name “Christmas” was given to that holiday, but I do know that somewhere along the line, Christ, the nativity scene, and December 25th as the day of the baby Jesus’ birth were later incorporated into the holiday. Going to the Roman Catholic Church on that festive day became a tradition; thus the name “Christ-Mass” was shortened to “Christmas”–the word “Mass” indicated/s that the “Roman Catholic Holy Eucharist” would be served (bread in the form of a round thin wafer, and at times, wine). Also, many Bible scholars seem to agree that the birth of Jesus was sometime in late September in the year 3 or 4 A.D.

The good: What would life be without Christmas for most children in America? They get several weeks off from school, which is looked forward to all year long, and then they get all the presents under the Christmas tree along with other amenities (travel, special privileges, etc.) that come with that holiday. If anyone attempted to take Christmas away from children because of its pagan origin, there would be the most gigantic revolt this country has ever seen, and all by the little folks. And I am certain that parents would also put up a big stink. Without Christmas, adults wouldn’t have a paid holiday—no excuse to drink and get a little tipsy, rewarded by a big head in the morning; no rich food to gain a few unwanted pounds, and then have to diet for the next few months; no good excuse to have a merry time and be your uninhibited self; no maxed-out credit cards or debts; just think the thought of no Christmas with all the hustle and bustle, with no Christmas music or cheer, no stupid presents from friends and relatives. That could give most adults a good reason to start the mother of all demonstrations. What about the merchants? They are the ones who benefit the most from Christmas. In fact, many commercial establishments earn more money—as we go deeper into debt—during the Christmas holiday season than they do the rest of the year. Therefore, regardless of the origin, or who in the early festive era was left out of Christmas, I will unequivocally say that it is here to stay.

The not-so-good: Although Christmas is supposedly a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in the USA, most non-religious people also engage in its personal benefits. First, atheists, who don’t believe in Christ or God , still they buy their children presents, and may even have a Christmas tree, eat a big meal, go on vacation to see relatives, and the like. Most get paid for the holiday without working. As it seems, Christmas could be a big event even for nonbelievers. Second, people who do not categorize themselves as atheists yet wouldn’t step foot in a church might call themselves Christians since they think they live in a “Christian country.” At Christmastime, they engage in most of the same activities as church-going Christians do and reap its benefits and joys. Third, the Jewish community, although they don’t believe Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah, are the biggest benefactors of Christmas in a financial way. Jews own more corporations in America, and maybe the world, than any other religion or race. I believe Mormons come in second, at least as being the richest “Christian” church in America. Therefore, Christmas is a holiday when many in the Jewish community just can’t wait to celebrate by going to the bank the day after Christmas with big bucks in their satchels. Fourth are the non-Christian-religions: people such as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. who live in America celebrate Christmas by taking advantage of the amenities it offers to Americans; still, they don’t believe in Jesus Christ other than possibly as a prophet or some historical figure. So, what is wrong with that? I am certain they still look forward to Christmas for having the day off, and maybe even a big meal, and of course like others, they enjoy the discount on merchandise the day after Christmas. As one can see, Christmas, though sacrilegious in the eyes of devout Christians, is not that bad for the secular folks. Here is a little-known fact about birthday celebrations in the Bible. Did you know that only two times in the whole Old and New Testament were birthdays celebrated? Both were the occasion for executions. In the New Testament, it was when King Herod was celebrating his birthday; he had John the Baptist beheaded at the request of his stepdaughter. Matthew 14:6-12 and Mark 6:21-25. In the Old Testament, as Pharaoh was celebrating his birthday, he had the chief baker hanged just as Joseph had predicted. Genesis 40:20-22. This is a ghastly history of Biblical birthdays. It seems to indicate, when it comes to birthdays in the Bible, that birthdays should not be a time of joy but of gruesome murders. So I ask, is the celebrating of birthdays a good/holy event, let alone for the birth of our Lord and Savior?

There is a large class of people in America that, if asked, would classify themselves as Christians. For example: If people are not atheists since they believe there is a God, yet are not secular or orthodox Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus, they believe they must be Christians since Christianity is the prevalent religion in America. I am certain that this type of Christians-by-name-only won’t be affected by the disturbing information of Christmas being of pagan origin. But the question I ask is how genuine Christians should respond to the fact that their favorite Christian holiday was not originally based on the birth of their Savior. This is an extremely difficult question. Who has the correct answer/s?

First and foremost, I don’t think little children should be told outright that there is no Santa Claus. Let them learn on their own as they get older, because for kids, Christmastime is the most exciting time of the year, to say the least. Older children, as they start to understand the importance of Jesus Christ in their parents’ lives, should be told how Christmas originated, and go easy on their reaction. Remember, they still are kids. Christmas as a holiday for kids is okay. But with the commercialism of Christmas along with all the money spent on that holiday, it could/should be classified as a secular holiday by leaving Jesus out of the holiday. That may sound sacrilegious to some, but I am certain Jesus would approve of having His image removed from that materialistic and gluttonous holiday, without doing away with the holiday altogether. This is a difficult question to grapple with, and there is no absolute answer. There is a religious group (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that did not celebrate Christmas years ago. I am not sure if they still refrain from celebrating it. I am certain it is/was tough on their kids, especially in school, when all the other kids are talking about Christmas and presents. I ask you, the readers, to give me your input as to what is right for kids and adults. I think I know what is best for adults; it is a personal decision for every true believer.

For people who understand what pleases Jesus Christ, and only for that group, here is my thinking on Christmas: Most, if not all, of the money spent on gifts, food, travel, drinks and whatever else is spent on Christmas should be given to those who are without the basic necessities at Christmas, regardless of race, creed, color, or religion. Better yet, that giving would be more memorable, of greater value, and more meaningful if it was done on a personal basis (one-on-one), thus circumventing organized charities. Then, a day or two before Christmas, adults, and especially their children, could go to preselected homes to give toys, money, food, clothing or whatever is needed. This giving experience by children will leave an indelible mark on their memory. Will they do the same as they grow older? There are several ways you can find out who is in need; contact the Welfare Department, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or get in touch with the local newspaper and ask if they can put a small article in their paper to see if anyone knows of families in need. If the family needs groceries, go with them to a supermarket and buy what they need. If you smell alcohol or tobacco, in their home or on their breath, it is best not to give money. If they need their rent to be paid, make a check out to the landlord; if they need clothing, toys, or grown-up presents, go to several department stores, etc. This could be expensive. To help one or two families may be all one can afford. The following year, you may be better organized and able to do much more. If you are doing this with the right motive, God will bless you more than you can ever imagine, although not necessarily in a monetary way. His blessings are spiritual. When doing this good work, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (don’t tell anyone what you have done, not even the IRS), or it may lose some of its value in the sight of God. Then, on Christmas, stay home and treat it as any ordinary day—though a very special day spiritually—by praising and thanking God for giving you and yours an active desire to help the needy. There is one stipulation: The recipients of these gifts must be told that the gifts are from Jesus Christ Himself and that we are only His helpers doing the delivering. If Christmas was celebrated in that manner by even a few of God’s people, for them, I would call it a Christmas which God would be pleased to glory in. However, He would still be unhappy with the remainder who celebrate Christmas in the ordinary, secular, and self-centered way. Actually, I am certain there are holy people who are already doing that kind of giving, but only for those in need in their own church. But it could easily be expanded to all the poor in the United States and then to the world. To make it truly Christ giving, there must be no administrative cost, only Christian volunteers.

To have genuine compassion and empathy for the poor, I believe it would be beneficial—though undesired—to have/make an opportunity to live in God-inspired poverty oneself. This Bible verse comes to mind from Luke 6:20, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God/Heaven.” Now I am sure some are saying that I must be off my rocker.

As a child, I was raised in the poorest of poor conditions. Let me elaborate: My mom and dad were from the Old Country. They came to this country without a cent to their name. My mom was not allowed to go to school since she was too valuable on the farm, and therefore could not learn how to speak or read a word of English. My father could speak only a few words of English. He was a cripple, and was therefore limited as to what type of work he could do. My sister and I were born in that type of environment. The sad part is, it wasn’t bad enough to be poor, not being able to speak English, but ignorance about what life in America was about made it even worse. Therefore, now that I am an adult, I know firsthand the pain and suffering of being poor and ignorant. Possibly adults can understand why they are poor, but try to explain poverty to a child.

Let me tell you of two incidents from my childhood which are vivid in my mind. My mother sat me on an old trunk to put some winter clothes on me. As she was dressing me, I asked her, as best I could (of course, I was not speaking English), “Mama, whata Santie Clausie givea me for Christmis?” She didn’t know how to respond. She reached for a small ceramic container which was sitting near the trunk. It was made up of a black girl and boy; they looked like they were drawing water from a well. Again, not knowing what to say, she gave that ceramic piece to me and said, “This is all I have to give you; we have no money.” I must have thought to myself, How could I play with that? I didn’t want that ceramic figurine because it had been in our house for a long time, and it didn’t seem like a Christmas present to me. I am certain the pain she had for the little boy she loved more than the world was much greater than my broken heart.

Here is another heart-breaking story about Christmas: I am not certain if it was the same year as the above incident. My sister and I were going to bed in an uninsulated, drafty attic–that was the only place we had to sleep. It was Christmas Eve; I was two years younger than my sister. In order to prepare for Santa, my sister got one of my mother's old stockings and neatly draped it over the back of an old chair and put it near her bed. I told her there was no Santa Claus. She argued with me, saying there was. When morning came, you’ll never guess what happened. Her Christmas stocking was still empty. If I remember rightly, she cried and cried. I am not sure if I cried along with her, but I am sure making up for it now. They say men aren’t supposed to shed tears; crying is reserved only for sissies. Well then, I guess I must be a sissy. Case in point: These stories are not mine only; they belong to every poor child that doesn’t get at least one nice present at Christmastime. Therefore, one can understand why only poor children truly know the inexpressible sorrow of being without at Christmastime, with no happy endings in sight. As you can possibly tell, when Christmas is combined with poverty-stricken families, especially with young children, I become a bit effusive.

In conclusion, as we examined Christmas from many angles, it is good, in one way or another, for all except those in desperate financial need. We as Christians can change that, if even a little this year, and hopefully more in years to come. With Jesus Christ doing the giving through our efforts, that generosity may/will bring some of the unloved poor into the reality that Christianity may be for them also. Remember, God loves the poor. We should also love the poor by allowing Jesus Christ to do His giving through us.

Monday, December 05, 2005

#114: Anatomy of the Human Race

This post, with a few unanswered questions—which readers can answer—will be the most difficult subject I have ever attempted to explore. I don’t even know if I—or anyone, for that matter—is even qualified, whatever “qualified” implies. The reason is that there are countless variables that make us do and be what we are. Here are a few: Heredity (nature) most likely is one of the biggest factors. Environment (nurture) may also be a big factor; these two are engaged in a never ending controversy as to which is more dominant. Also, mutations during gestation play a part in creating esoteric individuals, either in positive or negative ways. After birth, what we become will depend on our environment, above and beyond what nature dictates.

All humans are unique as to their desires and motivations. But is there one factor in which we are alike? I think so, of course, with a few exceptions. We have the ability to become like the One who designed us. If that is true, the vast majority of us have failed. And even though we failed, that doesn’t mean we don’t retain at least several aspects of that potential, one of which is to feel/think as if we are more important, in our own eyes, than the next person. The reasoning behind that statement is that the designer is more important than all of us, and that inherited trait, for whatever reason, does not leave most of us. A well known term is “survival of the fittest” (“hooray for me and boo for you,” or “I love me; who do you love?”). That is the main reason for our present existence. But the dark side of survival is greed, to any degree, which stems from insecurity as to what tomorrow will bring, or other selfish motives. Many will justify the word “greed” by replacing it with euphemisms such as “prosperous,” “fortunate,” “go-getter,” “wealthy,” “enjoying the good life,” “hard worker,” “blessed,” the American dream,” etc. Nevertheless, greed, when we attempt to deny its harm, or our desire to dress it up as legitimate, is where many of humanity’s conflicts start and never end.

We all desire to be loved and needed, though some will deny that fact. When we start to examine why this is so, we realize that without being needed or loved, we may feel worthless, unwanted or many other negative emotions. Therefore, to be joyful and happy, we need to feel important within ourselves, and being loved/needed, to a degree, accomplishes that. Then, some will strive to make up for that feeling of rejection, loneliness or insecurity with wealth and materialism, but that endeavor by itself will without question fail to produce meaningful love. One can own the whole, material world—if that were possible—and still feel unloved. Like the song says, “Money can’t buy me love.” Of course, some attempt to find needed love and acceptance through romantic relationships. That may suffice for a while, but when they become “old hat,” that type of admiration fails to produce the type of love humans desire. Even pure love—if there is such thing–between husband and wife can end in disaster: death of a spouse, a midlife crisis, etc. ends in divorce, which neither loving partner could have ever envisioned. We must face the fact that there are no lifetime guarantees with our somewhat frivolous human love.

Some have a desire to dominate others (king of the hill). This trait creates hatred and is the reason for strife and most wars. Desiring to be “king of the hill” is a throwback trait from some of our aggressive, "prehistoric" ancestors who did not know how to meaningfully express their need for love. Do modern adults express that need in constructive ways? The shame is that many times religion’s deities (God, Allah, Jesus Christ, etc.) are motivating scapegoats in this aggressive attitude. It could be that more people have died along with the ensuing devastation of religious wars–like the religious one Bush started—than any other reasons. And their reason usually is to expand their territory, or destroy the enemy for the safety of the homeland, and consequently, the world. Remember, the United States of America with George W. Bush as its god (leader), backed by his high-tech military power, is the most powerful “king of the hill” on this planet. As God sees this materialistic, war-hungry country, I believe the next three years and beyond may become the most tenuous years America has ever known. This is the reason I make such a strong statement: Anyone who can read between the lines of life could easily come up with the same conclusion. Just look at all the negative events happening in our great country, coupled with the underhanded ethics, corruption and scandals of many government appointees and elected officials, but mainly look at the out-of-control deficit. I could go on and on, but I don't have the space. It soon will be time to pay the fiddler.

I will add a spiritual note to this anatomy of the human race. The role Bush plays, as mentioned in previous posts, can’t be mentioned enough. Bush is fighting this war as a person who, via his own mouth, was inspired by Jesus Christ: without question, a bogus Jesus Christ. The Biblical Jesus Christ could not have inspired him, because the New Testament gives the criteria as to what Christianity consists of, and Bush violated two of the most basic concepts: 1) To love your enemy, do good to those who persecute you; and 2) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Only genuine, not warmongering, “Christians” will be eligible. That pretender has millions of $$ along with his rich cronies like Dick Cheney, etc. Even the Old Testament calls Jesus Christ (the promised Messiah) the Prince of Peace, not the prince of war; see Isaiah 9:6. This fact angers me more than words can describe. How naive can Evangelical Christians be? Can’t they spot a fraud? Do they know what the New Testament commands? I just don’t understand. Repeating, I just don’t understand. Of course, it is only natural (the ways of the world, survival of the fittest) for Americans—not I—to strive for wealth and to get even with their enemies. Hatred toward one’s enemies, and especially war—INNOCENT men and women dying—is immoral and grievous in God’s sight, according to the New Testament, with no ifs, ands, or buts. Consequently, to justify immorality in the name of freedom and security of the homeland is giving evil/Satan a holy name. To live that way and protect one’s turf is only natural (animalistic). However, that is not what Jesus Christ emphatically teaches. You know something? That is a horrible way to start a sentence. I doubt these words, spoken in all honesty, will change few, if any, from their set beliefs. And I understand; it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change lifelong beliefs. That is part of the anatomy of the human race. I also understand why some/many “Christians” constantly bad-mouth me and send me nasty e-mails. I simply delete them, most often not reading more than the person’s name who sends them. It just comes with the territory. I thank God, for He gave me broad shoulders.

There is another human tendency which we are guilty of. I devoted a complete post to this subject, which is laziness. We like life to be easy (the course of least resistance). Some will deny this accusation; still, the truth is that we may fight it to some degree or not recognize it, but in the end, most of us succumb to laziness. Some will say, “What is wrong with being a bit lazy?” To answer that question, read post #29, “Born to Be Lazy.” That natural trait is responsible, in large part, for the condition the world is now in. Check out the harm it produces in our lives.

The next trap we fall into: “Out of sight, out of mind.” The majority pay too much aesthetic attention to our physical bodies and not enough to mental and emotional needs. And then some even neglect giving the physical body what it needs to function correctly: proper food with no excess, a good exercise program, a healthy state of mind, ample sleep, avoidance of stress, etc. This disaster is worldwide. And we in America are paying the price with our soaring healthcare costs. Along with that, there now is a pill for every imaginable ache, pain, sickness, disease, discomfort—and now have even made the dubiously named “Restless Legs Syndrome” a medical condition. All those pills have made the pharmaceutical conglomerates, along with their comrades, rich beyond measure, at our expense and health. Like it or not, that is the way most of us are. Notwithstanding, there is a pending silent horror with all medicines which we are not told about often enough: all medicines, from a simple aspirin to the newest cutting-edge lifesavers, have hidden dangers. The term “side effects” is used as a ploy to soften medicine’s deadly, though inconspicuous, risks. Some of these effects become apparent soon after taking medicine, but the insidious effects of others may not become apparent for years; still they are silently doing their dirty work. Here is the science behind that statement: In order for any medicine to be effective, it must first get into the bloodstream. Once it does, the blood, along with the medicine, bathes and nurtures every one of our trillions of cells. The majority of those cells do not have the qualifying receptors for a certain specific medicine, so the medicine is rejected and is only accepted by the cells that have the desired receptors. But, and a big BUT, there are cells that have somewhat congenial receptors, and they accept hopefully only a small amount of that unneeded medicine, thus hampering its function. Depending on how long those cells can tolerate those unwelcome invaders (poisons), a totally unrelated malady could occur that has nothing to do with what the medicine was intended for in the first place. That doesn’t seem fair. For that reason, it is imperative to keep away from all patent medicines unless they are needed because of extreme life-threatening circumstances. The good news is that there are ways to cleanse those contaminated cells once the medicine is stopped. How? Through an extremely healthy lifestyle of eating foods and nutritional supplements that are rich in chlorophyll (green foods). Ask me for a list of them. Also, chlorophyll is the best cleanser of most toxins we all have stored in our bodies. Ask for a list of them. Besides, there are many natural ways to treat most illnesses: alternative medicine. If some are not familiar with natural medicine, they will be astounded with the myriad ways to avoid patent medicine and at the same time gain/retain superb health. Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration knows it is much easier to just pop a pill in one’s mouth than to get into all this health stuff, which brings no profit to the medical establishment. I thank God the FDA doesn’t have control over natural food supplements and the like. If they did, we might have to go to a doctor for a prescription to buy a bottle of vitamin A and D; we might even need a prescription for a box of raisins since they are rich in iron. If one keeps up with how they conduct business, it becomes apparent that the FDA is in cahoots with the pharmaceuticals, doctors, hospitals, and the health care industry; their motto is to always attempt to C.Y.T. (“cover your tush”). Is the FDA really concerned with the safety and health of the American people? Think about it. The human race likes things fast and easy. That is the way we are, and the majority of us will not change, regardless of the effects.

When it comes to our spiritual needs, most of us get a grade of “F.” Many of us don’t even know what our spiritual needs are. Those needs are believing and living as the creator and designer indicated by His recipe for life. I have found that recipe in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. That book, most likely, is the most printed book in the world and the least read. And one wonders why the Christian religion, per se, is confusing and controversial. But when that recipe is experienced, it cannot be contained, come hell, high water, or bankruptcy; it must be shared with the world. I am not just talking about holy words, but lifestyles that contain such a great degree of excellence that it would sound like a fairytale to those who are not experiencing it. As I write the words in this post, I am attempting to share that recipe, by the best means available, with all humanity through simple, easy-to-understand words. However, these words are often quite difficult, if not impossible, for some to accept and apply.

Another damaging aspect of humanity is the “fight-or-flight dilemma.” Whichever we choose, the result is stress. Stress is one of the most destructive of all health busters. Our human bodies were not meant to be under stress day-in and day-out. Then, some will call it “challenging fun.” Sure. And because we choose high-paying, stress-filled jobs, we eventually pay with our health. Also, our golden years may turn into “enjoyable” years, engulfed in fool’s gold. Another contributor of stress is our fast-paced, “want-it-now” lifestyle.

Also, let’s look as the human race engaging in harmful habits, such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, excess or unhealthy food, lack of exercise, gambling, etc. It is a wonder we haven’t already become extinct by our own doing. Most of us know these vices are detrimental to all the good we desire for ourselves; nevertheless, we just keep on indulging. At birth, the vast majority of us were given a well designed body, at which I still marvel. As we become adults, it is our responsibility to care for that human machine with the utmost care in order to keep it running smoothly without glitches (sickness, pain, disease, atrophy, etc.). The sad fact is that many of us don’t. Could those humans honestly be called stupid? No, stupid is too good of a word for their idiotic, moronic conduct. “I don’t want to hear it; get off my back; we are only human” is what I hear some saying. Yes, I know. Bad habits are difficult, if not impossible, for some to break. Is that a legitimate excuse?

If anyone has an answer to this next question, please let everyone know. Why is everyone concerned with what others think of us? We dress a certain way, fix our hair just so, and most always want to look our best, etc. Some will say, “That is not true.” Okay, here is my rebuttal: If everyone in the world was blind but you, would you be concerned with how you look? I don’t think so. Again, why do most of us have a desire to impress others? Here are a few reasons: We want to be admired, loved, respected, accepted, and made to feel important by keeping in style with whatever the fashion, and we discard all else. By the way, who started the fashion and style trend, anyhow? It must have been the rich and famous; that is why the wannabe crowd, who emulates the rich, follows along. Do these desires to impress spring from our secret desire to someday become rich and famous, and thus be WORSHIPED? Many will deny the aforementioned. My question: Is there one overall reason we want to impress others? I have an idea. If we actually were created in the image of God, and I truly believe we were, God desires/demands to be worshiped because of His Grandeur. Could that be the underlying reason we attempt to impress others, because of one trait only God should possess: a deep-seated, God-inspired desire to be worshiped? If that is the case, how can we combine humility (a necessary attribute for Christians) and desire to be worshiped into the same person? There seems to be some kind of conflict, unless we demonstrate humility in the here and now, and save the joy of being/feeling worshiped for the hereafter. Let me hear your input on this off-the-wall theory. Some will respond, “That is the way humans are.” That is not a good enough answer. Repeating, there must be a better answer. What is it?

The human race, with all the knowledge we have acquired, is, without a doubt, intelligent beyond comprehension. And with all those smarts, many of us act more stupidly than the lesser of God’s creatures. Why is that? Does anyone know the answer to that question? Can anyone add to this anatomy of the human race? Let us know. The readers of this blog and I desire your answers, questions, and comments.