It’s the beginning of a new year and there will be many who will embark upon reading plans designed to guide them in reading through the Bible within a year.
Now, while this is indeed a noble and worthwhile endeavor, I think, all too often, we make the mistake of reading the Bible ‘too’ quickly! In an effort to read the assigned portion or section for the day, we often fail to take the time to actually understand what we are reading. When we read too quickly and too methodically, we often miss the message in the effort to be true to our method!
As an example, I read a passage the other day that caused me to re-evaluate previously held beliefs. It was not a passage I had not read before, in fact, it was one that I had read quite often and one the preacher would call; ‘a familiar passage!’ The passage was Philippians 2:9-11, which reads in the KJV:
“Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Now the thing that arrested me the other day was the realization that most people, myself included, often misquote the passage! The common saying of most is: “That at the name of Jesus, every knee ‘shall’ bow and every tongue ‘shall’ confess! But that IS NOT what the text says! The text doesn’t say ‘shall,’ the text says ‘should.’ There is a substantial difference between shall and should! The word; ‘shall’ is about ‘what is “going” to happen,’ while the word; ‘should’ is about ‘what “ought” to happen.’ Now, while it is indeed true that eventually every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, that is not the point Paul was making!
In the context of passage, Paul was not talking about what was going to happen, but rather Paul was expressing what ought to happen in response to the exaltation of Jesus as Lord! Therefore, when we say ‘shall’ we are, in a sense, postponing Jesus’ exaltation until the end of time, but Jesus will not just be Lord later, Jesus is Lord, NOW! He was recorded as saying in Matthew 28:18 after his resurrection; “All power (the Greek word for power, denotes ‘authority,’ not “might’ or ‘strength’ as we so often erroneously preach it!) is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Paul wrote of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
My point is that, since Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and in earth and he is presently reigning, every knee should presently bow and every tongue should presently confess that Jesus is (not will be, but right now, is!) Lord! However, we miss this fundamental truth when we misquote the passage or otherwise read ‘should’ but think ‘shall.’ As we read the Bible, we should slow down enough to read what it actually says and not what we have been conditioned to ‘think’ it says! Only then will we recognize that often, even the ‘little’ words, like the articles and definite articles; (‘a’ versus ‘the’), conjunctions, such as ‘and’ and ‘or’ can change the meaning of a text! It was only after I slowed down that I recognized the difference between ‘shall’ and ‘should!’
Here’s a thought: Please understand, I am not trying to be unsympathetic or insensitive, but I think it is important that we (the people of God) proclaim biblical truth at all times, especially when someone dies!
Here are some things we (the community of believers) need to quit saying when someone dies because these statements are biblically incorrect and potentially misleading:
1. ‘They earned their wings’ – There are several things wrong with this statement. First, since we are not saved by any works we do, but rather by grace, why would we associate death with ‘earning’ something? What makes God’s grace so amazing is that we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it! Second – When a believer dies, they are not transformed into angels or given wings! Humans will always be humans and angels will always be angels!
Third- ANGELS DON’T HAVE WINGS! In every occasion of angels appearing on earth in the Bible, they appeared as ‘normal’ men! The only angelic ‘winged’ creatures mentioned in the Bible are the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2, 6) and the cherubim. These creatures are not regular angels, but guardians of God’s throne! The idea that all angels have wings comes from English literature, not the Bible!
2. ‘They have earned their crown’ – Same as in ‘earning their wings.’ Whatever God gives us is because of God’s grace, not because we earn it! The crowns we will receive from God will be ‘rewards’ for our faithfulness, not bonus payment for our work! A careful reading of the Bible will help us to understand the fact that death is an enemy, not a friend! (1 Corinthians 15:26) The only crown given because of death will be to those who died (were killed) because of their faith. In Revelation 2:10, the crown of life will be given to those ‘faithful unto death.’ This is not about people being faithful until they died, but rather about people being faithful to the point that their faithfulness cost them their lives!
3. ‘They are watching over us now!’ ‘They are our guardian angels now!’ – For one thing, as stated before, humans are not transformed into angels when they die. In addition, the Bible describes the state of deceased believers as ‘resting from their labors.’ Could or would they honestly be at rest if they were tasked with the job of ‘watching over us?’ God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirt, along with a detachment of angels are already watching over us! The help of our deceased loved ones is not needed!
4. ‘It was just God’s will.’ ‘God took him/her/them’ – Death is never God’s will! Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). The ONLY reason people die is because of sin! (Not necessarily because of that individual’s sin, but because of the Fall of Adam. Genesis 2:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 26) Death was not part of God’s original intent! In fact, the blessed hope of the Bible is the Resurrection! In the Resurrection, believers will live again, not in Heaven, in a spiritually disembodied state (the state of dead believers now) but on the new earth in glorified physical bodies! (Revelation 21-22). It is not God’s will for people to get sick and die! It is not God’s will for people to be killed in accidents or murdered! We need to quit saying this!
Didn’t mean for this post to be so long! But if we seek to comfort people in their bereavement, the only real comfort is in the truth of God’s word, not in our erroneous interpretations of God’s word!
Let me preface this analysis by making a full disclosure: I am in no way, shape, form, or fashion, nor do I claim to be, certified or trained in the field of psychiatry, psychology, or sociology (I did take a few psychology classes and Sociology 101 in college). Hence, that is why this is a ‘quasi-psychoanalysis.’ My field of training is theology and biblical studies, but the LORD God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary (Isaiah 50:4 ESV). This is merely my personal insights and views of the origin of the racial issues and tensions in the United States of America.
On the outside, looking into the field of psychiatry and psychology, I noticed that one of the very first things those who are trained in those areas do to assess the extent of their patient’s abnormality is to analyze significant events in the patient’s childhood years. Therefore, in seeking to find the root of America’s racial problems, we need go back to America’s childhood.
Most people, who would eventually become Americans, voluntarily migrated from other areas of the world. They came to the land, that would eventually be called; America, seeking religious freedom and opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their descendants. However, Black people did not voluntarily come to America! While the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower, seeking freedom, the Black African people were brought over in chains, in the cargo-holds of slave-ships, for the expressed purpose to serve those who were seeking freedom! This was the beginning of the American psychosis! By the way, as a matter of definition, psychosis is defined as a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions. So with that definition in mind, if we are honest, we must admit that it must have been a case of delusion, a ‘divorcement from reality’ for those who voluntarily came to these shores; seeking freedom, to involuntarily bring others to these shores as slaves! That sounds a little crazy to me! That sounds like a case of psychosis!
But not only was America delusional in practice in the beginning, she was delusional in principle also. In early July 1776, a document was formally approved that would become the bedrock of American independence and freedom. It was called: The Declaration of Independence. The most famous, and most often quoted part of that declaration is the second sentence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Now, here is the hypocrisy and the psychosis of that formalized statement: The primary author; Thomas Jefferson, was one of the forty-one (41) of the fifty-six (56) signers who, at the very moment they signed the document, owned slaves! You draft and sign a formalized document declaring that it is self-evident, it’s obvious, that all men are created equal and that they have a God-given right of life, liberty (freedom), and the pursuit of happiness, yet you yourselves deny freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and the self-evident revelation of all men being created equal to Black people! That’s delusional! That’s a case of psychosis!
Now I don’t know what was going on in the mind of these men, but in order for them to be oblivious to the obvious hypocrisy they engaged in, several assumptions had to have been in play. First of all, since the statement specifically said; ‘all men are created equal,’ in their minds they must have assumed that Black men were not human! Or they wrote it with the unstated understanding that it was to only apply to ‘White’ men. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that America had its inception in racial psychosis! Whichever case was the truth, it may be an indication that it was never the original intent of the majority of the founding fathers for Black men to ever be free in America! Racial discrimination and inequity was ingrained into the DNA of America! The racial tension we are experiencing in America today is nothing new; America was born with this racial psychosis!
But in all fairness, I just said that 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave-owners, consequently, that means; 15 of the 56 were not! Among those 15 were abolitionists; people who were actively working to abolish slavery. Among those 15 were people who indeed wanted freedom for ‘every’ man in America! I brought this out because I don’t want you to see this critique as being an indictment against ‘all’ White Americans past and present. No! There were some White settlers and colonists who truly believed and sought to live-out, and fight for the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence to be true for all men, including Black men! There have always been some White Americans who were not and are not infected with the American psychosis!
It wasn’t long after the formation of America that many realized their indefensible position of Black non-humanity. When the first constitution was being formed, for the purpose of taxation, the number of seats a state would have in the Congress, and the number of electoral votes, there was a debate over how slaves would be counted. Although the Southern states legally deemed the slaves as property, if they were counted as ‘people’ the Southern states would have an over-whelming majority, clout, and power in Congress, but at the same time, they would have to bear a greater tax burden than the states that had no slaves! Thus a compromise was made that involved counting only 3/5th of the slave population as people for the purpose of taxation and representation. When you deny people their humanity, all sorts of complications and psychotic behaviors come into play!
The great divide in America, which eventually led to the Civil War was the slavery issue! In the Southern states, cotton was king! Much like the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs who forced the Hebrews slaves to build their cities, the economy of the South was built on the bedrock of free slave labor! In the mid-19th century, while the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, a fundamental economic difference existed between the country’s northern and southern regions. In the North, manufacturing and industry was well established, and agriculture was mostly limited to small-scale farms, while the South’s economy was based on a system of large-scale farming that depended on the labor of black slaves to grow certain crops, especially cotton and tobacco. Growing abolitionist sentiment in the North after the 1830s and northern opposition to slavery’s extension into the new western territories led many southerners to fear that the existence of slavery in America—and thus the backbone of their economy—was in danger.
According to an article on History.com: “In 1854, the U.S. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which essentially opened all new territories to slavery by asserting the rule of popular sovereignty over congressional edict. Pro- and anti-slavery forces struggled violently in “Bleeding Kansas,” while opposition to the act in the North led to the formation of the Republican Party, a new political entity based on the principle of opposing slavery’s extension into the western territories. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dred Scott case (1857) confirmed the legality of slavery in the territories, the abolitionist John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 convinced more and more southerners that their northern neighbors were bent on the destruction of the “peculiar institution” that sustained them. Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 was the final straw, and within three months seven southern states–South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas–had seceded from the United States.” The obvious irony in that article that jumps out at me is the fact that the Republican Party was actually birthed as part of the anti-slavery movement in America, while the Democratic Party is the descendant of the old Dixie-crats of the South! Another example of the American psychosis!
I don’t mean to bore you with a long-drawn-out history of America’s racial issues, but I highlighted these early events to shed light on the fact that America was formed, birthed and achieved world dominance in the backdrop of and on the backs of Black slaves! There are many today who are promoting the slogan: “Make America Great Again!” The truth of the matter is: America HAS NEVER BEEN GREAT for the Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow people living in America! America’s so-called greatness was achieved at their expense! Every gain Black people have achieved in America has been through blood, sweat, tears and struggle! The truth the country’s fore-fathers talked about that were endowed by the Creator, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have never been ‘given’ to Black people! Whatever degree of those attributes Black America might possess have been purchased with blood, sweat, tears and lives!
When I saw the image of George Floyd, laying on the ground, with his hands, hand-cuffed behind his back, with three White police officers placing the full weight of their bodies on his back and neck, and one other officer standing guard to make sure there was no interference, to me, it was a picture that epitomizes the 400-year-struggle of Black America! The weight of racial bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination has been consistently weighing heavily on the backs of Black America! While there are White Americans, who proclaim to be innocent by not actively adding to the weight, they are complicit in that they have turned their backs to the obvious injustices and pretend they don’t see or that these issues don’t even exist! Just like the police officer, with his back turned to the crime, they symbolically stand guard to maintain the status quo!
How can the issue be resolved? The answer is simple, yet complex at the same time! Just do the right thing! Just resolve to live-out the true meaning of the original creed that was written in psychotic-hypocrisy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men, not just White men, but Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow men as well, are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t pretend to have all of the answers as to how this can be practically done! But I do know that it will not be done in any form or fashion until there is an acknowledgement of the possibility that many of the original authors of that creed were suffering from a form of psychosis! How could the author of such words write and believe them while, at the same time, owning slaves, which was the very antithesis of the statement? Answers: (1) selective delusion (psychosis), (2) denial of Black man’s humanity (psychosis)! As long as there are a substantial number of White Americans who refuse to acknowledge this psychosis, the problem will persist! As long as there are a substantial number of White Americans who insist on blaming the victim to justify police brutality and injustice; the problem will persist!
I was about to end this article with that point, but I thought about another sign of psychosis that often rears its ugly head in American society. There are some White Americans who say that if Black Americans are so dissatisfied with their life in America, then why don’t they go back to Africa? How delusional can you be? Black Americans did not voluntarily come to America; they were involuntarily ripped from their native lands and brought here, in the holds of cargo ships, packed like sardines, chained as slaves! They worked as slaves, under inhumane conditions to build the economy and structure of America, not to benefit themselves, but to benefit their slave-masters! As time progressed, they work harder for less pay! They sacrificed the most and benefited the least! They were the last hired and the first fired! Whatever America is, she would not be half of what she is were it not for the free labor of slaves and subsequent unpaid and underpaid contributions of Black Americans! And then, some White people have the audacity, the gall, the nerve, the stupidity, the historically uninformed lack of reality to tell Black people to go back to Africa? Black Americans have a stake and interest in this country that has been paid for with the very lives of Black people! How dare those who have benefit the most have the audacity to even suggest that those who have paid and sacrificed the most for their benefit, leave! Not only the suggestion, but even the thought if it, suggest a severe case of psychosis! America needs help! American needs to heal! America needs to spend some time on the psychological couch to free her of her historical and current racial psychosis!
Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock or on some remote island in the middle of sea, you have been, in some way or another, impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus. The economy and social structure of the entire world has been impacted. In the annuals of history, the Coronavirus Pandemic will rate on the scale of such catastrophic events as the World Wars, the assassination of JFK, the Space Shuttle catastrophe, and 911! And, just as it was in the aftermath of those red-letter-calendar events, things will not return to the way they were before the event occurred!
are some lessons we can learn from this recent world-wide event that will be
beneficial to all, if we would just learn them and adapt. First of all, Corona
reminds us that we are indeed a global community and that our commonalities
really are more than our differences. It didn’t matter what ideology, religion,
political persuasion, ethnic or racial identity; all were and are impacted by
the virus! The lesson to be learned? Since all are equally impacted, then it
seems to reason that all are equally human! Therefore, the Coronavirus is just
another, of a long, unending list of proofs that the artificial barriers and
claims of ethnic and racial superiority that some promote are just plain nonsense!
All are equally susceptible, but the proof of our humanity or the lack thereof,
will be shown in how all are treated in response!
Although, I use email, social media, and other means of technology to communicate, I am somewhat of a ‘dinosaur’ in some other things. The lesson that this crisis is teaching me is the importance of being flexible and willing to adapt new ways of doing old things! Because of restrictions put in place in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the congregation I lead is temporarily unable to meet as we normally would on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, or on various other days for ministry activities. Consequently, I am being forced to experiment with making Facebook Live presentations and conducting virtual Bible Class and preaching to a camera instead of a live audience! Funny thing about it is that I am discovering that I am more nervous talking to a camera than I am addressing a live audience! Now, all of this is not necessarily a bad thing! The church has always been traditionally lagging behind in adapting new technology. But the adaption of new technology is needed in order to reach the current culture. I just pray that when this is over, people don’t prefer to remain socially distant!
of ‘social distance,’ the practice of maintaining social distance has forced us
to re-establish the practice of family togetherness, which is really a good
thing! Hopefully, being forced to remain in close proximity to the wife, the husband,
the children, and the pets will force families to get reacquainted with one
another and strengthen the family bond!
I realize we
are in the midst of stressful times! We are having to do and endure some things
that are unpleasant and undesirable, but as the Bible says in KJV English, “It shall
come to pass!” I have talked with pastors and other church leaders who insist closing
the church doors for this crises is giving in to fear and/or government
control. But the bottom line is this: This is not a matter of faith, this is a
matter of public safety and concern for one’s fellowman! Along that same line
of reasoning, I just read of a beach in Florida, packed with people, in blatant
disregard for the restrictive measures the CDC and the government are
suggesting. Yes! People may have the freedom and the right to do something, but
that doesn’t mean it’s right to do it!
We are all
in this together! We should all do what we can to get through this with a minimum
amount of sickness and death. So, if that means giving up some of my rights for
the sake of the health and benefit of all, in my mind, that is the only loving
and humane thing to do!
In the meantime,
stay safe: Wash your hands, take care of yourself and your neighbor!
watched a documentary on Christianity in America. The focus of this documentary
was how Christianity has been and is being used by various groups in America to
foster their own agendas! The producers interviewed various people, from
scholars, preachers, and church leaders, to people on the street, to get an
idea of how they defined the Christian faith. As I watched, I was saddened to
realize how much we have made a mess of the message!
It seems that the message of the Bible, more often than not, has been traditionally and historically manipulated to serve self-serving purposes! For example, ‘Christian’ slave-owners and segregationist abused the Bible in order to give a sense of divine sanction to slavery, segregation, White privilege, and White supremacy. I said ‘abused,’ but sadly even today, many of the same attitudes and beliefs that were prevalent back then, are still strong today! In fact, it seems that not only are they strong, but as of late they are experiencing a revival!
The LBGT community, White supremist groups, prosperity advocates, Civil Rights groups, traditional family values groups, White evangelicals, advocates of Gay-marriage and countless more, ‘all’ claim scriptural authority and legitimacy for their causes! The Bible declares that God is one, but from the looks of the mess we have made of the message today, God is many!
The core of the issue is the tendency for man to always create idols! What is an idol? An idol is a god of our own making! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in regard to his people; Israel: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:2-3 KJV) Now, the problem with Israel was not that they were ‘ignorant’ of God’s righteousness (God’s standard or what God requires) because they did not have knowledge. No! They were ignorant of God’s righteousness because they rejected the knowledge they had been given! Why did they reject it? They rejected it because it did not fit their agenda or their idea of how they wanted to live! As a consequence, instead adapting to God, they sought to make God adapt to them!
the same thing we are doing today? Instead of submitting ourselves to the
message of God, as God gave it, we seek to alter the message to fit our own
agendas and lifestyles!
And what have we made? A mess! People who scoff at the idea of a Supreme God have gain some degree of credibility because those who claim to know God and be in relationship God, are speaking mixed and often contradictory messages about what God is like! And then, the people who are sincerely seeking God are also confused because Church A is preaching one message as ‘the truth,’ while Church B is preaching a diametrically opposite message, but is also claiming to be speaking the truth! Now, logic dictates that Church A and Church B cannot both be right! (However, Church A and Church B can both be wrong!)
We have certainly made a mess of things! But that’s just the nature of humans; to make the simple complicated! That’s just the nature of humans, whenever we are unable or refuse to rise to the bar; we lower the bar! Before we will let go and trust something or someone other than ourselves, we will seek to make that something or someone a reflection of ourselves!
What is the
solution? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Now, the predominate thinking
of the current culture says that there is not, but there is! How do we find it?
I think the first step, even before addressing the concept of religion or
morality is to just stop and think: Man didn’t invent himself with all of his
intelligence. Therefore logic dictates that a being even more intelligent had to
create him! So it’s really a matter of faith! Faith, not just as a religious concept,
but also as a practical concept! You see, from a practical standpoint,
EVERYBODY has and uses faith every day! At this very moment, thousands of
people are boarding aircrafts to fly to various destinations around the world.
But, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone refusing to board a plane because
they don’t believe the pilot can fly the plane! Of all those thousands of
people, no one wants to see the pilot’s licenses or certification papers! In
fact, most don’t even care to even ‘see’ the pilot! Why? Because they have ‘faith’
the airline would not allow an incapable person to fly the plane! They have ‘faith’
the mechanics are doing their jobs to ensure the plane is flight-worthy! Most
have no clue how the aerodynamics of lift and thrust work! Every single day, we
trust and have faith in people we don’t know and in concepts we don’t
understand! EVERYBODY has faith! So the issue is not a matter of faith, the
issue is the matter of the placement of faith!
We have faith in men, who often fail because of limitations. Why not have faith in a God who never fails? A God who is loving! A God who longs to have a relationship with each and every person! How can we discover and meet this God? We cannot truly meet this God through our tainted and prejudicial traditions and doctrines, we can only meet Him as we read and study His word and allow that word to reveal God as God is and not as we want God to be! How do we know when we are doing that? When the God we meet in the Scriptures does not look, act, or think like us, but confronts and challenges us to look, act and think like Him! We will meet the true God when we give up the fight to shape Him and allow Him to shape us! We will meet the true God when we recognize the fact that other people are not really just ‘other’ people, but other people are, in a sense; us! We all need and are looking for the same thing, from the same Source, that is able to abundantly provided for all!
we should all pray for God to reveal and do our part to work to find and proclaim
the good news that has been lost in the mess that we have made of the message!