Category Archives: My Thoughts

The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories abound in today’s world. All of these are attempts to explain how and why the disastrous events that plague us occur and who is behind them. This includes events such as insurrections, assassinations, mass murders, genocides, and wars in general, as wells as natural disasters such as droughts, floods, killer heat waves, and sometimes even hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones. The belief is that if we can understand how, why and who is behind these we can somehow prevent them from recurring. Most of these conspiracies are based on scant evidence and pure conjecture. There is, however, I believe, one ultimate conspiracy theory that provides the answers to all these questions.

Scripture tells that there came a time when God created a brand new universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). That includes not only stars, planets, galaxies on an unbelievably massive scale, but also all the diverse forms of life we have on Planet Earth. His crowning achievement was the creation of mankind, who were given responsibility for caring for it (stewardship). And God declared that all of this was very good, and it was. Our faint memories of this cause us to yearn for a return to this paradise.

Unfortunately, there was, and still is, one who detests what God has done. This creature is so beautiful, talented and powerful that his egotism caused him to believe he could be more exalted than God himself. He is extremely jealous of God’s creation and especially of the creatures God says are made in God’s own image, and continually seeks to destroy it all. He has achieved a great measure of success in doing this. Hence all the disastrous events in history and still today which we seek to understand. His name is Lucifer, meaning Light Bearer, but he is called by many other names, such as Satan (Accuser or Adversary), the Devil (Slanderer), Old Nick, Old Scratch and various other appellations. Whatever name you use for him, he is the mastermind behind all the evils that befall the human race.

However, regardless of how powerful he is (Jesus called him the prince of this world), there is one who is more powerful. We can rest in the fact that God is still in control of the world and will ultimately bring about the resolution we all yearn for. As bad as things are, and we sense they are getting worse, there is still hope for a better outcome. This world will not end in a nuclear conflagration or the effect of a supernova of our galaxy. Mankind will not utterly destroy the Earth or themselves. All of Satan’s attempts to destroy God’s creation have been, and will continue to be, thwarted. God has known all along what would happen and has promised that ultimately this world will be replaced by a new one in which there will be everlasting peace and prosperity and where everyone will truly enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No exceptions.

THE UNITY OF THE TRINITY

Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all considered monotheistic religions, that is, they believe there is only one true God. However, Christianity proclaims the Godhead is a Trinity, consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can we reconcile this apparent discrepancy? The Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, clearly states:

“ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5)

However, the Hebrew Bible also says that when God created mankind, he said:

“ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:26, 27)

You will notice that this is the first implication of God’s Trinitarian nature. And he refers to mankind as both him and them. It seems apparent to me this indicates the Godhead has both masculine and feminine attributes and that to complete the image of God requires both male and female humans. You can begin to sense this when you read that after God created the first man, Adam, he then took one of Adam’s ribs and used it to fashion a woman. And Adam said:

“ This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:23, 24)

This clearly says the female was taken out of the original male and when male and female are joined (married) they become one flesh. This became painfully evident to me when my wife of 53 years passed away in 2017. I felt that a large part of me had been ripped away, leaving a gaping wound. It took a while for that wound to heal and the scar it left is still painful.

A clear image of the Trinity began to emerge when Jesus was incarnated in human flesh. Jesus often spoke of his Father in heaven (e.g., Matthew 7:21; 10:32, 333; 11:27; 12:50; 16:17; 18:10, etc.) The implication was that he was the Son of God.

Later, when he proclaimed:

I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

The Jews picked up stones to stone him. And when he asked why, they replied:

“The Jews answered him, sayingFor a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. (John 10:33)

When the time neared in which he would be arrested and bound over for trial, leading to his death, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said:

“Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” John 17:1

He continued:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. 

Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

And:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be

one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17: 20. 21)

Shortly before that, Jesus had spoken to his disciples about the third facet of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, saying:

“ If ye love me, keep my commandments. 

 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; 

The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receivebecause it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 

 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 

Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more: but ye see me: Because I live, ye shall live also. 

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”  (John 14: 15-20)

The clear implication of all this is that the three aspects of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are one Trinitarian God. And furthermore that the disciples of the Son (male and female) will become one with them, a perfect marriage.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this in his instructions to husbands:

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 

 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto hiswife, and they two shall be one flesh. 

 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (I Corinthians 5:28-32)

And later Paul says:

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (I Corinthians 12.27)

The Book of Revelation speaks of the marriage of Christ and his church:

“ Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth

Let us be glad and rejoiceand give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is comeand his wife hath made herself ready

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6-9)

The theological term Perichoresis describes the relationship of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as cleaving to one another such that they have their being in each other without any coalescence or commingling. Once again the analogy of male and female marriage is evoked. Perichoresis has also called the Dance of Love, with the three Persons of the Trinity in a dynamic, interactive, loving and serving relationship, which is the model for human relationships, marriage in particular. So we are invited to join with the Trinity in this Dance of Love. This is the destiny that God offers to us all, the ultimate unity.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTEXT

When we quote something without examining the context in which it was uttered, we run the risk of misunderstanding the full intent of the original speaker.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  1. We often hear “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” quoted. It is even inscribed on the façade of the University of Texas at Austin Main Building Tower as a tribute to the pursuit of knowledge. However, this is only part of Jesus’s statement quoted in John 8:32, which is a conditional statement. (John 8:31, 32) It reads in full:

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free

The truth about Jesus, who said he is the truth (John 14:6), is what will set us free.

 

  1. Then there is this:

“I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) We often take this to mean God will empower us to accomplish anything we set out to do. However, when we examine the context in which Paul said this, it takes on a very different meaning (Philippians 4:11-13):

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

In this context, the meaning is more like “I can endure all thing through Christ who strengths me.

Remember Jesus has told us “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Paul considered the suffering and loss he endured to be nothing compared to what he gained as a disciple of Christ. He desired “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death.” (Philippians 3:8-10)

In other words, suffering is to be expected, but valued as it can bring us closer to Christ. In that context, we can do all things needed to endure because of Christ’s help.

 

3. And how about:

We like to receive this promise for ourselves:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Examining the immediate context we see that this was spoken to those Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon. And it continued,

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”   (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

The promise was contingent on the Israelites seeking God with their whole hearts. And that meant obeying the commandments that he gave them. Apparently they did for a time, for as had been prophesied in Scripture, the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile. That prophecy was fulfilled in 537 B.C., and the Jews were allowed by King Cyrus of Persia to return to Israel and begin rebuilding the city and temple. The return under the direction of Ezra led to a revival among the Jewish people and the rebuilding of the temple.

But unfortunately this did not last. For as God had reminded them many years before,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-8)

And they began to substitute their own rules and regulations in place of what God’s intentions were with his commandments. God continued to send prophets to warn them of the consequences of their rebellion for a time.  But after the prophecy of Malachi around 420 B.C. God was silent for more than 400 years until the arrival of John the Baptist to herald the coming of God’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to live among us in the flesh, demonstrating how God intends for us to live on this earth and inviting all to join him in the everlasting kingdom of God. He corrected many of the misconceptions people had of the scriptures, saying “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” And he chastised the religious leaders for their self-righteous attitude, saying.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)

 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 

They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:6-8)

And Jesus lamented over their stubborn refusal to take to heart what he was saying and change their understanding of God’s intentions for them,

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)

And, as a result, he prophesied that because of their rejection of God’s plans for them their corrupt religious system and the magnificent temple they had built would all be destroyed. That destruction was completed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

The lesson here should be pretty obvious for us today. When we neglect the fact that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and his ways than our ways, and stubbornly insist of doing things our way instead of following God’s directions, we lose out on his intentions for us and reap the whirlwind. That is to say we can only claim God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 for ourselves when we are obedient to his leading.

There are doubtless many other examples of scripture promises we tend to claim without examining the context in which they were given. But these examples should suffice to make it clear that we do so at our own peril. Yes, context is extremely important.

Life After Death

I believe in life after death. Yes, I believe that what we call death is not the end of life but merely the passageway from one type of life to a better one. When this mortal corruptible body of mine ceases to function and turns to ashes, I believe I will pass through the portal of death into an incorruptible body that will never die. I believe that death will mark the end of my life on this earth with its troubles, losses, grief, pain and tears as well as its joys and laughter and, yes, its hatred, lies, incivility, insults, injuries and sometimes unspeakable, unbelievable acts of evil. And I believe it will also mark the beginning of an unending life of beauty, love, joy and laughter in a world where God will wipe away all tears from my eyes, and there will be no more death, pain or sorrow and no more crying. I believe it will be there that I rejoin with my wife, and my grandparents, parents, relatives and friends who have gone on before me. So not only do I not fear death, but will welcome it when it comes, as it will for all of us.
That’s a beautiful scenario, you may say to me, but what if you are wrong and death is indeed the end of it all? And I would reply to you that would in no way diminish the abundant, challenging, adventure and accomplishment filled, joyful life I have lived in the midst of this fallen world with all of its pitfalls, failures and disappointments for nearly 8 decades.
And I would ask you, what if it is true? What would your life then be like in this world and the next? It’s definitely something worth pondering.

REINCARNATION

Yes, I believe in reincarnation, although not in the way you probably think of it. Allow me to explain. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and all that is within them. On the final day of creation God created mankind in God’s own image, male and female. He created the male first, fashioning him a body from the dust of the earth. God breathed into that body the breath of life (God’s spirit) and the male became a living soul in a mortal body. God then created a female from one of the male’s ribs to be an equal partner with him, thus completing God’s image in mankind.  This was the first incarnation.

Mankind was put in responsible charge of all that God had made, thus creating the world’s oldest profession. It was not long before mankind began to mess things up though, out of a misguided attempt to become as gods themselves, knowing good and evil. God had warned them against this, telling them if they became aware of evil it would introduce death into the world. But they did it anyway. Before long they were to taste of this. One of their sons became jealous of his brother and killed him, thus inventing fratricide, which we have become quite skilled at in the subsequent ages. Things continued to get worse from generation to generation to the point that God wiped out most of mankind and started over with just one family that had not fallen prey to such evil.

Once again, however, over the ensuing generations, mankind proceeded to wax more and more evil, despite God’s repeated warnings of the consequences. Finally God sent his only begotten son, whose name was Jesus, to be incarnated in a human body to demonstrate to mankind how they should live. Jesus told them it was possible to live as God had intended all along and, if they would only follow him, he would show them how. He then travelled around spreading this message, while befriending the outcasts of society, healing those who were sick and on at least one occasion raising back to life one who had died.

His message was not well received by those in authority, the rich and powerful, who felt their position threatened by him. So they trumped up false charges against him, tried him illegally and managed to have him executed. Although they thought that was the end of the matter, God soon proved them wrong. After just three days in the grave, Jesus was raised back to life in a new immortal body, which was not subject to death as his mortal body had been. You might say he was reincarnated.

The best news, however, is that, because Jesus, who was totally blameless, took upon himself the misdeeds of all of mankind, he suffered the consequential death on behalf of us all. Our debts are completely absolved. And, furthermore, we are promised that the death of our mortal body does not end the life of our soul, but it will be re-embodied into an immortal form, just as Jesus was. That is to say, we will also be reincarnated and thus able to live with God for eternity.

So yes, I believe in that kind of reincarnation, and I am eternally grateful for the promise of it.

THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Almost three years after the fact, it suddenly dawned on me that December 21, 2017, the day my wife Mary passed away, was the winter solstice. The winter solstice is the darkest day of the year, the one with the shortest period of daylight and the beginning of winter. And it was certainly the darkest day of my life.

But it is also the last day of diminishing light. Starting the next day the daylight period each day gets progressively longer until the summer solstice in June of the next year. The winter solstice also occurs during the last week of the Advent season, a season which includes the lighting of candles to represent the blessings to come from the birth of Jesus, the Savior, the light of the world. And shortly after the winter solstice comes Christmas day, followed a week later by the first day of a brand new year.

I remember that just three days after Mary passed away I celebrated the best Christmas Eve I ever had, knowing that she was in a place with no sorrow, pain or tears, other than tears of joy and laughter, and that I would one day in the not too distant future join her in that happy place. As I reflected in my book “Traveling Solo but Never Alone”, in the next days and months a brand new phase of my life began, one that is still proving to be full of challenge, adventure and accomplishment.

Three years later in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a very dark period for people all over the world. However, the miraculous development of two highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, with more to come, provides a ray of hope that we are nearing the dawning of a brand new day in the new year of 2021 that will bring light to the world once again, and fill us to overflowing with joy and gratitude.

LIFE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

I don’t know about you, but I am really enjoying life right now. When the news of the COVID-19 pandemic broke here in March, I felt that God told me I had nothing to fear so long as I followed his directions. Since then I have been cautious, but never fearful. I have followed the recommended protocols, wearing a face mask in public and washing my hands much more frequently than ever before. I keep hand sanitizer in my apartment and in my car and use it when I can’t wash my hands.

But I have continued to go everywhere and do everything that the law allows. With the precautions I mentioned, I go grocery shopping at least once a week, I get a haircut every four weeks, and I go to my regular doctor and dental appointments. I dine out as frequently as ever since the restaurants have started opening up again, including sharing a meal with friends sometimes, and I have been to movie theaters at least half a dozen times so far. I continue to fly my radio control model airplanes at my club’s airfield.

I enjoy worship services and Sunday School classes online via Zoom, as well as several online meetings of other groups with which I am associated. When my schedule allows I attend the in-person networking meetings of the one group I know of that conducts them. I attend in-person meetings every two weeks of a men’s fellowship group to which I belong, and lately I have been attending outdoor Vesper services at my church and have had the pleasure of a face to face meeting with our new Senior Pastor. What a joy!

I am even enjoying some of the effects of the pandemic restrictions, as there is much less traffic on the roadways and most of the venues I visit are much less crowded.

In short I am doing everything I can as a 78 year old with underlying health issues (atrial fibrillation and hypertension) to enjoy life to the fullest for whatever time I have remaining on this earth. As Henry David Thoreau said, “I wanted to live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life…” And I am doing just that!

SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD

In this era of climate change concerns the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the entirety of humanity worldwide to the precipice of what is arguably the greatest crisis we have ever faced. Fortunately there is a sure remedy for the dilemma in which we find ourselves ensnared. Thousands of years ago God spoke and said:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (I Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Simple. Concise. Comprehensive.

But do we really understand how to accomplish this? Let’s unpack this and examine it step by step.

Step 1: Humble ourselves

This should be the easiest part if we are really observant. As the beloved hymn says:

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

When we take the time to truly consider the magnitude and magnificence of the universe, we will realize how great and powerful God is and how lowly and weak we are in comparison. This should burst the bubble of our inflated egos and make us humble. So first of all, let’s be still and know who God is.

Step 2: Pray

At first blush this seems self-explanatory, but let’s examine it more closely. We need to remember that prayer is intended to be a dialogue between us and God. Dialogue implies two-way communication. We are remiss if we merely voice our concerns, complaints and cries for help without staying tuned to hear God’s reply. It is also good to give him thanks even before receiving the answer, but knowing it will come. This is a display of trust in God’s goodness and care for us.

Step 3: Seek God’s face

This would seem to create somewhat of a problem, for Scripture tells us when Moses on Mount Sinai asked God to show him his glory, God replied:

“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19-23 NIV)

What does it mean then to seek the face of God? To me the answer is simple when we remember that God created mankind in his image. To seek the face of God then means to try to see God’s face in the face of everyone around us, regardless of race, religion, skin color or sex. Our attitude towards those who are different from us will then be much more in keeping with Christ’s command (not suggestion) to us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And finally, Step 4: Turn from our wicked ways

There are many facets to this requirement, but I believe they all stem from the fact we have forgotten that when God created mankind he gave us the authority and responsibility to nurture and care for all he had created, including all of the flora and fauna, as his stewards. That we have neglected the responsibilities of our stewardship is evident in the way we continue to abuse our privileged status. The natural world and other fellow humans have all suffered as a result. We must, as Christ enjoined us, “Repent {change your worldview}” and turn from our sins of abuse and neglect in order for our land to be healed.

One final thought:

God has already granted us forgiveness of our sins since Jesus has borne for us the penalty of death they demanded. And as to healing our land, I don’t believe God intends to sovereignly clean up our mess for us. I believe, having delegated the authority and responsibility to us, he intends to show us how we can and should clean up after ourselves.

THE NEW NORMAL

There is a lot of conversation on both broadcast and social media these days about the new normal that will exist after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. There is no doubt that things will be different than what we have become accustomed to in the early days of the 21st century. But what we have considered to be normal in the last few years is vastly different than we did only a few decades ago. The emergence of the communication age has brought about great changes to the landscape in just a few years. Communicating by smartphone has largely taken the place of face-to-face communication. Online shopping has made great inroads into the marketplace, replacing much of the commerce for brick and mortar establishments. Takeout and delivery were already beginning to take the place of dining out even before the imposition of social distancing mandates meant to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This should not be a great surprise to anyone who knows much about history. What has been considered the cultural norm has continued to evolve ever since Man began to leave the cave dwelling hunter-gatherer existence to begin farming and domestication of livestock and to dwell first in villages and later cities. During this time division and specialization of labor also came into play, and along with it a barter and later monetary economy. These changes were very gradual and more easily adjusted to as a result. Through this period of evolution Man continued for the most part to live in large family groups and closely related tribes, seldom venturing far from home. There were exceptions, of course, as the population grew and migration occurred to explore and develop new lands. But change still came slowly and gradually.

Then the onset of the Industrial Age began to change things much more rapidly as more and more people left the farm to live in cities and work in the new factories. The nuclear family of father, mother and children became the new norm and mass production and new inventions began to replace much of the cottage industry that had existed for many years. The Industrial Age also introduced new means of more rapid transportation, such as the automobile and the railroads, greatly increasing the mobility of the population and enabling population shifts to a variety of locations previously considered almost inaccessible. Although these changes were massive most people were gradually able to adjust to them as the “new norm”.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the introduction of the telegraph, the telephone, motion pictures, radio and television, as well as mainframe computers, leading eventually to personal computers, mobile phones and later smartphones with more computing power than early mainframe computers. The Information Age was upon us, flooding us with more information in a day than our ancestors had accumulated over their lifetimes. The effects of this information overload and the rapidly increasing rate of change were noted as early as the 1970’s by authors such as Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave”, Daniel H. Pink in “A Whole New Mind” and Jeremy Rifkin in “ENTROPY: A New World View”. Generational rifts were developing between older people for whom the new technologies and the societal changes they were engendering were often baffling, even frightening, and younger ones who easily and rapidly adopted them, as well as between those who had access to the technology and could afford it and those who did not and could not. By the early 21st century society was becoming more and more divided and divisive, with people with differing views on politics, religion, lifestyles, globalization, climate change and many other things shouting at each other (often on social media) rather than calmly and logically discussing their differences and trying to understand the other’s point of view.

 That is where things stood when the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly burst onto the scene in 2020, eventually engulfing the entire globe. Another new normal was being thrust upon us, unready and unwilling as we might be to accept it. Social distancing became the recommendation and in many places the mandated rule, shuttering many business and throwing more people out of work in the United States than we had seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The virus was starting to overwhelm the health care system and the death rate was skyrocketing, particularly in the minority communities where many already had developed compromised immune systems and underlying medical conditions due to lack of lack of accessibility and affordability of adequate routine medical care. Public gatherings were largely banned, creating challenges for religious organizations and others in communicating with and ministering to their members. Online virtual meetings and religious services became the rule, rather than the exception.

On the positive side, though, these changes were forcing us to confront the problems caused by the fragmentation of family and societal structure and the distances we were creating between societal groups, regions and even nations. We began to realize that we, that is, the whole of humanity, were in this together and starting to acknowledge the need for treating each other with respect and kindness, even love. Families were spending time together, conversing face to face and sharing meals together. Friends and neighbors (even distant neighbors) were checking in on each other and offering help to those who needed it. Government was providing relief to businesses and individuals who had lost their sources of income. We were all seeming to care more about the welfare of others beside ourselves. This was becoming the latest new normal for many.

The new normal will, of course, continue to evolve after the COVID-19 crisis dies out. Many who lost their jobs will not be able to return to them, some because their employers no longer even exist. Workers will have to retrain for other types of work.  Owners who lost their businesses will have to start over to compete in the new economy. But although many former opportunities will be lost, many new ones will arise for those willing to do what is necessary to take advantage of them. This will be part of the new normal.

I admit that not everyone is changing yet. There is still too much name calling, backbiting and finger pointing. And there are those who are still acting selfishly, ignoring social distancing mandates and hoarding vital resources for themselves. However, I am hopeful, if not yet fully convinced, that those who seek a kinder, gentler, more loving and caring society will soon reach a tipping point that will tilt society in that direction. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”

When that occurs perhaps we can one day reach a state where everyone’s needs are met and we can all lead carefree lives, being fully present in the daily now, accepting what is, without concern for the past or the future. We will then have returned to the original normal, as it was in the Garden of Eden before Man’s fall, enjoying each moment and savoring our close relationship with our Creator. That is God’s heartfelt desire for all of us. May it be so.

THE JOURNEY OF LIFE

In his book “The Power of Now” Ekhart Tolle urges us to forget about the disappointment and hurts of the past, stop worrying about the future, and concentrate on being fully conscious in the present. After all, the present is all we ever have. It’s always today. Yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow may never come. If we miss out on what is going on in the present we are wasting our most valuable (and irreplaceable) asset: time.

Another way to put this is, life is not so much about a future destination as it is about the journey. Today is all you really have, so carpe diem (seize the day)! Jesus was quite clear about this when he said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

At the beginning of his ministry Jesus had given the invitation to follow him and to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And he made it clear that meant here and now, not at some time in the future. The kingdom of heaven is in your midst he said. The invitation was to journey along with him to enjoy his presence and to learn from him. His disciples left everything behind and did follow him although they didn’t really understand what that meant. Up to the end of his ministry they expected the Messiah to be a conquering hero who would overthrow the oppressive government and set them free from Roman domination. He did that indeed, although he did it through all powerful love and not destructive force. When the disciples finally understood that after the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost, they went out in love and conquered the whole world in Jesus’ name, including the Roman Empire.

Fellowship with God is what we are created for, to travel the journey of life with him, enjoying his presence with us and learning from him, as it was in the Garden of Eden. Jesus’ ancestor King David had said many years before,

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4 NIV) and

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1, 2 NKJV)

David did not have the advantage we have today of the full time indwelling of God’s Spirit and looked forward to the day he could enjoy God’s uninterrupted presence. But Jesus still calls us to follow him on life’s journey today and every day. If you think of salvation only as a “golden ticket” to a future paradise you are sadly mistaken. God’s call is to join him now in the kingdom of heaven. Life is a journey we can enjoy today more than a location to arrive at some future time.